Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent

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Hubert de Burgh
Hubert de Burgh-Paris.jpg
Hubert de Burgh seeking sanctuary in 1234, by Matthew Paris, from his Historia Anglorum
Chief Justiciar of England
In office
Monarch John
Henry III
Preceded by Peter des Roches
Succeeded by Stephen de Segrave
Personal details
Born c. 1170
Died before 5 May 1243
Banstead, England
Nationality English
Relations William de Burgh (brother)
Geoffrey de Burgh (brother)
Thomas de Burgh (brother)
Children John de Burgh
Hubert de Burgh
Margaret de Burgh
Occupation Earl of Kent

Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent (c. 1170 – before 5 May 1243) was an English nobleman who served as Chief Justiciar of England and Ireland during the reigns of King John and of his infant son and successor King Henry III and, as a consequence, was one of the most influential and powerful men in English politics.


Hubert de Burgh was born of unknown parents of Burgh-next-Aylsham, Norfolk.[1] A case has been made for Hubert's father being Walter de Burgh,[2] and his mother was named Alice.[1] The family were minor landholders in Norfolk and Suffolk, from whom Hubert inherited at least four manors.[1] His elder brother was William de Burgh (d. 1206), founder of the de Burgh/Burke/Bourke dynasty in Ireland,[1][3] and his younger brothers were Geoffrey (Archdeacon of Norwich and later Bishop of Ely), and Thomas (castellan of Norwich).[1]

Appointments by King John

Hubert de Burgh had entered the service of Prince John by 1198, and rose in importance in John's administration: he served successively as chamberlain of John's household, Ambassador to Portugal, Sheriff first of Dorset and Somerset and then of Berkshire and Cornwall, custodian of the castles of Dover, Launceston and Windsor, and then of the Welsh Marches. For these services, he was granted a series of manors, baronies, and other castles, and became a powerful figure in John's administration.[1]

In 1202, de Burgh was sent to France by King John, to assist in the defense of Poitou against King Philip II of France. He was appointed castellan of the great castle of Chinon in Touraine. During this time, he served as guard of the captured Arthur I, Duke of Brittany. After almost all of Poitou had fallen to the French king, de Burgh held the castle for an entire year, until he was captured during the ultimately successful storming of the castle in 1205.[1] He was held captive until 1207, during which time his royal appointments and grants of land passed to other men. Following his return to England, de Burgh did however acquire other offices in John's administration. He also acquired lands scattered throughout East Anglia, South-West England, and elsewhere, making him once again an important baron in England.[1]

In 1212, de Burgh returned to France at first as deputy seneschal of Poitou and then as seneschal. He served John in his efforts to recover dominions lost to Philip II of France, until the signing of a truce between John and Philip following John's failed military campaign in France (1214).[1]

Chief Justiciar of England

Hubert de Burgh remained loyal to King John during the barons' rebellion in the last years of his reign. In the early stages of that rebellion, John sent de Burgh to London with the Bishop of Coventry, in an unsuccessful attempt to command the people of London to resist the Barons' military advance. De Burgh and Philip d'Aubigny brought together the king's troops at Rochester, but then John made peace with the rebels. In Magna Carta (1215) de Burgh is listed as one of those who advised the king to sign, and his brother, Geoffrey (Bishop of Ely), was a witness. Hubert de Burgh is also listed as the person who would act on the king's behalf if the king were out of the country. Soon after the issuing of Magna Carta, de Burgh was officially declared Chief Justiciar of England.[5]

During the First Barons' War (1215–17), Hubert de Burgh served John as sheriff of Kent and Surrey, as well as castellan of Canterbury and Dover. He defended Dover Castle during a siege that lasted until John died (in October 1216), and the infant King Henry III was crowned. On 24 August 1217, a French fleet arrived off the coast of Sandwich in Kent, in order to provide Prince (later King) Louis of France, then ravaging England, with soldiers, siege engines and fresh supplies.[6][7] Hubert set sail to intercept the French fleet and at the resulting Battle of Sandwich[8] he scattered the French and captured their flagship The Great Ship of Bayonne (commanded by Eustace the Monk, who was promptly executed).[8] When the news reached Louis, he entered into fresh peace negotiations.[8]

Regent to Henry III

When Henry III came of age in 1227 Hubert de Burgh was appointed Governor of Rochester Castle, lord of Montgomery Castle in the Welsh Marches, and Earl of Kent. He remained one of the most influential people at court. On 27 April 1228, he was named Justiciar for life.[5] However, in 1232, his enemies' plots finally succeeded and he was removed from office and was soon imprisoned at Devizes Castle. When Richard Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke rebelled against the king in 1233, the men holding Hubert de Burgh captive released him and he subsequently joined the rebellion.[1] In 1234, Edmund Rich, Archbishop of Canterbury, effected a reconciliation. Hubert officially resigned the Justiciarship (about 28 May 1234) and no longer exercised the power of the office after September 1232.[5] This judgment was reversed by William de Raley (alias Raleigh) in 1234, which, for a time, restored the earldom.[9]

Trouble with the king

The marriage of Hubert de Burgh's daughter, Margaret (or Megotta as she was also known), to the young Richard of Clare, Earl of Gloucester, brought de Burgh into some trouble in 1236, for the earl was still a minor and in the king's wardship, and the marriage had been celebrated without the royal licence. Hubert, however, protested that the match was not of his making, and promised to pay the king some money, so the matter passed by for the time. Eventually the marriage came to an end, by way of her death.[10][11][12]

Lands acquired

The remains of De Burgh's Hadleigh Castle near Southend in Essex

In 1206, he purchased the manor of Tunstall in Kent (from Robert de Arsic)[13] which was later inherited by his eldest son, John de Burgh.[14]

Hubert was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and was also given charge of Falaise, in Normandy.[1] At Falaise he was the gaoler of Arthur I, Duke of Brittany, the nephew of King John and boy claimant to the English throne. Arthur may or may not have been murdered after leaving de Burgh's custody; his fate is unknown.

