Hon. George Charles Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley

10th Feb 1800 - 20th Feb 1881

Claimant or beneficiary


Known as Grantley Berkeley. Politician, sportsman and author. Evidently disputatious and violent.

Born at Cranford House, Hounslow, Middlesex 1800; sixth son of Frederick Augustus Berkeley, fifth earl of Berkeley (1745–1810), the second legitimate son after the earl's marriage, (16 May 1796), to Mary Cole (1766/7–1844). His mother was the daughter of William Cole, a publican and butcher. His godfather was the prince regent, who gave him a commission in the Coldstream Guards in 1816, after a year at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Shortly after becoming 21 he retired upon half pay from the Coldstream Guards into the 82nd foot.

On 16 August 1824 Berkeley married Caroline Martha, youngest daughter of Paul Benfield, the merchant and financier in India. [For Benfield, see entry by P. J. Marshall in the Oxford DNB.]

In 1829 he and his wife settled at Harrold Hall, Bedfordshire.

1810-1829 a dispute over claims to the earldom. His eldest brother, William, Colonel Berkeley (to whom the 5th earl had left Berkeley Castle and most of his property), sought to establish his claim to succeed his father in the earldom. Thomas Moreton Fitzhardinge, Grantley's elder brother by 3 years, had been declared the earl by the decision of the House of Lords. Grantley believed that Colonel Berkeley's cause (which he later denounced, after they quarrelled) might be advanced by the presence in parliament of himself and his three brothers, Maurice, Henry, and Craven. Maurice Berkeley "therefore" entered parliament in 1831, and Craven Berkeley and Grantley were, in December 1832, returned to the House of Commons, the latter as member for West Gloucestershire; Colonel Berkeley himself never established his claim, but he became Baron Segrave (1831) and Earl Fitzhardinge (1841).

Politically, Berkeley's tenure on West Gloucestershire partly based upon resistance to his brother, the earl, and in defence of protectionism, though this cost him the seat in 1852.

Grantley was evidently a violent man. When his first work, Berkeley Castle, a historical romance in three volumes, was savagely reviewed in the August 1836 number of Fraser's Magazine, he and his brother Craven, attacked James Fraser, the publisher and bookseller at 215 Regent Street, London. On the 3 August 1836 Grantley beat Fraser up when he refused to divulge the name of the reviewer. A double legal action followed in December 1836: Fraser v. Berkeley for assault while Berkeley sued Fraser for libel. Fraser won the first and was awarded £100 damages, whole Berkeley won the second but was awarded only £2. At a later point, Berkeley had to pay £100 after assaulting a neighbour in a hunting dispute, and also appeared before magistrates for cock-fighting.

On 5 August 1836, two days after the assault on Fraser, Berkeley fought a duel with the author of the anonymous review in Fraser's Magazine, Dr William Maginn (the editor of the magazine), in a secluded meadow near the Harrow Road. Three shots each were exchanged without effect.

On 3 May 1836 Berkeley obtained the appointment of a committee on the question of whether women should be admitted to the gallery of the House of Commons, which they were in 1841.

Opposed (successfully) John Bright over reform of the game laws.

Was opposed to the abolition of slavery.

[But a search through Hansard shows that he did not speak in any of the 1833 debates on the issue. Berkeley claimed in his Two Letters ... On ... Free Trade (1850) that he 'held the abolition of slavery in the West Indies to be a religious and moral duty...' (p. 5), albeit that he qualified his support for abolition by writing: 'The abolition of slavery was in principle good, as I hold the free trade measure to be now; but, good in principle as it was - based on religion, morality, and humanity, as the generous structure seemed to be - its development was frightfully marred by the hasty and blundering hands and limping policy to which its fortunes were unhappily entrusted.' (p. 12)]

His devotion to sport reflected in later writing as well as in practice, especially as a master of stag- and fox-hounds.

"Until well into middle age he retained coarse, rakish manners."

The final decade of his life marked by the death of his two sons (in 1865 and 1878) and a quarrel with his wife over religion. She was a Catholic and he claimed that she had been 'perverted' by Jesuits. She died on 13 February 1873 following the quarrel.

He died in 1881 at his home in Dursley House, Poole, Dorset.

Altogether an extremely unpleasant man.

For his writings, see Historical legacies.

Berkeley is one of the subjects of Kirby, English Country Gentleman.

For Craven Berkeley, who was a staunch Liberal MP for Cheltenham, (1832-1847, 1848, 1848-1852*), see Oxford DNB entry by Kent, rev. Matthew; for (Francis) Henry Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1794–1870) see entry by Kent, rev. Matthew Lee. Henry was an independent Liberal MP for Bristol, 1837-1870. Best known as an advocate of anti-temperance and of the introduction of the ballot into elections, a cause which Grantley Berkeley also supported from 1833 onwards.

