BERKELEY, Norborne (?1717-70), of Stoke Gifford, near Bristol, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. ?1717, o.s. of John Symes Berkeley of Stoke Gifford, Glos. by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Walter Norborne of Calne, Wilts., wid. of Edward Devereux, 8th Visct. Hereford. educ. Westminster Sept. 1726, aged 9. unm. suc. fa. 1736. Abeyance of barony of Botetourt terminated in his favour 13 Apr. 1764.
Groom of the bedchamber 1760-4; keeper of St. Briavel’s castle in the Forest of Dean May 1762; constable of the Forest of Dean 1763-66; ld. of the bedchamber 1767-d.; ld. lt. Glos. 1762-6; gov. Virginia 1768-d.
Norborne Berkeley was descended from a younger branch of the Berkeleys of Berkeley Castle, who had held the manor of Stoke since the fourteenth century.1 Stoke Gifford house overlooked Bristol, four miles away, and the Berkeley property near the city was mined for coal. According to a report sent to the French Government in 1743 ‘c’est le nombre prodigieux de gens qui travaillent aux mines de charbons dans ses terres aux environs de Bristol qui rend M. Norborne Berkeley ... un des plus considérables de la noblesse du royaume’.2
When in 1740 Berkeley stood as a Tory for the county in conjunction with Thomas Chester Thomas Carte, the historian, reported to Rome that
Mr. B’s cousin, the Earl of Berkeley had promised him his interest; but ... Sir Robert Walpole represented to him that it was an inconsistency in him to give his interest to a gentleman who declared he stood upon an opposite interest to that of the court and join with Mr. Chester, an open enemy of the Government as well as the Administration, and it was expected he should engage all his friends and his interest against Mr. Berkeley as well as Chester.
Lord Berkeley thereupon declared against his cousin; but
young Mr. Berkeley, who ... does not want spirit and good sense, went to the Earl and representing to him that upon his assuring him of his interest he had been first encouraged to offer his services to the county ... that the gentlemen finding his Lordship declare openly against him had reason to suspect that he had imposed upon them by a false pretence to his Lordship’s promise and interest and as it was a terrible thing for a young man to enter the world with the character of a fourbe he must vindicate his own reputation and conduct and ... desire his Lordship to sign a certificate, declaring ... [he] ... had promised his cousin Berkeley his interest for the county and ... allowed him to assure the gentlemen thereof, but that finding he had joined with Mr. Chester and so embarked in an interest opposite to that of the court, he had thought fit to retract his promise and use of his interest to oppose his election.
Lord Berkeley agreed,
and now it proves that upon his promise his tenants were engaged to Mr. Berkeley, that is, they follow their inclination and not the Earl’s example in breaking their word, so that he will not be able to make ten votes against Mr. Berkeley.3
Returned unopposed, and again in 1747, Berkeley voted consistently against the Government. On 24 Apr. 1744 he carried by his casting vote as chairman of a committee of the Commons a clause in favour of the Jews in a bill for ending the monopoly of the Levant trade by the Turkey Company.4 In 1749 he was given a D.C.L. by the University of Oxford at the Jacobite demonstration on the opening of the Radcliffe Library (see under Oxford University). ‘I think his heart is thoroughly against us’, the second Lord Egmont wrote in his electoral survey c.1749-50 - ‘how he may be influenced by [his brother-in-law] the Duke of Beaufort to act I can’t say’. His vote for the Jewish naturalization bill threatened to prejudice his re-election in 1754, when there was ‘such a spirit in Gloucestershire against Norborne Berkeley upon this account, that though he is otherwise the perfect idol of the country, they are now quite in an uproar against him’.5 But in the end he was re-elected unopposed, continuing to represent the county until he vacated his seat on establishing his claim to the barony of Botetourt. He died in Virginia 15 Oct. 1770.