There are many traditions concerning the early history of the Temple family which differ in some ways and cannot, therefore, all be accurate. The sources from which this account is mainly extracted will be given at the end of the chapter. Discrepancies in names, dates, generation gaps, etc., have been resolved on the basis of reliability and consistency with the known facts of English history. After 1421, there is complete agreement, and the lineage becomes clear and authentic.
The beginnings of the Temples go so far back that they are lost in antiquity. The pedigree charts that we have seen start with Robert de Temple about 1216. However, we chose to go back to the Mercians because it gives a logical and probably lineage up to the time of "Temple Hall" and the Temples do believe that their family is of great antiquity. This account begins with Croeda, an Anglican chieftain, who formed the Kingdom of Mercia in central England in the year 586 A.D. He died in 610, and was succeeded by Wibba, who died in 627, and was succeeded by Penda. He made of Mercia an independent kingdom and he was the first king, dying in 655 and leaving the throne to Paeda. During the reign of Paeda, the kingdom was overthrown. His son, whose name we do not have, lived in exile. He was the father of Ethelbald, who regained the throne in 716 or 718. He died in 752. The son of Ethelbald whose name we do not have, died before his father, and his son, Offa, revolted against his grandfather to make himself king. Offa died in 769, and was succeeded by his son, Conwulf, who in turn was succeeded by Wiglaf.
In the reign of Wiglaf, Egbert, King of Wessex, forced all the other kingdoms to acknowledge his sovereignty, and since Egbert ruled 802-839, we have a firm date for the time of Wiglaf. Burhulf, who succeeded Wiglaf, was also subject to the King of Wessex, from whom the royal line of united England is descended. Burhiulf was followed by Burhed who ruled 851-871. Burhed was the last king of Mercia, abdicating in 871 when Alfred came to the throne of Wessex. Ethelred, the son of Burhed, married Ethelfreda, a daughter of Alfred the Great, and was given the title "Earlderman" of Mercia. By this union the Temples are of the royal line of Britain, for it is their descendants, according to the Mercian theory, who eventually got the name "Temple." One of their sons was the father of Alfere, Earl of Mercia, who was succeeded by Alforic, who was followed by Edric Streone. He died in 1016 which was the year Canute, the Dane, became King of England. The Danes gave Alfred trouble and after his death in 901, they seized power and ruled over the country for some quarter of a century.
Continuing the line of descent, Edric Streone was followed by Leofwine, who died in 1027, and was succeeded by the illustrious Leofric and his wife, Lady Godiva, the daughter of the Earl of Lincoln. Leofric was known as the "Kingmaker," for it was he who restored the throne to the English in the person of Edward the Confessor, in the year 1042. While Leofric freed the country from Danish rule, the result was only to bring in the Normans. Leofric has a secure place in history, not only because he restored the throne to the English but because he built so many abbeys. Those in Hereford, Wenlock, Worcester, Stowe Leof, and the most celebrated, Coventry, wee attributed to him. Lady Godiva, an heiress of vast wealth, "stripped" herself of her jewels to enrich the church abbey at Coventry where they were both buried. Henry VIII "stripped" the church of these jewels which were of inestimable value. Leofric died in 1057 and Godiva in 1086. The noble Godiva's fame does not rest on her good works but on a "ride" which researchers have found no proof that it ever took place. The legend may have originated in the charitable "denuding" of herself for religious purposes. This folklore tale is firmly entrenched in English tradition and is reenacted each year in Coventry.
