1st Earl of Sildenstein - Siegfried Maximillian - 1540-1578

The death of the Catholic Mary Tudor in 1558 signalled a return to court for the family Sildenstein. Siegfried, an ambitious man, became important to the queen in the autumn of 1560 when he provided vital evidence on her behalf to disprove rumours that the queen had been involved in the death of Amy Robsart, one of the queen’s favourite ladies-in-waiting. She had been found at the foot of the stairs at her home in Cumnor Place, Oxford with a broken neck.

It was no secret at court that the queen was inappropriately close to Amy’s husband, Dudley and it was rumoured that the queen had had the girl murdered so that she could have Dudley herself. However, Siegfried provided the queen’s secretary, William Cecil, with irrefutable evidence that the queen could not have been involved, although the content of this evidence was never revealed. It was widely knownthat Cecil did not trust Dudley, but within a few

years the queen made him Earl of Leciester (a title usually reserved for the son of the monarch) and he acquired many new estates, including Kenilworth castle in Warwickshire.

Siegfried remained at court as adviser to the queen. In 1568 he put his own capital into an expedition led by John Hawkins, a famous slave trader. It was rumoured that he also persuaded the queen to invest even though officially she spoke out against the slave trade. Hawkins, accompanied by Francis Drake, set sail for West Africa to collect slaves and transport them to the Spanish West Indies. However, the expedition was ambushed in the West Indies by the Spanish navy and two of Hawkin’s ships were lost. This did little to diminish the profitability of Siefried’s investment, and in 1571 he purchased his earldom and became the 1st Earl of Sildenstein.
2nd Earl of Sildenstein - Siegfried Wilhelm - 1562-1614

Born four years after the enthronement of Elizabeth I, Siegfried’s ambitious father ensured that his son was at the forefront of festivities during the Royal Household’s ‘summer progress’ through Warwickshire in 1575. When the queen visited the newly-restored Kenilworth castle she seemed less interested in Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester (at one time Leicester was favoured as a possible candidate for the queen’s hand) than by Siegfried’s precocious good looks. Despite the queen’s assurance that her interest in the strong, tall, Teutonic lad was maternal, there were many ugly rumours when the thirty-eight year old queen adopted Siegfried as her favourite at the tender age of thirteen.

Siegfried blossomed under her fair hand and patronage and remained her constant companion for many years. Her ministers often appealed to Siegfried to intervene as he was known to be able to handle her rages with calm composure. He supported her suggested betrothal to the French heir, Francis, the Duke of Anjou, knowing this short, fat Frenchman (who the queen referred to as her ‘frog’) would never replace

him as her object of desire. He was said to be relieved, however, when the Duke left for the Netherlands and was at the queen’s side when she broke the news to her ministers.

In the summer of 1588, Siegfried begged the queen to let him join Lord Howard of Effingham who was setting sail from Plymouth with Sir Francis Drake to engage the Spanish Armada in the English Channel. Throughout July he fought with the British navy as they engaged the Armada of Eddystone, Portland and the Isle of Wight. He was in one of the lead ships that pursued the Armada towards Calais and was injured during the final encounter which turned the Spanish fleet into an inferno of fire. Shortly afterwards the Earl secretly married Eleanora, a lady-in-waiting at the court. The queen was so angry that even the Earl’s patient approach could not calm her, and he left London to manage his estates on the borders of Shropshire.

By the winter of 1603 the queen was seriously ill and called for the Earl. He found her feeble of mind, refusing to eat or take any of her physicians’ medicines. He had her servants remove the true mirror she had asked for because he couldn’t stand seeing her so distressed by her image. He was at her side on 24 March 1603 when she died peacefully in her sleep. The Earl returned to Shropshire having no desire to serve under the new king, James I.

3rd Earl of Sildenstein - Edward Siegfried - 1598-1648

The strongly anti-catholic 3rd Earl refused to spend time at court during the reign of James I preferring to spend his time farming his estates around Sild Hall. In spite of the attentions of several wealthy landowners with daughters of marriageable age, he married his childhood sweetheart, Maria in 1619 and within a year she was pregnant. In February 1620 she suffered a long difficult labour and within hours of the birth of an heir, William Siegfried, Maria died. The Earl refused to hold his heir insisting that his son had been responsible for the death of his beloved Maria. So intense was his grief that his family feared for his sanity and to their horror and distress, in September of the same year he slipped away to Plymouth to join a group of anti-catholic Puritans who were setting sail for the New World aboard a ship called the Mayflower (below).

