BERKELEY, John, 4th Visct. Fitzhardinge [I] (1650-1712), of Bruton, Som. and Pall Mall, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



20 Apr. 1691 - 1695
1695 - 1710

Family and Education

bap. 18 Apr. 1650, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Charles Berkeley†, 2nd Visct. Fitzhardinge, by Penelope, da. of Sir William Godolphin† of Godolphin, Cornw.; bro. of Charles† and Maurice*, 1st and 3rd Viscts. Fitzhardinge.  m. Barbara (d. 1708), da. of Sir Edward Villiers, knight marshal of the Household, 3da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. bro. as 4th Visct. Fitzhardinge 13 June 1690.1

Offices Held

Page of honour to Charles II 1668–72; ensign Lord Le Power’s Ft. 1673; capt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1675–85; lt.-col., Col. Edward Villiers’ Ft. 1678; jt. searcher, Gravesend 1681–94; master of horse to Princess Anne 1685–1702; col. regt. of Dragoons [later 4 Queen’s Hussars] 1685–24 Nov. 1688, 31 Dec. 1688–1 Sept. 1693; brig.-gen. 1690; gov. Kinsale 1692–3; keeper of Pall Mall 1692–d.; teller of Exchequer 1694–d.; treasurer of chamber to Queen Anne 1702–d.2

Custos rot. Som. 1690–d.; freeman, Kinsale 1692.3


Berkeley’s father and elder brothers had become prominent figures in royal service during the early years of the Restoration. His older brother Charles was rewarded with an Irish viscountcy in 1663 which, by special remainder, passed firstly to his father in 1665, and then to his eldest brother Maurice. In 1668, the year of his father’s death, he became a page to Charles II, and four years later joined the army. In June 1685, he fought at the battle of Sedgemoor and was shortly afterwards promoted colonel of his own regiment. At the beginning of 1685 he had entered the household of Princess Anne as master of the Horse, and the subsequent course of his career owed much to his wife’s closeness to the princess. His kinship with Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), and his wife’s intimacy with Sarah Churchill, helped to bind the connexion all the more. In the early hours of 24 Nov. 1688 Berkeley was a member of the small company consisting of Prince George of Denmark, the Duke of Grafton and Lord Churchill (John†) who defected to William of Orange. Berkeley was instantly deprived of his colonelcy by King James. Two days later, on the 26th, Berkeley’s wife and Sarah Churchill were the only two of Princess Anne’s ladies to accompany her on her secret flight from London. After the Revolution Berkeley was restored to his regiment, and in March 1690 was appointed to brigadier-general ‘over all the horse’. In June he succeeded his brother as Viscount Fitzhardinge, although the family seat at Bruton remained in the hands of the dowager viscountess until her death in 1704. When Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) immediately recommended that Fitzhardinge succeed his brother as lord lieutenant of Somerset, the new peer felt obliged to tell the Queen that, having no estate in the county, he feared he would not be ‘so able to serve you as he ought’ and was content with the office of custos. In February 1691 Godolphin put forward Fitzhardinge’s name for the governorship of the Isle of Wight, but his expectations came to nothing as its incumbent, Sir Robert Holmes*, lingered on in the clutches of serious illness. By way of compensation Fitzhardinge was given a pension of £300 p.a.4

