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The Earl of Lindsey is a title in the Peerage of England, which should not be confused with the Scottish title of the Earl of Lindsay, which has been held by the Bertie family since its inception in 1626.

1. The Origins of the Berties

As far as the origin of the Berties is concerned there is what you might call the 'Bertie Legend', which claims that they came from Bertiland in Prussia and arrived in Britain during the period of the Anglo-Saxon settlement and founded Bertiestad, now Bearsted near Maidstone in Kent. A 'Leopold de Bertie' was Constable of Dover Castle during the reign of King Ethelred, but later fell out with the king, so much so that his son 'Burbach Bertie' fled to France where the family remained until his descendant 'Philippe de Bertie' returned to England with Henry II in 1154 to recover his patrimony at Bearsted. Although there was a time when such stories were believed they are, to put it bluntly, complete and utter nonsense, but typical of the kind of fabrication sometimes put together by those peers who were a trifle ashamed of their plebian origins.

The first Bartie that actually appears in the historical record was a Robert Bartue of Bearsted in Kent who died in 1502 and was nothing more than a stonemason. His son Thomas Bartue also became a mason, and was employed as the master mason on Winchester Cathedral in 1532 at the salary of 13 shillings and 4 pence. He was later hired by Henry VIII as the builder of both Calshot and Hurst castles, and was subsequently appointed the Captain of Hurst Castle in 1550 and granted arms on the 10th July 1550 which signified that he had become a gentleman.

As such he was able to afford to send his son Richard to be educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and as an educated man this Richard ended up being employed by one Katherine Willoughby as her gentleman usher. Richard Bertie subsequently married his employer, who was the de jure Baroness Willoughby in her own right, although more commonly known as the Duchess of Suffolk at the time, having previously been married to the Duke. It was their son Peregrine Bertie, the 13th Baron Willoughby of Willoughby, Beck, and Eresby (as he liked to describe himself at the time) who then married Mary de Vere, the only daughter of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, and was succeeded on his death in 1601 by his eldest son Robert Bertie.

This Robert Bertie, the 14th Baron Willoughby de Eresby became something of a soldier and fought against the Spanish at Nieuwpoort in 1600, led a military expedition to assist Christian IV of Denmark in 1612, and was subsequently to be found fighting in both Norway and the United Provinces. Following the death of Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford without a direct male heir in 1625, Robert then petitioned the House of Lords to be recognised as the Earl of Oxford as heir-general. Although his claim was rejected in favour of that of the heir male Robert de Vere, Bertie was granted the hereditary office of Lord Great Chamberlain as some kind of recompense, and since nobody below the rank of earl had previously held that office, he was then created the Earl of Lindsey on the 22nd November 1626.

In this manner through two fortitous marriages the family of Bertie transformed themselves from being mere tradesmen into peers of the realm and the possessers of one of the Great Offices of State.

2. The Earls of Lindsey

As the 1st Earl, Robert Bertie served as the Vice-Admiral of the Isle of Rhé Expedition in 1627, was placed in command of the fleet sent to relieve La Rochelle in 1628, became the Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire in 1629 and a knight of the Garter in 1630. He subsequently sided with Charles I during his disputes with Parliament and in 1642 the latter deprived him of his lieutenancy, and after he then joined the king at York declared him to be "a public enemy to the state". Appointed a colonel in the Foot Guards and a general in the royalist forces on the outbreak of the Civil War proper, he fought at the battle of Edgehill on the 23rd October 1642, were he was shot in the thigh and taken prisoner and subsequently bled to death due to the lack of any available medical treatment.

He was succeeded by his eldest son Montagu who had earlier been the Member of Parliament for Lincolnshire 1624–25 and Stamford 1625–26 before being called up to the House of Lords on the 3rd November 1640 in his father's barony as the Lord Willoughby. As much of a Royalist as his father, as a captain in the King's Guards he was also present at Edgehill, were he voluntarily surrendered to in order to attend to his father during what turned out to be his final hours. The 2nd Earl was then imprisoned in Warwick Castle, but released in July 1643 as part of a prisoner exchange and rejoined the king's army and fought at the battle of Naseby in 1645. The 2nd Earl remained with Charles I until the bitter end, attending the king during his trial in 1649 and one of the four peers who accompanied the king's body to its grave at Windsor.

