Schomberg (Schönberg), Frederick Herman von (1615–90), 1st duke of Schomberg , soldier of fortune, and commander-in-chief of William III's army in Ireland, was born 6 December 1615 at Heidelberg, Germany, the only son of Hans Meinhard von Schönberg (1582–1616), marshal of the Palatinate and sometime ambassador to England, and his English wife, Anne (d. 1615), daughter of Edward Sutton or Dudley, 5th Lord Dudley, and lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth, electress Palatine. After two years at Leyden University, in 1633 he became a soldier in the thirty years war, serving in Bernard of Saxe-Weimar's protestant army at the battle of Nördlingen (1634), and later with Henry, prince of Orange. In 1651 he entered the service of France, campaigning with distinction under Turenne in Flanders. In 1655 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and in 1658 commanded the left wing of the French army in the decisive victory over the Spaniards at the battle of the Dunes. From 1660 to 1668, with Louis XIV's secret support, he commanded the Portuguese in their struggle against Spain, overcoming immense logistical, military, and political difficulties to win a series of victories that sealed Portuguese independence.
After a short period in England in 1673, he was given command of the French forces in Roussillon, winning a marshal's baton in 1675 for his successful campaign against the Spaniards. In 1676 he was appointed to the senior command in Flanders under Louis. Thereafter, probably because of his protestantism, he was given only lesser appointments till his career in France abruptly ended in 1685 with the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Having resisted a personal attempt by Louis to persuade him to abjure his Calvinist faith, he retired to Portugal before moving to Brandenburg to command the Great Elector's army. In 1688 he was released to take command of the Dutch army under William of Orange (qv), which successfully invaded England and toppled James II (qv). Now at the height of his fame, he was appointed commander of the land forces in England, given £100,000 by parliament, conferred with the Garter and created a duke (he seems to have been a Portuguese duke from 1668).
In August 1689 he was sent to take command in Ireland, from where James, with a large catholic army and French support, threatened the security of William's regime. Although nearly 20,000 strong, Schomberg's army was largely comprised of raw English and Ulster regiments, newly raised for the campaign and commanded by inexperienced officers. Transport, artillery, medical, and supply services were all seriously deficient. His best troops were a few battalions of Dutch infantry and four regiments of huguenots. He was the senior figure in the huguenot military diaspora, and his partiality towards his fellow exiles was notorious. It was said that of his seven or eight ADCs only one could speak English, and he told William the huguenot soldiers were worth twice the number of any other troops. Schomberg was colonel of the huguenot cavalry regiment.
Landing at Belfast Lough (August), he opened his campaign with the capture of Carrickfergus. He then set out for Dublin, but his offensive came to a halt at Dundalk, where he was confronted by an Irish force under James. Despite strong pressure from William, he felt unable to resume his advance. In November, as the weather worsened and sickness decimated his army, he abandoned the campaign and withdrew to winter quarters in the north. Schomberg certainly bore some of the responsibility for this debacle. He seriously over-estimated the capability of the Jacobites. Always a methodical soldier, at 73 he had become excessively cautious, was unable to adjust to the improvisations needed for campaigning in Ireland, and lacked the drive for the speedy victory William wanted. However, William's government was also to blame for many of the army's shortcomings, and in the face of angry criticism from the house of commons, it became expedient to scapegoat the Irish command. The commissary general was arrested and Schomberg heavily criticised. Although ill, he was not granted the permission he sought to convalesce in England, where he might have taken the opportunity to defend his conduct. He retained his command in Ireland, but his reputation was irreparably damaged. William took personal charge of the 1690 campaign, first taking care to address the army's many deficiencies which had been so evident in 1689.
At the battle of the Boyne, on 1 July 1690, Schomberg crossed the river at Oldbridge to rally the faltering huguenot infantry. In the mêlée on the south bank he was sabred twice in the head by Irish troopers before being killed by a bullet in the neck, possibly a stray shot from his own side. William was reported to have wept at news of his death and to have declared that he had lost a father. However, since coming to Ireland he had treated Schomberg with marked coldness and pointedly ignored his advice, including his suggestion that the main attack at the Boyne should be a flanking movement upstream to envelop the Jacobite army. His body was interred in St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin, where Dean Jonathan Swift (qv) and the cathedral chapter erected a monument to his memory in 1731.
Schomberg's first marriage (1638) was to his cousin, Johanna Elizabeth von Schönberg (d. 1664). They had five sons who survived to manhood. His second marriage (1669), to Susanne d'Aumale (d. 1688), daughter of a prominent huguenot, was childless. He inherited an estate in the Palatinate and purchased another at Courbet near Paris. In appearance he was of middle stature and fair complexion, and in manner calm and courteous to all. Physically fit to the end of his life and brave in battle, he was universally regarded as a man of honour, despite many changes of allegiance during his long career as a prominent, if ultimately second-rate, figure in the international military profession. A portrait by W. Wissing is in the collection of Earl Spencer and another, attributed to G. Kneller, is in the collection of the trustees of the 10th duke of Leeds's will trust.