BERKELEY, Sir Rowland (c.1613-96), of Cotheridge, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1613, o.s. of William Berkeley of Acton Beauchamp, by Margaret, da. of Thomas Chettle† of Worcester. educ. M. Temple, entered 1627; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 24 Feb. 1632, aged 18. m. 26 Nov. 1635, Dorothy, da. of Sir Thomas Cave of Stanford, Northants., 1s. d.v.p. 5da. Kntd. 30 June 1641; suc. fa. 1658.1
Commr. for array, Worcs. 1642, j.p. 1643-6, July 1660-87, sheriff 1644-5, commr. for excise 1645, assessment, Worcs. 1646, Aug. 1660-80, Worcester Sept. 1660-80, Worcs. and Worcester 1689-d.; dep. lt. Worcs. c. Aug. 1660-Feb. 1688, capt. vol. horse 1661, commr. for loyal and indigent officers 1662; freeman, Bewdley by 1673; commr. for recusants, Worcs. 1675.2
Berkeley claimed descent from a younger son of the family of Berkeley Castle. His great-grandfather sat for Hereford in 1547, but his grandfather migrated to Worcester, where he became a prosperous clothier, representing the city in four Parliaments. The most notable of the family was his uncle, MP for the city in 1621 and 1624, and subsequently impeached by the Long Parliament as one of the judges who had given their opinion in favour of ship-money. Cotheridge, four miles west of Worcester, was acquired in 1615 and settled on Berkeley on his marriage. He was an active royalist commissioner during the first Civil War and was fined £2,030 on an estate of £450 p.a. In the second Civil War, he ‘meddled not on either side’, though he had some alarming experiences during the battle of Worcester. He was denounced as a Cavalier conspirator in 1655, but apparently without much cause. On the eve of the Restoration he signed the declaration of the Worcestershire Royalists disclaiming animosity towards their opponents.3
At the Restoration Berkeley was included among the proposed knights of the Royal Oak, with an estate valued at £1,000 p.a. He was returned for Worcester in 1661, and became a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was named to 126 committees but made no recorded speeches. Lord Wharton listed him as a friend, and he took no part in the Clarendon Code. He probably introduced the bill for settling St. Oswald’s hospital on 1 Apr. 1663, since his name stands first on the list of the committee. Sir Thomas Osborne included him in 1669 among the Members who usually voted for supply, and he appeared on the Paston list of court supporters in 1673-4. His first important committee was on the bill for the general test in 1674, and in the same session he acted as teller for the Court on the Hythe election. In the autumn session of 1675 he served on the committees for the recall of British subjects from the French service and to prevent the growth of Popery, after which Sir Richard Wiseman associated him with Henry Norwood and Sir Francis Russell among the Members who had ‘gone very ill’ for the Court. Nevertheless his name was included on the working lists, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly vile’. He was appointed to the committee for the amendment of habeas corpus in 1677, and added to those to investigate the Godfrey murder and examine Coleman’s papers in November 1678. He was on neither list of the court party at this time, which suggests that he had gone over to the Opposition.4
Berkeley did not stand again after the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, though his continuance in local office presumably implies hostility to exclusion. To the lord lieutenant’s questions on the Test Act and Penal Laws, he declared his loyalty to the King, ‘though being over seventy years of age and thick of hearing he did not intend to stand’. He was pledged to give his vote to the Whig