Over the next few years he suffered great hardship in the New World but remarried a homely woman called

Henrietta and had two children by her. He returned to England with his new family in 1643 but the family had great difficulties integrating. Lord William, supported by his loyal aunts Eleanor, Elizabeth and Arabella, had run the Sild estates extremely efficiently and much resented the return of his father. He was unable to establish a pleasant relationship with his half-brother and the resentment between the two young men was mutual as the younger Lord Edward remained much closer to the Earl. However, despite the unhappy dynamics of the family, the Earl did bring back with him two pairs of the new breed of bird from the New World, the turkey, and it is from these two pairs that all of today’s turkeys have descended.

Probably to avoid the problems at the Hall and because he had always been a royalist, the Earl joined royalists for the ill-fated Battle of Preston where, on 20 August 1648, he died on the second day of fierce fighting in driving rain. In a gesture of reconciliation the two brother Lord William and Lord Edward made the long and dangerous journey to collect their father’s body which they bore, still caked with mud from the battle which destroyed all hope of a royalist comeback, back to Sild Hall for burial.
4th Earl of Sildenstein - William Siegfried - 1620-1669
The year after William became Earl, Charles I was beheaded, and the family disappeared into quiet obscurity at the Hall. The Earl married in 1650 and had several children including an heir, Lord Montague. When Charles II was restored to the throne, the Earl attended the magnificent Coronation at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661. He began to spend more time at court over the ensuing years, but during the hot and rainless summer of 1665 he returned to Shropshire with his family to avoid the plague that was sweeping through southern England. Sadly his flight was too late. Within days of his return to the Hall, Lord Montaguebegan to show symptoms with huge swellings in his groin and underneath his arms accompanied by purple and black blotches on the skin. He died at the age of thirteen.

The Earl still had a surviving son, Lord George. Unfortunately, within a few years of the death of his brother, Lord George fell ill with smallpox. His mother, Frances, nursed him day and night and he survived but was horribly disfigured by the disease. His mother unfortunately fell ill as he began to recover, and herself died of smallpox in 1667. The Earl lost all interest in the estates after this and idle and purposeless, he put on an enormous amount of weight and in 1669 he choked to death on a pig’s trotter.
5th Earl of Sildenstein - George Siegfried - 1662-1708

Becoming Earl at the age of seven, Lord George’s appearance caused him many problems as he was growing up and produced in him a bitter and ruthless nature. His uncle, Lord Edward, had taken up residence in one of the larger farmhouses because the 4th Earl, on his deathbed, had asked him to be protector to the new Earl until he came of age. However, as a young teenager, the 5th Earl dismissed his uncle and embarked on a bitter campaign to have him run out of the home that he and his family had enjoyed for so many years.

Within months of the death of Charles II, the Earl married Hortense and she provided him with four sons. Sadly his two older sons died before they reached manhood leaving the dull and bookish third son, James Siegfried, in line for the Earldom.

The Earl’s ruthless nature stood him in good stead in his later years when he joined the Duke of Marlborough during the War of Spanish Succession fighting beside him at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. During the Battle of Ramillies in 1706, a very bloody encounter between allied and French troops, the Earl was further disfigured when the tip of his nose was shot away by musket fire. However, he found a skillful Belgium jeweller in Namur who fashioned a superb silver and turtleshell strap-on nose which he was seldom seen without. Unfortunately it was probably a glint of sun from the silver that brought him to an untimely end during the Battle of Malplaquet when he was shot by a lone sniper. When the battle ended the Earl’s body and his nose were brought back to Sild Hall. The silver nose (see below) forms part of the Hall’s priceless collection.

6th Earl of Sildenstein - James Siegfried - 1694-1748
Always remembered as the least memorable of the Earls, this colourless individual spent a great deal of his time locked away in his inner sanctum with his books. He did however stock the Indigo Library with 7000 leatherbound volumes and claimed to have read every one including the Minutes of Shropshire County Council 1710-1735. He died of a stroke at the age of fifty-four.
7th Earl of Sildenstein - William Sebastian - 1723-1758
The 7th Earl resurrected the family’s reputation with a glittering military career reaching the rank of Colonel. He was seconded to the Black Watch and fought gallantly against the French during the American War of Independence. He was killed in July 1758 at the ill-fated Battle of Carillon when the French, outnumbering the English four to one, inflicted a substantial defeat.
8th Earl of Sildenstein - Crispin Charles - 1750-1778
The 8th Earl only held his title for twenty years, and the most notable feature of his time was a terrible scandainvolving the younger brother of George III, Henry the Duke of Cumberland. In 1770 the king had had to pay thousands of pounds’ worth of damages and costs following a court case at which Henry was found guilty of criminal conspiracy and fined £13,000 following the embarrassment of his affair with Lady Grosvenor.

