Success at the Tudor and Stuart courts was a notoriously accident-prone attainment. In the favoured contemporary simile, those high-fliers who ‘soared Icarus-like’ towards the monarchical sun all too often ended up plummeting earthwards, with ignominious and often fatal results. Envy and enmity attended any great courtier’s rise. There was never a shortage of jealous rivals ready to hasten his fall.
Every now and again, however, there was one who – with intelligence, ruthlessness, skill and luck – managed to prosper in these rarefied and hazardous altitudes. And at the English court, few families achieved more stratospheric, or long-lasting, prosperity than the Herberts, Earls of Pembroke. The founder of the dynasty,