The Tudor Society

11 August – Sir Maurice Berkeley and his royal career

On this day in Tudor history, 11th August 1581, Sir Maurice Berkeley, former gentleman usher of Henry VIII's Privy Chamber, died.

You may not have heard of Sir Maurice Berkeley, but he had a wonderful court career, serving Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I, and proving his loyalty to Mary I by arresting rebel leader, Thomas Wyatt the Younger.

Find out more about this lesser-known Tudor man in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 11th August 1534, or shortly before, the friars observant were expelled from their religious houses due to their support of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and their refusal to accept the king as supreme head of the Church in England. These men were treated abominably by Henry VIII and his government and you can find out about their treatment and their fates in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1556 – Death of Sir John Kingsmill, politician and a man who had been close to Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Wriothesley. He served as Sheriff in the reign of Henry VIII and as a Commissioner for the Dissolution of Chantries in 1548 to Edward VI.
  • 1575 – Death of Alexander Home, 5th Lord Home, in Friar Wynd, Scotland. Home was imprisoned after the 1573 fall of Edinburgh Castle and the garrison loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots.


On this day in Tudor history, 11th August 1581, Sir Maurice Berkeley, Gentleman Usher of Henry VIII's Privy Chamber, died. Berkeley served Edward VI as a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and was the man who arrested the rebel Thomas Wyatt the Younger in Mary I's reign.

But let me give you a few more facts about this lesser-known Tudor man…

• Sir Maurice Berkeley was the son of landowner Richard Berkeley of Stoke, and his wife, Elizabeth Coningsby. His birthdate is not known but it was sometime before 1514.
• Little is known of his early life expect that he was trained in the law in the office of the prothonotary of the common pleas.
• In 1535, is stepfather, Sir John Fitzjames, chief justice of the court of king’s bench, recommended Berkeley to Thomas Cromwell for the position of clerk to the assize. Cromwell did not appoint him in that position, but by 1537 he’d appointed Berkeley in his own household and Berkeley became a favourite of Cromwell, being rewarded with leases and offices in the lands of Glastonbury Abbey..
• In 1536, a Mr Bark was listed as jousting at Lord William Howard’s wedding celebrations and it is thought that this was Berkeley.
• By 1539, Berkeley was serving as a gentleman usher of the privy chamber.
• Berkeley survived Cromwell’s fall in 1540, continuing to serve the king as a gentleman usher.
• In 1541, he was rewarded with the site and much of the land of Bruton Priory, which became his seat.
• At some point, Berkeley married Catherine, daughter of William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, and widow of John Champernowne. The couple had three sons and five daughters.
• In 1543, he was rewarded for his service to the king by being granted a licence to hold a prebend at Ripon even though he was not a man of the church and he was married. In 1543, he was also listed as serving in Queen Catherine Parr’s household.
• In 1544, he served in Henry VIII’s French campaign and was knighted in France.
• In 1545, he was appointed a chief banner-bearer of England, a post previously held by his brother.
• Other offices in Henry VIII’s reign included Keeper of Northwood Park, Constable of Berkeley Castle, Chief Steward of the lands of Bath Abbey, and commissioner of the musters in Somerset.
• When Henry VIII died in January 1547 he left Berkeley £133 6s. 8D in his will.
• Berkeley jousted in the celebratory jousts for the coronation of King Edward VI and continued in his royal service, being appointed as a gentleman of the privy chamber in 1550. He benefited from the fall of Lord Protector Somerset by being given some grants.
• He served as a member of Parliament on 4 occasions between 1547 and 1572, for the constituency of Somerset three times, and for Bletchingley once.
• In 1553, Berkeley signed Edward VI’s devise for the succession, in which Edward chose Lady Jane Grey as his heir, but he kept out of subsequent events. He benefited from Mary I’s general pardon but did lose his office banner bearer. However, he proved his loyalty to the new queen by arresting rebel leader, Thomas Wyatt the Younger, in 1554. He did not, however, sit in any of the parliaments of her reign.
• Berkeley was back in favour following the accession of Queen Elizabeth I and in 1562 he married Elizabeth Sands, daughter of Anthony Sands, and a woman who served as one of the queen’s gentlewomen. They went on to have two sons and a daughter.
• Berkeley served as Sheriff for Somerset and Dorset from 1567-8.
• He built Berkeley House in Clerkenwell, London, shortly before his death.
• He died on this day in Tudor history, 11th August 1581.

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11 August – Sir Maurice Berkeley and his royal career