By , .

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

Further Resources

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

Editor’s Note

This summary incorporates the Denham poem taken from an annotation provided by David Quidnunc.


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 12 April 2024 at 5:10AM.

Charles Berkeley, Baron Berkeley of Rathdowne, County Wicklow and Viscount Fitzhardinge of Berehaven, County Kerry (1630–1665) (Peter Lely)

Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth (11 January 1630 – 3 June 1665) was an English nobleman and naval officer who was the son of Charles Berkeley (1599–1668) and his wife Penelope née Godolphin (died 1669), of the Bruton branch of the Berkeley family.

He served the exiled Stuart court. His uncle, John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, secured Charles's employment with James, Duke of York until the Restoration. He was a cavalry officer and fought in the French and Spanish armies. Charles was subsequently created Baron Berkeley of Rathdowne, County Wicklow, Ireland, and Viscount Fitzhardinge of Berehaven, County Kerry, Ireland, on 1 July 1663. He was created Earl of Falmouth, in the Peerage of England, on 17 March 1664, and Baron Botetourt of Langport, Somerset on the same day. He was promoted Lieutenant-Governor of Portsmouth and was elected MP for New Romney.

In 1664 he married Elizabeth Bagot,[1] who as the widowed Countess of Falmouth became a mistress to King Charles II of England.

During the Second Anglo-Dutch War he volunteered for service in the Royal fleet. Charles was killed by a cannonball on 3 June 1665 on board the Royal Charles in one of the first exchanges of the Battle of Lowestoft.

His boisterous character made him not very well-loved by many, but his loyalty to the Royal family favoured his relationship with the King. Clarendon was amazed at the flood of tears the King shed, when he received the news that Berkeley had been killed.[2]

The poet John Denham was less charitable about the demise of the Earl:

His shattered Head the fearless Duke disdains
And gave the last first proof that he had brains


  1. ^ Melville, Lewis (2005). The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II. Loving Healing Press. ISBN 1-932690-13-1.
  2. ^ "Catalogue notes for the portrait of Charles Berkeley". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2011.

11 Annotations

First Reading

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Berkeley & the Duke of York's wife

From an episode mentioned in the 11 December 1660 entry:…

"When James had secretly married Anne Hyde (daughter of Clarendon, of Hyde Park fame), Charles' advice was sought. He mistakenly thought that James wished to get out of the marriage. According to the Comte de Grammont, Charles produced four "men of honour". Three described acts of familiarity with Anne, the fourth claiming to "have received from her the last favours". According to Clarendon, Charles had told the Duke "that he was bound in conscience to preserve him from taking a woman so wholly unworthy of him, that he himself had lain with her, and that for his sake he would be content to marry her, though he well knew the familiarity the Duke had had with her". When this approach was rejected by the Duke, and dismissed by the King, Charles (Berkeley) loudly confessed the baselessness of his accusations, declared his confidence in the Duchess' virtue, and sought forgiveness from her."…

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Bishop Gilbert Burnet on Berkeley:

"Charles Berkeley .. who without any visible merit, unless it was the managing of the King's amours, was the most absolute of all the King's favourites".…

Pedro.  •  Link


For another version of Berkley's role in trying to discredit Anne Hyde, from
Royalty Restored or London under Charles II
by J. Fitzgerald Molloy


jeannine  •  Link

"Sir Charles Barkeley, their bringing in, and the high game that my Lady Castlemaine plays at Court "

Sir Charles Berkeley (Sam spells it Barkerly)

From "The Royal Whore" [biography of Lady Castlemaine] by Allen Andrews (page 41-42).

"After the Duke of York married a very pregnant Anne Hyde, he got cold feet and tried to squirm his way out of the marriage and in order to move things along a "gang of courtiers intrigued to convince the gullible James that Anne Hyde was worthless as a wife because they had all had the ultimate favors from her already. The Earl of Arran declared, with defamatory wit, that once at Hounslaerdyke, where James and Anne had become engaged, she had left a game of ninepins on the pretext of feeling faint and he had followed her to a private room, cut her laces, and 'exerted himself to the best of his ability both in succour and consolidation'. Harry Jermyn and Richard Talbot offered additional spurious reminiscences. Tom Killigrew, a licensed wit who had decided that the matter was not yet, clinched, contributed a masculinly diverting but completely imaginary account of how 'he had found the moment of his happiness in a certain closet which was constructed above the water to quite another end than relieving the pangs of love". Three or four 'swans', he added 'had been the witnesses of his good fortune, and he had no doubt that they had witnessed the good fortune of many others in the same closet, since Miss Hyde resorted there often, and seemed indeed inordinately fond of the place'. In conclusion Sir Charles Berkeley, with touching clarity, assured the Duke of York, that he too, had had Anne Hyde, and was not too impressed with her now, but was willing to marry her in order to do the Duke a favor.'" After putting poor Anne through hell and back and having her deliver her son while abandoned by her morally depraved husband, it was "Sir Charles Berkeley who later confessed that his and his cronies' stories of infidelity with Anne Hyde were impure invention."

