Earl of Lichfield is a title that has been created three times, twice in the Peerage of England (1645 and 1674) and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom (1831). The third creation is still extant and is held by members of the Anson family.
The first creation, in the Peerage of England, was in December 1645 by King Charles I for Charles Stewart (1639–1672). Before that, Lord Bernard Stewart, youngest son of Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox, was to be created Earl of Lichfield by Charles I for his actions at the battles of Newbury and Naseby but died before the creation could be implemented. Charles Stewart, the son of Bernard's younger brother George, who had been killed at the Battle of Edgehill, was instead created Earl of Lichfield in December 1645, soon after the Battle of Rowton Heath. Charles Stewart's cousin, who held the titles of Duke of Richmond and Earl of Lennox through the first Duke of Lennox's eldest son James, died aged eleven in 1660 with Charles Stewart as his heir. The 1st Earl of Lichfield of the 1645 creation thus succeeded as 3rd Duke of Richmond and 6th Duke of Lennox. In that same year he was created Hereditary Great Chamberlain of Scotland, Hereditary Great Admiral of Scotland, and Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset. On 15 April 1661 he was invested with the Order of the Garter. He married Frances Teresa Stuart, the celebrated beauty and alleged former mistress of King Charles II. In disgrace with the king, Charles was sent into exile as ambassador to Denmark, where he drowned on 12 December 1672. All of the English and Scottish titles that had been bestowed upon the male heirs became extinct.
The second creation, in the Peerage of England, came in 1674 when King Charles II bestowed the titles of Baron Spelsbury, Viscount Quarendon and Earl of Lichfield upon Sir Edward Lee, 5th Baronet, of Quarendon (1663–1716) in anticipation of his marriage to the king's illegitimate daughter Charlotte Fitzroy, whose mother was Barbara Villiers. The wedding took place in 1677. The Lee Baronetcy, of Quarendon in Buckinghamshire, had been created in the Baronetage of England in 1611 for Henry Lee. He was the cousin and heir of Henry Lee of Ditchley. The 1st Earl of Lichfield from the Lee family was succeeded by his third but eldest surviving son, George Henry Lee, who became the 2nd Earl and 6th Baronet. He constructed the stately home of Ditchley in Oxfordshire. On his death the titles passed to his son George Henry Lee, the 3rd Earl. He represented Oxfordshire in the House of Commons and served as Captain of the Honourable Band of Gentlemen Pensioners from 1762 to 1772. He died childless and was succeeded by his uncle, the 4th Earl. He was also childless. On his death in 1776 all his titles became extinct.
The third creation, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, came in William IV's coronation honours of 1831 in favour of Thomas Anson, 2nd Viscount Anson (1795–1854), a landowner and Whig politician from the Anson family who served as Master of the Buckhounds from 1830 to 1834 and as Postmaster General from 1835 to 1841.
The 1st Earl was the eldest son of Thomas Anson, 1st Viscount Anson, who on 17 February 1806 had been created Baron Soberton, of Soberton in the County of Southampton, and Viscount Anson, of Shugborough and Orgreave in the County of Stafford, both in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Also in 1831, the 1st Earl's cousin William Anson was made a baronet (see Anson Baronets). The earldom of Lichfield continued to descend within the Anson family from father to son until the death of the 4th Earl, in 1960. He was succeeded by his grandson, the 5th Earl, the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas William Arnold Anson, Viscount Anson (1913–1958), eldest son of the 4th Earl. Known professionally as Patrick Lichfield, he was a successful photographer.
As of 2017[update] the titles are held by the 6th Earl, only son of the 5th Earl and Lady Leonora Grosvenor, daughter of the 5th Duke of Westminster. He succeeded as the 6th Earl of Lichfield upon his father's death on 11 November 2005. The 6th Earl married in December 2009 Lady Henrietta Conyngham, daughter of Henry Conyngham, 8th Marquess Conyngham. They have one son, Thomas Ossian Patrick Wolfe Anson, Viscount Anson (b. 20 May 2011).
The courtesy title of the eldest son and heir apparent of the Earl is Viscount Anson.
The family seat of the Anson earls of Lichfield is Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire, which is about 15 miles from the city of Lichfield. Admiral Anson, the 1st Earl of Lichfield and others are buried at St Michael and All Angels Church in Colwich, a short distance from Shugborough Hall. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Earl and other Ansons of Shugborough after 1854 were buried in the churchyard of St Stephen's Church in Great Haywood until the 5th Earl decided to return to the Anson vault at Colwich. He was buried there in 2005.