This text was copied from Wikipedia on 15 July 2024 at 6:11AM.

Roger Palmer
1st Earl of Castlemaine
Reign7 December 1661 - 21 July 1705
Other titlesBaron Limerick
Born(1634-09-03)3 September 1634
Dorney, Buckinghamshire, England
Died21 July 1705(1705-07-21) (aged 70)
Oswestry, Shropshire, England
BuriedSt. Mary's Church, Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, Wales
Spouse(s)Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland
FatherSir James Palmer
MotherLady Catherine Herbert
Barbara Palmer née Villiers, Lady Castlemaine by Sir Peter Lely.

Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine, PC (3 September 1634 – 21 July 1705) was an English courtier, diplomat, and briefly a member of parliament, sitting in the House of Commons of England for part of 1660. He was also a noted Roman Catholic writer. His wife Barbara Villiers was one of Charles II's mistresses.

Early life

Born into a Roman Catholic family on 3 September 1634, Roger was the son of Sir James Palmer of Dorney Court, Buckinghamshire, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber under King Charles I, and Catherine Herbert, daughter of William Herbert, 1st Baron Powis. He was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. He was admitted at the Inner Temple in 1656.[1]

In March 1660, at the age of 25, Palmer was elected Member of Parliament for Windsor in the Convention Parliament. Following a double return, he was not seated until 27 April.[2]

Barbara Villiers

On 14 April 1659, Roger Palmer married Barbara Villiers, the only child and heiress of William Villiers, 2nd Viscount Grandison, a half-nephew of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, and of his wife Mary Bayning, co-heiress of Paul Bayning, 1st Viscount Bayning.

In 1660, Barbara Villiers, his wife of one year, became mistress to King Charles II. The king created Palmer both Earl of Castlemaine and Baron Limerick in 1661, as Barbara's father had been Viscount Grandison of Limerick, but the title was limited to his children by Barbara (as opposed, that is, to any later wife he might have), which made it clear to the whole court that the honour was for her services in the King's bedchamber, rather than for his in the King's court. This made it more of a humiliation than an honour:

[...] and then to the Privy Seal, and sealed there the first time this month; and, among other things that passed, there was a patent for Roger Palmer (Madam Palmer's husband) to be Earl of Castlemaine and Baron of Limbricke in Ireland; but the honour is tied up to the males got of the body of this wife, the Lady Barbara: the reason whereof every body knows.

Palmer did not want a peerage on these terms, but it was forced on him; and he never took his seat in the Irish House of Lords (although he did use the title). Lady Castlemaine would continue her affair with Charles II until 1665, giving birth to five illegitimate children:

In addition to a sixth child; who, unlike her siblings, was not acknowledged by Charles II:

In June 1670, Barbara Villiers was created 1st Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine, and Baroness Nonsuch in her own right, inheriting the title from her husband.


While on a prolonged tour in France and Italy, he served as an officer in the fleet of the Venetian Republic in 1664 before returning to England later that year. In 1665, he served under the Duke of York in the Royal Navy during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.[5]

Palmer showed unwavering and public devotion to Roman Catholicism, in spite of heavy legal and social penalties, and also staunchly supported the Stuart monarchy. His loyalty to the throne and the Stuart succession in general and to the person of Charles II in particular forced his acquiescence to his wife's position as the King's mistress.

As a prominent Roman Catholic, Castlemaine came under suspicion at the time of the Popish plot alleged by Titus Oates and others. In the atmosphere of anti-Catholic hysteria of the time, Palmer was committed to the Tower of London and subsequently tried at the King's Bench Bar in Westminster for high treason. He had to represent himself and, as shown by the verbatim account in the State Trials, secured his own acquittal with skilful advocacy in his own defence against Judge Jeffreys and Chief Justice Scroggs.

