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Lord Berkeley of Stratton

John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton (1602 – 28 August 1678) was an English royalist soldier, of the Bruton branch of the Berkeley family. From 1648 he was closely associated with James, Duke of York, and rose to prominence, fortune, and fame. He and Sir George Carteret were the founders of the Province of New Jersey, a British colony in North America that would eventually become the U.S. state of New Jersey.

Early life

Berkeley was the second son of Sir Maurice Berkeley and his wife Elizabeth Killigrew, daughter of Sir Henry Killigrew of Hanworth. His elder brother was Charles Berkeley, 2nd Viscount Fitzhardinge; his younger brother, Sir William Berkeley, served as royal governor of the colony of Virginia from 1642 to 1652 and again from 1660 to 1677. John Berkeley was accredited ambassador from Charles I of England to Christina of Sweden, in January 1637, to propose a joint effort by the two sovereigns for the reinstatement of the elector palatine in his dominions; probably the employment of Berkeley in this by his cousin, Sir Thomas Roe, who had conducted negotiations between Gustavus Adolphus and the king of Poland. Berkeley returned from Sweden in July 1637. He had a commission in the army against the Scots in 1638, and was knighted at Berwick in that year. In 1640 he was returned to parliament for both Heytesbury and Reading, electing to retain his seat for the former place. Next year he was accused in parliament of complicity in the Army Plots, expelled from the house, and committed to the Tower of London; he was subsequently bailed by Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset and Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford in the sum of £10,000, but the outbreak of hostilities prevented any further steps being taken.[1]

First English Civil War

Berkeley took a conspicuous part in the First English Civil War, supporting the royal cause. He became Governor of Exeter, and General of the royalist forces in Devon.

In 1642 he joined the Marquess of Hertford at Sherborne, and was sent into Cornwall with the rank of commissary-general to act under Sir Ralph Hopton as lieutenant-general. The royalist forces defeated, in May 1643, the Earl of Stamford at the battle of Stratton, with great loss of baggage and artillery, and pursued him as far as Wells. In this affair Sir John distinguished himself, and was now made commander-in-chief of all the royalist forces in Devon. He sat down before Exeter, into which the Earl of Stamford had withdrawn, and which was further defended by the fleet under Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick. Berkeley succeeded in maintaining a blockade, beating off the Earl of Warwick with a loss of three ships, and on 4 September 1643 the Earl of Stamford was compelled to surrender.[1] In 1644 Berkeley was present at the baptism of Henrietta Maria, the king's daughter, who was born at Exeter. The same year Hopton and Berkeley joined their forces to oppose Sir William Waller's westward advance, but were badly beaten at the Battle of Cheriton near Alresford in Hampshire on 29 March. In April 1645 he superseded Sir Richard Grenville, being made colonel-general of the counties of Devon and Cornwall, took Wellington House, near Taunton, by assault, and then proceeded to invest Taunton. The advance of Thomas Fairfax westward in the autumn of the year changed the aspect of affairs. In January 1646 Fairfax was able to concentrate on Exeter, which Berkeley was forced (13 April) to surrender, on honourable terms.[1]

Involvement in the Hampton Court escape

After the surrender of the royalist forces Berkeley joined his kinsman, Lord Jermyn, at New York, in attendance upon Queen Henrietta Maria. Having persuaded the queen that he possessed influence with some of the principal officers in the army, he obtained from her a letter of recommendation to the king. Having gained access to the king, he set about using his influence with Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, and others, with a view to mediating between them and the captive king; he was supported by John Ashburnham. The result was that a set of propositions emanating from the chiefs of the army were submitted to the king as a basis of reconciliation in July 1647. These the king scornfully rejected.[1]

Berkeley received the king's commands to attend him in his flight from Hampton Court on the night of 10 November 1647. The party pushed on towards Hampshire, and ultimately reached Lymington. Berkeley crossed the Solent and opened the matter to Robert Hammond, parliamentary governor of the Isle of Wight which was the king's goal; Hammond was non-committal. The envoys then conducted Hammond to the king at Lymington, an act later much criticised. Charles felt he had no choice but saw nothing for it but to accompany Hammond to Carisbrooke Castle.[1]

