Although a gentleman known as Urso de Abitot, who was both the constable of Worcester Castle and sheriff of Worcestershire, is sometimes said to have been created Earl of Worcester in 1076, this is not now regarded as being correct and the title was first properly granted to the Beaumont family.
Waleran de Beaumont was the younger of twin sons born to Robert de Beaumont the Earl of Leicester. Whilst his marginally older brother inherited the title of Leicester in 1118, Waleran de Beaumont inherited his father's position as Count of Meulan in Normandy. In the year 1138 he was additionally created Earl of Worcester by king Stephen, but after the battle of Lincoln in 1141 he defected to the side of Stephen's rival the Empress Matilda in order to protect his Norman lands which were threatened by the advances made by Geoffrey of Anjou.
Following the decline of Matilda's fortunes in England, Waleran de Beaumont appears to have been deprived of his English earldom by Stephen around the year 1145. Waleran de Beaumont died in 1166 but although his son Robert de Beaumont inherited the Norman title of Count of Meulan he does not seem to have made any attempt to claim the title of Worcester which became extinct for the next 250 years.
Thomas Percy was the younger brother of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland and served with some distinction in the wars against France and Spain, eventually leading the English embassy sent to France in 1392 to negotiate the terms of the peace treaty. He was created Earl of Worcester by Richard II on the 29th September 1397, but was soon afterwards willing to assist in deposing Richard II and bringing Henry IV to power in 1399. Four years later Thomas joined with his fellow Percys in rebellion against Henry IV, was captured at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Thomas was attainted for treason and executed soon afterwards.
William Beauchamp was the fourth son of Thomas Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick by Katherine Mortimer, the daughter of Roger Mortimer the Earl of March. His maternal aunt Agnes Mortimer married Laurence Hastings, the Lord Hastings, created Earl of Pembroke in 1399, and through which connection he inherited in 1393 the title of Lord Bergavenny.
His son Richard Beauchamp, the 2nd Baron Bergavenny, was created Earl of Worcester by Henry V in 1420 but died shortly afterwards in 1422 without male issue and the earldom became extinct once more.
John Tiptoft the 2nd Baron Tibetot of Powis was an enthusiastic supporter of the Yorkist cause during the War of the Roses and was created Earl of Worcester by king Henry VI on the 16th July 1448. He married Cecilly Neville sister of the influential Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and 'Kingmaker'.
John Tiptoft was appointed Constable of England in 1462 and through this office was responsible for the execution of many of the Lancastrian leaders earned himself the title 'the butcher of England'. During the brief restoration of Henry VI in 1470 he was seized by John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford and himself executed as an act of revenge for his earlier killing of de Vere's father and brother in 1462.
He was succeeded in the earldom by his son Edward Tiptoft who died without issue on the 12th August 1485 ten days before the battle of Bosworth and the earldom reverted to the crown.
Charles Somerset was the illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset (and hence his assumption of Somerset as his surname). He married Elizabeth Herbert, daughter and heiress of William Herbert, former 2nd Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Huntingdon. Through this marriage he therefore inherited the Herbert estates in south Wales and in 1506 was created Lord Herbert of Raglan and subsequently created Earl of Worcester by Henry VIII on the 1st February 1513.
Charles was succeeded by his son Henry Somerset, who married Margaret Courtenay, the daughter of William Courtenay, Earl of Devon after which the succession passed from father to son through to Henry Somerset the 5th Earl.
Henry, the 5th earl was created Marquess of Worcester in 1643 as a reward for reputedly lending a million pounds to Charles I. Edward Somerset his son was created the Earl of Glamorgan in 1644, and is often referred to under that title despite succeeding to the marquessate in 1646. He was sent by Charles I to Ireland in 1645 to raise troops, and returned after negotiating a treaty with the Irish that gave the Catholics freedom of worship which was promptly repudiated by Charles.
The Somersets remained enthusiastic Royalists and the family estates were seized by Parliament but were mostly returned with the Restoration of 1660. Henry Somerset, the 3rd Marquess was created the Duke of Beaufort on the 2nd December 1682 in recognition of the family's support over the years.
THE EARLS OF WORCESTER
including Marquesses of Worcester
Created Duke of Beaufort in 1682; see Duke of Beaufort thereafter,
- Waleran de Beaumont
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica entry for
WORCESTER, EARLS AND MARQUESSES OF
- The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2001) entries for
Worcester, John Tiptoft, earl of
Worcester, Edward Somerset, 6th earl and 2nd marquess of
Worcester, Thomas Percy, earl of
- Somerset genealogy at
- Somerset family at
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790)
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com