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The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland, Vol. 3

The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland, Vol. 3

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Excerpt from The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland, Vol. 3: Preserved at Welbeck Abbey

The present volume - the third of the Portland series - relates almost exclusively to the history of the Harley family in the seventeenth century. We have the correspondence during that period of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, whilst he was still young and unimportant, and also of his immediate forbears, namely, his great-grandfather, Thomas Harley; his grandfather, Sir Robert Hariey; and his father, Sir Edward Harley, all of Brampton Bryan in Herefordshire, in which county they had been established for many generations. They were connected by ties of blood and marriage with several of the leading families of the neighbourhood, and consequently occupied a position of some importance in the affairs and interests of the county. Of Thomas Harley, the great-grandfather, we know little save that he seems to have been a useful country gentleman, but of Sir Robert, his son, we know more, as a large number of his letters are preserved. He did not confine himself to Herefordshire, but went out into the great world, made friends, and corresponded, amongst others, with Dr. Donne, Sir Edward - afterwards Lord - Herbert of Cherbury, and George Herbert the poet, who sends him an interesting letter upon current events written from Charing Cross on the 26th December 1618, by request of Sir John Danvers. A marriage was proposed between Sir Robert Harley and Ann Coningsby, daughter of Sir Thomas Coningsby of Hampton Court also in Herefordshire, but the negotiation was broken off on the vexed question of money and he ended by marrying three times, his last and most distinguished wife being Brilliana Conway, who received her unusual name of Brilliana from the fact that her father Sir Edward - afterwards Viscount - Conway was governor of the Brill at the time of her birth.

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