Sir John Berry

Sir John Berry (baptized 1636–1690)

Sir John Berry was one of three royal commissioners sent by King Charles II to put down Bacon's Rebellion (1676–1677) in Virginia. Having joined the English navy as a boatswain early in the 1660s, Berry quickly won promotion and commanded warships during the Second (1665–1667) and Third (1672–1674) Anglo-Dutch Wars. In October 1676 the king named Berry to a commission that led an armed force of ten naval vessels and more than 1,000 soldiers to put down Bacon's Rebellion and to investigate its causes. The rebellion had ended by the time Berry arrived in January 1677, and the commissioners clashed with Virginia's governor, Sir William Berkeley, as they followed royal instructions to impose order on the colony. Berry's crew fell ill, and he sailed for London in June. Berry was promoted to vice admiral in December 1688. He remained a naval commissioner until his death in 1690. MORE...

 

Berry was born near South Molton in Devonshire, England, the second of seven sons and one of nine children of Elizabeth Moore Berry and Daniel Berry, the vicar of Molland and Knowstone. He was christened on January 7, 1636, in his father's Knowstone Parish. In 1652, because of Daniel Berry's loyalty to the Crown and devotion to the Church of England, local supporters of the Commonwealth drove him from his church and vicarage. John Berry went to sea on a merchant ship out of Plymouth, but a Spanish vessel captured him, and he did not return to England for several years.

Early in the 1660s Berry's family and friends arranged for him to be appointed boatswain of the naval vessel Swallow, which in 1663 sailed to Jamaica. Berry won rapid promotions in the Caribbean during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. As commanding officer of the Mary in 1665 he captured thirty-two prizes in four months, and in 1667 he commanded a fleet of ten ships that defeated thirty French and Dutch vessels at Nevis. Berry later commanded English warships in action against the Algerine pirates in the Mediterranean. During the Third Anglo-Dutch War he commanded the Resolution at the Battle of Sole Bay and rescued James Stuart, the duke of York, for which Charles II knighted him immediately after the battle and made him governor of Deal Castle. Berry also distinguished himself at the Battle of Dogger Bank in May 1673 and later served again in the Mediterranean. He also investigated conditions in the Newfoundland fisheries in 1675 and submitted to the Admiralty a plan for governing the island.

In October 1676 the king named Berry to a commission that led an armed force of ten naval vessels and more than 1,000 soldiers to put down Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia and to investigate its causes. The commissioners were Berry, who commanded the fleet, Colonel Herbert Jeffreys, in charge of the soldiers, and Virginian Francis Moryson. Berry and Jeffreys preceded the main body of the force to Virginia, but by the time Berry's flagship, the Bristol, dropped anchor in the James River on January 29, 1677, the rebellion was already over. The commissioners informed Governor Sir William Berkeley that the other ships and the remainder of the armed force were en route to the colony, that he should issue a royal pardon to the participants in the rebellion, and that he should step down as governor. Relations between the governor and the commissioners were marked by hostility, suspicion, and cross purposes as the latter attempted to follow their instructions to impose order on the colony that Berkeley insisted was already pacified. Moryson took office as lieutenant governor when Berkeley left Virginia for England in the spring, and by June 1677 Berry's crew was so ill that he decided to disregard his additional instructions to go to New England and assist royal officials there in the aftermath of what was called King Philip's War. Instead, Berry sailed for London.

Berry was an able and brave naval officer. He saved the life of the duke of York a second time in 1682, and in 1684 he was named one of the commissioners who discharged the duties of the lord high admiral of England after the duke of York was obliged to surrender the office because of his Catholicism. After the duke succeeded to the throne as James II in 1685, Berry was a royal favorite and was promoted to rear admiral in September 1688 and to vice admiral in December of that year. He nevertheless led the Protestant naval officers during the revolution that replaced James II with William and Mary. Berry remained one of the commissioners of the navy and became close to the new king, who appointed him comptroller of the victualling accounts.

Berry and his wife, Lady Rebecca Berry, had one daughter who was born in 1667 but died young. Sir John Berry died at Portsmouth, England, on February 14, 1690. Physicians who examined his body declared that he had been poisoned, but no one was prosecuted for murder, and he may actually have died of a fever. He was buried on February 21, 1690, in Stepney Church near London.

Time Line

  • January 7, 1636 - John Berry is christened in the Knowstone Parish church of his father, Daniel Berry, the vicar of Molland and Knowstone in Devonshire, England.
  • 1652 - Because of his loyalty to the Crown and devotion to the Church of England, local supporters of the Commonwealth drive Daniel Berry from his church and vicarage at Molland and Knowstone, in Devonshire, England. His son John goes to sea on a merchant ship.
  • 1663 - The English naval vessel Swallow sails to Jamaica. John Berry is the boatswain.
  • 1665 - The English naval vessel Mary, commanded by John Berry, captures thirty-two prizes in four months during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
  • 1667 - John Berry commands a fleet of ten ships that defeats thirty French and Dutch vessels at Nevis.
  • June 7, 1672 - At the Battle of Sole Bay during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, John Berry commands the Resolution and rescues the duke of York. Charles II knights him and makes him governor of Deal Castle.
  • May 1673 - Sir John Berry distinguishes himself at the Battle of Dogger Bank during the Third Anglo-Dutch War.
  • 1675 - Sir John Berry investigates conditions in the Newfoundland fisheries and submits to the Admiralty a plan for governing the island.
  • October 1676 - King Charles II names Sir John Berry to a commission that leads an armed force of ten naval vessels and more than a thousand soldiers to Virginia to put down Bacon's Rebellion and investigate its causes.
  • January 29, 1677 - Sir John Berry, in command of the flagship Bristol, arrives in Virginia, by which time Bacon's Rebellion has already ended.
  • June 1677 - By this date, Sir John Berry sails his men, many of whom are ill, back to England from Virginia.
  • 1682 - Sir John Berry for a second time saves the life of the duke of York, the future James II.
  • 1684 - Sir John Berry is named one of three commissioners who discharge the duties of the lord high admiral of England after James Stuart, the duke of York, was obliged to surrender the office because of his Catholicism.
  • September 1688 - Sir John Berry is promoted to rear admiral.
  • December 1688 - Sir John Berry is promoted to vice admiral.
  • February 14, 1690 - Sir John Berry dies at Portsmouth, England.
  • February 21, 1690 - Sir John Berry is buried in Stepney Church near London.

References

Further Reading
Webb, Stephen Saunders. "Sir John Berry." In The Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone et al., 461–462. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
Webb, Stephen Saunders. The Governors-General: The English Army and the Definition of the Empire, 1569–1681. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979. esp. 350–359.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Webb, S. S., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Sir John Berry (baptized 1636–1690). (2013, November 25). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Berry_Sir_John_baptized_1636-1690.

  • MLA Citation:

    Webb, Stephen Saunders and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Sir John Berry (baptized 1636–1690)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: October 8, 2012 | Last modified: November 25, 2013


Contributed by Stephen Saunders Webb and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography