By Jeannine Kerwin
Biography and Portraits
Charles Berkeley (1630-1665), the second son of the Royalist Sir Charles Berkeley and his wife Penelope Goldophin, was born in Bruton in the county of Somerset. He began his career as an officer in the troops serving under James the Duke of York, eventually moving over to serve King Charles II. He was knighted at Whitehall in May of 1660, created Keeper of the Privy Purse in October of 1662, created Baron Berkley of Rathdown, and Viscount Fitzharding of Ireland in July of 1663, and Baron Bottetort and Earl of Falmouth in England in March of 1664. He died in action during a battle against the Dutch in Southwold Bay on June 2, 1665 along with Lord Muskerry and Mr. Boyle (son of the Earl of Burlington). All three were all killed by a single shot upon the quarter deck which almost hit the Duke of York. He was married to Court beauty and Lady of Queen Catherine’s bedchamber Mary Bagot (as depicted by Peter Lely) and left one daughter, Lady Mary Berkeley (1665-1693).
Berkeley in the Diary
Sam presents a highly unfavorable view of Berkeley, shamefully introducing his involvement with the plot to disgrace Anne Hyde in order to declare her marriage to the Duke of York void. Sam also reports that “that Sir Charles Barkeley’s greatness is only his being a pimp to the King, and to my Lady Castlemaine.” Berkeley is linked to the group intent on ousting the Lord Chancellor from his position. Sam consistently upholds the view that Berkeley (for no specific reason or stated character trait) was a favorite and highly influential to the King and the Duke. Berkeley’s biographer, Hartmann, tries to “soften” the self-inflicted damage to Berkeley’s reputation in his biography giving the lame premise that all of his acts were done solely out of his devoted loyalty to protect the crown, a view rather unsubstantiated by Berkeley’s contemporaries.
Although his death is only recorded among a list of those “Great persons slain” in Sandwich’s Journal entry of June 3, 1665, the King’s distress was reported by Clarendon (in his Life) that “those who knew his Majesty best, and had seen how unshaken he had stood in other very terrible assaults, were amazed at the flood of tears he shed upon this occasion.” Others were not so kind to Sir Charles in their remembrances of him in his death. The Poet Sir John Denham presented in his Directions to a painter concerning the Dutch War:
Falmouth was there, I know not what to act,
Some say, ‘twas to grow duke too by contract;
An untaught bullet, in his wanton scope,
Dashes him all to pieces, and his hope:
Such was his rise, such was his fall unpraised,
A chance shot sooner took him than chance raised;
His shattered head the fearless duke disdains,
And gave the last first proof that he had brains
The biography about Berkeley is listed below. This book may be available through your local library (with the help of the research department) or is sometimes available through the used book search.
- The King’s Friend by Cyril Hughes Hartmann
This summary incorporates the Denham poem taken from an annotation provided by David Quidnunc.