A Berkeley Castle and Chillingham Castle story

What happens when you discover that your son-in-law is cheating and that the other woman is your own younger daughter? Well, you take him to court and sue him for damages (unless of course, he is the prime minister).

When Mary Berkeley married Ford Grey in 1679, she probably felt delighted. Ford was young and charming and he came from an excellent family. A year later, their first daughter was born and all seemed perfect. Ford himself was the best friend of the Duke of Monmouth, who was King Charles II’s eldest illegitimate ( but very popular) son, so well-connected and the future looked bright.

Unfortunately, Ford Grey would turn out to be a truly cunning and treacherous man. In his lifetime, he managed to involve himself with an attempt to assassinate two kings and later to rebel against one. He then almost got executed, yet he ended up being the prime minister of England ( you can read about both events in my Chillingham Castle stories). It all started four years after the wedding between Mary and Grey when Mary Berkeley’s younger sister Henrietta turned 17.

Ford Lord Grey

Unfortunately, Ford Grey would turn out to be a truly cunning and treacherous man. In his lifetime, he managed to involve himself with an attempt to assassinate two kings and later to rebel against one. He then almost got executed, yet he ended up being the prime minister of England (you can read about both events in my Chillingham Castle stories). It all started four years after the wedding between Mary and Grey when Mary Berkeley’s younger sister Henrietta turned 17.

Ford had a crush on her and it seemed to be reciprocated. The two embarked on a dangerous affair that lasted over a year. It was not easy to carry this out without anyone noticing and upon at least one occasion, whilst the two were together in her room, someone was about to enter. Ford jumped into the wardrobe where he apparently had to hide for two days without drinking or eating. Eventually, Mary Berkeley started to become suspicious and decided to send her daughter to Henrietta’s room to look for evidence. Here, she discovered a letter that Henrietta was writing to Ford trying to arrange their next encounter.

You can only imagine the mess that followed. Lord Berkeley by now had been promoted to the title of Viscount Dursley and Earl of Berkeley. He was powerful, and he was angry and he decided to take Ford to court. What was the charge, you ask? As Henrietta was unmarried and therefore considered the possession of Lord Berkeley, Ford was charged on an attempt to steal Lord Berkeley’s property.

At first, Henrietta testified and said that she was happy to run away with Ford of her own free will, but this was deemed irrelevant. She then released a bombshell in the court and announced that she was actually a married woman and, as a married woman, she was now the possession of her husband and not her father. This meant that only her husband could sue Ford Grey. Next, a gentleman named Mr.Turner who had been sitting in the courtroom throughout the trial stood up and announced that he was, in fact, Henrietta’s husband and that he had two witnesses who could prove their marriage.

With this new information, the court had to declare that Ford would be released, but as soon as the parties left the court, they clashed in the corridor and swords were drawn. The judge returned and decided to arrest both Henrietta and her “new” husband to protect them, to be released only when the rest of the Berkeley family had left. If Lord Berkeley was still looking for revenge, new events changed his plans because a short time after the trial, Ford got involved in the assassination attempt on the life of Charles II and his brother James the Duke of York.

The attempt failed and Ford fled to the continent, taking with him Henrietta and, bizarrely, Mr.Turner. Lord Berkeley released an advert promising  a £200 reward (about £30,000 in today’s money) for f time, but they lived separately. When Ford died, he left her an annual income. We can only assume that she was never really married to Mr.Turner, who probably just did a favour for his friend Ford.

 

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