After this exploit Berkeley returned to London, still bent upon using his influence with the army. Being badly received by the officers, and arraigned by the parliament as a delinquent, he returned to Paris.[1]

In exile

In Paris, during the absence of John Byron, 1st Baron Byron in England, he obtained, through the influence, as it would seem, of Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, the post of temporary governor to the Duke of York (1648), and on the death of Byron (1652) took over the position. He acquired the control of the Duke's finances, and endeavoured to bring about a match between the Duke and Marie de Longueville, but the French court refused approval. Berkeley himself paid court to Anne Villiers, Countess of Morton, widowed in 1651; she turned him down, perhaps on advice from Sir Edward Hyde. Berkeley and Hyde became enemies.[1]

Between 1652 and 1655 Berkeley served under Turenne in the campaigns against Condé, and the Spaniards in Flanders, accompanying the Duke of York as a volunteer. When the Duke placed his sword at the disposal of Spain, and crossed over into the Netherlands early in 1656, he was still accompanied by Berkeley. In the spring of the next year he made a tour with the Duke through some of the principal cities of the Netherlands, took part in the campaigns of that and the following year, and at the request of the duke was raised to the peerage as Baron Berkeley of Stratton, in Cornwall, by a patent dated at Brussels 19 May 1658.[1]

After the Restoration

On the Restoration Berkeley was put on the staff of the Admiralty. In 1661 he was appointed Lord President of Connaught for life, a deputy being appointed to do the work of the office in Ireland. In 1663 (17 June) Berkeley was sworn a member of the Privy Council, and in the following year was made one of the Masters of Ordinance. In January 1665 Berkeley was placed on the Committee of Tangier.[1]

In the same year, he began building Berkeley House, a palace in the Italian style, near Piccadilly. It cost nearly £30,000 and was completed about 1673, upon Berkeley's return from Ireland. Renamed Devonshire House after its purchase by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire, in 1697, the house burned down in 1733 and was replaced by a second Devonshire House.

In 1668 Berkeley bought Twickenham Park. In 1670 he went to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant, holding the office for two years, with a few months' leave of absence. He was considered pro-Catholic, and to favour Peter Talbot to the extent of allowing him to use silver plate to add to the magnificence of a religious celebration, and expressing a desire to see a high mass at Christ Church. In December 1675 Berkeley was appointed, with Sir William Temple and Sir Leoline Jenkyns, ambassador extraordinary on the part of England at the Congress of Nijmegen then about to assemble, but bad health both delayed his departure for Nijmegen, which he finally reached in November 1676, and caused him to return the following May, before the conference finished.[1]

New Jersey interests

Berkeley's personal relationships with Charles II and the Duke of York led to his receiving an interest in New Jersey, in addition to that in Carolina previously received. Berkeley was co-proprietor of New Jersey from 1664 to 1674. In 1665, Berkeley and Sir George Carteret drafted the Concession and Agreement, a proclamation for the structure of the government for the Province of New Jersey. The document also provided freedom of religion in the colony. Berkeley sold his share to a group of Quakers because of the political difficulties between New York Governor Richard Nicolls, Carteret, and himself. This effectively split New Jersey into two colonies: East Jersey, belonging to Carteret, and West Jersey. The division remained until 1702 when West Jersey went bankrupt; the Crown then took back and subsequently re-unified the colony.

Death and Legacy

On 26 August 1678 John Berkeley died, aged seventy-two years. He was buried on 5 September in St Mary's Church, Twickenham.[1] A memorial window commemorates him and his brother Sir William Berkeley.[2]

Although John Berkeley held many distinguished offices, some authorities assert that, at one time, he was under a cloud, in consequence of his being detected in selling of offices, and other corrupt practices. Samuel Pepys speaks of him as being esteemed "a fortunate, though a passionate, and but weak man as to policy", and "the most hot, fiery man in discourse, without any cause", he ever saw. Berkeley was notorious for spinning incredible tales of his exploits; Clarendon wrote that through constant re-telling he may have come to believe them himself.


