Lady Henrietta Berkeley


Lady Henrietta Berkeley
Lady Henrietta (Harriett) Berkeley
From an original picture by Sir Godfrey Kneller, at Strawberry Hill.

Acquired by Horace Walpole on sale of Lady Suffolk's property [Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk had married The Hon. George Berkeley 26 June 1735] and included in sale of contents of Strawberry Hill, 25 April 1842, when it was purchased by H. A. J Munro, Esq., for 10 guineas.

An advertisement placed in the London Gazette during September 1682, offering a reward of £200 for information about her whereabouts, described Henrietta as 'a young lady of a fair complexion, fair haired, full breasted, and indifferent tall'.

The subject of this piece has already been mentioned on these webpages in 'Did you know - Midnight Flit' and 'Durdans'. Articles about her and Ford, Lord Grey of Warke may be found in the Dictionary of National Biography accessible via the Surrey Libraries website.

Ford Grey, 1st Earl of Tankerville
Ford Grey, 1st Earl of Tankerville
Image source Wikipedia

She also figures in 'A biographical history of England from Egbert the Great to the revolution', by James Grainger, published in 1824, as follows: -
"This unfortunate lady, whose beauty and attractions proved her ruin, was fifth daughter to George, first earl of Berkeley. Mary, her eldest sister, was married in the reign of Charles II. to Ford, Lord Grey, of Warke; who became so notorious by his treacherous desertion of the Duke of Monmouth, at Sedgemore, though he himself had invited the duke to this rash attempt to dethrone James II. and had accompanied him from Holland on his fatal enterprise.

From the evidence that was given on Lord Grey's trial for seducing the Lady Henrietta Berkeley, it appeared that he had encouraged a passion for her when she was a girl, and basely taking advantage of the opportunities which his alliance with her family afforded, had succeeded in seducing her when she was but little more than seventeen. After she had acknowledged an affection for him, the intrigue was continued about a twelvemonth without discovery, but with great risk; and on one occasion, as he himself confessed, he 'was two days locked up in her closet, without food or drink, but only a little sweetmeats'. At length, the suspicions of the Countess of Berkeley being excited by some trivial accident, she commanded her third daughter, the Lady Arabella, to search her sister's room, on which the latter delivered up a letter she had just been writing to Lord Grey, to this effect: - 'My sister Bell did not suspect our being together last night; for she did not hear the noise. Pray come again Sunday or Monday; if the last, I shall be very impatient'. This disclosure took place at Berkeleyhouse, in London; and every precaution was taken to prevent any correspondence or clandestine meeting between the parties; notwithstanding which, Lady Henrietta contrived to elope from Durdans (a seat of the Berkeleys, near Epsom), and to join Lord Grey in London, with whom she resided for a short time in a lodging-house, at Charing-cross.

The Earl of Berkeley indicted him, and several other persons, for conspiring to ruin his daughter, by seducing her from her father's house, and soliciting her to commit whoredom and adultery with the said Lord Grey. The trial came on in November, 1682, at Westminster Hall; and after a most affecting scene, the Lady Henrietta being herself present, and making oath that she had left home of her own accord, the jury were preparing to withdraw to consider of their verdict, when a new turn was given to the proceedings, by the lady's declaring, in opposition to her father's claim of her person, 'that she would not go with him; that she was married, and under no restraint, and that her husband was then in court'.

Sir Francis Pemberton, the lord chief-justice, then desired to see her husband: on this a Mr. Turner came forward, and stating himself to be 'a gentleman, sometimes resident in town and often in Somersetshire', claimed her as his wife, and affirmed that he had two witnesses present to testify the marriage. Under these circumstances Lord Grey was admitted to bail; but Lord Berkeley again claiming his daughter, and attempting to seize her by force in the hall, a great scuffle ensued, and swords were drawn on both sides. At this critical moment the court broke up, and the judge passing by, ordered his tipstaff to take Lady Henrietta into custody, and convey her to the King's Bench; whither Mr. Turner accompanied her. On the last day of term, she was released by order of the court; and the business being in some way arranged among the parties, during the vacation, the lawsuit was not persevered in. Lady Henrietta, herself, is stated to have died, unmarried, in the year 1710; consequently, the claim of Turner must have been a mere collusion to save Lord Grey."
A full report of proceedings at the King's Bench concerning a "misdemeanor in debauching Lady Henrietta Berkeley", 34 Charles II, may be found in Cobbett's 'Complete Collection of State Trials', Vol. IX, pub. 1811. An observer remarked: - "It is the foulest story that ever eyes saw or ears heard; in short, the lady was pretty round about the waist, and the proofs given in court made it too plain (if she is with child) who is the father".

Love Letters Between a Noble Man and His Sister
Love Letters Between a Noble Man and His Sister
Image source Wikipedia

Aphra Behn took Ford and Harriett as the basis for characters in her novels, Love-Letters Between a Noble-Man and his Sister (1684), Love Letters From a Noble Man to his Sister (1685), and The Amours of Philander and Silvia (1687).

Grey, indicted for high treason [on other grounds!], 12 July 1683, had fled to the Netherlands, taking his mistress, Lady Henrietta Berkeley and the man alleged to be her husband with him. Henrietta was then said to have been 4 months pregnant and unwell: according to a lampoon at the time she subsequently 'scap't great danger at the birth of her child' in Cleve. It is not known whether Henrietta remained abroad or came back with Grey to his house Uppark, Sussex, when he returned to England. Grey, became Earl of Tankerville in 1695 but survived only until 24 June 1701. By a codicil, 17 April 1701, to his will [PROB 11/462, 2/12/1701] he provided an annuity of £200 for Henrietta. She died 'in obscurity' at Tonbridge, Kent, on 10 or 13 August 1706. Lady Henrietta left only £370 by her will [PROB 11/489 of the Honourable Henrieta Berkley (sic), 14/8/1706]. Lady Mary married Richard Rooth of Epsom in 1712 and lived on until 17 May 1719.


Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society



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