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Earl of Leicester

The Earl of Leicester was created in the 12th century as a title in the Peerage of England (title now extinct), and is currently a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, created in 1837.



The title was first created for Robert de Beaumont. He however invariably used his French title of Count of Meulan . But three generations of his descendants, all also named Robert, were and called themselves Earls of Leicester.

The Beaumont male line ended with the death of the fourth earl. His property was split between his two sisters, with Simon de Montfort, the son of the eldest sister, acquiring Leicester and the rights to the earldom. (The husband of the younger daughter, Saer de Quincy, was created Earl of Winchester.) De Montfort however was never formally recognized as earl, due to the antipathy between France and England at that time. His second son, also named Simon de Montfort, did succeed in taking possession of the earldom and its associated properties. He is the Simon de Montfort who became so prominent during the reign of Henry III, and was killed at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. His lands and titles were forfeited, and were soon re-granted to the king's youngest son Edmund Crouchback.

Crouchback's son Thomas lost the earldom when he was executed for treason in 1322, but a few years later it was restored to his younger brother Henry. Henry's son Henry of Grosmont left only two daughters, and his estate was divided between them, the eldest daughter Matilda receiving the earldom, which was held by her husband William V of Holland.

(The two passages of the earldom via females illustrate the medieval practice by which such inheritance was allowed in the absence of male heirs.)

Matilda however soon died, and the title passed John of Gaunt, husband her younger sister, Blanche. John of Gaunt was later Duke of Lancaster. Both the dukedom and the earldom were inherited by John of Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke, and both titles ceased to exist when Henry usurped the throne, as the titles "merged into the crown." (The Sovereign is supposed to be above all peers, while holding a title of peerage would connote equality with the peers. Therefore, the Sovereign cannot hold a title of peerage.) The properties associated with the earldom became part of what was later called the Duchy of Lancaster.

Thereafter, the earldom was again created for Queen Elizabeth I's favourite, Robert Dudley. Since Dudley died without heirs, the title became extinct at his death. The title was again created for Robert Sidney, his nephew. The Sidneys retained the title until the death of the seventh Earl, when the title again became extinct. The title was then given to Thomas Coke , but it became extinct when he, too, died without heirs.

The title was again bestowed upon George Townshend, later the first Marquess Townshend. The earldom became extinct yet again upon the death of the third Marquess in 1855. Prior to the extinction of the earldom, however, another individual, also named Thomas Coke, was granted the earldom of Leicester. Technically, Coke became the Earl of Leicester of Holkham, and the Marquess Townshend remained the Earl of Leicester. However, the Earls of Leicester of Holkham are usually counted among the Earls of Leicester, and as the term "of Holkham" is not needed to make differentiations, it is not often used when speaking of the title.

Earls of Leicester, First Creation (1107)

Earls of Leicester, Second Creation (1265)

Earls of Leicester, Third Creation (1564)

Earls of Leicester, Fourth Creation (1618)

Earls of Leicester, Fifth Creation (1744)

  • Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (1703-1759)

Earls of Leicester, Sixth Creation (1784)

Earls of Leicester of Holkham, First Creation (1837)

Heir Apparent: his son, Thomas Edward Coke, Viscount Coke (b. 1965)


  • Lords and Earls of Leicester
  • Levi Fox, "The Honor and Earldom of Leicester: Origin and Descent, 1066-1399", English Historical Review, 54 (1939), 385-402
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