He became a member of the English Privy Council in 1686, following James II's accession to the throne. He was appointed Ambassador to the Vatican, where he was ridiculed as Europe's most famous cuckold.[6] As ambassador, he promoted James's plan to have Pope Innocent XI make his Jesuit privy councillor, Edward Petre, a cardinal. Innocent declined to do so.[7][8]

After the Revolution of 1688, Castlemaine fled for refuge to Llanfyllin near his ancestral home in Montgomeryshire and stayed for a while in the house of a recusant there,[9] but he was arrested in Oswestry, Shropshire, and committed to the Tower,[10] spending most of 1689 and part of 1690 there. After enduring almost 16 months in the Tower, he was freed on bail. He was arrested and sent to the Tower again in 1696 after failing to attend the Irish Parliament, but was released again 5 months later.[11]


He died quietly in Oswestry on 21 July 1705 at the age of 70, and was buried in the Herbert family vault at St. Mary's Church, Welshpool, Montgomeryshire.[12] His estranged wife Barbara followed him to the grave four years later in 1709. Castlemaine's heirs included his nephew, Charles Palmer of Dorney Court, to whom he left property in Wales which had come to him from his mother's family, but it proved to be heavily encumbered and worth little.

His titles became extinct at his death. His wife's sons might technically have claimed them, since they were all born while she remained married to him, and there is a presumption of legitimacy in marriage, but no-one ever contended that they were in fact legitimate, and no such claim was ever made. The sons had, in any event, all been granted titles of their own by King Charles II, who had openly acknowledged five of Barbara Villiers' children as his own.

The writings of Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine, include the Catholique Apology (1666), The Compendium [of the Popish Plot trials] (1679) and The Earl of Castlemaine's Manifesto (1681).


Coat of arms of Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine
A Coronet of an Earl
A demi-panther rampant issuing flames out of its mouth and ears, holding in its paws a holly branch, with leaves and berries all proper.[13]
Or, two bars Gules, each charged with three trefoils Argent.[13]
Two lions guardant Argent.
Palma Virtuti (Latin: "The palm is for virtue")[13]


  1. ^ "Palmer, Roger (PLMR652R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ History of Parliament Online – Palmer, Roger
  3. ^ Holder, Samantha. "The House of FitzRoy: Children of Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland". The Wrong Side of the Blanket. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  4. ^ Laing, Alastair. "Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castelmaine (1634 - 1705), and his Secretary". Natural Trust Collections UK. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 42. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 520. ISBN 0-19-861392-X.Article by R.A.P.J. Beddard.
  6. ^ Macaulay, Thomas Babington, The History of England from the Accession of James II, Volume II. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1878, p. 206.
  7. ^ Macaulay, Thomas Babington, The History of England from the Accession of James II, Volume II. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1878, p. 209.
  8. ^ Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay. The History of England from the Accession of James II. / Complete Contents of the Five Volumes (Kindle Location 14422).
  9. ^ "Llanfyllin". The National Gazetteer. 1868. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  10. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 43. p. 149.
  11. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 42. p. 521.
  12. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 42. p. 522.
  13. ^ a b c Burke, Bernard (1884–1969). The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales: comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0806349480.

External links

6 Annotations

First Reading

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
Palmer, Roger, cr. Earl of Castlemaine (Irel.) 1661. (1643-1705). Husband of the King's mistress; separated from her 1666. A fervent Catholic; author of "The Catholique apology" (defending Catholics against the charge of having caused the Fire) which Pepys thought well of. Twice imprisoned in the Popish Plot; rewarded by being sent as James II's ambassador to Rome (1686-7), where his tactless attempts to have the Jesuit Petre made a cardinal caused offence.

GerryS  •  Link

Look at this fascinating article by Charlotte E. Erwin. An examination of Palmer's life and his connection to a pamphlet called “The Englishman’s Allegiance, Or, Our Indispensable Duty by Nature, by Oaths, and by Law to our Lawful King.”…

[Link updated to version. 29 March 2015. P.G.]

