Berkeley, George Cranfield 1753-1818, admiral, second surviving son of Augustus, fourth earl of Berkeley, seventeenth baron, was born 10 Aug. 1753, and in 1766 entered the navy on board the Mary yacht, under the flag of his cousin, Rear-admiral Keppel, then appointed to carry over to Denmark the unfortunate Caroline Matilda. Young Berkeley was for some time the queen's page, and was afterwards appointed to the Guernsey, 50 guns, bearing the broad pennant of Commodore Pallisser, then going out as governor of Newfoundland. Here he had the peculiar advantage of instruction from Mr. Gilbert, then master of the Guernsey, and afterwards of the Resolution with Captain Cook, and assisted him in the survey of the coast of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After two years of this service he was, in 1769, appointed to the Alarm frigate with Captain Jervis, afterwards the Earl of St. Vincent, and served under him in the Mediterranean. He was afterwards removed into the flagship by Rear-admiral Sir Peter Denis, who, in September 1772, promoted him to the rank of lieutenant. In 1774 he returned to England, and at once contested the city of Gloucester in the interest of the opposition. The cost of the election to the two parties was said to be not less than 100,000l. Berkeley was unsuccessful; nor was he appointed to a ship till, in 1778, he was nominated by Admiral Keppel as a lieutenant of the Victory. He was thus present in the battle of Ushant, and in September was promoted by the admiral to the command of the Firebrand fireship, in which he was attached to the Channel fleet; and during the invasion of the Channel in the summer of 1779 by the combined fleets of France and Spain, he acted on the staff of Lord Shuldham, the commander-in-chief at Plymouth. Berkeley's energy induced Lord Shuldham to recommend him to the admiralty for promotion; but the request was refused on account of the part taken by Captain Berkeley in politics. He was, however, appointed to the Fairy sloop, and sent out to Newfoundland, where, within two months, he captured nine of the enemy's privateers, and was posted by the admiral into the Vestal frigate 12 Sept. 1780. In the Vestal he was sent to England, and commanded her in the following spring at the relief of Gibraltar by Vice-admiral Darby. In 1782 he commanded the Recovery frigate in the fleet under Vice-admiral Barrington and Lord Howe, and was paid off at the peace in 1783. In 1789, after a few months in command of the Magnificent, 74 guns, he was appointed surveyor-general of the ordnance, an office which he held till 1795. On the declaration of war in 1793 he was appointed to the Marlborough, 74 guns, and in her had an important share in the victory of 1 June 1794. In this battle the Marlborough suffered severely, was totally dismasted, and had 120 men killed and wounded. Berkeley himself was severely wounded in the head, and was unable to resume the command. In common with the other officers of the fleet he received the thanks of both houses of parliament, and was one of the comparatively few who received the gold medal. Notwithstanding this, disparaging rumours of Berkeley's conduct were set afloat, and ten years afterwards a weekly paper, called the Royal Standard, published a letter, in which he was described as a shy cock, and as having skulked in the cockpit. Berkeley brought an action for libel against the paper, and obtained a verdict with 1,000l. damages. There appeared no grounds whatever for the libel, which, however, is even now sometimes remembered. For some months in 1795-6 Berkeley commanded the Formidable in the Channel, and in 1798 had command of the sea fencibles on the coast of Sussex. On 14 Feb. 1799 he was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral, and during that year and the next commanded a squadron in the Channel fleet under Lord Bridport and Lord St. Vincent.
He became a vice-admiral 9 Nov. 1805, and about the same time was appointed to the command of the Halifax station. It was during his command, and under his direct orders, that the conflict between the Leopard and Chesapeake took place, 22 June 1807, on account of some deserters from the English service, who had been received on board the American frigate (Marshall, iv. (vol. ii. pt. ii.) 892-7). The case led to a long diplomatic correspondence, and was one of the first causes of the war which broke out five years later; but Berkeley's conduct in the affair seems to have been strictly in accordance with rule and precedent, though at variance with the more modern phase of international law. In December 1808 he was appointed to the chief command on the coast of Portugal and in the Tagus, which he held till May 1812. On 31 July 1810 he was advanced to the rank of admiral, and in acknowledgment of his services to Portugal he was nominated lord high admiral of that kingdom. After his return to England in 1812 he retired altogether from active, and indeed from public life; for twenty-seven years (1783-1810) he had represented Gloucestershire in parliament, and had been a persistent supporter of Pitt, and an uncompromising opponent of the Addington ministry. He was made K.B. (1813) and G.C.B. (1815), and died 25 Feb. 1818. He married, in 1784, Emily Charlotte, daughter of Lord George Lennox, and sister of the Duke of Richmond, by whom he left five children.
Naval Chronicle, xii. 89 (with a portrait)
Gent. Mag. (1818), lxxxviii. i. 370.
Contributor: J. K. L. [John Knox Laughton]