Thomas Arundell of Wardour, Count of the Holy Roman Empire



Thomas Arundell (c1560-1639) was the son and heir of Sir Thomas Arundell, of Wardour Castle. His Catholic zeal sent him to prison in 1580 but he regained favor by contributing financially to the defeat of the Armada. In 1595, supposedly with the recommendation of Elizabeth I, he went to serve the Emperor in the fight against the Turks, and distinguished himself in the capture of Esztergom. The Emperor made him a count, but upon his return to England Queen Elizabeth I made her displeasure known (see the quote of Selden below). He was created a baron by James I in 1605. His family continued as one of the most prominent Catholic families in post-Reformation England. (Source: ODNB).

The Diploma (1595)

The text of the diploma conferring the title of count of the Holy Roman Empire on Thomas Arundell follows.

The source is John Selden: Titles of Honour. 1672,  p. 347-49, who copied it from the autograph original in the possession of the family.  A copy was also deposited at the College of Arms, in London.  My translation of the Latin is shown alongside.  The pages of Selden's book can be seen here and here.

Selden begins:

"That [title] of Count of the Empire I find personal also, as personal is opposed to Feudal, though it be also hereditary. We have a special
example of it in Rodulph II. his Creation of Thomas Arundel of Wardour in Wiltshire afterward made Lord Arundel of Wardour by King James. The Patent [ex autographo] is directed in these words , "Illustri sincere nobis dilecto Thomæ Arundelio Nostro & Sacri Romani Imperil Comiti gratiam nostram Cæsaream & omne bonum". And then after a part of the Preamble which concerns the advancement of men of merit, the Emperour considering first, the dignity of his blood, goes on with:

Insignes etiam virtutes quibus illustre genus tuum magis ac magis domi forisque illustras, ut liberalibus primum disciplinis pectus imbueris, peregrinas Provincias adieris, multorum mores , multorum & Urbes videris, magnúmque rerum usum acquisieris, ut denique tandem hoc sacro, quod contra communem Christiani nominis hostem Turcam gerimus, bello raro ac singulari zelo excitus tam longinquis & remotis ex partibus in Hungariam propriis stipendiis nobis militatum veneris, téque in apertis præliis in Civitatum & Castrorum oppugnationibus fortiter ac strenuè gesseris,  ut omnibus nationibus admirationi Nobísque & à Serenissimo Principe Archiduce Mathia fratre nostro charissimo & à primariis exercitus nostri præfectis majorem in modum commendatus fueris, insigni hoc inter alia exemplo spectato quod in expugnatione oppidi Aquatici juxta Strigonium, Vexillum Turcis tua manu eripueris & in principiis tempore pugnæ te spectandum præbueris , prætermittere noluimus quin te posterósque tuos legitimos insigni aliquo gratiæ nostræ documento benignè decoremus;
We have desired not to forget the notable virtues by which more and more you bring honour to your distinguished race at home and abroad, as when first you imbued your mind with the liberal arts, you went to foreign provinces, you saw many customs and many cities, you learned the use of great things, and finally out of such distant and remote places you came animated by a rare and singular zeal in Hungary at your own expense to this sacred war that we are waging against the Turkish host, common enemy of the Christian name; you conducted yourself bravely and vigorously in open battles and in sieges,  that you were greatly commended by the Most Serene Prince Archduke Mathias our dearest brother and by the first commanders of our army to Our admiration and that of all nations, for this notable example among others observed in the storming of the citadel of Víziváros near Esztergom, when you seized the Turkish standard with your own hand and offered yourself to be seen at the very beginning of the battle, but we have desired to kindly honour you and your legitimate descendants by some eminent mark of our grace;
Motu itaque propria, ex certa nostra scientiâ, animo bene deliberato, ac sano accedente consilio, deque Cæsareæ autoritatis atque potestatis nostræ plenitudine, te supradictum Thomam Arundelium qui jam antè Comitum consanguinitatem à majoribus acceptam in Anglia obtines, omnesque &singulos liberos hæredes, posteros & descendentes tuos legitimos utriusqne sexus natos æternáque serie nascituros, etiam veros sacros [sic; recte Sacri?] Romani Imperii Comites & Comitissas creavimus, fecimus & nominavimus, Titulóque honore & dignitate Comitatus Imperialis auximus atque insignivimus sicut vigore præsentium creamus, facimus & nominanus, augemus & insignimus, volentes præsentique Edicto nostro Cæsareo imperpetuum valituro firmiter & expresse decernentes quod tu, supradicte Thoma Arundelie, unà cum universa prole atque posteritate legitima mascula & foeminea in infinitum titulum, nomen, & dignitatem Comitum Imperii perpetuis deinceps temporibus habere & obtinere & deferre eóque tam in literis quam nuncupatione verbali in rebus Spiritualibus & temporalibus, Ecclesiasticis & Prophanis honorari appellari &  reputari ac denique onmibus & singulis honoribus, ornamentis, dignitatibus, gratiis, libertatibus, privilegiis, juribus, indultis, consuetudinibus, præeminentiis & prærogativis liberè & citra cujuslibet impedimentum uti, frui, potiri & gaudere possitis & debeatis quibus cæteri nostri Sacri Imperii Comites fruuntur, potiuntur & gaudent jure vel consuetudine.   Therefore of our own motion, certain knowledge, mature deliberation and with good counsel, and in the plenitude of our Imperial authority and power, We have created, made and appointed you, the said Thomas Arundell , whose kinship with counts is already accepted by the more prominent in England, and to all and singular your natural heirs, successors and legitimate descendants of either sex to be born in perpetual succession, true Counts and Countesses of the Holy Roman Empire, and by this title, honour and dignity of Imperial Count we have raised and distinguished you, as by these present we create, make, appoint, raise and distinguish you, willing and by this our imperial edict valid in perpetuity ordaining firmly and expressly that you, said Thomas Arundell, and all your issue and legitimate posterity male and female in infinity might and shall hold, receive and obtain the name and dignity of Count of the Empire henceforth for all times and be honored, called and known by it in all pronouncements written and verbal in all matters spiritual and temporal, ecclesiastic and lay, and finally that you might and shall  use, enjoy, and possess, freely and without any impediment, all honors, ornaments, dignities, graces, liberties, privileges, rights, concessions, customs, preeminences and prerogatives such as our other Counts of the Holy Roman Empire use, enjoy, and possess,by right or custom.
Non obstantibus in contrarium facientibus quibuscumque etiamsi talia forent de quibus in præsentibus specialis & expressa mentio fieri deberet , quibus omnibus & singulis quatenus obstarent seu obstare quovismodo possent Cæsarea auctoritate nostra scienter derogamus sufficientérque derogatum esse volumus & declaramus per præsentes ; Serenissime tamen Princìpis & Dominæ Elizabethæ, Reginæ Angliæ, Franciæ & Hiberniæ sororis & consanguineæ nostræ charissimæ juribus ac superioritatibus semper illæsis ac salvis.  Notwithstanding any thing to the contrary even if such should exist of which in these present special and express mention should have been made, to which any and all things insofar as they are or could in any way be contrary we of our imperial authority knowingly derogate and want and declare by these present that have been sufficiently derogated; and the rights and superiorities of the Most Serene Princess and Lady Elizabeth, queen of England, France and Ireland our dearest sister and cousin always inviolate and saved.
Nulli ergo omninò hominum, cujuscunque gradus, status, ordinis, conditionis et dignitatis extiterint et quacunque præfulgeant emìnentia, liceat hanc nostræ confirmationis, ratificationis, approbationis, corroborationis, erectionis, autoritatis, voluntatis, gratiæ & decreti paginam infringere aut et quovis ausu temerario contravenire.    And thus be it permitted to no man of whatever rank, status, order, condition and dignity they might be or whatever eminence they might hold,  to transgress or be so bold as to dare contravene this page of our confirmation, ratification, approbation, corroboration, erection, authority, will, grace and decree.
Quisquis vero id fecerit, is noverit sese ex ipso facto in nostram & Sacri Romani Imperii indignationem gravissimam ac poenam centum Marcarum auri puri (quarum mediam partem fisco nostro imperiali, residuam verò injuriam passorum usibus solvendam et applicandam decernimus omni veniæ seu remissionis spe prorsus sublatâ) incursurum. Harum testimonio literarum manu nostra subscriptarum et sigilli nostri Cæsarei appensione munitarum. And whosoever should do so, he will find himself incuring our most serious wrath and that of the Holy Roman Empire and the pain of one hundred marks of pure gold, of which half we grant to our imperial treasury and the rest to the usage of those who have suffered injury, removing any hope of relief or pardon.  In witness these letters signed by our hand and our Imperial seal appended.
Datum in Arce Nostra Regia Pragæ, die decima quarta mensis Decembris Anno Domini Millesimo quingentesimo nonagesimo quinto, Regnorum nostrorum Romani vicesimo primo, Hungarici vicesimo quarto et Bohemici itidem vicesimo primo.
Given in our royal city of Prague, the 14th day of December the year of the Lord 1595, of our reign of the Romans the 21st, of Hungary the 24th and of Bohemia the 21st.