Berkeley married Christian or Christiana Riccard, daughter of Sir Andrew Riccard, a wealthy London merchant, in the East India Company; she had already been married first to Sir John Geare, and subsequently (14 February 1659) to Henry Rich, Lord Kensington, son of Robert Rich, 5th Earl of Warwick. He left three sons, each of whom succeeded in his turn to the title, and one daughter, Anne, who married Sir Dudley Cullum, Bart., of Hanstead, Suffolk. The title became extinct in 1773.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Berkeley, John, first Baron Berkeley of Stratton". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Warren M. Billings, Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia (2010), p. 268
  3. ^


  • New Jersey Archives, First Series. Newark, NJ, 1880-1893., Volume 1, page 25.
  • Whitehead, William Adee, East Jersey under the proprietary governments. New York, New-Jersey historical society, 1846, page 103.
  • Mills Lane, ed., General Oglethorpe's Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733 - 1743, (Savannah, 1975)
  • O'Callaghan, ed., Documents relating to the Colonial history of the State of New York, 1849 - 1851. Volume 2, page 599.
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Robartes
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl of Essex
Peerage of England
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron Berkeley of Stratton Succeeded by
Charles Berkeley

8 Annotations

vincent  •  Link

Berkeley, John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton
1602–78, English army officer and courtier. A royalist, he fought in numerous engagements in the English civil war and later, through association with the duke of York (later James II), won great political advancement. Raised to the peerage in 1658, he was appointed lord president of Connacht for life in 1661 and one of the proprietors of New Jersey in 1664. From 1670 to 1672 he was lord lieutenant of Ireland.
see the the other berkly barkeley at
see Sir Carteret , George

David Quidnunc  •  Link

His brother, governor of Virginia

William Berkeley (1605-77) was not mentioned in the diary, but his life may shed some light on the times and on his older brother. William was the fifth of seven children of Sir Maurice, of the Somerset Berkeleys. After taking degrees at Oxford, he studied law at the Middle Temple.

Disillusioned about Charles I after serving in the First and Second Bishops' Wars (1639-1640), Berkeley decided to emigrate to Virginia -- as its governor. Family, friends and a payment to Charles II got him the job in August 1641.

Soon after arriving, Berkeley bought land and created a plantation where he engaged in agricultural experiments. (The age was rife with experimenters, including those who belonged to the Royal Society.) As governor, he either "generally discouraged the persecution of religious minorities and steered a middle course in the English Civil Wars" (source: first website noted below), or "so persecuted dissenters that many of them left the colony ... [and] declined to recognize the Commonwealth" (see second website below). In 1652, the Puritan government replaced him. It probably didn't help his cause that he had invited Charles II, in exile, to come to Virginia and be king there.

With the Restoration, he was elected governor again in May 1660, and Charles II confirmed him in the post, which he held until the mid-1670s. The king also gave extensive landholdings to Berkeley's brothers, John and Charles, in Virginia and in New Jersey.

In suppressing Bacon's Rebellion Berkeley executed so many rebels that the king is said to have commented, "That old fool has put to death more people in that naked country than I did here for the death of the father!" Berkeley set sail for England in May 1677 and died, discredited, that July at Berkeley House in Mayfair. He lies in the same vault with his brother, John, at St. Mary's Church in Twickenham.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

William Berkeley quotes

This is tangental to John Berkeley, but it may possibly shed light on John -- he had at least two brothers (William and Charles) who seem not to have minded too much who they offended and who could make a spectacle out of a statement:

"1670 -- Enquiries to the Governor of Virginia from the Lords Commissioners of Foreign Plantations; Answered by Sir William Berkeley in 1671 ...

"'23. What course is taken about the instructing the people, within your government in the christian religion; and what provision is there made for the paying of your ministry?

"'Answer. The same course that is taken in England out of towns; every man according to his ability instructing his children. We have fforty eight parishes, and our ministers are well paid, and by my consent should be better if they would pray oftener and preach less. But of all other commodities, so of this, the worst are sent us, and we had few that we could boast of, since the persicution in Cromwell's tiranny drove divers worthy men hither. But, I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!'"

At one point during Bacon's Rebellion (1676), Nathaniel Bacon and his forces surrounded the statehouse and demanded a commission for Bacon as general of the colony's forces against the Indians. Berkeley replied "Here shoot me before God, fair mark shoot." At another point, Berkeley walked away, but he did, later in that confrontation, give in "to Bacon's demands for campaigns against the Indians without government interference."