The Duke retreated to the borders of Wales to lick his wounds and unfortunately met Margaret, the eighteen-year old sister of the Earl. When news reached court of the affair, Henry was swiftly recalled back to London in the hope that another
costly scandal could be avoided. It was rumoured that the king was, however, forced to pay substantial compensation to the family for ruining Margaret’s reputation and any chances of a good marriage. Margaret was sent off to Delhi to work as a governess and save the family any further embarrassment but became mistress to Shah Alam, the Moghul emperor in Allahabad, and gave birth to several children. The family dissuaded her from ever returning.

The 8th Earl died in his late twenties while out hunting.
9th Earl of Sildenstein - Crispin Sebastian - 1775-1837
Often referred to as ‘the wicked Earl’, he was a philanderer, a pornographer, an opium addict and heavy drinker. He plundered the treasures of Sild Hall selling the Italian art and over half the books in the Indigo Library. However, he did build up a remarkable collection of erotic accoutrements (today known as the Dywenydd Collection - see below), the majority of which still survive today (visitors must be male and over twenty-one to view the collection). He changed the family motto to Dywenydd o flaen anrhydedd - (Pleasure before Honour).

In 1795 he married Augusta who gave him many children but no boys although the Earl’s numerous extra-marital adventurers had produced rafts of illegitimate sons. Because of this he mercilessly bullied Augusta who was clearly at fault for not being able to give him a son. Augusta died in 1817, and the following year he married a much younger woman, Fanny, who he had met at a bathing party in Weymouth during one

of the royal households annual summer pilgrimages and after three years of disappointing miscarriages, she finally produced a son within wedlock. By now the Earl was crippled by gout and morbidly obese. The final twenty years of his life the Earl became a recluse, content to sit in a darkened basement collating and researching his collection of Erotic Accoutrements. It was here that he was found dead, face down on one of the priceless ivory and mother-of-pearl pudenda display trays.

10th Earl of Sildenstein - Sebastian Montague - 1821-1869

The complete antithesis to his father, the 10th Earl became Earl in the same year that Victoria came to the throne and was a classic Victorian prig in reaction to his

early childhood. He had the collection of Erotic Accoutrements boxed up and locked away in a secure part of the attics above the Indigo Library and restored the original family motto. A gentleman scientist and keen amateur taxidermist, he began to fill the Hall and surrounding countryside with examples of his work. As his skills developed he began to stuff larger and larger specimens culminating in his favourite prize Hereford bull that in life had won him many prizes and weighed three tons.
11th Earl of Sildenstein - Albert George - 1848-1909

The 11th Earl married Victoria in 1872 and had two sons and three daughters. Sadly she died in childbirth in 1880, and the surviving baby was named Victoria.

The Earl remarried in 1889 and had two more daughters, but then his quiet unassuming existence down at Sild Hall was blown apart by scandal.

His eldest son, Albert was arrested and convicted of sodomy, but he hanged himself in gaol. In order to escape the scandal, his other son William joined up with the British South African Company and was killed by a Matabele warrior in Bulawayo, South Africa in January 1894. His only consolation was the birth of another son, Charles Montague, who inherited the title.
12th Earl of Sild - Charles Montague - 1894-1940

At the outbreak of the First World War, the family dropped their German name and adopted the shortened title familiar to us today. Tragically the Earl was unable to serve in the war because despite his fit and athletic appearance, his friend and tenant, local GP

Dr Baldwin, diagnosed a very rare medical condition known as Black Nile fever. Similar to malaria, only two other cases of this rare blood disorder, which is virtually symptomless, have ever been diagnosed.

The Earl had several children by his first wife Grace who he divorced in 1924. He married Pearl two years later and had three more children. He was killed in September 1940 when staying in his London club, the Backslider’s Club in Pall Mall which received a direct hit during the Blitz.

13th Earl of Sild - Charles Montague - 1921-present day