Algar, the son of Leofric, was succeeded by Edurpi, his son or younger brother. The latter was killed in 1071 while resisting William the Conqueror. Edurpi was succeeded by Edwyn, who at this time had settled on a small piece of ground which had been set aside for religious purposes, and therefore not confiscated by the Normans. It is from this holding, located in Leicester, near the village of Sibson, that the name "Temple originated, and where the successor to the original Temple Hall still stands. How Edwyn came into possession is not known, some sources believe it was given by Leofric to the Knights Templars and that Edwyn obtained it from them. Others think it was set aside by Lady Godiva as the site of an abbey and that Edwyn retired there after the Normans confiscated his vast hereditary domain. With the loss of the earldom of Mercia, the defeat of Harold II and the death of Edurpi, whose wife was Edyta, sister of Harold, this powerful family, holding only Temple Hall, was reduced to the status of "Gentleman." Some five hundred years passed before the Temples were again honored with titles. During this period, they produced eminent men who left their mark in the annals of England. Edwyn was known as Edwyn de Temple and from this time "de Temple" was added to the names of his descendants until the "de" was dropped sometime in the 15th century. Temple Hall was held by the Leicester branch of the Temple family until 1663 when it was confiscated by Charles II because Sir Peter Temple signed the death warrant of Charles I. Sir William Temple, the statesman, in 1667 wanted to buy it but his father persuaded him that it had fallen into such a deplorable state of repair as to require vast sums to restore. This was the original structure built in Saxon or early Norman times and was at one time surrounded by a moat. The present Georgian house stands on the site of the old. The second story paneling and some carvings are believed to have been selected from the ruins of the ancient manor. Mounds in the yard cover the foundation of a much larger building. Had Sir William purchased the ancestral estate, very likely it would have been restored to resemble its original appearance and might still be in Temple hands.
The kings of Mercia played an important role in the early history of Britain, which has no official birthday just as the Mercians do not. In the days when there was no English Channel, many tribes of the Celtic strain wandered into this northeast corner of Europe and established themselves there but not much is known of them beyond their curious Druid worship. Recorded history began with the conquest of Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. The Romans brought with them Christianity and civilization but had to carry on constant guerilla warfare with the natives whom Caesar himself described as ferocious. So in 406 A.D., the Romans, having troubles at home, left; however roads built by them still testify to their influence on the land. The next wave of pagan tribes to inundate Britain was the fair-haired, blue-eyed Teutons, but they too had to wage ruthless warfare against the natives led, according to tradition, by King Arthur. These wild, barbaric, heathen warriors finally prevailed, setting up their chieftains as rulers in various kingdoms, one of the strongest of which was Mercia, governed by the Anglican Croeda. All during this period the Anglo-Saxons had to fight against the fury of the Northmen who were determined to dislodge them. After Alfred's death, the Danes did succeed in gaining the power and were the rulers for twenty-five years. This indecisive struggle went on until the Danes were assimilated into the English culture, adding to the British lore all the arts of the sea. The strong, sturdy, self-reliant character of the Anglo-Saxon with its emphasis on family life became the fundamental and decisive element which enabled this little island to mold a large part of the modern world.
Resuming the account of the family: Henry of Temple Hall and Little Shepey continued the line of descent from Edwyn, followed by Geoffrey de Temple whose reputed descendant, Robert de Temple, was in possession of Temple Hall about 1216. This Robert is certified to bear arms in the reign of Henry III, and his family was among the first honored with hereditary arms. Arms were then granted under rigid rules to distinguished persons of noble birth and is strong evidence that the Temples were descended from the Earls of Mercia. At this point, 1216, Heralds' College begins the pedigree chart prepared in 1574 for John Temple of Stowe, and that for John Temple of The Nash in 1824.
Robert was succeeded by William, followed by Henry who married Maude Ribbisford and was seated at Temple Hall in 1279. Henry was succeeded by his son Richard, father of Nicholis, who was succeeded by his son, Nicholis, father of Thomas Temple whose wife was Joan Bradbridge. Their son, Robert, married Joan, daughter and heir of William Shepey, who brought Shepey Magna into the family. From Robert's time, about 1421, all authorities give the same lineage, and the descent is completely clear. Nicholis, who succeeded Robert, died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother Robert who married Grace Turnyle and were the parents of several sons and daughters, the eldest son, Richard, continued the line at Temple Hall. The second son, Thomas, married Mary Gedney and they were the progenitors of the great houses of Stowe, Buckingham and Palmerston.
