Maurice BERKELEY

(4th B. Berkeley)

Born: 1467

Died: 12 Sep 1523

Father: Maurice BERKELEY (3 B. Berkeley)

Mother: Isabel MEAD

Married: Catherine BERKELEY 1484, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England


Born 1467, probably at Thornbury, now the home and seat of the family. Keeper of Kingswood Forest 1508 K.B. at the coronation of Henry VIII, 23 Jun 1509; Sheriff of co. Gloucester 1509-10, and 1515-16. residing principally at Yate, co. Gloucester; Sheriff of cos. Leicester and Warwick 1516-17. Knight of the body to Henry VIII, 13 Apr 1512; Marshal of the Army for Spain, 1512; Captain in the army in France, 1513 and again 1523. Lieutenant of Calais 1520.

He is said to have been summoned to the Parliament of 15 Apr 1523 (at which time he was still abroad), and to have been advised to accept the honour, though the intention, apparently, was to place him as junior Baron. He, however, never took his seat. He died s.p. legit., 12 Sep 1523 at Calais, and was buried in Trinity chapel within the parish church there. His widow died "not full three years afterwards", and was buried at Yate. (Complete Peerage II:135-36)

Maurice was married in 1484 (contract 28 Jan 1484/5) to Catherine, daughter of Sir William Berkeley of Stoke Gifford, by Anne, dau. of Sir Humphrey Stafford, she being then not much under 17. But after some years, their union not being blessed with issue, he betook himself to a martial and courtly life, for which he seems by nature to have been well fitted. At the coronation of Henry VIII, in 1509, he was made a Knight of the Bath; and on the breaking out of the war with France, he became one of the principal leaders in the English army, under the Marquis of Dorset, when he took with him 411 men of his own tenants and servants from Gloucestershire, all well trained and armed. The expedition however proved a failure, chiefly from being hampered by an alliance with Spain, whose promised cooperation was withheld. The next year the King took the field in person, and landed with a powerful army at Calais, Maurice Berkeley and his band of Gloucestershire men forming a part of it. On this occasion Maurice was requested by the King to give his opinion and advice as to the ordering of the army, and did so in an elaborate paper, of which a copy is preserved at the Castle. The English took Tournay, and gained some other advantages, after which the King returned to England. Though very little glory or advantage attended the English arms in France on this occasion, this period was not unproductive of military honour in the north, the battle of Flodden, in which the Scottish King and the greater part of his nobility perished, having been fought and won by the English, under Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, during the King's absence in France in 1513.

In Sep 1515, a peace having been concluded with France. Maurice De Berkeley formed one, by special appointment, of a brilliant train chosen to escort the King's youngest sister, the Princess Mary into France, to be married to the French King, the match having been arranged as one of the conditions of the treaty. The Princess, then 17 years of age, was considered the most beautiful woman of her time, but the King, Louis XII, was nearly 60 years old, and broken down by disease and debility. The ill-assorted union was terminated by his death in less than three months.

Maurice De Berkeley was appointed High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1514, and procured the Quarter Sessions to be held several times in his borough of Tetbury. The burgesses repaid this service by refusing to allow Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, to lodge one night in the town on his journeys between London and Thornbury Castle, there being much feud and bitterness between Maurice and the Duke.

Maurice seems now to have made up his mind to spend the rest of his life in his native county; he sold several manors and estates in Buckinghamshire and elsewhere, and bought Hanham, Bitton, and Mangotsfield. He also leased Yate Park for 80 years of the lord Daubeney, and soon after commenced building a large mansion there, the remains of which are still standing. At this time he maintained a large establishment, the household and other accounts of which were kept with great exactness, and balanced and signed by himself every week. His abilities as a man of business seem to have been held in high estimation, on which account he was appointed to many stewardships of manors, keeperships of parks, and other offices of trust, and it was said that he had a greater knowledge of the law than any man of his rank then living. In 1514 he was made Lieutenant of the Castle of Calais, and in the year after he received the King's commission to enquire into cases of alleged waste and spoil of deer, wood, and timber on his own patrimonial manors, then called Berkeley's Lands, and in possession of the Crown. Maurice never gave up the hope of one day re-possessing the Castle and estates of his ancestors, and several times presented his petition to the King for restitution, but in vain, though hopes of success were held out to him, and it was even said that the King on one occasion gave him his promise. He was several times named for the Order of the Garter, but was not elected.

In 1516 Maurice De Berkeley joined with eleven other noblemen in an humble petition to the Pope, and obtained power for each of them to choose a priest to be his confessor, with extraordinary powers of absolution, changing and discharging from vows, release from oaths, plenary remission and pardon of their sins, once in life and at the instant of death, and many other spiritual graces and privileges. It was about this time that the King wrote his celebrated "Defence of the Seven Sacraments", in answer to the doctrines of Luther which were then beginning to attract attention, and received from the Pope the title of Defender of the Faith.

In 1522 Maurice served under the Earl of Surrey in France, and probably in return for this and his other military services against the Scots, he was created a Baron by writ. He long hesitated to accept this honour, believing himself entitled to the older family Barony by Tenure, and the precedency belonging to it, but at length, having asked the opinion of his friends, Sir John Fitzjames the Lord Chief Baron, Sir Richard Weston, and Sir William Denys, Privy Counsellors, they wrote him a joint letter, which is still preserved at the Castle, advising his acceptance of the honour, and pointing out that his doing so would not bar him from taking any steps thereafter for the recovery of the family title and dignity. They conclude by saying that they had caused his name to be entered on the Roll of Peers, and had arranged with the lord Mountjoy for his proxy during his absence in his government of Calais. Maurice seems to have acquiesced in his friends' decision, - but never formally took his seat, and continued residing at Calais until his death, which took place in Sep following. He left by will a large sum of money towards the re-building of the Church and Monastery of St. Augustine at Bristol, and a Lady Chapel there; also to the Church of the Fryars Minors at Gloucester, where his grandmother the lady Isabel was buried. For the repairs of the latter Church he had for many years previous given an annual sum.

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