jeannine  •  Link

From Grammont's footnotes

He had the address to secure himself in the affections equally of the king and his brother at the same time. Lord Clarendon, who seems to have conceived, and with reason, a prejudice against him, calls him "a fellow of great wickedness," and says, "he was one in whom few other men (except the king) had ever observed any virtue or quality, which they did not wish their best friends without. He was young, and of an insatiable ambition; and a little more experience might have taught him all things which his weak parts were capable of." -- Clarendon's Life, pp. 34, 267. Bishop Burnet, however, is rather more favourable. "Berkley," says he, "was generous in his expence; and it was thought if he had outlived the lewdness of that time, and come to a more sedate course of life, he would have put the king on great and noble designs." -- History, vol. i. p. 137. He lost his life in the action at Southwold Bay, the 2nd June, 1665, by a shot, which, at the same time, killed Lord Muskerry and Mr. Boyle, as they were standing on the quarter-deck, near the Duke of York, who was covered with their blood. "Lord Falmouth," as King James observes, "died not worth a farthing, though not expensive." -- Macpherson's State Papers, vol. i. "He was, however, lamented by the king with floods of tears, to the amazement of all who had seen how unshaken he stood on other assaults of fortune." -- Clarendon's Life, p. 269.… see note 47

jeannine  •  Link

Sam's April 29, 1663 entry
From, "The King's Friend" (Charles Berkeley) by Cyril Hartmann who also notes this diary entry in respect to Berkeley...Hartmann addresses the issue of Berkeley's perceived vs. real power over Charles II...
"Pepys, or his informant, was undoubtedly exaggerating Berkeley's influence with the King: but it is, perhaps, understandable that outside observers should have been unable to divine that the young man's rapid rise to favour was due solely to the King's liking for him, and that personal favour did not necessarily bring with it any political influence. In political matters Charles II always knew his own mind and went his own way...The Duke of York was equally friendly with Sir Charles Berkeley, and Pepys never imagined that the Duke was allowing his friend to influence his decisions in political matters. Of this he had been assured by Lord Sandwich. 'Speaking of the Duke of York and Sir Charles Berkeley, my Lord tells me that he do very much admire the good management, and discretion, and nobleness of the Duke, that whatever he may be led by him or Mr. Coventry singly in private, yet he did not observe that in publique matters, but he did give as ready hearing and as good acceptance to any reasons offered by any other man against the opinions of them, as he did to them, and would concur in the prosecution of it.' He had, for instance, refused to endorse Berkeley's recommendation of Colonel Fitzgerald, the deputy governor of Tangier, to be the new Governor, and had instead put forth the name of Lord Teviot.
Nevertheless, even if he had little or no real political influence, Berkeley's private friendship with the King had to be taken into account, and he could not be altogether ignored by those whose business brought them into contact with His Majesty. The Marquis de Ruvingy, who had come over this summer (little spoiler outside of the diary) on a mission from France, gave Louis XIV a hint of this effect. 'Young Berkeley, of whom the King of England is at present very fond, has told me that your Majesty has sometimes spoken contemptuously of his master, and when I pressed him to speak more openly on the subject, he swore to me that the King of England knew nothing about it and that he alone had been told of it and would disapprove of my talking about it. I have thought myself obliged to tell your Majesty of this.'From now on Berkeley was set amongst those prominent personages at the Court of England whose actions and opinions were regularly reported to Louis XIV by the French envoys." (p 96-97)
Clearly, the issue of power, whether actual or perceived is causing quite an uncomfortable stir among the king's Court, as sides are being drawn.
In this case, the Duke is not perceived as being as easily influenced by the likes of Berkeley as is his brother the king.

Pedro  •  Link

Berkeley… Viscount Fitzharding of Ireland in July of 1663,

November 1664, to put England right with Europe, and in particular with France, it was vital to prove that Holland was the aggressor…A new era of diplomacy began with the dispatch of Fitzharding to Paris.

(British Foreign Policy 1660-67 by Feiling)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

His chief friend was Charles Berkeley, made Earl of Falmouth, who, without any visible merit, unless it was the managing the King's amours, was the most absolute of all the King's favourites: and, which was peculiar to himself, he was as much in the Duke of York's favour as in the King's. Berkeley, was generous in his expence: and it was thought, if he had outlived the lewdness of that time, and come to a more sedate course of life, he would have put the King on great and noble designs. This I should have thought more likely, if I had not had it from the Duke, who had so wrong a taste, that there was reason to suspect his judgment, both of men and things. Bennet and Berkeley had the management of the mistress.
---Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time. G. Burnet, 1753.

Bill  •  Link

Created Lord Berkeley of Rathdown, and Viscount Fitzharding (Irish honours) soon afterwards, and, in 1664, Baron Bottetourt, and Earl of Falmouth, in England. He was the second son of Sir Charles Berkeley, of Bruton.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.