Ad mandatum Sac. Cæs.
Majestatis proprium
Jo. Barvitius.

By his Imperial Majesty's command
Johann Barwitz

The controversy

The following is from William Camden: The historie of the life and reigne of that famous princesse Elizabeth . 1634.

[172] ...This yeare [39th] returned Thomas Arundell of Wadour, whom the Emperour created Earle of the Holy Empire, and all and euery one of his Heires, his Posterity, and those that shall descend from him, lawfully begotten of either sex, Earles and Countesses of the Holy Empire; for because the Queene in her Letters had commended him as her kinsman: and because he had deserued so great an honour in his braue behauiour in the Hungary warre against the Turke. This title whosoeuer is master of, are said to enioy by vertue thereof these priuiledges, that in all Imperiall Diets they haue both place and voyce, they may purchase Land in the Empire, they may muster vp Voluntaries, and need not to appeare being cited to iudgement, but onely in the Imperiall Chamber. When he (after his returne) grew somewhat famous among the common people, by reason of this Title there arose vpon it a question presently,  whether a Subiect ought to admit of any such Honour or Title from a forreine Prince, his owne Prince being not acquainted with it? There were indeed those that thought that such rewards for valour were to be allowed of, from what Prince soeuer they were bestowed, by reason that vertue growes lanke without her rewards of merit, vrging the example of Henry the third King of England, who very thankfully acknowledged Reginald Mohune, made Earle of Somerset by the Apostolike authority of the Bishop of Rome. Also of Henry the eight, who did so congratulate Robert Curson, whom Maximilian the first Emperour, had created Lord of the Holy Empire, for his warlike valour, that he reckoned him amongst his Lords of England· and allowed him an annuall pension for the better  [173]  maintenance of his dignity. Besides they vrged some braue Scottish Souldiers, as of Archibald Duglasse of Wigtone, who receiued the Title of Duke of Tours from the French King: and of Iohn Steward, who was by the King of France made Earle D' Euereux, & that the Scottish kings esteemed this as an honour to the Nation. But the Lords of England imagining that this would bereaue them and their Heires of some of their prerogatiues, if so be they and their Heires were to giue place to such an vpstart Lord and his Heires for euer, argued against it thus: that such Titles of honour are neither to be receiued by the Subiect,  nor to be allowed of by the Prince. That it is the property of the Prince for to conferre honours vpon his owne Subiects, and not for any Forreiner to doe it, according to the words of Valerian the Emperour.

Let that be onely an Honour, which is bestowed by our command.

Vrging, that there is a great detraction both from the Maiesty of the Prince, and the dutie of the Subiect, if they may be tolerated to receiue Dignities from Forreiners. For there must needs be a secret allegiance betweene him that is honoured, and the party honouring. That these kinde of Titles are nothing else but a cunning sleight, to prefer men out of the obedience to their Prince, to any strange Forreiner. That there may be an action of theft against him, that shall brand another mans sheepe with his marke. Also that there may be an action of cousenage and deceit against him, that shall spread abroad fodder to entice another mans   sheep into his flocke. And although mighty Princes are not bound to these Lawes, yet are they by the equity of these Lawes, and the Law of Nature: As in the Citie and Commonwealth of Rome no man could be a Citizen of that and any other City; whereupon Pompeius Atticus refused to [174] be reckoned as a Citizen of Athens, lest he should lose his right in the Citie of Rome. So in the Common-wealth both of Venice and Genua, whosoeuer receiue a Spirituall diginity from the Pope, or any Temporall one from any forreine or strange Prince, is held suspected of his Loialty, and suspended from the vndertaking of any office publike. Concerning the obiections they answered, that indeed it might come to passe, that Henry the third, out of his simplicity and the times iniquity, might allow of Reginald Mohune, thrust into an Earledome by the Pope, when as his Father hauing beene excommunicated, and threatned depriuation, was compelled to acknowledge himself the tributary King of the Pope of Rome: and yet it appeareth vpon Acts and Records of those times, that Mohune was not accounted as Earle of Somerset. Concerning Henry the eight, they made answer, that he therefore accounted Curson as one of his Lords, that he might obscure that shadowy title of Lord of the Holy Empire; but withall obseruing, that hee allowed him no voyce in Parliament. But as for the Scots, that it was no wonder if they receiued and allowed of honour from the French,  when they shew themselues to bee vnder the tuition of the French Floure-de-luce by their Kings armes, and the Floure-de-luce therein. Many indeed esteemed an Earle of the sacred Empire of no better ranke then a publike Notary: as they esteemed all the Counts and Viscounts of the Holy Palace at Lateran created by the Pope: or the Kings Physitians, Lawyers, Grammarians, or Rhetoricians, who hauing professed 20. yeares, boasted themselues with the title of Count Palatines:  but we know that the Count Palatine is an honoured title, and hath Princely iurisdiction in it's owne courts, in Fees, and fading heredities.

