Thursday 22 July 2010

Random statue 9: the Earl of Pembroke

Given the backdrop, you can understand why the Earl of Pembroke looks a little smug. He's stood in the heart of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, wearing his very best outfit (complete with order of the garter).

William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke was Chancellor of the University in 1617-30, (not bad, since he had originally left Oxford in 1595 without a degree). His name was also given to Pembroke College, apparently in the hope he would make a large bequest to the institution; a hope which was dashed on his death. He sponsored the printing of Shakespeare's First Folio too, which alone probably earns him a library location for his statue. Not that he was necessarily a very nice person: having got Mary Fitton pregnant, he refused to marry her and the Queen had him sent to Fleet Prison as a result. He only returned to royal favour when she was succeeded by King James.

Herbert's statue, designed by Rubens, was originally in the family home. Presented to the Bodleian by the eighth Earl, it stayed inside the library for several hundred years before moving to its current location in 1950.

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