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Chapter IV.

Disputed Succession.

Maurice IV. Ninth Lord. 1361 to 1368.

IN 1338, when only seven years old, Maurice de Berkeley accompanied his father to the Scottish wars, and received the honour of knighthood, his tender years not being considered an obstacle either to the honour or to his introduction to the profession of arms. The following year he was married to Elizabeth the daughter of Hugh lord Spencer who was about the same age; these early marriages were frequent in great families in feudal times, the object being to prevent wardship to the crown.

Maurice served in the French wars, was present at the battle of Cressy and the siege of Calais, and was dangerously wounded and taken prisoner, as has been stated, at the battle of Poictiers. The large sum demanded for his ransom, 6000 nobles, could not at once be raised, and Maurice remained in France till 1361, when it was paid, and he returned home. He was however never thoroughly cured of his wounds, and passed the rest of his life in more peaceful occupations.

Maurice died at Berkeley in 1368, and was buried in the tomb of the Lady Margaret, his mother, at St. Augustine's. James, his second son, whose issue afterwards succeeded to the Barony was called James the Welshman, from his residence at Raglan, he having acquired that Manor and Castle, with Talgarth and much other Welsh property, by his marriage with Isabel the daughter and heiress of Sir John Bloet. He was early in life knighted for his military services in the French wars, died in 1405, and was buried in St. Augustine's.

Thomas IV. Tenth Lord. 1368 to 1417.

Thomas de Berkeley was only 15 years of age when he succeeded to the Barony. He had been married the year previous with great pomp and ceremony to Margaret the daughter and heiress of Gerard Warren, lord de Lisle. The marriage proved a happy one to the individuals most concerned, but it brought bitter fruits to the family in a disputed succession and division of the property, with much bloodshed and litigation which lasted through many following generations. On the death of lord de Lisle in 1383, all his manors 24 in number, besides several advowsons and much other property, devolved on his daughter lady Berkeley, thereby doubling the original Berkeley estate. By this accession of property lord Berkeley greatly increased the style and magnificence of his mode of living, so that he exceeded in state and sumptuousness that of any of his ancestors. He was if possible more fond of field sports than any of his predecessors; his expenditure for the keep of hounds and greyhounds, for hunting the hare, fox, deer and badger, was very great, and at Berkeley he kept great numbers of tame pheasants. He had a barge-house at the Castle bridge-foot, and kept several barges sumptuously fitted up for use on the Severn. Like his predecessors he farmed his own demesne lands with the aid of reeves and bailiffs, maintaining great hospitality at his manor-houses with the produce, and selling the surplus.

Lord Berkeley was frequently employed in military service in the French and Scottish wars, and was also named in several Royal Commissions for arming and training men in the county, and for other purposes. In 1388, the king, Richard II., came to Berkeley Castle, and was royally entertained.

In 1393, lady Berkeley died, to the great grief of her husband, and was buried in the church of Wotton-under-Edge. "She was" says Smyth, "a very mild, devout, and benevolent lady, but without much activity or energy." To divert the sorrow occasioned by her death lord Berkeley obtained the Royal license to go abroad on a pilgrimage for a year, and he never re-married, though only 38 years of age at the time of lady Berkeley's death, and without male issue.

In 1399, the rebellion broke out which ended in the deposition of Richard II., and the elevation to the throne of the duke of Lancaster as Henry IV. The duke of York who had been left Regent of the kingdom during Richard's absence in Ireland, endeavoured for a time to stem the tide of rebellion, but finding his efforts useless, he opened negociations with the duke of Lancaster, and a meeting between them was arranged which took place at Berkeley Castle on the Sunday after St. James's day, 1399. Their combined forces took Bristol Castle, and then marched to Chester, and the unfortunate Richard returned from Ireland to find his kingdom lost. A few days after he signed a formal abdication, to which, amongst others, Thomas lord Berkeley was a witness. At Michaelmas following, the king's deposition was formally completed by a Parliament held at the Tower of London, by whom a commission, consisting of a Bishop, an Abbot, an Earl, a Baron, a Judge, and a Knight, was appointed to take, publish, and pronounce the King’s resignation, lord Berkeley being the Baron; and Lancaster was then formally recognized as king by the title of Henry IV. The unfortunate Richard was soon afterwards murdered at Pontefract Castle.

In 1405, lord Berkeley was in command of an English fleet which gained two important victories over the French, who were endeavouring to support Owen Glendower's rebellion in Wales. He was also made a Privy Counsellor, and one of the Lords of the marches of Wales. He died in 1417, at his manor house of Wotton-under-Edge, and was buried in the church there by the side of his wife the lady Margaret, under a fine altar tomb of grey marble, which bears their effigies in brass. All lady Berkeley's manors descended to their only child Elizabeth, married to the Earl of Warwick, but the Castle and Barony of Berkeley devolved upon the heir male, James, son of the late lord's brother, the lord of Raglan, who now succeeded as eleventh lord Berkeley.

James I. Eleventh Lord. 1417 to 1463.

