Biography Henrietta

George Berkeley MP (1680-1746)


The Honourable George Berkeley (after 1680 – 29 October 1746) was a member of Parliament for Dover in 1720 and in the following two parliaments, and for Hedon, Yorkshire in 1734. He was the fourth and youngest son of Charles Berkeley, 2nd Earl of Berkeley and Elizabeth Noel. He attended Westminster School from its foundation in 1708 and Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1711, graduating MA there in 1713.

On 28 May 1723 he received an appointment as master keeper and governor of St Katharine’s Hospital in London, and filled that post until his death. Pro-Walpole at first, Berkeley was alienated from him by his brother Lord Berkeley’s dismissal from the post of First Lord of the Admiralty on the accession of George II, and switched loyalties to Pulteney.

He married Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk on 26 June 1735, as her second husband and nine months after she ceased to be George II’s mistress and – though they had no surviving children – the marriage was far happier than her first. He had probably met her through his sister Lady Elizabeth Germain, a friend of Henrietta, but the reasons for Henrrietta’s choice of second husband were far from clear to court commentators. One of them, Lord Hervey, described him as:

Neither young, handsome, healthy, nor rich, which made people wonder what induced Lady Suffolk’s prudence to deviate into this unaccountable piece of folly: some imagined it was to persuade the world that nothing criminal had ever passed between her and the king, others that it was to pique the king. If this was her reason, she succeeded very ill in her design.

However, in a letter from Elizabeth Germain to Jonathan Swift on 12 July 1735, Elizabeth described Lady Suffolk as:

Indeed four or five years older than [George]; but for all that he has appeared to all the world, as well as to me, to have long had (that is, ever since she has been a widow, so pray do not mistake me) a most violent passion for her, as well as esteem and value for her numberless good qualities.

George Berkeley suffered from gout which got worse during 1746. Henrietta took him to Bath in the hope that the waters would offer him some relief but he died there on 29 October.