It is worth mentioning here that the Earl family of Plymouth are amongst Britain's best-known undertakers and that they have for generations traded under the name Earl of Plymouth. This has been a source of confusion from time to time with the various holders of the peerage title, Earl of Plymouth, who have as a result occasionally found themselves mistaken for a firm of west country morticians.
As far as the peerage title is concerned it was first conferred on Charles FitzCharles, being one of the many illegitimate children of Charles II, the mother in this case being one Catharine Pegg the daughter of a Derbyshire landowner and keen royalist named Thomas Pegge. Born most likely in Bruges in 1657 and raised in Flanders, the younger Charles arrived in London in 1672, and very naturally attracted the favour of his father being created the Baron Dartmouth, Viscount Totnes, and Earl of Plymouth on the 28th July 1675 and awarded a pension of £4,000 a year. After some military experience with the Dutch army, he subsequently joined the expedition to relieve the besieged port of Tangiers, where he contracted dysentery and died on the 17th October 1680. Although the Earl had earlier married Bridget Osborne, the daughter of Thomas Osborne, then Earl of Danby and later Duke of Leeds, there were no children, and his titles became extinct.
The Hickman family and the Barons Windsor
The subsequent history of the Plymouth title is entangled with the history of the entirely separate but related families of Hickman and Clive and their position as heirs of the Windsor family and holders of the title Baron Windsor. Virtually the herediary Constables of Windsor Castle, these Windsors were descended from a William Fitz Otho, also known as William Fitz Other, and it is for this reason that the personal name of Other (a variant of Otho) crops up with some regularity in the family tree. His descendants took the name of 'de Windsor' or 'Windsor', with one of their number, Andrew Windsor being created the Baron Windsor in 1529.
Thomas Windsor Hickman was the son and heir of Dixie Hickman of Kew in Surrey, and his wife Elizabeth Windsor. Thomas's maternal uncle Thomas Windsor, 6th Baron Windsor died without issue on the 6th December 1641, leaving his title in abeyance between his two sisters and his estates, principally Hewell Grange in Worcestershire, to his nephew who soon afterwards adopted the name of Windsor in place of Hickman, thereby becoming Thomas Windsor Windsor.
This Thomas Windsor was a Royalist during the English Civil War and fought for King Charles I at the battle of Naseby. After the Restoration, the abeyance of the Barony of Windsor was terminated in his favour on the 16th June 1660, thereby making him the 7th Baron Windsor. Briefly the Governor of Jamaica, Thomas later became master of the horse to the Duke of York and successively governor of both Portsmouth and Hull. Two years after the death of Charles FitzCharles he was granted the now vacant title of Earl of Plymouth on the 6th December 1682.
The 1st Earl died on the 3rd November 1687 and succeeded by his grandson, Other Windsor who married Elizabeth Whitley, the sister and heir of Roger Whitley of Peel in Cheshire (died 1702), which brought the Althrey estate in the parish of Bangor Iscoed together with the manor of Northop into the family. His son the 3nd Earl continued the family tradition by marrying another heiress, one Elizabeth Lewis the sole heir of Thomas Lewis (1668-1736) of the Van and St Fagans in Glamorgan. However by the time of Thomas Lewis's death in 1736, the estate was so debt ridden that it required three Acts of Parliament to sort out the mess, but he eventually got his hands on St Fagan's Castle in Glamorgan which became the family seat together with some property in Cardiff.
The 3rd Earl died on the 23rd November 1732 and was succeeded by his only son and heir, Other Lewis, 4th Earl, who was the Lord-Lieutenant of Glamorgan between 1754 and 1771 and married Catherine Archer, the daughter of 1st Baron Archer of Umberslade, and died on the 21st April 1771. He was was succeeded by his son Other Hickman, 5th Earl, who married his cousin Sarah Archer, the eldest daughter and coheir of the 2nd Baron Archer. The 5th Earl was duly followed in turn by his only son and heir Other Archer Windsor.
The 6th Earl then died without issue on the 20th July 1833, when the Barony of Windsor fell into abeyance between his sisters, whilst the earldom and its associated titles passed to his nearest male relative, being his uncle the Reverend Andrews Windsor, at the time the Rector of Rochford in Essex. The 7th Earl later died unmarried on the 19th January 1837, and the title passed to his younger brother Henry, the fourth and last son of the 4th Earl. A military man who rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, the 8th Earl married Anne Copson but singularly failed to produce any offspring whatsoever, thereby rendering his titles extinct with his death on the 8th December 1843.
When the 6th Earl died in 1833, his nearest relatives and thus coheirs to the Windsor Barony where his sisters Harriet and Maria. Harriet married Robert Henry Clive, the second son of the 1st Earl of Powis, and was eventually recognised as the Baroness Windsor in her own right in 1855 and adopted the name of Windsor-Clive. She was succeeded after her death on the 9th November 1869 by her grandson Robert George Windsor-Clive who as the 14th Baron Windsor became the Mayor of Cardiff in 1895 and subsequently served in Conservative administrations around the turn of the century as Paymaster-General between 1891 and 1892 and again as the first Commissioner of Works from 1902 until 1905. His great-uncle's title of Earl of Plymouth was subsequently revived in his favour on the 18th December 1905. He married Alberta Victoria Sarah Caroline Paget on the 11th August 1883 and together they had three sons, the eldest of whom, Other Robert, died unmarried at Agra on the 23rd December 1908, whilst the youngest Archer was killed in action during World War I on the 25th August 1914, and so with his death on the 6th March 1923 at the age of sixty-five the title passed to the second and only surviving son, Ivor Miles.
The 2nd Earl was briefly the Conservative Member of Parliament for Ludlow from 1922 until his elevation to the Lords in 1923, subsequently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Dominion Affairs between January and June 1929, and as a member of the National Government from 1931 onwards was similarly the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Transport (1931–32), the Colonial Office (1932–36) and the Foreign Office (1936–39). He married Irene Corona Charteris, a daughter of the 11th Earl of Wemyss and died on the 1st October 1943 at the age of fifty-four.
With his death the title passed to their eldest son, Other Robert, the 3rd and present Earl of Plymouth who served with the Coldstream Guards during World War II, and was later a Trustee of the National Gallery, a member of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries and Chairman of the Reviewing Committee for Works of Art between 1982 and 1985. His heir apparent is the eldest of his three sons, Ivor Edward Other Windsor-Clive, known by his courtesy title as the Viscount Windsor, who has three sons of his own.
Thanks partially to their propensity for marrying heiresses the Earls of Plymouth remain one of the largest landowners in the country and indeed one of the largest recipients of farming subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy and received a total of £459,000 in the financial year 2003-04.
THE EARLS OF PLYMOUTH
- The entry for PLYMOUTH from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for PLYMOUTH, EARLS OF
- The entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for;
Fitzcharles, Charles, earl of Plymouth; and Windsor (formerly Hickman), Thomas, first earl of Plymouth
- EARLS OF PLYMOUTH from the The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History