Somerset, Robert Carr, earl of

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Somerset, Robert Carr, earl of

Robert Carr Somerset, earl of, 1587?–1645, Scottish favorite of James I of England. His family name also appears as Ker. He may have accompanied James to England as a page in 1603, but he appears to have spent some time in France before returning to the English court. He soon became close to James, was knighted (1607), and in 1609 he was granted lands that had been forfeited by Sir Walter Raleigh. He was created (1611) Viscount Rochester, served James as personal secretary, and became earl of Somerset in 1613. In the same year he married Frances Howard, the countess of Essex (who had her marriage to the 3d earl of Essex annulled in a sensational trial). In 1614, Somerset was made lord chamberlain. He became an important counselor to the king, but his jealous and arrogant nature alienated James's affections. On the discovery of the murder of his former friend, Sir Thomas Overbury, Somerset and his wife were tried and found guilty (1616) of perpetrating it, although Somerset's guilt was not definitely established. They were both pardoned but not released until 1622.

See M. A. DeFord, The Overbury Affair (1960).

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