Richard, who continued the line at Temple Hall, married Elizabeth Vincent; their son Roger was followed by his son, Richard, whose son Richard was succeeded by Edmund. Peter, the third son of Edmund, inherited Temple Hall, due to the deaths of his two elder brothers, Jonathan and Paul. Peter never expected to receive the heritage and was apprenticed to a London linen draper in Friday Street. He appears to have been an ardent Puritan, leading a Parliamentary force and signing the death warrant of Charles I. Cromwell rewarded his services by giving him residence in Whitehall and a voice in deliberations of state during the Protectorate. When Charles II was restored to the throne, Sir Peter was tried, convicted, reprieved, and died in the Tower of London in 1663. By supporting Cromwell, he lost Temple Hall which had been theirs for many generations, and it has not since been held by any branch of the Temple family. His kinsman, Col. James Temple also signed the death warrant but pleaded that he had done so as a spy for the king. However, he was under suspicion and spent some time in the Tower. He was removed to a prison in Jersey and was there in 1668 when all trace of him ended.
With Thomas de Temple and his wife, Mary Gedney, the various branches of the family begin to emerge. Their son, William, dropped the "de" and was known simply as William Temple. He married Isabel Everton and had Thomas Temple who married Alice Heritage, and they were the parents of Peter who married Mylycent Jekyll. Peter was rated as the richest Englishman of his day. From his mother he inherited Burton Dassett in Warwick not far from Temple Hall. The interesting old church and graves as well as parts o the old structure remain. Its brooding presence makes on conscious of its great antiquity and perhaps a weird feeling that it is the home of the spirits of those who lived there long, long ago. Peter obtained from Queen Mary lands and a house in Buckingham, so he was a Roman Catholic for Mary would never have given them to a heretic. Peter then leased the Stowe property for his home and died there 28 May 1577. His son John bought Stowe and became the progenitor of many Temples. His grandson, Abraham, with his wife, Abigail, and two sons came to America in 1636 and settled in Saco, Maine (Temple by Dr. Henry Curtis Temple). From them are descended many of the Temples of New England, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and further west. Their history has been recorded in Some Temple Pedigrees by Levi D. Temple.
Peter's second son, Anthony, married Jane Bargrave, and had Peter who died young and William who married Martha Harrison. Their son John married Mary Hammond, sister of the eminent churchman, Henry Hammond. They had John, Henry, Martha, and the celebrated Sir William Temple (1628-1699). Sir William was from an ancient and honorable family and achieved historical greatness from among the Temples whose achievements were noteworthy in the annals of Britain. Volumes have been written about his brilliant career as a great statesman under three monarchs. He is also well known for his long courtship of the gifted and beautiful Dorothy Osborne. Both the Temples and the Osbornes opposed the match but family pressures could not end this great love story. Who could give up such a man? We are fascinated by him and claim a spiritual kinship no matter how many generations separate us from a common ancestor. His physical appearance was extremely prepossessing. He loved the pleasures of social life; and he played a lot of tennis. His vital mind responded to almost any kind of stimulus: politics, the classics, history, the arts, literature (his favorite author was Montaigne) and withal he had a sense of style and judgment to make the most of his talents. He loved nature and said "A fine day is a kind of sensual pleasure." His books on gardening are, in our opinion, the best of his written works. Sir William was a rare individual in whom all the abilities of life--moral, intellectual, and physical--were blended together in cool harmony.
Dorothy and William met on the way to France. He was travelling on the Continent to complete his education, and she and her brother, Robin, were going to visit their father, a Royalist, exiled on St. Malo. Dorothy was delighted with William, and what man of taste could resist her when she allowed her charm to disclose its full sweetness, and so they were soon deeply committed to each other. As many difficulties beset the romance as ever expanded an old-fashioned novel. Sir John had in mind a more brilliant match for his dazzling son, and the Osbornes considered him an atheist, a man of the world, and therefore unstable. The Osbornes do not seem to have been justified for his aristocratic taste and temperament combined to make him a steady supporter of the king and the church.
