Born in Highclere Castle, Hampshire on 27 December 1882, The Hon. Mervyn Robert Howard Molyneux Herbert was the son of the fourth Earl of Caernarvon. The Castle estate included a renowned cricket pitch and the stately home later became famous as the setting for the Downton Abbey TV series. Mervyn’s half-brother, the fifth Earl, used a fraction of his wealth to fund the excavation of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the 1920s.

Mervyn was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. Whilst at Eton, he and The Hon. GW Lyttelton added 476 for the 2nd wicket in a house match, Herbert scoring 201 not out. He was chosen as one of the XXII Notts Colts in April 1901 (he qualified for Notts through him residing in Teversal) and made his First-Class debut for Notts v MCC at Lord’s in May 1901. It was a most promising start, since he scored 65 and added 116 with John Gunn for the 5th wicket. A contemporary report tipped him for future stardom, concluding the piece by noting that he was “an attractive, clever lad with winning manners’. His First-Class career with Notts lasted just six games with the last one in June 1902. In these games he had scored 112 runs @14.00.

He made four appearances for Oxford University (one in 1902 and three in 1904) but did not get his Blue. In 1903 he made his debut for Somerset playing in three games. He did not appear in First-Class cricket in 1906, 1907 or 1908. His top score for Somerset was 78 v Middlesex at Lord’s in 1909; that season saw Herbert make 10 First-Class appearances, the most of his career. Up to the Great War, his appearances were sporadic because of his role in the diplomatic service, which led to extended periods abroad in British embassies including Rome, Lisbon, Cairo and Madrid. He did not appear in either 1913 or 1914 seasons.

After the War, he appeared three times for Somerset, once in 1922 and 1923 had then finally at Fenner’s when Somerset met Cambridge University in May 1924. In total he played 42 First-Class matches and scored 854 runs @12.02.

He also played cricket for Oxford University Authentics, I Zingari and the MCC. Having visited Albania as a guest of honour, opening a public library funded by his family, Herbert was suddenly taken ill with pneumonia and died at the British Embassy in Rome on 26 May 1929 aged 46 years.

May 2020