Berkeley, John, first Baron Berkeley of Stratton d. 1678, soldier and courtier, the youngest son of Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton in Somersetshire (of a family descended from Sir Maurice (d. 1346-7), second son of Maurice, second Lord Berkeley [see Berkeley, Family of]) by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Killigrew of Hanworth, Middlesex, was accredited ambassador from Charles I. to Christina, queen of Sweden, in January 1636-7, 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 business was suggested 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. In July of the following year he was knighted by the king at Berwick, having then a commission in the army raised for the purpose of coercing the Scots. 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 conspiracy to corrupt the army in the interest of the king, expelled the house, and committed to the Tower; he was subsequently bailed by the earls of Dorset and Stamford in the sum of 10,000l., but the outbreak of hostilities prevented any further steps being taken. In 1642 he joined the Marquis 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 Stratton, with great loss of baggage and artillery, and pursued him as far as Wells. In this affair Sir John particularly distinguished himself. He was now made commander-in-chief of all the royalist forces in Devonshire, and sat down before Exeter, into which the Earl of Stamford had thrown himself, and which was further defended by the fleet under the Earl of Warwick. Berkeley succeeded in maintaining a strict blockade, beating off the Earl of Warwick with a loss of three ships, and on 4 Sept. 1643 the Earl of Stamford was compelled to surrender. In 1644 Berkeley was present at the baptism of Henriette Anne, 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 severely beaten at Alresford in Hampshire on 29 March. In April 1645 he superseded Sir Richard Grenville, being constituted colonel-general of the counties of Devon and Cornwall, took Wellington House, near Taunton, by assault, and then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 Fairfax westward in the autumn of the year changed the aspect of affairs. In January 1645-6 Fairfax was able to concentrate himself upon Exeter, which Berkeley was forced (13 April) to surrender, though on honourable terms. After the surrender Berkeley joined his kinsman, Lord Jermyn, at Paris, in attendance upon Queen Henrietta Maria, with whom he seems to have been a favourite. Here, however, he did not stay long. Having persuaded the queen that he possessed influence with some of the principal officers in the army—it was one of his foibles to suppose that he was capable of influencing everybody with whom he in any way came into contact—he obtained from her a letter of recommendation to the king. Having gained access to the king, he set about using his influence with Cromwell, Ireton, and other eminent officers, with a view to mediating between them and the king. In this business he was ably seconded by 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, which the king scornfully rejected. Berkeley received the king's commands to attend him in his flight on the night of 10 Nov. 1647. The party pushed on towards Hampshire, and ultimately reached Lymington. Berkeley crossed the Solent and opened the matter to Hammond, from whom, however, nothing definite could be elicited. The envoys making no way with the business, by an act of almost incredible folly they conducted Hammond to the king at Lymington, who then saw nothing for it but to accompany Hammond to Carisbrooke Castle. After this exploit Berkeley returned to London, still bent upon using his influence with the army; but being ill received by the officers, and arraigned by the parliament as a delinquent, he thought it most prudent to retire to Paris. Here, during the absence of Lord Byron in England, he obtained, through the influence, as it would seem, of Lord Jermyn, the post of temporary governor to the Duke of York (1648), and on the death of Lord Byron (1652) took that nobleman's place, acquiring the control of the duke's finances, and styling himself, though without (says Clarendon) any authority so to do, intendant des affaires de son altesse royale. In this capacity, and with an eye to the duke's revenue and his own, he endeavoured to bring about a match between the duke and Marie de Longueville, daughter of the Duke of Longueville, but the French court refused its sanction, and the idea was at once abandoned. Meanwhile Berkeley was engaged in paying his addresses to the Countess Morton, the governess of the Princess Henrietta, to whom in due course he made an offer of marriage. The lady appears to have made a confidant of Sir Edward Hyde (afterwards Earl of Clarendon), and to have rejected Berkeley upon his advice; and this fact coming to Berkeley's knowledge inspired him with a deep and lasting animosity to Hyde, which the latter answered with contempt, and also by intriguing to destroy Berkeley's influence with the duke, in which he signally failed.
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, and 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. Returning to England at the Restoration, he was a commissioner of the navy from 1660 until 1664. In the year 1661 he was appointed lord president of Connaught for life. This post, however, did not prevent his attendance at court, a deputy being at the same time appointed to do the work of the office in Ireland. This rapid advancement seems to have somewhat disturbed Pepys's equanimity, for he records the fact that on Sunday, 22 March 1662-3, he heard at church a dull formal fellow that prayed for the Right Honourable John Lord Barkeley, lord president of Connaught, &c. 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 the ordnance. In January 1664-5 he was placed on the committee of Tangier. In February of this year he began building himself a palace in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, which was destroyed by fire in 1733, but the site of which is now marked by Devonshire House. It was in the Italian style, and stood him in near 30,000l., says Evelyn. It was completed about 1672-3. In 1668 he bought Twickenham Park, which, however, passed out of his family in 1685. In 1670 he went to Ireland as lord lieutenant; this office he held for two years, with a few months' leave of absence in 1671, during which it was in commission. As viceroy he manifested a marked partiality for the catholic party, allowing on one occasion the titular Archbishop Peter to use the castle plate for the purpose of adding magnificence to a religious celebration, and telling him at the same time that in a few months he hoped to see high mass at Christ Church. In December 1675 he was appointed, with Sir William Temple and Sir Leoline Jenkyns, ambassador extraordinary on the part of England at the congress of Nimeguen then about to assemble. He received orders to leave for France before the commission was made out, and was to have started in October; but his departure was delayed for a few days by an apoplectic seizure, which took him as he was entering the council chamber of Whitehall (27 Oct.), and necessitated cupping. The operation effected, Evelyn tells us, an almost miraculous restoration. Accompanied by his wife he left Dover on 14 Nov., taking a solemn leave of Evelyn, to whom he had entrusted the charge of his affairs during his absence, on the beach, there delivering into his custody his letter of attorney, keys, seal, and his will, like one who did not expect to return. He did not reach Nimeguen until 11 Nov. of the following year, having spent the intervening period in France, and on 28 May 1677 was compelled, by the state of his health, to leave for England, though the work of the congress was not completed. He reached London early in June, Evelyn waiting on him there on the 12th, to give an account of the great trust reposed in him during his absence, and returning with abundance of thanks and professions, both from his lordship and his lady. On 26 Aug. 1678 he died, being seventy-two years of age. He was buried (5 Sept.) in the parish church of Twickenham. He left three sons, each of whom succeeded in his turn to the title [for John, third baron, see below], and one daughter, Anne, who married Sir Dudley Cullum, Bart., of Hanstead, Suffolk. The title became extinct in 1773. His wife, who is politely described in his epitaph as a young lady of a large dowry and yet larger graces and virtues, can hardly have been very young when he married her, as she had already been married first to Sir John Geare, and subsequently (14 Feb. 1659) to Henry Rich, Lord Kensington. Her maiden name was Christian or Christiana Riccard, her father being Sir Andrew Riccard, a wealthy London merchant, largely interested in the East India Company. Besides the fortune which this lady brought him Berkeley probably derived a handsome income partly from his life presidency of Connaught, and partly from the post of manager of the Duke of York's household, which he seems to have retained for many years after the duke had come of age. Concerning his conduct in this post Pepys (27 Sept. 1668) tells a story which, if true, convicts him of robbing his master in the matter of letting the duke's wine licenses. Berkeley's career seems to have been generally regarded by his contemporaries with feelings of mingled envy and amazement, its eminent successfulness being ascribed less to his own merits than to luck and the influence of his kinsman, Lord Jermyn, created Earl of St. Albans at the Restoration. This, at any rate, was the tenor of the conversation which Pepys heard at Captain Cocke's on 3 Dec. 1665. Clarendon gives him credit for being an able officer, though fit only for a subordinate post; but ruthlessly exposes his vanity, want of tact, and ignorance of human nature.;; T-éÔø£A'ANÇÖÿBerkeley is the author of an historical piece in the nature of an apology for his part in the transactions which preceded and followed the flight of the king from Hampton Court. It is an interesting production, written in a very lively style and of great biographical value, as it exhibits the character of its author with much naïveté; but the serious discrepancies between it and the account given by Ashburnham, and the attempt which is apparent throughout it to magnify the author's part in the negotiations with Cromwell and Ireton at the expense of Ashburnham, while casting upon him the sole responsibility for the unfortunate issue of the negotiations with Hammond, impair its authority as an historical narrative. It was first published in 1699 (8vo), and again in 1702, under the title Memoirs of Sir John Berkley, containing an account of his negotiations with Lieutenant-general Cromwell, Commissary-general Ireton, and other officers of the army for restoring King Charles I to the exercise of the government of England. Lowndes (Bibliographical Manual, ed. Bohn) mentions an edition of 1699 with the title in Latin: Collectanea Historica Johannis Berkeley complexa ipsius negotiationem anni 1647 cum Olivaro Cromwell, Ireton, et aliis exercitus præfectis pro revocatione Caroli I in regni administrationem. The memoirs were reissued in 1812 in the Harleian Miscellany, vol. ix., and in 1815 in Maseères' Select Tracts relating to the Civil Wars, vol. i. On the publication in 1830 of Ashburnham's Narrative Berkeley's account was added in an appendix. A French translation appeared in the Collection des Mémoires relatifs à la Révolution d'Angleterre, vol. iv. Paris, 1827.
Cal. State Papers, Dom. (1636-7) 380, 392, (1637) 82, 145, 310, 312, 321, 324, 336, 413, (1640) 42, (1660-1) 110, (1664-5) 173, 187, 485
Howell's Familiar Letters, 228
Clarendon, iii. 120, 182, 202, 226, 426, 429-31
iv. 99-100, 116, 119, 215, 448, 460
v. 149-53, 160-8, 188, 206-12, 446-8, 479, 492
vi. 18, 589
Polwhele's Devonshire, 306
Whitelocke's Mem. 177, 185, 191, 196, 200
Ludlow's Mem. 73
Fairfax Correspondence (ed. Bell), i. 290
Commons' Journals, ii. 175, 238, 241, 253, 256, 262, 271, 290, 294, 295, 333, 337, 346, 356, 614
v. 356, 359, 366
Ashburnham's Narrative, 88
Appendix, cxliv. cli. clxiii. clxxv.
Petitot's Coll. des Mém. 2me série, xxxiv. 378, 380
Thurloe's State Papers, i. 96, iv. 158, v. 104, 278, 294, 753
Life of James II (Clarke), i. 47, 53, 114, 273, 279, 293
Lib. Hib. i. pt. ii. 8, 190
Pepys's Diary, 22 March 1662-3, 5 Nov. 1664, 20 March 1664-5
Evelyn's Diary, 25 Sept. 1672, 27 Oct. 1675, 25 Sept. 1677
Life of Sir Leoline Jenkyns, i. 349, 502, 512, ii. 117
Haydn's Book of Dignities, 121, 191
Harris's Life of William III, 98-101
Lysons's Middlesex, iii. 199, 580, 592
Sir William Temple's Mem. (ed. 1720), 411
Collinson's Somerset, i. 215
Banks's Extinct Peerage, iii. 77
Froude's English in Ireland, i. 165.
Contributor: J. M. R. [James McMullen Rigg]