"I am more glad to see you, Mr Drummond, than any man in this colony! You shall be hanged in half an hour!" Berkeley allegedly said on capturing William Drummond, one of the rebels in Bacon's Rebellion. Berkeley hanged 22 rebels, by one account.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Seems to be a family trait

"The diary has references to his [John Berkeley's] hot, fiery discourse..."

-- L&M Companion volume

So brothers John, William and Charles Berkeley may be all of a piece.

David Quidnunc  •  Link


Berkeley Township, on the coast of New Jersey about half way between New York harbor and Atlantic City, was named after John Berkeley in 1875.

In the 1950s, New Province Township changed its name to Berkeley Heights Township. It's west of Elizabethtown.

There's also a Berkeley College, with campuses in various places. I can't confirm who it was named after, but probably John.

Berkeley, California, is named after Bishop George Berkeley, 18th century philosopher.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Berkeley and New Jersey

"[T]he Duke of York [...] sold his rights in the territory of New Jersey to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. [...] They found already here another British Governor, Colonel Nichols, who had not been told by the Duke of York of his sale of New Jersey. [...]
"Nichols called New Jersey "Albania." He thought highly of it and protested the sale in no uncertain terms, but without avail. Conflicting claims of titles to lands arose by reason of grants which had been made by Col. Nichols and also through purchases from the Indians and the old titles acquired under Dutch and Swedish rule. Berkeley became alarmed regarding his investment and sold out his entire interest in March 1673 to John Fenwick and Edward Byllinge, two Quakers living in England for 1,000 pounds cash."

A history page for the City of Camden, N.J., says that Berkeley sold his share because he "was beset by financial problems."

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Samuel Pepys and New Jersey

The colony of New Jersey never appears in the diary, but the diary is rife with several people who at one point or another shared ownership of it:

JAMES, the Duke of York, who took it, as part of New Netherlands and sold it to his friends,



ELIZABETH CARTERET also appears in the diary, for whom Elizabethtown is named, and who became proprietor of the colony after George Carteret died.

PHILIP CARTERET, George and Elizabeth's son, was the first governor of the colony.

EDWARD BILLING, a prominent Quaker who, with a partner, bought John Berkeley's share. He appears three times in the diary in 1660 and once again in 1667. (Alternate spellings: Billinge, Billynge, Byllinge, Byllyng, Byllynge, -- L&M spell it "Billing" and if there's another way to spell it, just Google and you'll find it out there.)

WILLIAM PENN (the younger), who arbitrated a dispute between Billing and his New Jersey colony partner, and later bought out Billing's share.

That's seven, and I believe New Jersey holds the record among the American colonies for having the most people associated with it who appear in the diary. I don't want to say who she is, but Philip Carteret's wife also appears in the diary, and if she went to New Jersey with him, would make eight.

Bill  •  Link

BERKELEY, JOHN, first Baron Berkeley Of Stratton (d. 1678), soldier; ambassador from Charles I to Christina of Sweden to propose alliance to help elector palatine, 1637; knighted, 1638; held commission in army raised to coerce Scots; M.P. for Heytesbury, 1640; imprisoned in Tower on accusation of conspiring to corrupt army in interest of king; received bail; royalist commander-in-chief in Devonshire; took Exeter, 1643; defeated at Alresford, 1644; lieutenant-colonel of Devonshire and Cornwall, 1645; surrendered Exeter to Fairfax, 1646; unsuccessfully attempted to mediate between king and parliamentary leaders, 1647; accompanied Charles in his flight until the king went to Carlsbrooke; retired to France; governor to Duke of York, 1652; accompanied Duke of York under Turenne in Flanders, 1652-5, and in Netherlands, 1656; raised to peerage, 1658; on admiralty staff, 1660; lord-president of Connaught for life, 1661; privy councillor, 1663; one of masters of ordnance, 1663; on committee of Tangier, 1665; lord-lieutenant of Ireland, 1670-2; one of the ambassadors extraordinary at congress of Nimeguen, 1676-7; published an apology for his share in proceedings connected with Charles I's flight from Hampton Court.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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