Sir Peter Osborne fought hard for the Royalists in their struggle with Parliament, and was a result suffered exile and the loss of his ancestral home. To regain "Chicksands" cost all that was left of his fortune and, broken in health and spirits, the Osborne's homecoming was a melancholy one. Soon thereafter Lady Osborne died, Sir Peter was an invalid, and the family income sharply reduced. In addition to these problems, Dorothy constantly had to defend William's character from the attacks of her family, particularly her brother, Henry, who stressed the merits of her other suitors to the demerit of William. She had many suitors, among them Henry Cromwell, who procured for her the largest greyhound that could be found for she was fond of dogs, especially large ones. The many lovely letters she wrote to William showed the stress she was under. In one of them she wrote that she seemed destined to walk her dogs in hell, a reference to an old wives' tale that spinsters do not go to heaven. A sad, fatalistic note runs through all her letters, yet her love story did have a happy ending. After the death of Sir Peter Osborne, her brothers consented, the dowry was arranged, but Sir John Temple refused to let Henry Osborne take part in the proceedings. Before the marriage, Dorothy came down with smallpox which destroyed her beauty but not Sir William's love, and they were married sometime in the latter part of 1654.
It was a good match for he fortified her where she was weak. He was so vivacious, so confident, that he counteracted her tendency to morbidness. They had many children, most of them died in infancy. On son, John (Jack), reached maturity, but took his life at age twenty-one under these circumstances. William and Mary wanted Sir William to head their government but he could not be persuaded to leave his horticultural experiments, but he finally consented that John take the post as Secretary of War. This unfortunate young man inherited the Temple sensitivity to failure, and one week after his appointment, on finding that his advice had led the King into trouble in Ireland, filled his pockets with stones and plunged into the Thames. With the death of Jack, all hope of a male heir was gone. He left two daughters, Elizabeth and Dorothy; Elizabeth married John Temple, son of Sir William's brother, John, leaving no issue. Dorothy married Nicholas Bacon and they had a number of children, many of whom died young. Three sons, Basil, John, and Nicholas, reached maturity. Each one, dying without issue, left his inheritance to the next brother, and so, the youngest Nicholas inherited everything. Nicholas Bacon, having no heirs, left the house an everything in it to the Rev. John Longe who had married his wife's sister. It was through the Longes of Spixworth Park, notably Julia, that Dorothy Osborne's letters, now in the British Museum, and the correspondence of Lady Gifford were published. Anyone who claims descent from Sir William Temple does not know his background for his line ended wit the death of Nicholas Bacon.
It was inevitable that Sir William would reach the top, make the highest political decisions, live in the bright light of fame and power, while Dorothy wished a life of quiet contemplation. It worked out very well, for his sister, the indefatigable Lady Gifford, became his constant companion, accompanying him on his ambassadorial journeys and writing his memoirs after his death. The Triple Alliance made up of Holland, Sweden and England is said to be his greatest political achievement and is credited with saving England from the encroachment of France.
Lady Temple died in May 1694 at Moor Park in Surry, England, and there Sir William died in January 1699. His heart is buried in a silver box under the sun dial in his favorite garden, and his body in Westminster Abbey where his daughter, Diana, and his wife, Dorothy had previously been buried. He instructed in his will that a stone of black marble be placed on the wall above the tomb with the inscription in Latin which he had written for his daughter, wife, sister and himself. After the death of Lady Gifford in 1722, the memorial was set up as directed in the will.
The famous Jonathan Swift was Sir William Temple's secretary from 1688 until his death in 1699 when Swift became his literary executor, supervising the publishing of his memoirs and letters. In this capacity he had acrimonious differences with Lady Gifford. He admired Lady Temple, writing of her as wise, peaceful and great, but was she peaceful? Her earlier letters showed that she believed that fate was against her, and in the last one written to her nephew on the death of her beloved son John, on gets the feeling that she was right not to trust fate. The superiority of Swift's work is due in large measure to his association with Sir William Temple, and even though his proud spirit was made miserable in the servants' hall, he gained immortality as a writer. Here he met Lady Gifford's waiting maid, Hester Johnson, known in literature as "Stella." He described her as perfect in every feature and professed to have loved her but he did not marry her. Swift's writing is alive for he had first hand knowledge of the political leaders. He wrote as if he had spent his entire life among those in high places, and to whom the most important affairs of state were as familiar as his daily bread. To Sir William belongs the credit for bringing great men and great events as raw material to the mind of the genius, Jonathan Swift.
