Sir John Herbert (1550 – 9 July 1617) was a Welsh lawyer, diplomat and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1586 and 1611. He was Secretary of State under Elizabeth I and James I.
Herbert was the son of Matthew Herbert of Swansea and was descended from an illegitimate son of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Herbert may have been educated at Christ Church, Oxford, although this is questioned. He was admitted an honorary member of the College of Doctors of Law in November 1573 and awarded MA. He was a commissioner of the High Court of Admiralty from 1575 to 1584 (with David Lewis) and Master of Requests from 1586 to 1601 (with William Aubrey from 1590). Queen Elizabeth appointed him secretary to the Council of the North and Keeper of Signet.
In 1586, Herbert was elected Member of Parliament for Grampound. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford in 1587. In 1588, he was elected MP for Gatton. He was elected MP for Christchurch in 1593 and MP for Bodmin in 1597. In April 1600, he was appointed second Secretary of State and a member of the Privy Council. In 1601 he was elected MP for Glamorgan and for Wallingford and chose to sit for Glamorgan. Besides serving in Parliament, he also was appointed as Dean of Wells in 1590, and served until late 1602. He was knighted in 1602. In 1604 he was elected MP for Monmouthshire and sat until 1611. He was appointed High Sheriff of Glamorgan for 1605 and in 1607 appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Garter for life.
Herbert was a talented linguist (not just speaking English and Welsh) and so was used to interrogate foreign prisoners and on trade and political missions to Denmark, Poland, Brandenburg, the Netherlands and France. He continued in office under James I, although James preferred to use unofficial secretaries such as Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke. When Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury died in 1612, Herbert hoped to succeed him as principal secretary of state, but James I left the office vacant until 1614. He was thereafter Secretary of State in name only.
Herbert married Margaret Morgan, daughter of William Morgan of Cefn Coch.
- W R Williams Parliamentary History of the Principality of Wales
- Watkin, Thomas Glyn (January 2008). "Herbert, Sir John (c.1540–1617)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- 'Alumni Oxonienses, 1500-1714: Hawten-Hider', Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714: Abannan-Kyte (1891), pp. 679-705. Date accessed: 28 July 2011
- Willis, Browne (1750). Notitia Parliamentaria, Part II: A Series or Lists of the Representatives in the several Parliaments held from the Reformation 1541, to the Restoration 1660 ... London. pp. 229–239.
- History of Parliament Online, "Herbert, Sir John (c. 1533-1617)" by Lloyd Bowen and Simon Healy. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
- Dodd, Arthur Herbert. "Sir John Herbert". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
|Parliament of England|
Sir Thomas Mansell
| Member of Parliament for Glamorgan
| Member of Parliament for Monmouthshire
With: Thomas Somerset
Sir Robert Cecil
| Secretary of State
With: Sir Robert Cecil 1600–1612
Robert Carr, Viscount Rochester 1612–1614
Sir Ralph Winwood 1614–1616
Sir Ralph Winwood
Sir Thomas Lake
The 2nd Earl of Pembroke
| Custos Rotulorum of Glamorgan
The 3rd Earl of Pembroke