prev contents next

Chapter VIII.

Berkeley During The Civil War.

George I. Eighteenth Lord. 1613 to 1658.

GEORGE, lord Berkeley, was thirteen years of age when he succeeded his grandfather, the lord Henry; the next year he married Elizabeth, one of the co-heiresses of Sir Michael Stanhope, the brother of the lady Jane his grandfather's second wife.

In 1616 he was made a Knight of the Bath, when Prince Charles, (afterwards Charles I.,) was created Prince of Wales after the death of his elder brother Prince Henry.

During the civil war of this period no county in England was more deeply engaged than Gloucestershire. The general feeling of the people was in favour of the Parliament, but many of the nobility and gentry were ardent royalists. In 1642 the city of Gloucester armed and trained a regiment for its defence, and one of the first acts of open hostility was the seizure by the citizens of seven horses belonging to the lord Herbert, eldest son to the Marquess of Worcester, as they passed through Gloucester on their way to Raglan Castle.

Berkeley Castle was seized and held in the Parliamentary interest by Captain Forbes, a Scotchman, who seems to have been little better than a freebooter, supporting himself and his garrison by pillaging the country around. The House of Lords, on the motion of lord Berkeley issued an order to Forbes to quit the Castle and restore it to its proper owner, but he peremptorily refused, saying that "he had gotten it by the sword, and by the sword he would keep it." After the siege and surrender of Bristol to the royal forces in July 1643, Forbes thought it prudent to retreat, and joined the garrison of Gloucester.

In April 1643 Sir William Waller, in his retreat from South Wales, being intercepted by the royalists under Prince Maurice in the Forest of Dean, sent all his foot baggage and artillery across the Severn from Chepstow to Berkeley, whence they had a secure march to Gloucester. Waller himself, at the head of his dragoons, made his way, with some skirmishing at Newnham and Little Dean, through the lines of the enemy to Gloucester.

After the king's victory over Waller at Roundway Down, and the taking of Bristol in July 1643, the siege of Gloucester was resolved upon, and was undertaken by the king in person, who halted at Berkeley Castle on the eighth of August, on his way to Gloucester. The siege was carried on with vigour and the inhabitants were reduced to great straits, until they were relieved by the advance of the Earl of Essex, and Charles was I reluctantly obliged to raise the siege on the fifth of September.

This was a severe disappointment to the king, but the royal party continued to keep up their ascendency in the west of England. Berkeley Castle was garrisoned and held for the king by a Scottish captain, and subdued much of the Vale country between Bristol and Gloucester. Sir John Wintour of Lydney held the Forest of Dean, and royalist garrisons were also established at Tetbury, Beverstone Castle, Wotton-under-Edge, and many other places. Massey, the Parliamentary governor of Gloucester, an exceedingly active and energetic general, contrived however to keep all his enemies on the alert, and was continually making sudden incursions and attacks where he was least expected. He established a garrison at Frampton-on-Severn, which was afterwards removed to Slimbridge, to keep the royalists at Berkeley in check, and much fighting took place between them; the parish register of Slimbridge contains entries of the burial of several parliamentary soldiers who were slain in these skirmishes. Colonel Poore subsequently took the command at Berkeley Castle, but was drowned, February 1645, in the action at Lancaut on the Wye, near Chepstow, where Sir John Wintour sustained a severe defeat. He was succeeded as Governor by Sir Charles Lucas.

Among other local incidents which took place about this time, it is recorded that Mr. Thomas Tyndall, a gentleman of the Parliamentary party residing at Melksham Court, Stinchcombe, was on one occasion compelled to fly from his house on the approach of a party of royalists, and took refuge for three days and nights in a large yew tree in Stinchcombe Wood, from whence he had the mortification of seeing his house, and Peers Court, the residence of Mr. Pinfold, burnt to the ground by the enemy.

The battle of Naseby, in June 1645, proved fatal to the royal cause in the midland counties, and Fairfax, immediately afterwards marched into Gloucestershire. From Northleach he dispatched a regiment of horse under Fincher, to block up the garrison in Berkeley Castle, but it was soon re-called, Fairfax finding it necessary to carry on the campaign in South Wales. Sir Charles Lucas followed Fincher's force as far as Dursley, where he attacked it, but was repulsed with some loss.

