Berkeley, William (1639-1666) (DNB00)

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BERKELEY, Sir WILLIAM (1639–1666), vice-admiral, was the third son of Sir Charles Berkeley of Bruton, treasurer of the household to Charles II, and younger brother of Charles, earl of Falmouth, the favourite of the Duke of York, killed in the battle of 3 June 1665 [see Berkeley, Family of]. William, who shared the duke's favour with his elder brother, was appointed lieutenant of the Swiftsure in 1661, and in 1662 was promoted to the command of the Bonaventure. In the summer of 1663 he commanded the Bristol, in the Mediterranean squadron, under Sir John Lawson, engaged in one of the usual abortive attempts to persuade, without overawing, the Dey and Divan of Algiers to abstain from plundering English ships (Pepys, Diary, 9, 18 Nov. 1663). The next year he commanded the Resolution; was knighted 12 Oct. 1664, and in November was appointed rear-admiral of the red squadron, of which Lawson was vice-admiral, under the immediate command of the Duke of York. He was then sent into the Channel with six frigates, and there remained, between Dover and the Isle of Wight, till the following April, when he rejomed the fleet and took part in the battle of 3 June 1665. Of his benaviour on this occasion it is impossible to speak with certainty; for whilst one contemporary report describes him as, with a squadron of six ships, chasing nine of the runaway Dutch (Cal. S. P. Dom. 5 June 1666), another says that on hearing of his brother's death he thought it

     not good
 To venture more of royal Harding's blood . . .
 With his whole squadron straight away he bore,
 And, like good boy, promised to fight no more.
   Poems on State Affairs, i. 29.

Nor was the scandal confined to verse, for Pepys records (16 June): 'It is strange to see how people do already slight Sir William Berkeley . . . who three months since was the delight of the court.' True or false, however, the duke stuck to his favourite, and appointed him (19 June) to be lieutenant-governor of the town and garrison of Portsmouth. During the next twelve months his time was officially spent between Portsmouth and the fleet. In the four days' battle off the North Foreland he commanded as vice-admiral of the white squadron, his flag still flying in the Swiftsure, which, being cut off from the fleet, was surrounded and captured by the Dutch after the admiral and most of her men had been slain, 1 June 1666. Friends and enemies were agreed that Sir William Berkeley died as became an English admiral (Colliber, Columna Rostrata, 173: Leven van Tromp, 320; Brandt, Vie de Michel de Ruyter, 351), much to the satisfaction of his father and friends, who had been extremely troubled with a report of his cowardice (Cal. S. P. Dom. 15 June 1666). His body was respectfully embalmed by the Dutch (Gent. Mag. lvii. 214), and sent over to England; in the following August it was buried in Westminster Abbey, where there is a monument to his memory.

He was not married. According to Pepys (6 July 1665), he had paid his court to a daughter of Sir John Lawson, who had, however, refused his suit. His portrait, by Sir Peter Lely, is now in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 79; Calendars of State Papers, Domestic, 1662-6.]

J. K. L.