Somerset family, Dukes of Beaufort

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Somerset family, Dukes of Beaufort

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The manors of Crickhowell and Tretower, with the borough of Crickhowell, lying along the valley of the Usk in Breconshire were originally in the lordship of Blaenllyfni, and, from the late 13th century, were held by Hugh de Turberville. On the marriage of his daughter and heiress, they came into the possession of Sir Grimbald Pauncefoot, in whose family they remained until 1461. they were seized by Edward IV and granted by him to William, Lord Herbert in 1463. He became Earl of Pembroke in 1468, and his grand-daughter, Elizabeth, married Charles Somerset, Earl of Worcester.

By this marriage, Charles Somerset assumed in 1504 the title of baron Herbert of Raglan, Chepstow and Gower. He had been made commissioner of array for Wales in 1496, and between 1503 and 1515 he was given the stewardship of the chief Crown lordships in Monmouthshire, Radnorshire, Glamorgan, Montgomeryshire and Ruthin. In 1509 he received the constableships of the appurtenant castles and titles of sheriff of Glamorgan and Morgannwg, to which Henry VII added those of chief forester of Glamorgan, Ruthin and Montgomery in 1515.

Charles's heir was his eldest son, Henry Somerset (d. 1549), 2nd Earl who succeeded to most of his fathers Welsh offices. He extended the family influence further in Wales when he became steward and chancellor of Brecon and constable of the castle in 1523. With the dissolution of the small monastries he received Tintern Abbey in 1537. Henry's heir, William (1526-1589) lost much of the family's influence in Wales. This was caused by the revival of the Earldom of Pembroke in 1551. All their influence in central and North Wales reverted to the house of Pembroke. Most of the South Wales offices passed to William Herbert, 1st Earl of the second creation. However, William's eldest son, Edward Somerset (1553-1628), 4th Earl, recovered parts of the family's Welsh influence. He was put on the Council of Wales in 1590, and with the death of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke in 1601 secured the omission of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan from the commission of Pembroke's successor at Ludlow.

Henry Somerset (c. 1577-1646), 5th Earl and 1st marquess of Worcester, was the eldest surviving son of Edward. He died a prisoner in 1646. His son, Edward Somerset (1601-1667), 2nd marquess outlived his father by only a year. It was during this period that Oliver Cromwell seized parts of the family estate. Edward's eldest son and heir was Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 3rd marquess of Worcester and 1st Duke of Beaufort. In 1650 he sold #1,600 worth of the family estates in Glamorgan to Colonel Philip Jones. He secured the reversion of Cromwell's slice of the family estates, but since Raglan had become uninhabitable, he transferred his principal seat to Badminton, Gloucestershire.

The family continued to hold land in Wales until the end of the 19th century. In fact nine tenths of its land were situated in South Wales, with two seats in Monmouthshire, one in Breconshire, and manorial rights in three counties. Coal and iron were found on the estate in the 17th century which brought the family a steady income. The 5th Duke, Henry Somerset (1744-1803) extended his lands in Monmouthshire by buying the old Pembroke lordships of Usk and Trelech.

According to the 1873 return of owners of land the Duke of Beaufort owned an estimated 32,533 acres in Wales (in Monmouthshire, Breconshire and Glamorgan) with an estimated rental of £32,564.

Henry Adalbert Wellington Fitzroy Somrerset (1847-1924), 9th Duke, sold the Raglan estate, excluding the castle, to the Crown and the manorial rights there to his kinsman, Lord Raglan, grandson of FitzRoy James Henry Somerset (1788-1855), 1st Baron Raglan, youngest son of the 5th Duke of Beaufort.

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