The 2nd Earl subsequently avoided political affairs until the Restoration, when he was appointed as Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, awarded the Order of the Garter, and recognised in possession of the office of Lord Great Chamberlain, in which capacity he officiated at the coronation of Charles II on the 23rd April 1661. He later died on 25 July 1666, and was followed by his son Robert, previously the Member of Parliament for Boston since 1661. The 3rd Earl served as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber from 1674 to 1685, Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire between 1666 and 1700 and died on the 8th May 1701, being succeeded by his eldest son by his second wife Elizabeth, the daughter of 4th Baron Wharton.

The 4th Earl, who was again named Robert, had earlier been the Member of Parliament for Boston in 1685–1687 and 1689–1690, before being called up to the House of Lords on the 19th April 1690 in his father's barony as the Lord Willoughby of Eresby, and served as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1689 and 1697. After succeeding his father as the Earl of Lindsey he was subsequently created the Marquess of Lindsey on the 21st December 1706 and then the Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven on the 26th July 1715.

3. The Earls of Lindsey revived

The title of the Earl of Lindsey therefore remained obscured under the superior title of the Duke of Ancaster until the death of Brownlow Bertie the 5th Duke of Ancaster on the 8th February 1809 leaving an only daughter named Mary Elizabeth. The 5th Duke turned out to be the last of the male heirs of the Robert Bertie who had been 1st Duke of Lancaster and 4th Earl of Lindsey, and whilst this rendered the dukedom and its associated titles extinct, there were other male descendants of previous Earls of Lindsey around able to inherit that title. In particular there was an Albemarle Bertie, the only son of a Peregrine Bertie the grandson of a Charles Bertie of Uffington who was himself the fifth son of the 2nd Earl. It was therefore this Albemarle Bertie who now succeeded his distant cousin as the 9th Earl of Lindsey.

The 9th Earl had earlier joined the army in 1762 and reached the rank of General in 1803, being appointed the Colonel of the 9th Foot in 1794, the 77th Foot in 1804 and the 89th Foot in 1808, whilst also finding the time to be the Tory Member of Parliament for Stamford from 1801 until succeeding to the title in 1809. He died a few years later on the 18th September 1818, and was succeeded by his eldest son George Augustus, although the 14th Earl appears to have lived an entirely unremarkable life before dying unmarried on the 21st March 1877. He was followed by his younger brother Montagu, a former captain in the Grenadier Guards. Although the 11th Earl did manage to find a wife in the form of Elizabeth, the daughter of Reverend John Earle Welby he was otherwise as unremarkable as his brother and died on the 29th January 1899 leaving an only son named Montagu Peregrine.

The 12th Earl had earlier been a captain in the 4th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment, and served as Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of New South Wales between 1885 and 1888, which is no doubt how he met his wife Millicent, the eldest daughter of James Charles Cox of Craig Cruich in Sydney. However he died without male issue on the 2nd January 1938 leaving an only daughter named Muriel Felicia Vere Bertie.

4. The Abingdon Berties

This might well have been the end of the line were it not for the fact that the 2nd Earl of Lindsey had taken a second wife being Bridget Norris, who was the de jure Baroness Norris in her own right, and the eldest son by this marriage, one James Bertie the 5th Baron Norris, was later created the Earl of Abingdon on the 30th November 1682. Therefore it was Montagu Henry, who had been the 8th Earl of Abingdon since 1928, who duly succeeded his rather distant cousin as the 13th Earl of Lindsey in 1938. A former captain in the Grenadier Guards during World War I, the 13th Earl was the High Steward of Abingdon and a trustee of the British Museum, but died without issue on the 11th September 1963, being succeeded by his cousin Richard who was a grandson of the 7th Earl of Abingdon.

Richard Henry Rupert Bertie is the 14th and present Earl of Lindsey as well as being the 9th and present Earl of Abingdon and also holds the title of the Barron Norris, although the Berties have always preferred to style themselves as the Barons Norreys of Rycote. A broker and underwriting member of Lloyd's of London between the years 1958 and 1996, the current Earl has two sons, the eldest of whom, Henry Mark Willoughby Bertie goes by the courtesy title of the Lord Norreys, and has two sons of his own.


THE EARLS OF LINDSEY

BERTIE


SOURCES

  • George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
  • The entry for LINDSEY and ABINGDON from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
  • The Bertie Legend http://www.baronage.co.uk/bphtm-02/moa-13.html
  • The entries for Bertie, Robert, first earl of Lindsey (1582–1642), Bertie, Montague, second earl of Lindsey (1607/8–1666), from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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