William Berkeley, 1st Earl FitzHardinge

William FitzHardinge Berkeley, 1st Earl FitzHardinge (26 December 1786 – 10 October 1857), known as The Lord Segrave between 1831 and 1841, was a British landowner and politician.

The Earl FitzHardinge
Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire
In office
18 December 1835  10 October 1857
MonarchWilliam IV
Preceded byThe Duke of Beaufort
Succeeded byThe Earl of Ducie
Personal details
Born26 December 1786
Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London
Died10 October 1857 (1857-10-11) (aged 70)
Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire


Berkeley was born at Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London, the eldest son of Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkeley, by Mary Cole, daughter of William Cole. He was the brother of Maurice Berkeley, 1st Baron FitzHardinge, Francis Henry FitzHardinge Berkeley, George Charles Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley and Craven Berkeley and the nephew of Sir George Cranfield Berkeley.[1]

Dispute over legitimacy

There was great uncertainty over the validity of his parents' marriage. On 16 May 1796 the Earl of Berkeley had married Mary Cole at Lambeth.[2] The Earl alleged that a previous marriage between them had occurred at Berkeley, Gloucestershire, officiated by the Vicar of Berkeley, on 30 March 1785. This ceremony was, however, kept secret until after the Lambeth marriage, with Mary being known as Miss Tudor between the two dates. Shortly after the Lambeth marriage a certificate of the Berkeley ceremony was produced, having been recovered, it was alleged, under very strange circumstances. The couple had had six sons up to the marriage of 1796, including William Berkeley. In 1799, after the Earl had announced his former marriage, William Berkeley (who was commonly styled Viscount Dursley, the normal courtesy title for the heir apparent to the earldom) obtained leave to prove his legitimacy before the Committee for Privileges of the House of Lords, and in 1801 the Earl made a deposition giving full details of the Berkeley marriage.

Claim to barony and earldom of Berkeley

Lord Berkeley died in August 1810, when William Berkeley applied to be summoned to the House of Lords as Earl of Berkeley. In March 1811 the Committee for Privileges decided that the Berkeley marriage of 1786 was "not then proved" and that the petitioner's claim was not made out. William received Berkeley Castle and the other estates by will, and on 2 July, after the adverse decision of the Lords Committee, he claimed a writ of summons as a Baron as Baron by tenure of Berkeley Castle. The claim was fully laid before the Committee for Privileges in 1828 and 1829, but the Lords gave no judgement on the case. The eldest son born after the 1797 Lambeth marriage of the fifth Earl, Thomas Moreton FitzHardinge Berkeley, became on the Earl's death in 1810 de jure 6th Earl of Berkeley — however, he refused to claim his right to the earldom. In 1831 William Berkeley was raised to the peerage as Baron Segrave, of Berkeley Castle in the County of Gloucester.[3]

Public appointments

Berkeley was returned to parliament as one of two representatives for Gloucestershire in 1810 (succeeding his uncle Sir George Cranfield Berkeley), a seat he only held until 1811.[4] In 1836 he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, a post he retained until his death.[1][5] In 1841 he was further honoured when he was made Earl FitzHardinge.[6]

Personal life

Berkeley never married. He had several mistresses, and in 1821 John Waterhouse succeeded in an action for "criminal conversation" (adultery) against him, being awarded £1000 damages at Gloucester Assizes over Berkeley's affair with Mrs Waterhouse.[7] He died at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, in October 1857, aged 70. The barony of Segrave and earldom of FitzHardinge died with him. The FitzHardinge title was revived in 1861 when his younger brother Maurice Berkeley was created Baron FitzHardinge.[1]


  1. thepeerage.com William FitzHardinge Berkeley, 1st and last Earl FitzHardinge
  2. "The Peerage". Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  3. "No. 18846". The London Gazette. 9 September 1831. p. 1834.
  4. Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "G" (part 1)
  5. leighrayment.com Peerages: Feversham to Fitzwarine
  6. "No. 20007". The London Gazette. 13 August 1841. p. 2072.
  7. Malcolm Hall (2008). Murders & Misdemeanours in Gloucestershire 1820-1829. Amberley Publishing. pp. 21–31. ISBN 978-1-84868-046-3.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir George Cranfield Berkeley
Lord Edward Somerset
Member of Parliament for Gloucestershire
With: Lord Edward Somerset
Succeeded by
Lord Edward Somerset
Sir Berkeley Guise, Bt
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Beaufort
Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Ducie
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Segrave
1831 1857
Earl FitzHardinge
1841 1857
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