Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sackville, Robert

SACKVILLE, ROBERT, second Earl of Dorset (1561–1609), born in 1561, was the eldest son of Thomas Sackville, first earl of Dorset [q. v.], by Cecily (d. 1 Oct. 1615), daughter of Sir John Baker of Sissinghurst, Kent, speaker of the House of Commons. His grandfather, Sir Richard Sackville [q. v.], invited Roger Ascham to educate Robert with his own son (Ascham, Scholemaster, ed. Mayor). He matriculated from Hart Hall, Oxford, 17 Dec. 1576, and graduated B.A. and M.A. on 3 June 1579; it appears from his father's will (Collins, ii. 139-40) that he was also at New College. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1580, and elected to the House of Commons in 1585 as member for Sussex. In 1588 he sat for Lewes, but represented the county again in 1592-3, 1597-8, 1601, and 1604-8. He is said to have been a leading member of the House of Commons, serving as a chairman of several committees (cf. D'Ewes, Journals, passim). According to a contemporary writer (Milles, Catalogue of Honour, p. 414), he was a man of singular learning and many sciences and languages, Greek and Latin being as familiar to him as his own natural tongue.' At the same time he engaged in trading ventures, and had ships in the Mediterranean in February 1602. He also held a patent for the supply of ordnance (cf. Cal. State Papers, 20 Feb. 1596). He succeeded to the earldom of Dorset on the death of his father on 19 April 1608. He inherited from his father over sixteen manors in Sussex, Essex, Kent, and Middlesex, the principal seats being Knole and Buckhurst.

Dorset survived his father less than a year, dying on 27 Feb. 1609 at Dorset House, Fleet Street. He was buried in the Sackville Chapel at Withyham, Sussex, and left by will 200l. or 300l. for a tomb. This monument perished when Withyham church was destroyed by lightning on 16 June 1663. He left 1,000l. for the erection and a rent charge of 330l. for the endowment of a 'hospital or college' for twenty-one poor men and ten poor women, to be under the patronage and government of his heirs. This may have been an imitation of Emmanuel College, Westminster, founded by his aunt, Anne Fiennes, lady Dacre [q. v.] Accordingly, the building of the almshouse known as 'Sackville College for the Poor' at East Grinstead, Sussex, was commenced about 1616 by the executors, his brother-in-law, Lord William Howard [q. v.], and Sir George Rivers of Chafford. It was inhabited before 1622 (Burial Registers of East Grinstead; cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 120, House of Lords). Most of the Sackville lands were soon alienated by the founder's son, and the buyers refused to acknowledge the estate's liability to the college. On 6 July 1631 the poor inmates received a charter of incorporation, but their revenues were still irregularly paid (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 44; Pepys, Diary, 9 Feb. 1660). But in 1700, after tedious litigation, a reduced rent charge of 216l. 12s. 9d. was imposed on the Sackville estates on behalf of the college, and the number of inmates reduced to twelve, with a warden. The college buildings were restored in the present century by the Dorset coheiresses, the Countess Amherst and the Countess De la Warr (Baroness Buckhurst), and the patronage remains with their representative, Earl De la Warr, the owner of the Sussex estates.

Dorset married first, in February 1579-80, Lady Margaret, only daughter of Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk [q. v.] She was suspected of attending mass (Cal. State Papers, 20 Dec. 1583). By her he had six children, of whom Richard became third earl, and Edward fourth earl [q. v.] A daughter, Anne, married Sir Edward Seymour, eldest son of Edward Seymour, lord Beauchamp, and Cecily married Sir Henry Compton, K.B. Lady Margaret died on 19 Aug. 1591 (coffin-plate); Robert Southwell [q. v.], the Jesuit, published in her honour, in 1596, a small quarto entitled 'Triumphs over Death,' with dedicatory verses to her surviving children. It is reprinted in Sir S. E. Brydges's 'Archaica' (vol. i. pt. iii). Dorset married, secondly, on 4 Dec. 1592, Anne (d. 22 Sept. 1618), daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorp, and widow of, first, William Stanley, Lord Monteagle, and, secondly, Henry, lord Compton. In 1608-9 Dorset found reason to complain of his second wife's misconduct, and was negotiating with Archbishop Bancroft and Lord-chancellor Ellesmere for a separation from her when he died (Cal. State Papers, 1603-10, pp. 477, 484).

There are two portraits of Dorset at Knole House; neither has been engraved.

[Doyle's Official Baronage; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, ii. 146-9; Cal. State Papers, passim; Rev. R. W. Sackville-West (the late Earl De la Warr), Hist. Notices of Withyham; Stenning's Notes on East Grinstead, originally a paper in Sussex Arch. Soc. Collectanea; Bridgman's Sketch of Knole; Willis's Not. Parl.]

H. E. D. B.