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Roger Palmer, husband to Mrs. Palmer, the royal mistress, was, by Charles II. created earl of Castlemaine. A man of nice honour would never have accepted of this title, as the whole world knew on what account it was conferred. It indeed appears that he had some scruples upon that head, as he did not accept of it when it was first offered him. In 1680 he was accused as an accomplice in the Meal-Tub Plot, and was brought to a public trial; but nothing was proved against him. He was a good proficient in the mathematics, and was the inventor of a "horizontal globe," of which he wrote an explanatory pamphlet. He was author of " An Account of the present War betwixt the Venetians and the Turks," &c. 1666; and of "A short and true Account of the material Passages in the late War betwixt the English and Dutch;" 1671.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

PALMER, ROGER, Earl Of Castlemaine (1634-1705), diplomatist and author; son of Sir James Palmer; of Eton and King's College, Cambridge; student, Inner Temple, 1656; married Barbara Villiers (afterwards Duchess of Cleveland), 1659, who became Charles II's mistress at the Restoration; M.P., New Windsor, 1660-1; forced by Charles II to become Earl of Castlemaine in order to propitiate Barbara's jealousy of the marriage of Charles II, 1661; accused of complicity in the Popish plot, but acquitted; as envoy to Rome, 1686, met with a cold reception, his excessive zeal for Petre and other of James II's favourites embarrassing Pope Innocent XI; privy councillor, 1687; at the revolution was exempted from the Act of Indemnity, and after imprisonment in the Tower of London escaped to the continent; indicted of high treason, 1695: on returning and surrendering himself was released without trial, on condition of going over-seas; linguist, mathematician, and political pamphleteer.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Roger Palmer gets a bad rap just for being married to Barbara Villiers.

Barbara's biographer is kinder: notes from
My Lady Castlemaine
Being a Life of Barbara Villiers, ... Duchess of Cleveland
By Philip IV Sergeant, B.J.,

Jesse, in his "Memoirs of the Court of England", is unjustified in saying, "He figures through a long life as an author, a bigot, and a fool."

The fact Palmer became a Catholic, and was employed by James II in positions of trust (e.g. special ambassador to the Pope) caused prejudice against him during his lifetime. His escape from being a victim of Titus Oates, plus accounts of his persecution during William and Mary's reign, were typical of his 'punishment' at the time.

What Boyer calls "the misfortunes of his bed" calls for sympathy, not contempt.

That Palmer was a fool to marry a bad woman is true. He did so unwittingly, and was not the first or last to do so.

When Palmer saw Barbara's ways, he did not seek consolation as other husbands of unfaithful beauties at Charles II's Court did: there was no scandal about him ever.

Boyer's obituary for Castlemine says: "He was a learned person, well vers'd in the Mathematicks. For he was the inventor of a horizontal globe, and wrote a book of the use of it" (a pamphlet published in 1679, called "The English Globe: being a stable and immobil one, performing what ordinary Globes do and much more.")

Castlemaine also wrote:
"An Account of the Present War between the Venetians and the Turks; with the State of Candie, based on his experiences with the Venetian squadron in the Levant in 1664";
a history, in French, of the Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-1667;
and several works defending the Catholic faith and the loyalty of English Catholics, including "The Catholique Apology" which Pepys read on Dec. 1, 1666, and, not knowing the author, found it "very well writ indeed."

Nothing is known about the first months of the Palmer marriage until a 1659 letter kept by Phillip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield. This tells us that, less than a year after her marriage, Barbara had renewed relations with him, and Palmer resented it.

Chesterfield marked the letter "from Mrs. Pamer, since Dutches of Cleaveland”:
"My Lord,
"Since I saw you, I have been at home, and I find the mounser [sc. monsieur] in a very ill humer, for he sayes that he is resolved never to bring mee to town again, and that nobody shall see me when I am in the country. I would not have you come today, for that would displease him more; but send mee wond. presently what you would advise me to doe, for I am ready and willing to goe all over the world with you, and I will obey your commands, that am whilst I live,

Barbara never eloped with Chesterfield. He didn't want her; she was just one of his flames.

Palmer had married her ... he was stuck with her.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



  • Dec