James Berkeley had been brought up at the Castle as his uncle's heir, but at the time of his death he was in Dorsetshire at the house of Sir Humphrey Stafford, whose daughter he had married. The Earl and Countess of Warwick however were at Berkeley, and they immediately proceeded to set up a claim to the Castle and the whole of the manors held by the deceased lord. Availing themselves of their position they took possession of all the deeds and evidences, taking away a great many, and having copies and abstracts made of others. James of course used such means as were in his power to assert his rights, but the late lord's executors and servants adhered to lord and lady Warwick as the stronger party, and in the then state of the law, James was unable to prevent the Earl and Countess from receiving the rents, and holding the Manor Courts for the next three years. After much litigation however, James was declared heir to his uncle's Castle and Barony of Berkeley, but the Earl and Countess kept possession of the whole for some time, and afterwards re-entered forcibly on the manors of Wotton, Symondshall, and Coaley. By the mediation of the Bishop of Worcester an arrangement was made by which the Earl was allowed to retain those manors on permitting James to have peaceable possession of the others; this however did not last long; the Earl still pressed his claim to the whole, and in 1420, laid siege to the Castle. In this extremity, the law being powerless to help him against so potent an adversary, James obtained the assistance of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the king’s brother, by the gift of one thousand marks, and by his interest succeeded in getting license to sue out his livery, and soon after paid his relief of one hundred marks as a Baron and Peer of the realm. The Earl and Countess however continued to assert their claim, and much quarrelling took place between them, and much fighting between their servants and followers whenever they met. At length the intervention of the Bishop of Worcester was again invoked, and a settlement was agreed upon for their joint lives, which lasted till the death of the Earl of Warwick in 1439. On this event the feud again broke out, the three daughters and co-heiresses of the Earl of Warwick, married respectively to the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Duke of Somerset, and lord Latimer, reviving their father's and mother's claims, backed by the most powerful interest. James lord Berkeley resisting their proceedings rather roughly, was by their contrivance committed to the Tower, but was released after a few days on entering into a bond to keep the peace. During the litigation which ensued both parties were frequently bound over to keep the peace. No settlement of the matters in dispute was come to, though they were several times referred to arbitration. In 1440, one David Woodburne being sent to Wotton by lord Lisle, son to the earl of Shrewsbury, to serve a subpoena on lord Berkeley, the latter not only beat the unfortunate messenger, but compelled him to eat and swallow the summons, wax and parchment!

In 1449, the Warwick party obtained an award in their favour, but James garrisoned his Castle, and prepared to resist its execution. In order the better to prosecute his cause lady Berkeley went to London, from whence she wrote to her husband a highly interesting and characteristic letter, reporting progress and cheering him with hopes of success; concluding by asking him to send her some money for her expenses, or she should be obliged to sell her horse and return to Berkeley on foot.

Both parties now had recourse to arms, and many were the skirmishes between them, and the armed incursions upon the lands in dispute, first by one party and then by the other. Lord Berkeley attacked, sacked, and almost destroyed Wotton manor house, where lady Shrewsbury then resided, in return for which her son, lord Lisle, by a surprise, broke into Berkeley Castle in 1452, and seized lord Berkeley and his four sons, whom he kept prisoners eleven weeks and compelled to sign various deeds and bonds. During these contests the town of Berkeley was half destroyed, and the Castle many times attacked, taken, and re-taken.

Lord Berkeley in 1452 sustained a severe loss in the death of his wife, in prison at Gloucester, where she had been committed by the contrivance of the countess of Shrewsbury. Her death was afterwards severely avenged by her son William at the battle of Nibley Green, where lord Lisle, lady Shrewsbury’s grandchild and heir, was killed, and her family in that line extinguished. This Lady Berkeley was James's second wife; she was the daughter of Thomas Mowbray Duke of Norfolk, a lady of great virtues, devoted to her husband and children, and their great stay and support in the troublesome suits in which they were involved. She was buried in the chancel of the Greyfriars church in Gloucester, which her grandson, Maurice Berkeley, afterwards repaired in memory of her.

In 1457, James lord Berkeley married his third wife, Joan sister to John, 2nd earl of Shrewsbury, an alliance with the family of his former enemy, which no doubt assisted in the settlement of the family quarrel which took place six years afterwards, by which lord Berkeley and the countess of Shrewsbury agreed to let their differences rest and thenceforward live in peace. This was in 1463, and thirty-six days afterwards lord Berkeley died. He was buried in Berkeley church, beneath an alabaster tomb, highly ornamented with escutcheons and sculpture, under an arch between the chancel and the beautiful mortuary chapel which he himself had built. The tomb bears his effigy in complete armour, and also a smaller but similar one to commemorate his second son James, who was slain in France serving under the celebrated John Talbot. James lord Berkeley was the first of his family who never bore arms in the service of his country, being probably too much occupied with the unfortunate family contests. He was also thereby withheld from taking any part in the conflict for the crown between the rival houses of York and Lancaster which was then raging, and the Berkeleys were almost the only great family which did not suffer in life or estate in those wars.

Smyth says that James was "an honest, humble and just lord," and that "of all his family none is found to have walked more with God in a virtuous and harmless life."

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