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A portrait of Sir Philip Sidney, warrior-poet and brother of Mary Sidney-Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.
Sir Philip Sidney held an influential position at the Elizabethan court and was supported by his uncle, the Earl of Leicester. The young man became a leading advocate of ‘militant’ Protestantism. In January of 1583, Philip Sidney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I, and later that year he finally got married. He married Frances, daughter of the queen's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham.
William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (8 April 1580 – 10 April 1630) was the son of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke and his third wife, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Chancellor of the University of Oxford, he founded Pembroke College, Oxford with King James. He was warden of the Forest of Dean, and constable of St Briavels from 1608 to 1630. He served as Lord Chamberlain from 1615 to 1625. He died without legitimate issue, passing his title to his brother.
Lady Mary Herbert bore her husband, the Earl of Pembroke 4 children, the first of whom, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1580–1630) may be the young man described in Shakespeare's Sonnets. Their other surviving child, Philip, became the 4th Earl of Pembroke upon his brother's death in 1630. These sons are the "Incomparable Pair" to whom Shakespeare's First Folio is dedicated. At different times, both were patrons of the King's Men. Mary also had 2 daughters, Katherine (1581-84) & Anne.
The Countess of Pembroke's husband died in 1600. Her husband's will required that she did not remarry. Thereafter, her time was spent managing Wilton House and the other Pembroke estates, on behalf of her son, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, who followed in his mother's footsteps as a literary patron. After James I visited her at Wilton in 1603 and was entertained by Shakespeare's company, The King's Men, Mary moved out of Wilton as Dowager Countess and rented homes in London.