William de Berkeley, 1st Marquess of Berkeley

William de Berkeley, 1st Marquess of Berkeley
Armorial of Berkeley: Gules, a chevron between 10 crosses pattée 6 in chief and 4 in base argent

William de Berkeley, 1st Marquess of Berkeley (1426 – 14 February 1492) was an English peer, who also went by the nickname of William 'the Wass all'.[1] He was buried at "St. Augustine's Friars, London" according to one source,[2] but most likeley in the Berkeley family foundation of St Augustine's Abbey, Bristol.


Descent and Marriages

William of Berkley was born to James Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley and Lady Isabel Mowbray at Berkeley Castle[1] in Berkeley, England in 1426.[1] His first marriage was in 1466 to Elizabeth West, daughter of Reginald West, 6th Baron De La Warr, but he obtained a divorce on 20 November 1467.[3] In November 1468, he married Joan Strangeways, daughter of Sir Thomas Strangeways and Lady Katherine Neville. After the death of his second wife, he married Anne Fiennes, sister of Thomas Fiennes, 8th Baron Dacre, in circa 1486.[2]


William was invested as a Knight circa 1438.[1] William assumed the title of Baron Berkeley by writ after the death of his father James Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley on 22 October 1463.[4]

He was invested as a Knight Bachelor on 18 April 1475.[1] He was styled as Viscount of Catherlough (now known as County Carlow, Ireland) between 1481 and 10 February 1485.[5]

Williams was created Viscount Berkeley on 21 April 1481, as a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) on 5 March 1482/83, and as Earl of Nottingham on 28 June 1483.[1] He assumed the life office of Earl Marshal and Great Marshal of England on 19 February 1485/86. Finally, he was created Marquess of Berkeley on 28 January 1488/89. [1]

Disinherits brother

He had no surviving male issue, thus the Marquesate and his other non-inherited titles became extinct on his death, but had a younger brother, Maurice. The latter however he disinherited as having brought shame on the noble House of Berkeley by marrying beneath his status to Isabel Mead, da. of Philip Mead of Wraxall an Alderman and Mayor of Bristol in 1459, 1462 & 1469.[6] In order to achieve this, the castle, lands and lordships composing the Barony of Berkeley he settled on King Henry VII and his heirs male, failing which to descend to his own rightful heirs. Thus in 1553 on the death of King Edward VI, the unmarried grandson of Henry VII, the Berkeley inheritance returned to the family. Therefore on the death of the 1st Marquis, only the de jure barony title was passed on, to his younger brother Maurice Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley, that is to say he was Baron Berkeley by right if not actually in possession of the baronial property. The 4th, 5th & 6th Barons were also de jure only, with Henry(d.1613) becoming de facto 7th Baron in 1553.[7]


On 20 March 1469/70 he was challenged by Thomas Talbot, 2nd Viscount Lisle to settle the claims to his great-uncle Thomas's estates, by combat. Thomas was killed in the combat.[1] The battle, known as the Battle of Nibley Green, is notable for being the last battle fought in England entirely between the private armies of feudal magnates.[2] William and Maurice were assisted at Nibley Green by a private army raised by Philip Mead, Maurice's father-in-law. It was surely a mark of ingratitude that William disinherited Mead's grandchildren.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; reprinted in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume II, page 133. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  2. ^ a b The Complete Peerage, volume II, page 135.
  3. ^ The Complete Peerage, volume II, page 134.
  4. ^ Burke, Bernard. A Genealogical History of the Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire. London: Harrison, 1866. (p. 44) googlebooks.com Accessed July 7, 2007
  5. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 348.
  6. ^ "Mayors of Bristol since 1216". Bristol City Council. http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Council-Democracy/Democracy-Elections/mayors-of-bristol-since-1216.en. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  7. ^ Debrett's Peerage 1968, p.139, Berkeley, Baroness, Predecessors
Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Earl Marshal
Succeeded by
The Duke of York
Peerage of England
New title Marquess of Berkeley
Viscount Berkeley
New creation Earl of Nottingham
4th creation
Preceded by
James Berkeley
Baron Berkeley
Succeeded by
Maurice Berkeley
Peerage of Ireland
New title Viscount of Catherlough

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