BERKELEY, Maurice Frederick Fitzhardinge (1788-1867), of Fishborne, nr. Chichester, Suss. and 6 Spring Gardens, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 3 Jan. 1788, 2nd s. of Frederick Augustus, 5th earl of Berkeley (d. 1810), and future w. Mary, da. of William Cole, publican and butcher, of Wotton-under-Edge, Glos. m. (1) 4 Dec. 1823, Lady Charlotte Lennox (d. 20 Aug. 1833), da. of Charles Lennox†, 4th duke of Richmond, 2s. 2da.; (2) 30 Sept. 1834, Hon. Charlotte Reynolds Moreton, da. of Thomas, 4th Bar. Ducie, s.p. CB 18 Dec. 1840; KCB 5 July 1855; suc. bro. William Fitzhardinge Berkeley†, 1st Earl Fitzhardinge, to Berkeley estates 1857; GCB 28 June 1861; cr. Bar. Fitzhardinge 5 Aug. 1861. d. 17 Oct. 1867.
Entered RN 1802, lt. 1808, cdr. 1810, capt. 1814, r.-adm. 1849, v.-adm. 1856, adm. 1862.
Ld. of admiralty Apr. 1833-Dec. 1834, July 1837-Mar. 1839, July 1846-Mar. 1852, Jan. 1853-Nov. 1857; naval a.d.c. to Queen Victoria 1846-1849; PC 13 Aug. 1855.
Berkeley, whose parents were deemed by the House of Lords in 1811 not to have been legally married until eight years after his birth, had a distinguished naval career during the Napoleonic war and was commended by the duke of Wellington for his support in the Peninsular campaign. On his father’s death in 1810 he inherited a landed estate in Sussex.1 His elder brother William, who succeeded to the main Berkeley estates but was not allowed to assume the title, was ambitious to extend his political influence in Gloucestershire with a view to promoting his claim to a peerage, which was gratified by the Whigs when he was created Baron Segrave in 1831 and Earl Fitzhardinge in 1841. Berkeley offered for Gloucester in 1818, coming bottom of the poll only narrowly behind his fellow Whig, Edward Webb, and a Tory, and thereafter he maintained his claim to contest the constituency again. In 1826 he threatened to come forward when it seemed that his position might be usurped by his former agent, John Phillpotts*, but this proved unnecessary and he canvassed on Webb’s behalf, while indicating his intention to offer in future.2 He issued an address in 1830, when Phillpotts did intervene, but withdrew before the poll to avoid jeopardizing Webb’s chances, on the understanding that Webb would reciprocate at the next election.3 In fact, the following year he and Webb coalesced against Phillpotts, as supporters of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, and he was returned at the head of the poll, declaring that he would go to Parliament ‘to renovate the constitution and ... economize the public purse, so much as possibly can be, with due regard to the safety and welfare of the nation and the honour and dignity of our beloved sovereign’.4
He told one of his leading supporters in Gloucestershire, 25 June 1831, that he was anxious to make his maiden speech and had made several unsuccessful attempts to catch the Speaker’s eye, adding that ‘I have heard no one that I envy in the speaking line, except first and best Stanley, then Peel’. A few days later he thought the Commons would ‘come to blows yet’ over the reintroduced reform bill, as he had ‘never [seen] such a bear garden’.5 He spoke in support of the bill, 5 July, dismissing as ‘a calumny on the generous, open-hearted people of England’ the claim that they were using reform ‘as a cloak for revolution’. He reported afterwards that he had spoken ‘without fear’ but was ‘loud (I fear as usual)’, and had been ‘listened to attentively, patiently - because I did not detain them more than 10 minutes - and was gratified more than once by Hear! Hear!!’6 He divided for the bill’s second reading next day and voted steadily for its details. He maintained that the tenants on his Sussex estate had voted freely for the county reform candidates, 26 July, and refuted the claim that the burning of Webb’s effigy at Gloucester was proof of a popular reaction against reform, alleging that it was the work of Phillpotts’s supporters, 3 Aug. He favoured allowing freemen to keep their voting rights in perpetuity, a matter of great concern at Gloucester, 30 Aug., arguing that this was particularly desired by women, who feared the future loss of charitable benefits if their husbands neglected to become freemen. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He attended the unofficial county reform meeting at Gloucester, 28 Sept., when he advised the use of respectful language in the proposed petition to the Lords and observed that while ‘he could not boast of the talent or education’ of the bill’s opponents, he did have ‘common-sense ... it was on board of a British man-of-war that he had learned to be a reformer. It was there that he had been taught to hate oppression’.7 He voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election and against the censure motion on the Irish administration, 23 Aug. 1831.
Berkeley was prevented from voting on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, by his wife’s serious illness, and missed much of the proceedings in committee for the same reason;8 but he attended to vote for the third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May 1832. He stated on 14 May that recent events had convinced him that new peers should have been created to force the bill through the Lords, declared that the country had no confidence in the proposed new ministers and hoped the ‘suspense’ would soon be ended. He supported an amendment to the boundaries bill to make Wotton-under-Edge rather than Thornbury the nomination venue for West Gloucestershire, 22 June, and was a minority teller. He divided with ministers on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., but with the minority to print the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of Irish tithes, 16 Feb. He described the proposed consolidation of the navy and admiralty boards as ‘the greatest boon that can be conferred on the naval service’, 14 Feb., and related some personal experiences of problems with the fitting-out of ships under the existing system, 6 Apr., when he voted for the navy civil departments bill. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832. At the general election later that year he was returned for Gloucester at the head of the poll after urging the electors to ‘gather the fruits’ of the Reform Act, ‘namely, cheap government, the reformation of every abuse in church and state ... peace when compatible with faith and honour and ... all possible reduction of taxation’.9 He held the seat at intervals until his final defeat in 1857. He joined Brooks’s Club, 8 May 1833. A Tory parson thought that Berkeley, like his brothers, was ‘active, acute, not burdened by high principles, and ready to possess even destructive opinions, so [as to] secure the mob’.10 He remained deeply involved in naval affairs, holding office at the admiralty in successive Liberal ministries and achieving further distinction on his last active service in the Mediterranean, 1840-1. On his brother’s death in 1857 he succeeded to the vast Berkeley estates, which included valuable property in London, but not to his brother’s title. In 1858 he claimed the ancient barony of Berkeley, and when this was rejected by the Lords he was awarded a barony in his own right in 1861. He died in October 1867 and was succeeded by his elder son, Francis William Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1826-96), Liberal Member for Cheltenham, 1856-65, and then by his other son, Charles Paget Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1830-1916), Liberal Member for Gloucester, 1862-5, on whose death the barony became extinct.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Terry Jenkins
- 1. The will was sworn under £35,000: PROB 11/1514/403; IR26/162/52.
- 2. Gloucester Jnl. 5, 12, 19 June 1826.
- 3. Ibid. 3, 10 July 1830.
- 4. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
- 5. Glos. RO, Hyett mss D6/F32/13, 15.
- 6. Ibid. D6/F32/16.
- 7. Gloucester Jnl. 1 Oct. 1831.
- 8. Ibid. 24 Dec. 1831, 28 Jan., 25 Feb. 1832.
- 9. Ibid. 14 July, 1, 15 Dec. 1832.
- 10. Diary of a Cotswold Parson ed. D. Verey, 140.