In April 1691 Fitzhardinge was returned at a by-election for Hindon. A Court Whig, his military experience gained him appointment in November to two committees concerned with expenditure on the army, and in February 1692 he was nominated a member of a conference committee on the mutiny bill. Generally speaking, however, he was not an active member of the House, and his next committee nominations did not occur until 1695. Furthermore, he made only one recorded speech. This was on 15 Dec. 1692 when he justified the grant of additional pay to the two regiments stationed in London on the basis of the ‘dearer expense’ there in comparison with towns elsewhere. Soon after Fitzhardinge’s entry into Parliament, Marlborough’s dismissal from his army commands was accompanied by rumours, said to have been initiated by the King, that Lady Fitzhardinge was partially responsible in having repeated a story about Marlborough’s supposed communication with the Jacobite court-in-exile. In some quarters, she was thought to be a member of a cabal organized by her brother-in-law, the Earl of Portland, aimed at Marlborough’s destruction. Whatever the truth behind this potentially damaging situation, Fitzhardinge’s wife remained on close terms with both Lady Marlborough and the princess, and his own credibility survived apparently unscathed. Removed from the governorship of Kinsale in March 1693, it was on the strict understanding that he would be otherwise provided for as soon as possible. In less than a year he was granted a lucrative tellership of the Exchequer, valued at £1,500 p.a., although Godolphin saw this as part of a scheme by the King to lure the princess’s servants and supporters from her service. Fitzhardinge had been classed as a placeman and Court supporter in two lists drawn up by Samuel Grascome in 1693. His name also appears on a list of ‘friends’ compiled by Henry Guy* during the 1694–5 session.5

In the 1695 election Fitzhardinge was returned on the Court interest for New Windsor and retained the seat until 1710. His continuing pro-Court stance is illustrated by his voting record in 1696; he was forecast as a probable Court supporter in the division of 31 Jan. over the proposed council of trade, in February he signed the Association, and in March voted with the administration on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. After the 1698 election a comparative analysis of the old and new Houses listed him once more as a placeman and Court supporter. On 31 Jan. 1699 he voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill, and in February 1701 he supported the Court on the question of continuing the ‘Great Mortgage’. Robert Harley’s* list of the following December classed him with the Whigs.

On her accession, Queen Anne appointed Fitzhardinge to the household office of treasurer of the chamber, valued at £1,200 p.a., while in 1703 his wife, who had been governess to the late Duke of Gloucester, was granted a pension of £600 p.a. He was recruited by Harley to lobby his son-in-law William Chetwynd against the Tack, and did not vote for it himself. Classed as a placeman and a ‘High Church Courtier’ after the 1705 election, he voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. and supported the government on the ‘place clause’ in the regency bill in February 1706. He was listed as a Whig early in 1708. It is clear, however, that his activities in the House rarely extended beyond quiet support for the ministry. He voted in favour of naturalizing the Palatines and the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.6

Fitzhardinge retired at the 1710 election. Despite his wife’s death in 1708 (soon followed by false rumours of his impending remarriage to a daughter of the Prussian ambassador), and the Tory ministry’s eagerness to appropriate his offices after 1710, the Queen, out of tender regard for his past services, allowed him to retain his Exchequer and household posts. ‘A man of wit and pleasant conversation’, though said to be far too ‘partial’, he fancied himself as a man of letters and had written two rather mediocre plays. He died at Windsor of a palsy on 19 Dec. 1712 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Having no male heir, his titles became extinct, and he left his estates at the disposal of his two surviving daughters.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, ix. 163–4; PCC 8 Leeds.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 724, 815, 1327; iv. 862; vii. 174; viii. 12; ix. 88; x. 479, 597; xxvii. 538; CSP Dom. 1672, p. 662; 1684–5, p. 293; 1691–2, pp. 111, 426; 1693, p. 71; N. B. Leslie, Suc. of Cols. (Soc. Army Hist. Res. spec. pub. xi), 19; Post Man, 14–16 Apr. 1702; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 163.
  • 3. Kinsale Corp. Council Bk. 195.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 815; iv. 146, 274; CSP Dom. 1684–5, p. 293; F. Harris, Passion for Govt. 55, 67; E. Gregg, Q. Anne, 35, 64, 75; Burnet, iii. 335; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), ii. 114; Dalrymple, Mems. iii(2), p. 72; HMC Finch, ii. 303; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 247; Bodl. Carte 130, ff. 330–1.
  • 5. Luttrell Diary, 81; Coxe, Marlborough (1848), i. 34; Harris, 63; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 58, 262; Gregg, 98.
  • 6. Luttrell, v. 163; Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 211.
  • 7. Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, i. 133; Wentworth Pprs. 311; Westminster Abbey Regs. (Harl. Soc. x), 275; PCC 8 Leeds.