The Twickenham Museum
People : Landowners and Gentry

Sir William Berkeley
Governor of Virginia
1605 - 1677

William Berkeley was the 4th of the five sons of Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton in Somerset. He is not recorded as a resident in Twickenham although he is buried in St Mary's Church having returned to England from Virginia the previous year. He may have stayed at Twickenham Park with his brother John, Lord Berkeley.

William was knighted for services to Charles I and became Governor of Virginia in 1641 but, as a Royalist offering the colony as an asylum, he was deprived of the post. He was reinstated at the Restoration.

Lead coffin of Sir William Berkeley in a vault beneath St Mary's Church

Perhaps a more amiable man in some respects than his younger brother John, he was described by his secretary Thomas Ludwell as "pious and exemplary, sober in his conversation, prudent and just in peace, diligent and valiant in war". However, he was neither noted for religious tolerance nor charity towards the American Indians. His views on education, expressed in 1771 were somewhat reactionary: "But I thank God there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have (them) these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!"

Buried at St Mary's Church Twickenham, he shared both a memorial and a vault with his brother Lord John Berkeley of Stratton, as noted by Edward Ironside.

(the inscription as adjusted by Sarah Minney & Margaret Ridge for the West Middlesex Family History Society):

In the fame vault with the Lord Berkeley lies buried the body of
Who being conftituted governor general in Virginia in 1660, after the death of Colonel Mathews, wrote a defcription of that country, and collected the laws then in force into one body, and added moft of the beft himfelf, which he procured to be confirmed by the Grand Affembly anno 1661.
He died July 13, 1677.
And was at firft buried in the middle chancel, and removed into
the vault 1678.

On opening this vault about a year ago for the interment of (Adm. the Hon. John Biron) one of this family, the body of Sir William Berkeley was found lying on the ground, without a coffin, cafed in lead exactly fitted to the shape of the body, fhewing the form of the features, hands, feet, and even nails; and appears to be beat firmly to it, and looks like a figure in armour E. Ironfide, 1785.

Further reading

William Berkeley, A Discourse and View of Virginia, London, 1663
Marcia Brownell Bready, A Cavalier in Virginia, William & Mary Quarterly 1st ser., vol XVIII, 1909
John W Raimo, Biographical Directory of American Colonial and Revolutionary Governors 1607-1789, Meckler Books Westport, 1985
Edward Ironside, The History and Antiquities of Twickenham, 1797
Warren M Billings, The Papers of Sir William Berkeley (1605-1677) Project,
Dictionary of National Biography

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