The Queenes censure was,  that as a woman should not follow any man but her husband, so a Subiect should not receiue any thing but [175] from his owne Prince. I would not sheepe my should be branded with anothers marke: neither would I haue them to be at anothers call or whistle.

The following note is also of interest.  It comes from Sir William Sanderson (1586?-1676): A compleat history of the lives and reigns of, Mary Queen of Scotland, and of her son and successor, James the Sixth, King of Scotland, p. 213-214:

But our Law doth prohibit any Subject of this Nation to receive Titles of Honor, or dignity of the gift or donation of a forraign Prince, it being belonging to the State of this Nation, est ius Majestatis & inter insignia summæ potestatis, vide Cook 7 part.

And if such a man bring an Action and the writ be so stiled; the defendant may plead Abatement of his writ.

Nor shall any Nobleman of any other Nation, hold plea in England by his name of dignity, but only by his name of baptisme and Sùrname, Cook 7. part.

Nay, though he mary in England, and have issue here, the Father dying, his Son shall not bear titles of his Fathers Honour, because the title had original by a forein Prince, and not by English Peerage.

But more, and worthy observance: A Knight of any foreign Nation, shall be so named in all our Courts of Pleas, (for the highest and lowest dignities are universal) 26 Edward 4 39 Edward 3.

Arundell of Wardour, Barony of  (extinct 1944)

Arms: Sable 6 swallows argent 3, 2, and 1

  • Sir Thomas (=1552), m. Margaret Howard
  • Sir Matthew (d. 1598) m. Margaret Willoughby
  • Sir Thomas (c1560-1639), cr. baron May 4, 1605. m,. Mary Wriothesley, 2 m. Ann Philipson
  • Thomas (1584-1643) m. Blanche Somerset (d. 1649)
  • Henry 3d (c1606-94) m. Cecily Compton
  • Thomas, 4th (d. 1712) m. Mary Spencer
  • Henry, 5th (d. 1726)
  • Henry, 6th. (d. 1746)
  • Henry, 7th (d. 1758), m. heiress of Arundell of Lanherne
  • Henry 8th baron, (1740-1808) m. Mary Conquest;
    built Wardour Castle ("which tended not a little to embarrass his fortune")
       succeeded by his 1st cousin:
  • James Everard, 9th baron (d. 1817) m. Mary Christiana Arundell (eldest d. of 9th b.)
  • James Everard, 10th (1785-1834), m. Mary Grenville,
    s. by his brother
  • Henry Benedict, 11th (1804-62), m. Lucy Smythe, 2d Frances Catherine Tichborne
  • John Francis, 12th baron (1831-1906)
    s. by his brother
  • Everard Aloysius Gonzaga, 13th baron (1834-1907), priest,
    s. by his 1st cousin
  • Edgar Clifford, 14th  1859- (son of  Theodore Arundell and Louisa Hussey)
    s. by his brother
  • Gerald Arthur, 15th baron 1861-1939. m. 1906 Ivy Segrave
  • John Francis, 16th baron, 1907-1944

Daughters of 15th Baron

  • Hon Mary Isabella (b 1913); m 1935 (marriage dissolved 1955)
    Air Commodore Thomas Patrick Feltrim Fagan, RAF (d 1985)
    • Patrick Feltrim, b 1935;  MBE (Mil) 1966, CB (Mil) 1990; Maj-Gen late RE:; m 1967
      Veronica, da of J. J. Lorant, and widow of Capt C. J. C. Thompson, RE
      • Daragh Patrick Feltrim b 1969
      • Rory Michael Feltrim b 1972
    • Michael John, b 1940
    • Deirdre Mairi, b 1937
  • Hon Blanche Mary Arundell, (d 1993); m 1935 (marriage dissolved 1954)
    Ninian John Frederick Hanbury Tracy (1910-1971)
    • Jennifer Avril, b 1941: m 1964
      Martin Robert Morland, CMG, HM Ambassador to Burma 1986-90, el son of Sir Oscar Charles Morland, GBE, KCMG
      • William, b 1965
      • Anthony, b 1967
      • Catherine Mary, b 1966

Wardour Castle, built in 1770 by James Paine for the 8th baron, became a girls school in 1960, was sold 1993 for £1m, divided into flats.

See also The Ancestor, vol. ix, p. 234.

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Last modified: Sep 22, 2006