Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, 1605-84

Royalist courtier who was a close confidante of Queen Henrietta Maria. After the Restoration, he started the development of London's West End.

Portrait of Henry JermynHenry Jermyn was the second surviving son of Sir Thomas Jermyn (1573-1644) of Rushbrook in Suffolk, a court official who was appointed governor of Jersey in 1631. Henry followed his father into royal service around 1622 and joined the household of Queen Henrietta Maria as a gentleman usher in 1627. He quickly became the Queen's favourite and confidante but in 1633, King Charles banished him to France over his scandalous refusal to marry Eleanor Villiers, whom he had seduced. Jermyn was allowed to return to court in 1636 and was appointed master of horse to the Queen in 1639. He was elected MP for Corfe Castle in the Short Parliament and for St Edmundsbury in the Long Parliament (1640).

In the spring of 1641, Jermyn took a leading part in the so-called "Army Plot", in which Royalist officers conspired to bring the northern army to London to coerce the King's enemies in Parliament. Jermyn was forced to flee to France when the plot was discovered in May 1641. The following year, with civil war about to break out in England, he joined Henrietta Maria at The Hague and assisted her efforts to raise loans, buy weapons and recruit troops for the Royalist cause. Jermyn returned to England with the Queen in February 1643 and was appointed colonel of the Queen's bodyguard on her march south to rejoin King Charles during the summer of 1643. At the Queen's request, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Jermyn of St Edmundsbury (8 September 1643).

In July 1644, Jermyn accompanied the Queen when she left England for France where he continued to assist her efforts to raise foreign support for the Royalist cause. He succeeded his father as governor of Jersey in 1644 and proposed a plan to cede the Channel Islands to France in exchange for military aid. This brought him into conflict with Sir Edward Hyde and his supporters which was exacerbated in June 1646 when Jermyn brought the Prince of Wales from Jersey to Paris against Hyde's advice, and in 1647 when he encouraged the King to promise a Presbyterian church settlement in England in order to gain Scottish support. After the defeat of the Royalists in the Second Civil War, it fell to Jermyn to break the terrible news of the King's execution to Henrietta Maria.

Jermyn's closeness to Henrietta Maria led to false rumours that they secretly married after the death of Charles I, though he remained her closest adviser and confidante. In opposition to Hyde and his followers, they headed the "Louvre" group at Charles II's court-in-exile which advocated seeking alliances with foreign powers and making concessions to the Presbyterians and other parliamentary factions in order to restore the Monarchy at the earliest possible opportunity.

Jermyn supported the alliance between Charles II and the Scots in 1650 and remained a member of the privy council even after the Scots-Royalist alliance was defeated at the battle of Worcester the following year. However, his political influence steadily declined, particularly after Charles was obliged to leave Paris in 1654 and the discovery of Henrietta Maria's attempts to convert Henry, Duke of Gloucester, to Catholicism. Jermyn remained with Henrietta Maria and lived at her château at Colombe from 1658. He was created 1st Earl of St Albans in December 1659.

St Albans was richly rewarded with land and property at the Restoration, but his enemy Hyde (now Earl of Clarendon) kept him out of the government. He was appointed ambassador to France in 1661 and worked to bring closer union between England and France. St Albans was present at the death of Henrietta Maria at Colombe in August 1669 and was an executor of her will. After the exile of Clarendon in 1667, he played little part in domestic politics though he was invested a Knight of the Garter in 1672 and served as lord chancellor from 1672-4.

St Albans became noted in London society for his devotion to gambling and good living. He was a patron of the architect Sir Christopher Wren and was responsible for the development of St James's Square and the surrounding streets, including Jermyn Street, which began the development of London's West End. He died unmarried in January 1684.


Anthony R.J.S. Adolph, Henry Jermyn, earl of St Albans, Oxford DNB, 2004

C.H. Firth, Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans, DNB 1891