Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham

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Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham (1564-1618/9) in Garter robes, wearing the chain of the Order of the Garter bearing the pendant of the Greater Saint George (Circle of Paul van Somer) Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham, by circle of Paul van Somer.jpg
Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham (1564-1618/9) in Garter robes, wearing the chain of the Order of the Garter bearing the pendant of the Greater Saint George (Circle of Paul van Somer)
Quartered arms of Sir Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham, KG Quartered arms of Sir Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham, KG.png
Quartered arms of Sir Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham, KG

Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham (22 November 1564 – 24 January 1618 (Old Style)/3 February 1618 (New Style)), lord of the Manor of Cobham, Kent, was an English peer who was implicated in the Main Plot against the rule of James I of England.



The son of William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham, by second wife Frances, daughter of Sir John Newton, he was educated at King's College, Cambridge. [1] In 1597 he succeeded his father as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports under Queen Elizabeth. Shortly after the accession of James I, he was implicated in the "Treason of the Main" in 1603. His brother George was executed, and Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London by James I, probably in an attempt to obtain the Cobham estates for the Duke of Lennox.

He was the second husband of Lady Frances Howard, daughter of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham and Katherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham.

He may have been the subject of a number of Elizabethan satires such as Thomas Nashe's Lenten Stuffe, Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour , and may have been the model of Shakespeare's Falstaff, who was originally given the name "Oldcastle". Sir John Oldcastle was an ancestor of Lord Cobham. Though Falstaff is more likely modelled on his father William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham (also descended from John Oldcastle) who was married to Frances Newton, whose family name was originally Caradock; referenced in Henry IV, Part 2 when Falstaff sings The Boy and the Mantle, a ballad in which Sir Caradoc's wife comes away with her fidelity and reputation intact (McKeen 1981). This could point to William Brooke, being married to a Caradock such as the Sir Caradoc in the ballad sung by Falstaff, as the model for Falstaff rather than Henry, being the son of a Caradock.

Cobham and the Main Plot

Contemporary accounts portray Cobham as a good natured but unintelligent man. He opposed the ascension of James I to the throne, along with Thomas Grey, 15th Baron Grey de Wilton. Cobham's dislike of James may have arisen from quarrels over religious policy, but Lord Grey was anti-Catholic. Cobham shows little political activity prior to James's time, and he seems generally to have been an uninvolved peer. His brother, Sir George Brooke, on the other hand, was involved in radical religious politics.

In 1603, the first year of James I's rule, both Brookes were involved in plots against the king. George Brooke entered into the radical and absurd Bye Plot with two Catholic priests, William Watson and William Clark, to kidnap the king and privy council, and force them to ease the political persecution of English Catholics.

At the very same time, Grey and Cobham entered into the Main Plot to raise a regiment of soldiers and force a coup d'etat. Cobham and Grey were to raise one-hundred and sixty thousand pounds (a figure that could be safely multiplied by twenty to convert to contemporary money) to bribe or hire an army. Cobham was to be the go-between with the Princely Count of Arenberg, who would do the actual negotiations with the Spanish court for the money. The conspirators, upon seizing government, would depose James and put Lady Arabella Stuart on the throne in his stead.

It is very likely that none of the offers from the Princely Count Arenberg were in good faith. It is plausible to concede that the Spanish court, already deeply in debt to banks in the Spanish Netherlands and the Dutch Republic, with the failure of the Spanish Armada years before, and having lost many of its galleons to English pirates, was in any position to offer such an astronomical sum to a somewhat improbable enterprise. However, Cobham believed the offers. He spoke with Sir Walter Raleigh about contacting Arenberg, and he was readying to set forth.

However, the Bye plot was discovered through its hireling "swordsmen," and the Bye plot conspirators were imprisoned. George Brooke may have sought to avoid a death sentence by informing on his brother. In any case, he provided information on the Main plot, and Grey, Cobham, and Raleigh were imprisoned in the Tower. During the trial, the evidence was shown to be inconsistent, especially in regard to Raleigh. The Bye plot conspirators were executed in 1603, and the Main plot conspirators were left in the Tower. In 1604 (new style), Cobham's honours in the Knights of the Garter were taken down and expelled.