The mention of other Temples who achieved greatness will be brief. Sir Richard Temple, known as Viscount Cobham, held many high offices, a long list can be found in Burke's Peerage. He died without issue and bestowed his viscounty on his sister, Hester Grenville, who thereby became Countess Temple and her eldest son Earl Temple. Her second son, George Grenville, became prime minister and the author of the odious Stamp Act which caused far-reaching consequences. The Countess Temple had a strong taste for politics, and from her sons and grandsons came the "cousinhood" which shaped the English government for a century and changed the course of history. William Pitt, the husband of her only daughter, Hester, came to power when England needed a strong leader. The ardor of his spirit produced victories where there had been defeats, and saved the prestige of Britain in every corner of the globe. In America where the conflict was known as the French and Indian War, Pitt's victory decided that the United States would be English in speech and government. At the very height of Pitt's power, George III asked for his resignation; he wanted his favorite, the Earl of Bute, to head his government. In recognition of Pitt's great service to the Empire, the king granted him 3,000 pounds a year and agreed to grant him anything else he wished. Pitt asked that his wife be made a peeress in her own right, accordingly she was created "Baroness of Chatham."
William Pitt, the Younger, entered politics at the age of twenty-one, and was prime minister when he was twenty-five. His meteoric rise was probably due to his father, "The Great Commoner," ever beloved by the English people. The younger Pitt, unlike his father, was a man of peace and tried to keep his country out of war but was drawn into conflict with Napoleon. It is thought that Napoleon's victories combined with Temple sensitivity to failure brought about his untimely death. The alliances he formed eventually brought about Napoleon's downfall but he did not live to see the victory.
Sir John Temple was the first ambassador sent to the United States by George III; he was consul general in 1788 and died in Boston in 1798. There are a number of published accounts of his eminent New England descendants. His niece, Sarah, married John Jacob Seibels, a learned German who had recently immigrated to America to forget a broken romance. Sixteen year old Sarah Temple soon had his heart on the mend. Robert Emmet, the beloved Irish patriot, was the grandson of Rebecca Temple. His short and romantic life was celebrated in the ballads of Thomas Moore. The patriotic fervor of Robert Emmet for Irish independence led to his condemnation as a rebel. He spoke in behalf of his vindication and this speech has never been equalled and stands as a model of oratory. One of his brothers was Thomas Addis Emmet who came to New York and established the famous line of Emmets in this country. Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, was prime minister at the time of the Civil War. It is believed that he favored the Southern Cause but his desire to keep England neutral was stronger than his sympathy for the South.
With the exception of Sir William, the Temples mentioned here were selected because they had some connection with this country. Macaulay wrote in his work that long after the death of Sir William, members of the Temple family were almost constantly at the head of the Government or the Opposition; that they produced so many eminent men and some splendid were their fortunes that the highest offices for a hundred years were filled by the counsinhood, as it was called. Under the Hanoverian monarchs, the Temples virtually ruled England. In America they have been prominent through all the generations, contributing their abilities to its development on local, state and national levels. Members of the Temple family have had distinguished careers in politics, medicine, law, engineering, education and business. The achievement of some of them will be given in these pages.
Memoirs of the Life, Work and Correspondence of Sir William Temple by Thomas Peregrine Courtenay
History and Antiquaries of the County of Leicester by John Nichols
Two Quiet Lives by David Cecil
Temple by Dr. Henry Curtis Temple (1930, Alliance Ohio)
Temple Family by Lillian Clark
Temple Memoirs by Col. James Alexander Temple (1924, London)