Facts and Events
Robert Dormer, 1st Earl of Carnarvon (1610 – 20 September 1643) was an English peer. He was the son of Sir William Dormer, and thus a grandson of Robert Dormer, 1st Baron Dormer. His mother was Alice Molyneux, daughter of Sir Richard Molyneux, 1st Bt. and Frances Gerard. Dormer received the title Baron Dormer at the age of six and on 2 August 1628, at age 18, he was raised to Viscount Ascott and was created Earl of Carnarvon.
At age six, Dormer was left a ward to the King. His father had left him a rich peer at an early age. The King then sold Dormer's wardship to Philip Herbert, then Earl of Montgomery, for £4000. Dormer had been brought up as a Catholic and would become a high-living Catholic courtier, in danger, infuriating to hard-line Parliamentarians. He was educated at Eton College and Oxford University. He was, according to the seventeenth-century biographer David Lloyd, “extreamly wild in his youth”, and addicted to gambling and hunting. He and his wife are recorded as regular performers in masques at court. He was an ardent Royalist and defying his father-in-law he fought for King Charles I in the English Civil War.
On 27 February 1625, at the age of fifteen, he was married to his guardian's daughter, Lady Anna Herbert (d.1643), which secured her future as Dormer was one of the wealthiest men in England at the time. Anna was the daughter of Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and Lady Susan de Vere, the youngest daughter of the Elizabethan courtier, poet, and playwright, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
Carnarvon was killed at the first Battle of Newbury on 20 September 1643 by a lone trooper who chanced upon him returning from a successful cavalry charge. As he lay dying he was asked if he had one final request of the King. "No", he replied, "in an hour like this, I have no prayer but to the King of Heaven." The different accounts of the manner of his death are collected in Mr Money's account of the battle (2nd ed. pg. 90). Clarendon says before the war he had been given up to pleasure and field sports, but that he broke those habits and became a thorough soldier, conspicuous not only for courage, but presence of mind and skilful generalship (ib vii 216). David Lloyd in his Memoirs of Excellent Personages gives several anecdotes illustrating Carnarvon's character (pp 369–72). There is also an elegy on his death in Sir Francis Wortley's Characters and Elegies, 1646. Carnarvon was buried firstly at Jesus College Chapel at Oxford University, but his body was removed in 1650 to a family burial place in Wing, Buckinghamshire.
Dormer was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles, who died in 1709 and with him the earldom of Carnarvon in the family of Dormer became extinct. Lady Carnarvon died on 3 June 1643 of small-pox. Anecdotes of her are to be found in the Strafford Papers (ii, 47) and the Sydney Papers (ii, 621) and a poem addressed to her is printed in Choice Drollery, 1656. Her portrait and that of her eldest son, Charles, was part of the exhibition of Anthony van Dyck's works at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1887.