Feilding, William, first Earl of Denbigh d. 1643, was the son of Basil Feilding of Newnham Paddox in Warwickshire. He was born before 1582, educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and knighted, according to Collins on 23 April 1603, according to Doyle on 4 March 1607 (Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges; Doyle, Official Baronage). He married Susan Villiers, daughter of Sir George Villiers of Brookesby, Leicestershire. The plain country gentleman who had the good luck to marry Buckingham's sister in the days of her poverty found that the match had made his fortune (Gardiner, History of England, iv. 276). He became first deputy-master, and then master of the great wardrobe (23 Jan. 1619, 11 Jan. 1622). He was created successively Baron Feilding (13 Dec. 1620) and Earl of Denbigh (14 Sept. 1622, Doyle). He was charged to follow the Duke of Buckingham and the Prince of Wales to Spain, and selected for the honour of bringing word to England when the contract was passed (Court and Times of James I, ii. 402, 415). Without any experience either of military or naval affairs, he was appointed to important commands. In the expedition to Cadiz in 1625 he acted as rear-admiral, and when Cecil landed as admiral (The Voyage to Cadiz, Camden Society, pp. 50-83). He commanded the fleet despatched to the relief of Rochelle in April 1628. For his failure to achieve success there he had a plausible apology to offer, but he did not make any real attempt to break the blockade (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1628-9, p. 106; Fuller, Ephemeris Parliamentaria, 1654, p. 230). About the same time Denbigh was appointed one of the permanent council of war (15 Feb. 1628), and he subsequently became a member of the council of Wales (12 May 1633, Doyle). In 1631 he undertook a journey to India, apparently simply from curiosity, though Lodge mentions a portrait in the inscription under which he is described as ambassador to the Sophi (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629-1631, p. 487; Lodge, Portraits, iv. 117). He continued in favour with the king even after the duke's death. Thanks to the influence of the duke, and afterwards of the king, all his family made rich matches. His eldest daughter, Mary, was married to James, marquis of Hamilton, though it required some years to reconcile the bridegroom to the marriage which was forced upon him (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 161, 415; Burnet, Lives of the Hamiltons, ed. 1852, pp. 4, 516). His second daughter, Anne, married Baptist, son and heir to Edward, viscount Camden. His third daughter, Elizabeth, married Lewis Boyle, viscount Kinalmeaky, second son of Richard, earl of Cork. This marriage was forced on the Earl of Cork by royal pressure (Lismore Papers, 1st ser. v. 113, 119). She was also created Countess of Guilford by Charles II in 1660. His eldest son and successor, Basil [qv.], was summoned to the House of Lords in 1628. His second son, George, who married Bridget, daughter and coheiress of Sir Michael Stanhope, was also raised to the peerage (1622) by the titles of Lord Feilding of Lecaghe and Viscount Callan in the realm of Ireland, and was subsequently created Earl of Desmond (Collins). When the war broke out Denbigh, in spite of his advanced years, took up arms for the king and served as a volunteer in Prince Rupert's regiment, with unwearied pains and exact submission to discipline and order, and engaged with singular courage in all enterprises of danger (Clarendon, Rebellion, vii. 33). In Rupert's attack on Birmingham, 3 April 1643, Denbigh was dangerously wounded and died on 8 April (Mercurius Aulicus, 5 and 15 April 1643). He was buried at Monk's Kirby in Warwickshire (Collins). His brother, Lieutenant-colonel Edward Feilding, who also served in the king's army, was killed at the second battle of Newbury (Peshall, Oxford, App. p. 11).
The Countess of Denbigh survived her husband's death many years. As first lady of the bedchamber she followed Henrietta Maria first to Oxford and then to Paris. While in France she became a Roman catholic, and in 1651 the council of state ordered the sequestration of all her property in England on the ground that she had lately turned papist and was active in designs against the state (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, pp. 149, 288). She was the patron of Crashaw, who dedicated his sacred poems to her, in hearty acknowledgement of his immortal obligation to her goodness and charity, and addressed to her a poem persuading her — to render herself without further delay into the communion of the catholic church (Crashaw, Poems, ed. 1858, pp. 141, 146).
A portrait of the Earl of Denbigh by Vandyck was No. 100 in the Vandyck exhibition of 1887, and those of the Duchess of Hamilton and Lady Kinalmeaky were Nos. 67 and 106 in the same collection. An engraving from another version of Vandyck's portrait of Denbigh is given in Lodge's Portraits.
Collins's Peerage of England, ed. Brydges
Doyle's Official Baronage of England, i. 538
Rushworth's Historical Collections
Historical Manuscripts Commission, 4th Rep.
Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Persons, ed. 1850, iv. 113-119
Gardiner's Hist. of England.
Contributor: C. H. F. [Charles Harding Firth]