At some time before 1215, Hubert de Burgh is cited as having been appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, which position later (after the Baron's War) included the ex officio constableship of Dover Castle. In the case of de Burgh however, a rather long period seems to have elapsed between the two appointments.[15]

Sometime after 1215, De Burgh started building a castle in Hadleigh having been awarded the lands by King John.[16] A licence to crenellate was retrospectively given in 1230, at which point that original castle had been completed.[16] After falling out with King Henry III, De Burgh was stripped of Hadleigh Castle.[16] The castle was claimed by the monarchy and stayed in royal hands until being sold (with much of the stonework dismantled and sold) in 1551.[16] The castle later suffered from several landslips, and the ruins are currently owned by English Heritage.[16]


Hubert was initially betrothed to Joan de Redvers (daughter of William de Redvers, 5th Earl of Devon), but the marriage never took place and she later married William Brewer II (d.1232), eldest surviving son and heir of William Brewer (d.1226) who was a prominent administrator and judge during the reigns of Richard I, John and Henry III.

Hubert de Burgh married three times:


Hubert de Burgh died in Banstead, Surrey, in 1243,[13] and was buried in the Church of the Friars Preachers (commonly called Black Friars) in Holborn, London.[10]

His sons did not inherit his earldom, as the inheritance of the Earldom was restricted to descendants of Hubert and his third wife, possibly because Henry III granted the title on account of Hubert marrying a Scottish princess.[19][20][21]

Fictional portrayals

Hubert is a character in Shakespeare's play King John. On screen, he has been portrayed by Franklyn McLeay in the silent short King John (1899) which recreates John's death scene; by Jonathan Adams in the BBC TV drama series The Devil's Crown (1978); and by John Thaw in the BBC Shakespeare version of The Life and Death of King John (1984). The story of his daughter's marriage is told in Edith Pargeter's novel The Marriage of Meggotta (1979).[22]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 West 2004
  2. Ellis 1952, pp. 183–202
  3. Almond's peerage of Ireland 1767 p.6 Earls of Clanricarde
  4. Prince Arthur and Hubert: William Frederick Yeames (1835–1918): Manchester Art Gallery, ArtUK, retrieved 15 January 2021<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Powicke & Fryde 1961, p. 70
  6. Carpenter 1990, pp. 43–44
  7. Ridgeway 2004
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Carpenter 1990, p. 44
  9. Plucknett 1956, p. 170
  10. 10.0 10.1 Stephen 1886, p. 321
  11. Archer, p. 393
  12. Tewkesbury Annals p. 106 ; Pat. Rolls, 17 b
  13. 13.0 13.1 Hasted 1798, pp. 80–98
  14. Name Latinised to de Burgo
  15. White and Black books of the Cinque Ports, Vol XIX, 1966
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 (Alexander & Westlake 2009, p. 9)
  17. Patterson 2004
  18. Stephen 1886, p. 317
  19. F. J. West, ‘Burgh, Hubert de, earl of Kent (c.1170–1243)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, revised online 2008, available online via some libraries
  20. Susanna Annesley, "The Countess and the Constable: An exploration of the conflict that arose between Margaret de Burgh and Bertram de Criel", Henry III Fine Rolls Project, 2015: The National Archives and King's College London,, accessed 21 December 2015, citing (Calendar of Charter Rolls 1226-57, p. 13).
  21. S. H. F. Johnston. "The Lands of Hubert De Burgh" in The English Historical Review, Vol. 50 (No. 199), Oxford University Press, 1935, available via JSTOR through some libraries and other institutions, accessed 7 November 2019: p 430
  22. Lewis 1994


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  • Ellis, Clarence (1952). Hubert de Burgh A Study in Constancy. London: Phoenix House Ltd. pp. 183–202.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hasted, Edward (1798). "Parishes". The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent. Institute of Historical Research. 6: 80–98.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1886), "Burgh, Hubert de", Dictionary of National Biography, London: Smith, Elder & Co., 7, pp. 315–322<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lewis, Margaret (1994). Edith Pargeter--Ellis Peters. Seren. ISBN 978-1-85411-128-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Plucknett, T. (1956), A Concise History of the Common Law, Little, Brown and Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Powicke, F. Maurice; Fryde, E. B. (1961). Handbook of British Chronology (2nd ed.). London: Royal Historical Society.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ridgeway, H. W. (2004). "Henry III (1207–1272)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12950.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Patterson, Robert B. (2004). "Isabella, suo jure countess of Gloucester (c.1160–1217)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/46705.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • West, F. J. (2004). "Hubert de Burgh". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3991.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Further reading

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  • Harwood, Brian, Fixer & Fighter The Life of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, 1170–1243. Pen & Sword (2016)
  •  Hunt, William (1886). [ "Burgh, Hubert de" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 7. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • West, F. J. The Justiciarship in England 1066–1232, (Cambridge, 1966)