BERKELEY, Sir Henry (c.1579-c.1667), of Yarlington, Som.

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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 15 Feb. 1641

Family and Education

b. c.1579, 2nd s. of Sir Henry Berkeley† (d.1601)1 of Bruton, Som. and Margaret, da. of William Lygon of Madresfield, Worcs., wid. of Sir Thomas Russell† of Strensham, Worcs.; bro. of Sir Maurice*.2 educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1590, aged 11.3 m. c.1608, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Henry Neville I* of Billingbear, Berks., 2s. (1 d.v.p.), 4 da. (1 d.v.p.).4 kntd. 29 Apr. 1609.5 d. by Sept. 1667.6

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. [I] to 1603.7

J.p. Som. 1618-at least 1643, 1660-d.;8 commr. to supervise Leighfield forest, Rutland and Beaumont forest, Northants. 1621,9 sewers, Som. 1625-41,10 disafforestation, Roche forest, Som. 1627,11 enclosure Sedgemoor, Som.1628,12 oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1635-40, 1662-d.;13 manufacture of hard soap, Western parts 1638,14 navigable rivers, Som. 1638,15 subsidy, 1640,16 array, 1642,17 raising money 1644,18 assessment 1660-1, 1663-4;19 dep. lt. Som. 1660-d.;20 commr. loyal and indigent officers, Som. 1662.21


As the younger son of a leading Somerset family, Berkeley accompanied his elder brother Maurice to Oxford at an early age, and afterwards took up a military career in Ireland with his younger brother, Francis, who settled there. On his father’s death in 1601 he received £40 p.a. until the latter’s debts had been paid, whereupon he inherited the manor of Yarlington, ‘adorned ... with a handsome house’.22 He therefore resigned his army commission in 1603 and, with Sir William Godolphin*, was granted a pension of 10s. a day in 1604.23 Berkeley was knighted in 1609, and must be distinguished from a namesake, his Leicestershire kinsman, who became a baronet in 1611. His father-in-law Sir Henry Neville, who had urged James I to summon another Parliament as early as October 1611, may have encouraged Berkeley at the next general election, in 1614, to seek a seat on the Isle of Wight with the assistance of Sir Richard Worsley*, an Islander who was married to another of Neville’s daughters. At any rate, Berkeley was returned for Newtown; but he left no mark on the records of the Addled Parliament. He does not seem to have sought election again until 1626, when he was returned for Somerset as an ally of Sir Robert Phelips*, who had been pricked as sheriff that year in order to exclude him from the Parliament as an anticipated troublemaker. Berkeley was appointed to three committees, to consider a Derbyshire land bill (1 Mar. 1626), to draft a bill ‘about finding of arms’ (14 Mar.) and, as an additional member, to consider the ecclesiastical citations bill (17 March).24 In the following year he was the first signatory of a letter to the Privy Council from the Somerset gentry protesting against the proposal that the county should be joined with Bristol for the Forced Loan.25

At the next general election, in 1628, Phelips hoped not only to regain his seat but to bring in Berkeley as ‘an honest, faithful countryman’; but they were unsuccessful.26 It was probably with Phelips’s help that Berkeley was subsequently returned for Ilchester. His only committee appointment, in the second session, was to consider, again as an additional member, a petition against Sir Edward Mosley*, attorney of the duchy of Lancaster (20 Feb. 1629).27 Together with Phelips, Berkeley made a stand against Ship Money, and in 1639, when under consideration for the shrievalty, was accordingly reckoned of good estate but unknown affections.28 He was returned for Ilchester at both elections in 1640, but the second was eventually declared void ‘in regard that due notice was not given to the electors’.29

An active royalist, he was briefly imprisoned in 1646 for hiring someone to impersonate him in taking the National Covenant, and he compounded at a fine of £1,187.30 He was described in 1655 as ‘a desperate enemy to government, a wicked cavalier’.31 In his will, dated 21 Sept. 1666, he desired to be buried at Yarlington, ‘according to the rites of the Church of England, and with as little noise as may be’.32 He died sometime the following year; administration of his estate was granted to his son and heir, Maurice, in September 1667. Neither of his sons sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/270/148.
  • 2. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 7.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. S.W. Bates Harbin, Som. MPs, 144; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 250; CCC, 1989.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 148.
  • 6. PROB 11/324, ff. 438v-9.
  • 7. CSP Ire. 1603-6, pp. 30, 91, 165; 1606-8, p. 538.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 64; Q.S. Recs. ed. E.H. Bates (Som. Rec. Soc. xxviii), p. xx; Som. RO, DD/SE/45/1.
  • 9. CSP Dom.1619-23, p. 302.
  • 10. C181/3, f. 186; 181/4, ff. 21, 172v; 181/5, f. 205.
  • 11. C66/2441/1.
  • 12. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii, pt. 2, p. 267.
  • 13. C181/5, ff. 6, 170v; 181/7, pp. 130, 495.
  • 14. C181/5, ff. 92, 102v.
  • 15. Ibid. f. 99.
  • 16. SR, v. 89, 156.
  • 17. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 18. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 208.
  • 19. SR v. 219, 337, 467, 539.
  • 20. SP29/11, f. 227, SP29/60, f. 150; Som. RO, DD/BR/bn/37.
  • 21. SR, v. 384.
  • 22. PROB 11/98, f. 226; Gerard’s Som. ed. E.H. Bates (Som. Rec. Soc. xv), 196.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 145.
  • 24. CJ, i. 826a, 836a, 838a.
  • 25. SP16/60/32; T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, pp. 204, 296.
  • 26. Som. RO, DD/PH/1/2.
  • 27. CJ, i. 931b.
  • 28. Barnes, 135n, 214-15, 217; CSP Dom. 1636-7, pp. 18, 31.
  • 29. CJ, ii. 85; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 108.
  • 30. CCC, 1405.
  • 31. CSP Dom. 1655, p. 252.
  • 32. PROB 11/324, ff. 438v-9.