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Earl of Essex is a title that was first created in the 12th century for Geoffrey II de Mandeville (d. 1144). Upon the death of the third earl in 1189, the title became dormant or extinct. Geoffrey fitz Peter, who had married Beatrice de Say, granddaughter of the first earl's sister and eventual heir to the Mandeville honour, gained the earldom in 1199. The title passed to two of his sons before again becoming extinct after the death of the second, William, the 6th Earl of Essex, who had taken the surname de Mandeville.
The third creation was for Humphrey de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford in 1239, whose father Henry had married Maud, sister of the sixth earl. Both the Earldom of Hereford, Earldom of Northampton and the Earldom of Essex became extant in 1373, reconfirmation of titles on heirs to be issued soon. There were several more creations until the famous Devereux creation in 1572, which included Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1566–1601) a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and his son Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, the general who commanded the Parliamentary army at the Battle of Edge Hill, the first major battle of the English Civil War (for further history of the Devereux family, see the Viscount Hereford). Upon its extinction, the present creation was made in 1661.
The Capell (or Capel) family descends from Sir Arthur Capell of Raines Hall in Essex and of Hadham in Hertfordshire. His grandson Arthur Capell represented Hertfordshire in both the Short and Long Parliaments. In 1641 he was raised to the Peerage of England as Baron Capell of Hadham, in the County of Hertford. Capell later fought as a Royalist in the Civil War. He was tried and condemned to death by the Parliamentarians and beheaded in May 1649. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the second Baron. In 1661 he was created Viscount Malden, in the County of Essex, and Earl of Essex, with remainder, failing heirs male of his own, to, firstly, his brother Henry Capell (later Baron Capell of Tewkesbury; see below), failing which to, secondly, his brother Edward Capell. These titles are also in the Peerage of England. Lord Essex later served as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland and as First Lord of the Treasury. On his death the titles passed to his son, the second Earl. He was a Lieutenant-General in the Army and served as Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire. He was succeeded by his son, the third Earl. He served as Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard from 1739 to 1743 and was also Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire. When he died the titles passed to his son, the fourth Earl. He also served as Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire.
He was succeeded by his eldest son from his first marriage, the fifth Earl. He sat in the House of Commons for many years and was Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire from 1801 to 1817. Lord Essex assumed the surname of Coningsby. In 1839, at the age of seventy-six, he married the vocalist and actress Catherine Stephens. He was succeeded by his nephew, the sixth Earl. He was the son of the Hon. John Thomas Capell, second son of the fourth Earl from his second marriage to Harriet Bladen. On his death the titles passed to his grandson, the seventh Earl. He was the eldest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur de Vere Capell, Viscount Malden, eldest son of the sixth Earl. The line of the sixth Earl failed on the death of the seventh Earl's grandson, the ninth Earl, in 1981. The succession was unclear and it was not until 1989 that the late Earl's third cousin once removed, Robert Edward de Vere Capell, managed to prove his claim, and became the tenth Earl. He was the great-grandson of the Hon. Algernon Henry Champagné Capell (younger brother of the sixth Earl), son of the aforementioned the Hon. John Thomas Capell (half-brother of the fifth Earl), son of the second marriage of the fourth Earl. The titles are held by his only son, the eleventh Earl, who succeeded in 2005. William Jennings Capell, a retired grocery clerk from Yuba City, California and distant cousin of the 11th Earl, is the heir presumptive to the Earldom of Essex. He will be the 12th Earl if the current earl, Paul Capell, 11th Earl of Essex (currently 68 and unmarried), dies without legitimate male issue.
Viscount Malden is used as the courtesy title by the heir apparent to the earldom (when one exists).
Two other members of the Capell family have also gained distinction. The Hon. Henry Capell, second son of the first Baron, was a politician and was created Baron Capell of Tewkesbury in 1692. The Hon. Sir Thomas Bladen Capell (1776–1853), youngest son of the second marriage of the fourth Earl, was an Admiral in the Royal Navy.
Heirs to the 3rd creation of Earldom in litigation proceedings. Heirs of this creation are the descendants of Joan de Bohun d.1414, who would be under the patent of the 4th creation of the Earldom.
The heir presumptive is the present holder's fourth cousin once-removed William Jennings Capell (b. 1952). He is great-great-great-grandson of the Hon. Adolphus Capell (younger brother of the sixth Earl), younger son of the aforementioned the Hon. John Capell (half-brother of the fifth Earl), son of the second marriage of the fourth Earl.
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