Fairfax was victorious in Wiltshire and Somerset, and in September 1645 besieged and took Bristol. Berkeley Castle was now the only fortress held for the king between Bristol and Gloucester, and Fairfax sent 1000 men under Colonel Rainsborough, who was joined by a party from Gloucester, to reduce it. He arrived at Berkeley on the 23rd September, and at once summoned the garrison to surrender. Sir Charles Lucas replied that he would eat horse-flesh ere he would surrender, and man's flesh when that was done. The besiegers established a mortar battery for the attack, in a field called the Leys, on the north east side of the town, where its remains may still be traced. The Church, standing close to the Castle on the north side, and on the verge of the moat, naturally formed one of the defences of the Castle, and was occupied by the garrison, and here most of the fighting took place. The great west doors still shew the perforations made for the musqueteers, and are marked in many places by hostile bullets. The Church was carried by storm, the north door under the porch being burst open by a petard, forty men were slain, and ninety taken prisoners. The main strength of the place being thus lost, and the besiegers preparing to mount their ordnance on the roof of the Church, which overlooks and commands the Castle, Sir Charles Lucas offered to treat for a surrender, and the following terms were agreed upon; the Governor to march out with his arms and three horses and not more than £50 in money, field officers each with two horses and £7 in money, foot captains with one horse each and their swords, lieutenants and ensigns their arms only, soldiers without arms and only five shillings each. The Castle was given up on the 26th September, five hundred men marched out of the gates, and eleven pieces of cannon and six months' provisions fell into the hands of the captors.

Lord Berkeley did not take any active part in the Civil War, but his proclivities seem to have been in favour of the royal party, as he was impeached of high treason by the House of Commons, in January, 1648. Nothing however came of it. The Castle was held by the Parliament for some time, Colonel Barrow, and subsequently Captain William White, being governors of it. At the end of the war it was given back to lord Berkeley on condition of its being made incapable of defence, for which purpose the large gap or breach was made which is still seen on the north side of the keep.

Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy" was dedicated to George, lord Berkeley. He died at his seat at Cranford, in Middlesex, in 1658, and was buried there

George II. Nineteenth Lord, and first Earl of Berkeley. 1658 to 1698.

George, the younger son of the last lord, succeeded his father, the elder son, Charles, having been drowned on his passage to France, in 1641. He was created Viscount Dursley and Earl of Berkeley in 1679.

Lord Berkeley wrote a work entitled "Historical Applications and Occasional Meditations," which was published in 1680.

He presented to Sion College a valuable library, which had been collected by Sir Robert Coke, the husband of Theophila, his grandfather's sister, for which the College presented him with an address of thanks. On the flight of James II., (Dec. 10, 1688,) Lord Berkeley was one of the peers who met at Guildhall, and formed a provisional Government, and subscribed a declaration engaging to assist the Prince of Orange. On the accession of William and Mary he was named of the Privy Council.

He died in 1689, and was buried at Cranford.

Charles, Second Earl and twentienth Baron of Berkeley. 1689 to 1710.

Charles, while Lord Dursley, had been returned to Parliament for the city of Gloucester in 1679 and 1681. On the accession of William and Mary he was summoned by writ to the house of Peers in his father's lifetime, and took his seat as Baron Berkeley of Berkeley in 1689. The same year he was appointed envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the States of Holland, and in 1699 was constituted one of the Lords Justices of lreland. In the latter capacity he was a patron of the celebrated Dean Swift, who was Lord Berkeley's private secretary and chaplain. Swift was often at Berkeley and wrote the epitaph on Dicky Pearce, the Earl of Suffolk's fool, which may be read on the tomb in the churchyard. He also wrote here the verses on Biddy Lloyd, who was a celebrated beauty, the daughter of a gentleman of an old Berkeley family; Swift is said to have written the verses while leaning on the garden wall in the front of Mr. Lloyd’s house.

Lines on Miss Biddy Lloyd, or the Receipt to form a Beauty.

When Cupid did his grandsire Jove entreat To form some Beauty by a new receipt, Jove sent and found, far in a country scene, Truth, innocence, good-nature, look serene; From which ingredients first the dextrous boy Picked the demure, the awkward, and the coy; The Graces from the Court did next provide, Breeding, and Wit, and Air, and decent pride; These Venus cleansed from every spurious grain Of nice, coquet, affected, pert, and vain. Jove mixed up all, and his best clay employed, Then called the happy composition-Lloyd

Charles, 2nd Earl of Berkeley, died in 1710, and was interred in the sepulchral Chapel of the family in Berkeley Church. Swift wrote the elegant latin epitaph on his monument there.

James, third Earl and Twenty-first Baron of Berkeley. 1710 to 1736.

