BERKELEY, Maurice (1599-1654), of Stoke Gifford, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

20 Oct. 1624

Family and Education

b. 1599,1 1st s. of Richard Berkeley* (d. 1661) of Stoke Gifford and his 1st wife Mary, da. of Robert Rowe, Haberdasher, of London.2 m. (1) 1622,3 with £3,500,4 Elizabeth (d. Nov. 1623),5 da. of Sir Edward Coke* of Stoke Poges, Bucks., 1da.;6 (2) by 1627, with £2,800,7 Mary, da. of Sir George Tipping of Wheatfield, Oxon., 2s.8 kntd. 11 Sept. 1621.9 bur. 3 Jan. 1655.10 sig. Mau[rice] Berkeley.

Offices Held

J.p. Glos. 1625-7, 1628-31,11 1643;12 commr. sewers 1625,13 dep. lt. 1626, by 1639-42,14 Forced Loan 1627,15 commr. charitable uses 1630,16 subsidy 1641-2,17 array 1642,18 imprest 1643, sheriff (roy.) 1643.19

Member, Virg. Co. 1623.20

Biography

Berkeley was first returned as junior knight for Gloucestershire in 1620, ‘then not 22 years of age’.21 All the committee activity credited to ‘Mr. Berkeley’ in the first sitting of the third Jacobean Parliament can reasonably be ascribed either to Francis Berkeley of Shrewsbury or to the lawyer Robert Berkeley, but it was evidently the Gloucestershire knight who on 5 May 1621 protested against the provision in the bill for repairing Tewkesbury bridge that the charges should be borne by the county as a whole. He declared that the bill, as it stood, was ‘against law and equity’, for by law all corporate towns were to pay for the upkeep of their own bridges. Those who dwelt in Gloucestershire, he added, hardly ever made use of the bridge, unlike the inhabitants of three other counties who lived closer to Tewkesbury. Gloucestershire could ill afford this expense, especially as subsidies were now demanded and war had broken out in Bohemia.22 Sir Edward Coke, whose son had married a Berkeley of the elder branch, praised this speech, and a second alliance soon followed between Coke’s daughter and Berkeley himself. Knighted during the recess, Berkeley was among those appointed (1 Dec.) to the conference to examine the amended informers bill.23 In 1623 Berkeley invested in the Virginia Company, despite the example of his father, who was compelled by a disastrous plantation venture to make over Stoke Gifford to him. After failing at Cirencester in 1624, where his uncle Sir Thomas Roe had been returned in 1621, he regained his county seat in a contested by-election after the death of Sir Thomas Estcourt, although to no purpose since Parliament stood prorogued and did not meet again before the death of James. Re-elected to the first Caroline Parliament, he was among those appointed to consider bills to prevent the export of wool and to enable puritan clergymen to accept preferment (27 June),24 and he was named to attend the conference with the Lords on 8 July concerning the petition from the prisoners in the Fleet.25 He took no known part in the proceedings at Oxford. In the following year he was returned for Bedwyn on the interest of his Hungerford relatives. During the Parliament he secured a discharge from a Privy Seal for a loan of £30.26 He was absent when the House was called on 2 June 1626, but escaped censure when he appeared on the following day.27 As one of the Gloucestershire commissioners who refused to implement the Forced Loan or subscribe, he was removed from the bench and imprisoned in the Marshalsea. After a period of confinement in Hampshire he was released early in 1628, but is not known to have sought election in that year.28 John Smith* wrote of him at this time that ‘with much quiet [he] reapeth the fruits of a peaceable country life at Stoke Gifford’.29

The £3,500 which Berkeley had received on his marriage to Elizabeth Coke, £500 less than promised, compared poorly with the £10,000 and lands which Buckingham’s brother Lord Purbeck had obtained with her younger sister, and in the 1630s Berkeley petitioned the Crown that in any redistribution of the family fortune their daughter should be considered.30 At about the same time the reversion of Rendcomb, to which his father had retired, was sold to Sir William Guise for £6,700.31 Financial difficulties also led to Berkeley’s separation from his second wife, who had refused to surrender her jointure; he agreed before the High Commission to pay her £50 p.a.32 The extent to which he had assumed the effective headship of the family is shown in his control of its interest in the bitterly contested Gloucestershire election to the Short Parliament.33 Berkeley himself did not sit again, but he was an active royalist, compounding at £1,372 for his delinquency. An attempt was made to include his daughter’s inheritance, an estate of £400 p.a. and £1,500 in plate and goods, but he was ready to swear that it was not in his possession. He then claimed to be very infirm,34 but described himself as being in good health when he made his will on 28 Nov. 1653. He added a codicil on 25 Aug. 1654 and was buried at Stoke Gifford on 3 Jan. 1655. His executors, including his father, refused to act; consequently his eldest son Richard proved his will on 22 May 1655.35 His grandson was returned for Gloucestershire as a Tory in 1710, and the barony of Botetourt was called out of abeyance for his great-grandson, also a Tory Member, in 1764.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson

Notes

  • 1. J. Smyth, Berkeley Mss ed. J. Maclean, i. 265.
  • 2. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 9.
  • 3. APC, 1621-3, p. 119.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 406.
  • 5. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 527.
  • 6. Vis. Glos. 9.
  • 7. HMC 6th Rep. 94.
  • 8. Smyth, i. 265.
  • 9. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 178.
  • 10. W.R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Glos. 50.
  • 11. C231/4, ff. 188, 227, 261; C231/5, p. 51.
  • 12. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 14.
  • 13. C181/3, f. 172.
  • 14. SP16/41/30i; HMC 5th Rep. 345; LJ, v. 291.
  • 15. C193/12/2, f. 20v.
  • 16. C93/12/3.
  • 17. SR, v. 62, 84, 151.
  • 18. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 19. Docquets of Letters Patent, pp. 102, 117.