Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Berkley Name
Arms of Berkeley: Gules, a chevron between ten crosses pattée six in chief and four in base argent. Motto: Virtute non Vi, “By virtue not by force”
The name Berkeley is derived from the Anglo-Saxon for Birch-Wood. It means someone who lives at the Birch Tree Meadow. The Berkeley family is unique in English history, in that it has to this day an unbroken male line of descent from a noble Saxon ancestor before the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and also retains possession of much of the lands it held from the 11th and 12th centuries, centered on Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, which still belongs to the family.
The family descends from Harding, the son of Eadnoth (Alnod), who as “Marshal” or “Staller”, a high official under King Edward the Confessor. A study of dates makes it probable that this Harding had a son of the same name, perhaps the man who played a distinguished part in the Crusading Wars, helping King Baldwin I of Jerusalem, to win the battle of Jaffa in 1102. The son of the crusader would then be Robert Fitzharding (1095–1170) ‘Fitz’-meaning “son of” who was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman from Bristol who was granted the feudal barony of Berkeley in Gloucestershire.
Robert Fitzharding rebuilt Berkeley Castle, as Berkeley Castle had been originally a Norman motte-and-bailey mounded hill fort, (historically sometimes spelled Berkley Castle) the castle is located in the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK. The castle’s origins date back to the 11th century. The castle was given to Robert Fitzharding who was a wealthy Bristol merchant and a financier of Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Aquitaine, who was the rival of King Stephen (1135–54) during the period known as The Anarchy and who subsequently became King Henry II (1154–89). Fitzharding founded St. Augustine’s Abbey, which after the Reformation became Bristol Cathedral. Many members of the Berkeley family were buried within it, and some of their effigies survive there. It is traditionally believed to be the scene of the murder of King Edward II in 1327.
The Berkeley Castle Estate is a traditional rural estate extending to approximately 6,000 acres in Gloucestershire’s Berkeley Vale. The estate comprises a medieval Deer Park, a number of farms let to farming tenants (where the families have often been on the land for generations), cottages, offices a hotel and two pubs. Furthermore, the Estate owns the New Grounds at Slimbridge, where the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is based, and about five miles of the bed of the River Severn.
Notable Berkeley personages:
Robert Fitzharding (1095–1170) Founder of the Berkeley Dynasty.
Thomas de Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley (1245 – 23 July 1321), The Wise.
Maurice de Berkeley, 2nd Baron Berkeley (1271 – 31 May 1326), The Magnanimous.
Thomas de Berkeley 3rd Baron Berkeley ( 1293 or 1296 – 27 October 1361), The Rich.
Maurice de Berkeley, 4th Baron Berkeley (ca. 1330 – 8 June 1368), The Valiant.
Thomas de Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley (5 January 1352/53 – 13 July 1417), The Magnificent. The last of the original ‘Berkeley Barons’ Brother-in-law to Richard de Beauchamp 13th Earl of Warrick. The next creation by writ was in 1421, for the last baron’s nephew and heir James Berkeley. His son and successor William was created Viscount Berkeley in 1481, Earl of Nottingham in 1483, and Marquess of Berkeley in 1488
The current Baron is, Anthony Fitzhardinge Gueterbock, 18th Baron Berkeley and Baron Gueterbock, OBE, CEng, MICE, Hon FIMechE, Hon DSc, FRSA, FCIT (born 20 September 1939), also known as Tony Berkeley, who is a British Politician and member of the House of Lords.
Monarchs associated with Berkeley Castle:
Essentially every reigning monarch within the British system of governance since King Henry I, has had political, martial and or diplomatic endeavors and ties to the Berkeley family.
Henry I, Henry II, John, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, Charles I, George I, the Prince Regent, James II to name just a few.
Names associated with:
Fitzharding, Saxon family names of Arden, and Swinton. With Cliveton, Bitteshorne, and Beauchamp,-cousins through marriage. The Berkeley family has split countless times. There are several cadet or junior branches of the family notably the Bruton Priory side (as in a location not a family name.) Fitzjames is another name associated with the cadet side of the Berkeley family.
The Berkeley family has large populations in North America, Australia and most of the commonwealth countries.
Berkley Coat of Arms Meaning
The three main devices (symbols) in the Berkley blazon are the lion, cross and cinquefoil. The four main tinctures (colors) are argent, gules, or and ermine.
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) . In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper .
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries . Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone..
Or is the heraldic metal Gold, often shown as a bold, bright yellow colour. It is said to show “Generosity and elevation of the mind” . Later heralds, of a more poetic nature liked to refer to it as Topaz, after the gemstone, and, for obvious reasons associated it with the Sun . In drawings without colour it is usually represented by many small dots, or by the letter ‘O’ .
Ermine is a very ancient pattern, and distinctive to observe. It was borne alone by John de Monfort, the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany in the late 14th century It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found . The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.
The art of heraldry would be significantly poorer if we were without the lion in all its forms. Most general works on Heraldry devote at least one chapter solely to this magnificent creature and its multifarious depictions . Some of the earliest known examples of heraldry, dating right back to the knighting of Geoffrey of Anjou in 1127, where he is shown with six such beasts upon his shield .The great authority on heraldic symbology, Wade, points out the high place that the lion holds in heraldry, “as the emblem of deathless courage” , a sentiment echoed equally today.
No other symbol appearing in heraldry is subject to as much variation as the cross . Mediaeval Europe was a deeply religious and Christian and many of the nobility wanted to show their devotion by adopting the symbol of the cross as part of the arms. In its basic form, the cross is created from two broad bands of colour at right angles covering the whole extent of the shield. It has been subject to all manner of embellishment, and the interested reader is referred to the references, especially Parker’s Heraldic dictionary for many examples of these. Suffice it to say that any armiger would be proud to have such an important device as part of their arms.
Natural objects abound in heraldry, and one category that gives especial delight are the many flowers and flowering plants that frequently occur . The cinquefoil is also of this type, being drawn, at least a little, realistically and often to very pleasing effect. It is shown as five-petalled flower, each petal quite rounded but with a distinct tip. It is sometimes pierced with a hole in the centre and usually appears on its own, without any leaves. It has no fixed colour but can appear in any of the available heraldic tinctures.