Earl of Romney (1694-1704)
Born 1641 Died 1704
Henry Sidney, fourth son of Robert, 2nd Earl of Leicester, was born in Paris in 1641. He and his nephew, Robert Spencer, afterwards 2nd Earl of Sunderland, his senior by a few months, were sent to travel on the continent of Europe in charge of a Calvinist divine, Dr Thomas Pierce. Sidney's handsome face helped his advancement at court, but the favour in which he was held by the Duchess of York, to whom he was master of the robes, led to his dismissal in 1666. His disgrace, however, was short-lived. He was promoted captain in 1667, and colonel in 1678. In 1672 he was sent on a mission of congratulation to Louis XIV, and in 1677 became master of the robes to Charles II.
He entered parliament as member for Bramber in 1679, and became a close political ally of his nephew Sunderland, with whose wife he carried on an intrigue which caused considerable scandal. Sunderland made this intimacy a means to further his political ends, while Sidney's social reputation and his apparent frivolity partly concealed his real capacity for intrigue. Sidney was sent by Sunderland and others in 1679 on a special mission to urge William of Orange to visit England, a task that he was able to discharge while acting as the official envoy of Charles II at the Hague. He was recalled in 1682, but was again sent on a special mission to Holland in the year of the accession of James II. He returned to England in the spring of 1688, and set to work, at William's desire, to obtain promises of support for the prince of Orange in the event of his landing. He was presently allowed to leave England on giving his oath not to visit the the Hague, but he broke his promise on getting clear of England, and conveyed to William a duplicate of the invitation addressed to him by the English Nobility together with intelligence of affairs of state obtained through the countess of Sunderland.
He landed with William at Torbay, and received substantial rewards for his undoubted services. Sworn of the privy council in 1689, Sidney was made gentleman of the bedchamber and colonel of the king's regiment of footguards, and received the titles of Baron Milton and Viscount Sidney of Sheppey. In 1690 he received considerable grants of land from the confiscated estates of the Irish supporters of James II, much of which he lost, however, on the parliamentary investigation in 1699 into the distribution of the Irish lands. William made him Secretary of State in 1690, pending the discovery of a better person. He was soon asked to resign, but was compensated by his appointment, in 1692, as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. His inability to cope with the difficulties of this position led to his recall in the next year, when he became master-general of the ordnance.
He was created Earl of Romney in May 1694, and he retained William's confidence to the last, but on Anne's accession he was dismissed from his various offices. He never married, and his titles became extinct on his death on the 8th of April 1704.
In 1801 the title of Earl of Romney was revived in the family of Marsham. Sir Robert Marsham, Bart. (1685-1724), of Cuxton in Kent, was a member of parliament from 1708 to 1716, when he was created Baron of Romney. His grandson Charles, the 3rd Baron (1774-1811), was created Earl of Romney in 1801, and from him the present earl is descended.
Being the entry for ROMNEY, HENRY SIDNEY, EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.