(* Apart from July 1847-June 1848, various Berkeleys held the seat between 1832 and 1865.)

Berkeley related to Sir George Berkeley (1819–1905): Born Barbados and descended from a branch of the family of the earls of Berkeley; Mother = Elizabeth Pilgrim, daughter of William Murray, of Bruce Vale estate, Barbados; 1845: appointed colonial secretary and controller of customs of British Honduras, where he was also ex officio member of the executive and legislative councils; 1860–61: administered temporarily the government of Dominica; 1864: appointed lieutenant-governor of St Vincent; 1872-1873: governor-in-chief of the west Africa settlements (Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Gold Coast, and Lagos); 1874: offered, and accepted, the government of Western Australia, but did not take up the appointment; sent instead to the Leeward Islands as governor-in-chief (1874-1881). See Oxford DNB entry.

Berkeley's sister-in-law, Mary Dashwood, was the wife of the Hon Augustus Fitzhardinge Berkeley and sister of Sir George Henry Dashwood 5th Bart. (q.v.).


T71/875 British Guiana claim no. 217 (Herstelling(?)).

Charles Kent, ‘Berkeley, (George Charles) Grantley Fitzhardinge (1800–1881)’, rev. Julian Lock, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004); online edn, Jan 2008, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/2212 [accessed 26/09/2012].

Charles Kirby, The English Country Gentleman. A study of nineteenth, century types. (Lord George Bentinck, Grantley Berkeley, the fifth Duke of Richmond, Sir John Bennet Lawes.) (London, J. Clarke & Co., 1937).

We are grateful to Christopher Luetchford for his information on Cranford House.

Further Information

Caroline Martha Benfield
Swinburne Fitzhardinge (1826-1866), Edward Stratton Fitzhardinge (1827-1878)

Wealth at death: under £5000: probate, 11 April 1881, CGPLA Eng. & Wales [Oxford DNB entry]


Wealth at death
Politician, sportsman and author
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (2)

£7,619 4s 4d
£6,926 13s 3d

Legacies Summary

Historical (17)

Berkeley Castle, an historical... 1836 
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A Pamphlet, dedicated to the Noblemen, Gentlemen and Sportsmen, of England, Ireland, and Scotland ... in reply to a prize essay by the Rev. John Styles, D.D., on the claims of the animal creation to... 1839 
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Sandron Hall, or, the Days of Queen... 1840 
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Reply to the Press, and its Reviewers Reviewed, in defence of the Game... 1845 
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A Pamphlet in Defence of the Game Laws, in reply to the assailants; and on their effects upon the morals of the... 1845 
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Two Letters addressed to the Landed and Manufacturing Interests of Great Britain and Ireland, on the just maintenance of Free... 1850 
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14pp. A defence of protectionism and a modest corn law to protect the agrarian interest. An important part of his argument is that the West Indian colonies are being sacrificed to...
Reminiscences of a... 1854 
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With illustrations by...
The Potato Disease; its origin, nature, and cure; in a letter to the Earl of... 1854 
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A Month in the Forests of France. [With illustrations by John... 1857 
Love and the Lion. [A... 1857 
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The English sportsman in the western... 1861 
My Life and... 1865-66 
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Cf. Maurice Frederick Fitzhardinge, Baron Fitzhardinge Berkeley, Reply to some Passages in a Book entitled 'My Life and Recollections, by the Hon. Grantley F. Berkeley.' By the other...
Anecdotes of the Upper Ten Thousand: their legends and their... 1867 
Tales of Life and... 1870 
A Pamphlet on the French and Prussian War, written in ... January, 1871, while events were... 1871 
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Fact against Fiction. The habits and treatment of animals practically considered; hydrophobia and distemper; with some remarks on... 1874 
Francis Tresham, of Rushton, the Gunpowder Plot Conspirator. A tale of the seventeenth... 1879 

Imperial (1)

notes →
Grantley Berkeley was related to the colonial administrator Sir George Berkeley (1819-1905): born Barbados and descended from a branch of the family of the earls of Berkeley; his mother was Elizabeth...
sources →
Chewton Atchley, ‘Berkeley, Sir George (1819–1905)’, rev. Lynn Milne, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004), <a...

Political (1)

election →
Gloucestershire Western Gloucestershire
1832 - 1852

Relationships (4)

Son-in-law → Father-in-law
Husband → Wife
Brother-in-law → Sister-in-law

Addresses (3)

Cranford House, Hounslow, London, Middlesex, London, England
Dursley House, Poole, Dorset, Wessex, England
Harrold Hall, Harrold, Bedfordshire, Central England, England