Charles, Viscount Dursley, the late lord's eldest son, having died of small-pox in 1699, he was succeeded by James, his second son, who was an eminent naval officer, and distinguished himself in many gallant actions at sea under Admirals Sir George Rooke, and Sir Cloudesley Shovel. In 1704 he was called by writ to the House of Peers in the lifetime of his father, by the title of Baron Dursley. In 1718 he was constituted first lord commissioner of the Admiralty, and was also vice-Admiral of Great Britain.

The following character of this nobleman is taken from Lord Hervy's "Memoirs of the Reign of George II :"

"Lord Berkeley was the Admiral who brought the late King over; born and educated a staunch Whig, and had never deviated a moment one step of his life from these principles. He had been of the late King's bedchamber, and at the head of the fleet during all the late reign. He was a man of great family and great quality, rough, proud, hard, and obstinate, with excellent good natural parts, but so uncultivated that he was totally ignorant of every branch of knowledge but his profession. He was haughty and tyrannical, but honourable, gallant, observant of his word, and equally incapable of flattering a Prince, bending to a Minister, or lying to any body he had to deal with."

He died at Aubigny in France, September 2nd, 1736, and his remains were brought to Berkeley, and interred in the family mortuary Chapel.

Augustus, Fourth Earl, and Twenty-second Baron of Berkeley. 1736 to 1755.

Augustus, fourth earl, and 22nd baron, was the only son of the late earl. In 1737 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, in succession to his father, and was also Colonel of the second regiment of foot guards. In 1745 he was made Colonel of one of the regiments raised to oppose the rebellion under the Young Pretender, and was present at the battle of Culloden. He died on the 9th of January 1755.

Frederic Augustus, Fifth Earl and Twenty-Third Baron of Berkeley. 1755 to 1810.

Frederic Augustus, fifth earl, was but ten years old when he succeeded to the family honours and estates on the death of his father. In July, 1766, he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of the county of Gloucestershire, and of the cities of Bristol and Gloucester, Constable of the Castle of St. Briavels, and Warden of the Forest of Dean, and in August following he was made High Steward of the city of Gloucester. He was also Colonel of the Militia of the county of Gloucester, and of the cities of Bristol and Gloucester.

In 1785 lord Berkeley married Mary, daughter of Mr. William Cole, but doubts having subsequently arisen whether this marriage could be satisfactorily proved, they were again married at Lambeth, in May, 1796. On his death, in 1810, a question was thus raised whether the children born between those dates were legitimate or not, and being referred by the House of Lords to a Committee of Privileges, it was decided that William Fitzhardinge Berkeley, his lordship's eldest-born son had not proved his claim to the title of his father. He succeeded, however, under the Earl's will, to the whole of the estates.

William Fitzhardinge Berkeley, Twenty Fourth Lord. 1810 to 1857.

The new lord of Berkeley being thus denied the titles of his ancestors, was known only as Colonel Berkeley until 1831, he being Colonel of the South Gloucester Militia. In 1828 he brought before the House of Lords his claim to the ancient barony of Berkeley by tenure, he being in possession of the Castle and all the manors originally constituting the Barony. The claim was not, however recognised, but in 1831 he was created Baron Segrave, a revival of a title for many generations belonging to the family, but since extinct. In 1841 he was created Earl Fitzhardinge.

His lordship died unmarried in 1857, and was succeeded in the estates by his next brother.

Maurice Frederic Fitzhardinge, Twenty-fifth Lord. 1857 to 1867.

Earl Fitzhardinge's titles having been granted with succession only to issue, his brother inherited the family estates as Sir Maurice Berkeley, having been created a Knight Companion of the Bath a few years previously. He was an admiral in the navy, had been for many years member of Parliament for the city of Gloucester, and was also a Lord of the Admiralty. In 1858 he revived the claim to the Barony by tenure, but the House of Lords decided against him, and in August, 1861, he was created Baron Fitzhardinge. He died in 1867, and was succeeded in his title and the family estates by his eldest son, Francis William Fitzhardinge, the present lord, who is the twenty-sixth possessor of the castle and ancient barony, in direct lineal succession, from Robert Fitzhardinge.

Such is an outline of the history of the family of Berkeley, which, for the nobility of its descent, the splendour of its alliances, and the extent of its possessions, through so many generations and vicissitudes, is scarcely equalled by any great family in the kingdom. Mr. Smyth says :-

"And thus have I limmed out this barony of Berkeley, which exceeded the most I have observed, for it was not, like buildings of many peeces patched up from tyme to tyme, according to occasions, without frame or modle, as favour of tyme ministred the materialls, but solidly out of merit and vertue intirely layd and perfitted at first, whereby, though the blessinge of the Most High, it yet contyneweth."

prev contents next