BERKELEY, Sir John (1531-82), of Southover, Hants and Beverstone Castle, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 15 Oct. 1531, 1st s. of Sir William Berkeley of Beverstone by Margaret, da. of Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester. m. (1) Frances, da. of Sir Nicholas Poyntz, of Iron Acton, Glos., 1s. 3da.; (2) Nov.1580, Alice Nottingham, s.p. suc. fa. 11 Jan. 1552. KB 15 Jan. 1559.2

Offices Held

J.p. Hants from 1559, sheriff 1561-2.


Berkeley succeeded in 1552 to considerable estates in Hampshire and Gloucestershire, including Beverstone castle and several manors in the latter county, though the fact that his mother lived for another 30 years must have deprived him of some part of these lands. He was made KB at Elizabeth’s coronation in January 1559, and was put on the Hampshire commission of the peace in the same year. He continued to play some part in local affairs. His return for Hampshire with the support of the conservative party in the county at a contested by-election in 1566 was, however, due to his relationship with his maternal grandfather, the Marquess of Winchester. Though Berkeley was described in the bishops’ report of 1564 as ‘favourable to religion’, many of the Paulet family had Catholic tendencies, and Berkeley’s own daughter Joan became a nun in 1581, and eventually abbess of the English convent at Brussels. Although there is no record of Berkeley’s activities in Parliament, John Smith recalls Henry, Lord Berkeley, as often saying that he was ‘a very able and well spoken gentleman, and as eminent a Parliament man as any of his time’. Still, considering his wealth and high connexions little is known about him. He may at one time have been engaged in naval or at least privateering activities in the Channel. Shortly before his death, being ‘minded ... to travel beyond the seas’, he made a deed of gift of his lands to his son. On his first wife’s death his brother-in-law, Sir Nicholas Poyntz, wrote that he ‘hath not the grace to show himself a natural father’. In 1580 he married Alice Nottingham, a woman, writes Smith, ‘whose ill-governed life after her husband’s decease is unworthy of any memorial’.3

Berkeley died 18 Oct. 1582, licence to enter on his lands being issued to his son 4 June 1584. He left no will, and letters of administration were not obtained until 1587. His son and heir John, aged 21 at his father’s death, was forced eventually to sell the remaining family estates and went to Virginia, where he erected the first ironworks. He was killed there by Indians in 1622.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. T. D. Fosbrooke, Glos. i. 411; J. Smith, Lives of the Berkeleys ed. Maclean, i. 355 seq.; C 142/94/56; London Mar. Lics. (Harl. Soc. xxv), 98.
  • 3. C142/94/56; 95/83; 201/116; Smith, loc. cit.; VCH Hants, iv. 580; v. 96, 128-9; APC, vii. 283; viii. 230; HMC Hatfield, i. 392; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 55; Cath. Rec. Soc. xiv. 174-5; HMC Finch, i. 22.
  • 4. C142/2011/116; patent roll 26 Eliz. pt. 8; PCC admon. act bk. 1587, ff. 16, 17, 37; D.Am.B. ii. 217.