Shropshire History

Earls of Shrewsbury


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First creation - 1074

The title was first created in 1074 for Roger de Montgomerie, one of William the Conqueror's principal counsellors. In return for support during the invasion, he was made one of the 3 Marcher Lords with the Earl of Hereford and the Earl of Chester.  Together, they formed the defence against the Welsh. Montgomerie was granted a huge amount of land, consisting of most of Shropshire and part of Montgomeryshire (which was named after him). Roger was succeeded in 1094 by his younger son Hugh. His eldest son, Robert de Bellême, was given lands in Normandy but, on Hugh’s death in 1098, the earldom passed to Robert. The title was forfeited in 1102 after Robert rebelled against King Henry I and joined Robert Curthose's invasion of England in 1101.


Second creation - 1442

The title was re-activated in 1442 and granted to John Talbot, an English general in the Hundred Years' War. He was also made Earl of Waterford in 1446  and the two titles have always descended together. The Earl was succeeded by his son John, who served as both Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Lord High Treasurer of England. He was killed at the Battle of Northampton in 1460 during the Wars of the Roses. His son John and grandson George became the 3rd and 4th Earls, the latter becoming Lord Steward of the Household between 1509-1538. His son Francis became the 5th Earl and his son George became the 6th Earl. The latter was entrusted with the custody of Mary Queen of Scots for a period and also served as Earl Marshal from 1572-1590. He married the famous Bess of Hardwick as his second wife.


George was succeeded as 7th Earl by Gilbert, his son from his first marriage to Lady Gertrude Manners. He represented Derbyshire in the House of Commons and served as Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. He had no sons and, on his death in 1616, the title of 8th Earl passed to his younger brother Edward, who became the Member of Parliament for Northumberland. He did not have a male heir either and was succeeded as 9th Earl by his distant relative George.  He was in turn succeeded as 10th Earl by his nephew John. On his death, the title of 11th Earl passed to his son Francis, who was killed in a duel with the Duke of Buckingham. His son Charles became the 12th Earl and was one of the group who in 1688 invited William of Orange to invade England and become king.  In 1694 he was created Duke of Shrewsbury. The Duke was childless and on his death in 1718 the dukedom became extinct.


He was succeeded as 13th Earl by his first cousin Gilbert. On his death, the title of 14th Earl passed to his nephew George. He was childless and was succeeded as 15th Earl by his nephew Charles. In 1812, Charles began to create extensive gardens at Alveton Lodge, Staffordshire (later renamed Alton Towers). When he died, the title of 16th Earl was inherited by his nephew John. In 1831, the principal home of the family at Heythrop, Oxfordshire was destroyed by fire and they moved to Alton Towers. He was succeeded as 17th Earl by his second cousin Bertram. Bertram died unmarried at an early age in 1856 and his will, leaving his estates to Lord Edmund Howard, was contested by three distant relatives. After a long and expensive legal case, the House of Lords ruled in 1860 in favour of Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot, who thus became the 18th Earl.


His eldest son Charles became the 19th Earl and served as Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, an office he held from 1874-1877. He was succeeded by his son Charles as the 20th Earl. The latter caused a scandal in Victorian England by eloping with a married woman, Ellen Miller-Mundy. They were later married and, on his death, his grandson John became the 21st Earl. His son Charles became the 22nd Earl in 1980 and still holds the title.  He is also hereditary Lord High Steward of Ireland is allowed to bear a white staff at the Coronation of British Monarchs. The seat of the Earls of Shrewsbury was once Alton Towers until it was sold in 1924 by the Trustees of the infant 21st Earl. The family seat is now at Wanfield Hall, near Kingstone, Staffordshire. The family crypt is the Shrewsbury Chapel in Sheffield Cathedral. In 2013, it was discovered that the majority of the Shrewsbury coffins had gone missing from the burial chamber.


Earls of Shrewsbury - First Creation

Earls of Shrewsbury - Second Creation