Cobham, aged and sick, was released from the Tower in 1618, and died shortly after in a "dingy apartment in the Minories." [2]


In 1601 he married Frances Howard (c.1572-1628), 2nd daughter of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham and widow of Henry FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare. After her husband's attainder in 1603 the king granted her in 1604 a lease for her life of her husband's residence, Cobham Hall in Kent, where she lived "in solitary state" until her death in 1628, having in the meantime taken "no notice whatever of her husband after his trial". [3]

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Baron Cobham

The title Baron Cobham has been created numerous times in the Peerage of England; often multiple creations have been extant simultaneously, especially in the fourteenth century. The earliest creation was in 1313 for Henry de Cobham, 1st Baron Cobham, lord of the manors of Cobham and of Cooling, both in the county of Kent. The de Cobham family died out in the male line in 1408, with the death of the 3rd Baron Cobham, but the title continued via a female line to the Brooke family, which originated at the estate of "la Brook" near Ilchester in Somerset, and which later resided at Holditch in the parish of Thorncombe and at Weycroft in the parish of Axminster, both in Devon, both fortified manor houses. Following their inheritance, the Brooke family resided at Cobham Hall and Cooling Castle in Kent. Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham, was attainted in 1603, when the peerage became abeyant instead of becoming extinct. In 1916, the attainder was removed and the abeyance terminated in favor of the fifteenth baron. The twelfth to fourteenth barons never actually held the title. This creation became abeyant again in 1951.

Manor of Cobham, Kent

Cobham is an historic manor in the county of Kent, England, largely co-terminous with the ecclesiastical parish of Cobham. The surviving grade I listed manor house, known as Cobham Hall, is one of the largest and most important houses in Kent, re-built in the Tudor style by William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham (1527–1597). The central block was rebuilt 1672–82 by Charles Stewart, 3rd Duke of Richmond, 6th Duke of Lennox (1639–1672). Today the building houses a private boarding school for girls, known as "Cobham Hall School", established there in 1962, which retains 150 acres of the ancient estate. St Mary Magdalene Church, the parish church of Cobham, contains famous monumental brasses of members of the de Cobham and Brooke families, lords of the manor, which are reputedly the finest in England. William Belcher in his Kentish Brasses (1905) stated: No church in the world possesses such a splendid series as the nineteen brasses in Cobham Church, ranging in date between 1298 and 1529. In the church also survives the sumptuous chest tomb and alabaster effigies of George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham (1497–1558) and his heiress wife Ann Bray. To the immediate south of the church is the building known as Cobham College, now an almshouse, which originally housed the five priests employed by the chantry founded in 1362 by John Cobham, 3rd Baron Cobham, who also built nearby Cooling Castle on his estate at Cooling, Kent, acquired by his ancestors in the mid-13th century. In the former deer park survives the Darnley Mausoleum, a pyramid-topped structure built in 1786 as ordered by the will of the 3rd Earl of Darnley. Several of the holders held the office of Constable of Rochester Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the holder of the latter office being ex officio Constable of Dover Castle. The lords of the manor of Cobham were Hereditary High Stewards of nearby Gravesend and held the right to charge that town pontage in relation to the use of the landing stage, bridge or causeway on the River Thames, on the ceremonial route from the Palace of Westminster to Dover.


  1. "Brooke or Brookes, Henry (BRK579H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. Mark Nicholls. "Brooke, Henry, eleventh Baron Cobham (1564–1619)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
  3. G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage , n.s., vol.3, p.349
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Cobham
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by
The Earl of Northampton
Lord Lieutenant of Kent
Succeeded by
The Lord Wotton
Peerage of England
Preceded by
William Brooke
Baron Cobham
Succeeded by
William Brooke
(under attainder)