BERKELEY, Sir Charles II (1630-65), of Whitehall.
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Family and Education
bap. 11 Jan. 1630, 2nd s. of Sir Charles Berkeley I and bro. of Sir Maurice Berkeley and John Berkeley, 4th Visct. Fitzhardinge. educ. travelled abroad 1644-8. m. 18 Dec. 1664, Mary, da. of Hervey Bagot of Pipe Hall, Warws., 1da. Kntd. 30 May 1660; cr. Visct. Fitzhardinge of Berehaven [I] 14 July 1663, Earl of Falmouth 17 Mar. 1665.
Groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of York 1656-62; keeper of the privy purse 1662-d.; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1665.
Freeman, Portsmouth 1662.
Berkeley was an intimate of the royal family in exile. In 1652 he was commissioned cornet in the Earl of Bristol’s troop of English Guards under Turenne, and saw considerable action with James, Duke of York. In 1657 the Duke gave him command of his own Life Guard, and in this capacity Berkeley was wounded at the battle of the Dunes in 1658. After the Restoration he remained a prime, if not the prime favourite, of Charles II, as well as James. His appointment as keeper of the privy purse ‘discontents all our bedchamber’, wrote Daniel O’Neill to Ormonde. The King mostly employed him on personal rather than political matters, though in 1664 he was made a member of the committee for Tangier, on which he was a hard worker, and was twice sent on missions to France, once, in 1661, to congratulate the King and Queen on the birth of the Dauphin and in 1664 to discuss attempts at mediation between France and the Dutch. On this occasion Cominges wrote to Louis XIV that ‘there can be no doubt that he is the man in England who has most credit with the King his master’. This is doubtless an exaggeration but it was believed by some of his fellow-Members. On 15 July 1663 the French ambassador reported that the House ‘has loudly shown its displeasure’ at Berkeley’s elevation to the Irish peerage.2
Berkeley had come in for New Romney in 1661 as the court nominee. He was a moderately active Member, being appointed to 25 committees, of which the most important were for hindering the growth of Popery in 1663 and suppressing seditious conventicles in 1664. Presumably he was a consistent court supporter. Samuel Pepys had a very low opinion of him, though his ‘particular friend’ (Sir) William Coventry later caused him to modify it, and Clarendon despised him. He did pander to the vices of the royal brothers, and there can be no doubt that his attempt to prevent the Duke of York’s marriage by claiming the credit for Anne Hyde’s pregnancy was, to say the least, tactless and ill-considered, but he was generous and modest and, while he received various leases and gifts from the King, he was not grasping. ‘He was created Earl of Falmouth’, noted Clarendon sourly, ‘before he had one foot of land in the world’. James wrote that
Lord Falmouth was in great favour with the King from the beginning of the Restoration, and none ever had it to such a degree, either in this or any other kingdom, that considered so little his own concerns and so much his master’s, for ... he died without leaving any estate behind him, though he was no ways extravagant in his expenses. But he was of so generous a nature, that when any projects of advantage to himself had been brought to him, and that he had obtained the King’s promise for a grant of them, if some old Cavaliers happened at the same time to put in for them, he released the King of his promises to himself and got them given to the others, saying that for him, sooner or later the King would provide. It were to be wished that all favourites and first ministers would follow such an example.3
Burnet described him as
a young man of no extraordinary parts, but of a generous and noble disposition ... He grew mightily into the King’s favour, was made Earl of Falmouth, and was upon the point of being made a duke and declared the favourite, when he was lost at sea. He had the luck to be most equally dear both to the King and the Duke, and those that knew him well told me that they believed he would have proved one of the best favourites that ever was; that he would have promoted men of merit and have set the King on to great and worthy things, and that he would not have been insolent nor assumed much to himself, but that he knew his own defects, and would have depended on wiser men’s counsels.4
Falmouth did not enjoy his earldom long. He joined the fleet and was killed on board the Royal Charles in the battle of Southwold Bay on 3 June 1665. He was buried on 22 June in Westminster Abbey. His widow married Charles Sackville. His earldom became extinct, but his Irish peerage went to his father by special remainder.
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Basil Duke Henning
This biography is based on C. H. Hartmann, The King’s Friend, which corrects the date given for the Falmouth peerage in CP.