Sir Edward Herbert and Sir John Ayres

The following is an account of an attack on Lord Herbert
by a murderously jealous husband, excerpted from:

  Epton, Nina. Love and the English.
  Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1960. 119-120.

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     Quite a number of ladies were prepared to vouch for Lord Herbert, although he was already a married man—and had been so since the age of fifteen. Mary Herbert was older than her husband but she provided a 'due remedy for that lasciviousness to which youth is naturally inclined', as he wrote in his autobiography. This permitted him to devote himself to his studies at Oxford.
     In the year 1611, this popular Knight of the Bath was viciously attacked by a jealous husband, Sir John Ayres, whose wife had rather tactlessly had Herbert's portrait copied and set in a miniature which she wore about her neck 'so low that she hid it under her breasts'. Herbert must have been fairly familiar with this lady to have known this, although he stoutly denied guilty intercourse. He was not aboce, flirtation, however, judging from the following bedroom scene: ' Coming one day into her chamber, I saw her through the curtains lying upon her bed with a wax candle in one hand and the picture I formerly mentioned in the other. I coming thereupon somewhat boldly to her, she blew out the candle and hid the picture from me; myself thereupon being curious to know what that was she held in her hand, got the candle to be lighted again by means whereof I found it was my picture she looked upon with more earnestness and passion than I could have easily believed....'
     Soon after this incident, Herbert was informed by friends at court that Sir John intended to kill him; whereupon he demanded an explanation for there was, he affirmed, no ground for such homicidal intentions. The jealous husband did not answer but securing the services of four armed men waylaid Herbert at Scotland Yard, when the latter was riding peacably down Whitehall accompanied only by two lackeys. In the attack that followed Lord Herbert, wounded by a dagger thrust, closed with Sir John, threw him down and, kneeling on the ground and bestriding the enemy, struck him as hard as he could, wounding him in four places and almost cutting off his left hand: ' His two men this while struck at me, but it pleased God even miraculously to defend me for when I lifted up my sword to strike at Sir John I bore off their blows half a dozen times. His friends now finding him in this danger took him by the head and shoulders and drew him from betwixt my legs and carried him along with them through Whitehall, at the stairs whereof he took boat. Sir Herbert Croft (as he told me afterwards) met him upon the water vomiting all the way, which I believe was caused by the violence of the first thrust I gave him.'1
     Even in those violent days, such incidents could not take place outside Scotland Yard without the king coming to hear and disapprove of them. The Lords of the Privy Council investigated and found Sir John guilty; (his father was so indignant that he disinherited him for his 'base conduct'). As for Lord Herbert, he lived on to become one of England's first metaphysicians....

1  Memoirs of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, ed. J. G. Nimmo (1886).

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