BERKELEY, Sir Maurice (1358-1400), of Uley and Stoke Gifford, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. Uley, 1 June 1358, s. and h. of Sir Thomas Berkeley (d.1361), by Katherine, da. of John, 2nd Lord Botetourt. m. bef. May 1400, Joan (d. 22 Aug. 1412), da. of Sir John Dynham of Hartland, Devon, 1s. Sir Maurice†.1 Kntd. between July and Sept. 1379.
Commr. of inquiry, Glos., Som. June 1389 (trespasses, Fullwood and Kingswood).
J.p. Glos. 15 July 1389-June 1390.
Maurice was the great-grandson of Maurice, Lord Berkeley (d.1326), and grandson of the Sir Maurice who led a distinguished career in war and diplomacy under Edward III. His father fought at Poitiers, but died at an early age in 1361, leaving the three-year-old child as heir to his estates. These, owing to the generosity shown to this branch of the family by their noble kinsmen (‘Maurice the Magnanimous’ and ‘Thomas the Ritch’), were considerable: young Berkeley’s inheritance included the manors of Kings Weston, Aylburton, Bradley and Uley, in Gloucestershire, Kingston Seymour in Somerset, and Brigmerston and Milston in Wiltshire, besides smaller properties in Hampshire. In addition, when John, Lord Mautravers, a distant relation, died without male issue three years later, the boy inherited the manors of Rockhampton, Stoke Gifford and Wallscourt (Gloucestershire), under the terms of an entail. Contemporary evidence of the value of these estates is lacking, but at Berkeley’s death those in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire alone were said to be worth nearly £154 a year. Berkeley’s wardship had been granted in 1363 to his stepfather, Sir John Thorpe†, and it was not until 1380 that he made proof of age and obtained seisin of the bulk of his inheritance. That part of the Berkeley estates held as dower by his mother (one of the daughters of the last Lord Botetourt) fell to him only after her death in January 1388.2
Berkeley’s career had begun in July 1379, when, since he had not yet furnished proof that he had reached his majority, the Crown appointed guardians to accompany him on a voyage to Brittany in the retinue of the ruler of the duchy, John de Montfort. While abroad in the duke’s service he was knighted and in September, after a brief sojourn at home, he made a second journey to Brittany, on this occasion in the company of John, Lord Arundel, the marshal of England. Berkeley spent long stretches of the next few years abroad: he is known to have taken out royal letters of protection for service overseas in June 1380, April 1383 and November 1385, the last being in order to take part in a military expedition to Flanders for the defence of Ghent. Consequently, it was not until the summer of 1389 that he was first appointed to royal commissions at home in Gloucestershire, and even then he was named on no more than a single commission of inquiry (which he later claimed he had never received) and a single commission of the peace.3
The year 1391 saw the culmination of a dispute between Berkeley and the collegiate church of St. Mary at Leicester over ownership of the manor of Wollaston, Northamptonshire, which had at one time been in the Berkeley family’s possession. The debate was brought to a close on 31 Oct., when John, duke of Lancaster (the church’s patron), who had taken upon himself the task of examining the evidence, successfully persuaded Berkeley that he had no valid claim to the property. Such an encounter would not seem to have been auspicious for subsequent good relations between duke and knight, yet Gaunt clearly intended to win Sir Maurice over. Only two days later he named Berkeley as one of his bachelors, retaining him for life in peace and war and awarding him an annuity of £20 charged on the issues of the lordship of Monmouth. Berkeley had already been elected to represent Gloucestershire in the Parliament which was to assemble the very next day (3 Nov.). His contract with Lancaster soon led to further service overseas: he sailed for Aquitaine with the duke in August 1393, remaining in the duchy at Gaunt’s expense, with a small personal contingent of two esquires and three archers, until 25 Apr. 1395.4
Berkeley’s return home did not signal any further appointments in the sphere of local administration, perhaps because he had shown no aptitude for it earlier. His remaining years were disturbed only by minor troubles: in 1396 he was fined for blocking the course of a stream at Kingston Seymour, and in 1398 an official enquiry was made regarding his enclosure of land, said to be common pasture, to make a park at Stoke Gifford. Although on 28 Apr. 1399, following Gaunt’s death and the confiscation by the Crown of the estates of the duchy of Lancaster, Richard II confirmed Berkeley’s annuity and retained him in his own service, there is no evidence that he accompanied the King on the expedition to Ireland then in its final stages of preparation. It has not been ascertained whether or not Henry of Bolingbroke ever ratified the annuity under the duchy seal after he had regained his inheritance; certainly, there is no record of its confirmation under the great seal after Henry’s accession to the throne.5
In May 1400 Berkeley obtained a royal licence to entail certain of his estates on himself and his wife and their issue, having asked Sir John Dynham (his father-in-law), Sir John Berkeley I* (his kinsman) and (Sir) Thomas Stawell* (a neighbour from Somerset), to act as trustees. He died, less than five months later, on 2 Oct., aged 42. So far, there had been no children born of his marriage, and his heir was an unmarried aunt aged over 50. However, his widow was pregnant and in due course, on 9 Feb. 1401, gave birth to a son, named Maurice after his father. The child, who was made a ward of one of the ‘King’s knights’, Sir Francis Court, was destined to be even wealthier than his father, for in 1407, when his kinswoman Joyce, Lady Burnell and Botetourt, died childless, he inherited a third part of the barony of Botetourt. On proving his age in 1423 he took possession of both the Berkeley and his share of the Botetourt estates, and as Sir Maurice Berkeley he was returned for Gloucestershire to the Parliaments of 1425 and 1429.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 418; CP, ii. 234 (where his fa. is called Maurice in error).
- 2. J. Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys ed. Maclean, i. 245-60; iii. 110, 148, 178-9, 188-9, 256; CIPM, xi. 10, 592; xv. 293; xvi. 638-41; CFR vii. 269; x. 223; CPR, 1354-8, p. 74; 1374-7, p. 400; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 288-9; C137/23/39.
- 3. C76/64 mm. 2, 22, 25, 67 m. 9, 70 m. 33; Smyth, 258-60; CCR, 1389-92, p. 320.
- 4. CIPM, viii. 630; CCR, 1389-92, p. 500; Cam. Misc. xxii. 103; DL 29/615/9839; C61/104 m. 9.
- 5. C260/106/30; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 365, 544.
- 6. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 288, 431; 1401-5, p. 20; C137/23/39; C138/61/65, 64/30; C139/8/80; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 237-8, 242; CP, ii. 234.