Berkeley, Craven Fitzhardinge 1805-1855, member of parliament for Cheltenham, seventh and youngest son and eleventh of the twelve children of Frederick Augustus, fifth earl of Berkeley, of Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, and of Mary, daughter of William Cole [see Berkeley, Family of], was born in London, at Berkeley House, Spring Gardens, on 28 July 1805. During the early part of his career he was for a time an officer in the 1st life guards. Immediately after the passing of the Reform Bill, however, in 1832, a new path in life was marked out for him. Cheltenham, on 10 Dec. 1832, returned him without opposition as its first representative under the new order. For twenty-three years in all he was M.P. for Cheltenham, being five times re-elected. A staunch liberal throughout his career, he was personally very popular with his constituents. His second return was in January 1835, when he defeated the other liberal candidate by a majority of 386. In August 1837 he defeated a conservative by a majority of 334. In July 1841 he was at the head of the poll with a net majority of 109. A year afterwards, on 15 July 1842, he fought a duel with Captain Boldero, M.P., in Osterley Park. Their encounter arose out of some words uttered by Captain Boldero with reference to the queen, which the member for Cheltenham, regarding as disrespectful to his sovereign, immediately called upon him to retract. Each of them fired twice without effect. Once before Berkeley had taken part, as a second, however, not as a principal, in a hostile encounter of a less seemly character. This was when, on 3 Aug. 1836, he guarded the door of a bookseller's shop in Regent Street (No. 215) while his brother Grantley attacked James Fraser, the proprietor [see Berkeley, G. C. Grantley F.].
On 5 July 1847, when the Health of Towns Bill was under consideration in committee, Berkeley indiscreetly said in the House of Commons that Cheltenham showed a greater mortality than any other place of the same size in England. On 30 July 1847 he was thereupon for the first time defeated by a majority of 108. On 28 May 1848, however, the successful candidate, Sir Willoughby Jones, bart., was unseated upon petition, and on 28 July 1848 Berkeley was elected, being returned by 1,028 votes. On 24 Aug. this election was also declared void, on the ground that some of the voters had been supplied with refreshments. Incapacitated by that decision from sitting in parliament until after the next dissolution, Berkeley had to bide his time until July 1852, when, with an aggregate of 999 votes, he was for the sixth and last time returned as M.P. for Cheltenham.
Berkeley was twice married. First, on 10 Sept. 1839, to Augusta Jones, daughter of Sir Horace St. Paul, bart., and widow of George Henry Talbot, half-brother of John, sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury; she died in April 1841. By her he had a daughter, Louisa Mary, who married, 3 April 1872, Major-general Gustavus H. L. Milman, R.A., and on 27 Aug. 1882 became Baroness Berkeley, succeeding to the barony on the death of her uncle, Thomas Moreton Fitzhardinge, who refused to avail himself of the decision of the House of Lords on the alleged marriage of his father. Berkeley married secondly, on 27 Aug. 1845, Charlotte, fourth daughter of the late General Denzil Onslow, of Stoughton, Huntingdonshire, and widow of George Newton, Esq., of Croxton Park, Cambridgeshire.
The only surviving child of Craven Berkeley's first wife by her former husband, Miss Augusta Talbot, was nineteen in 1851. She was a ward in chancery, and on attaining her majority would come into possession of 80,000l. On the death of her mother, nine years previously, she, being both a catholic and an heiress, was confided by the court of chancery to the guardianship of her near relations and coreligionists, the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury. By them, in the September of 1850, she had been placed in the convent at Taunton in Somersetshire. Her step-father learning soon afterwards that she was there not as a pupil but as a postulant, and understanding that in all probability she would take the veil, peremptorily interposed by presenting petitions to parliament and to the lord chancellor, in each of which documents charges were directed against the earl and countess and the spiritual advisers of the young heiress. Public opinion meanwhile was exasperated against the catholics by reason of the establishment of their new hierarchy, and much excitement was aroused, which subsided when Miss Augusta Talbot married, on 22 July 1851, the Duke of Norfolk's younger brother, Lord Edward Fitzallan Howard, eighteen years afterwards summoned to the House of Peers as Lord Howard of Glossop.
Berkeley's health failing him shortly before the completion of his fiftieth year, he went abroad in the hope of its renovation. Becoming worse, however, he rapidly sank, dying on 1 July 1855 at Frankfort-on-Maine.
Grantley Berkeley's Life and Recollections, 4 vols. 1865
Goding's History of Cheltenham, 1863, pp. 85-94, 365-8
Annual Register, 1805, p. 440, 1851, p. 32, 1855, p. 290
Berkeley Pedigree, Minutes of Evidence, &c., ordered to be printed 1811, pp. 85
ditto, with Appendix, pp. 882
Berkeley Peerage, Minutes of Evidence, &c., ordered to be printed 1829, pp. 269
Fosbroke's History of Gloucestershire, 1807, Berkeley Hundred, i. 410-501.
Contributor: C. K. [Charles Kent]