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Fitzjames, James, duke of Berwick upon Tweedlocked

  • Stuart Handley

James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick upon Tweed (1670–1734)

by unknown engraver

Fitzjames, James, duke of Berwick upon Tweed (1670–1734), army officer in the French service, was born on 21 August 1670 at Moulins in the Bourbonnais, France, the natural son of James, duke of York, later James II and VII (1633–1701), and Arabella Churchill (1649–1730), daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, and the elder sister of John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough.

Early years

Fitzjames was educated in France from the age of seven, first under the care of Father Gough at the Collège de Juilly in 1677, then until 1684 at the Collège du Plessis and then at the Jesuit college of La Flèche in Anjou. After the defeat of the Monmouth rebellion in 1685 he paid a visit to England, ostensibly to visit his sister, Henriette, now Lady Waldegrave. He then returned to France to complete his education at the academy of Monsieur de Vaudeuil in Paris. In the spring of 1686 he was sent by his father to join the Holy Roman emperor's forces besieging Budapest, distinguishing himself in the action against Turkish attempts to raise the siege. By December 1686 he was back in England, where on 1 November his father had appointed him colonel of an infantry regiment (afterwards the 8th foot, later the King's Liverpool regiment). Rumours reached Sir John Reresby about this time that Henry Cavendish, second duke of Newcastle (but not his wife or daughter) wished to marry his youngest daughter to Fitzjames. While in England on 19 March 1687 Fitzjames was created duke of Berwick upon Tweed. He then returned to the imperial army, where he served in the cuirassiers at the battle of Mohacs. Following the battle he visited Vienna.

Berwick returned to England in October 1687. There James II made him governor of Portsmouth on 1 December 1687, and lord lieutenant of Hampshire on 24 December. On 4 February 1688 he became colonel of the Royal Horse Guards. Berwick administered the ‘three questions’ to the officers of the two regiments stationed at Portsmouth—asking the officers whether they would vote for the repeal of the Test and Penal Acts if they were elected to parliament, whether they would support the candidature of those that did, and whether they would co-operate with a declaration of indulgence planned by James to ensure religious toleration for all denominations. Most refused to agree to the first two. Further problems arose in September when he attempted to integrate some surplus Irish soldiers into his own infantry regiment; several officers refused to co-operate and were subsequently court-martialled and cashiered from the army. Berwick was nominated a knight of the Garter on 28 September 1688, but was never installed. On 29 November, following the landing of William of Orange, he replaced his uncle, Lord Churchill, who had deserted to William's army, as colonel of the third troop of Horse Guards. He was at James II's military encampment at Salisbury, before returning to Portsmouth. Realizing he could not hold the port, he joined his father at Rochester on 22 December and proceeded with him to France, where they landed on 25 December. Berwick was sent to Versailles to announce their arrival to Louis XIV.

Military career

Berwick joined in his father's expedition to Ireland, landing on 17 March 1689 and entering Dublin on 24 March. He was made a major-general and saw action at Coleraine, Derry (where he was wounded), and Newry, and commanded the cavalry on the right at the battle of the Boyne (1 July 1690). When Richard Talbot, duke of Tyrconnell, left for France to solicit more French aid, Berwick was left in command of the Jacobite forces with a council of officers to advise him. Upon Tyrconnell's return in January 1691 Berwick was ordered to France. Almost immediately he was given permission by Louis XIV to attend the siege of Mons as a volunteer, and following the end of that action in April 1691 he joined the army in Flanders under the duke of Luxembourg, again as a volunteer.

On 14 December 1691 Berwick was made captain and colonel of the first troop of Jacobite horse guards. He stood ready as part of the French invasion force, which never sailed as a consequence of the naval battle of Barfleur in May 1692. He saw action on 3 August 1692 at Steenkerke. He served as a brigade commander at the battle of Landen on 29 July 1693, being cut off and captured by his uncle George Churchill. A frosty interview took place with William III, and Berwick was kept for a time at Antwerp after the release of the other captured general officers and exchanged for James Butler, second duke of Ormond. After his release he served in Flanders in the campaign of 1694. On 26 March 1695 Berwick married, in the royal chapel at St Germain-en-Laye, Honora Sarsfield, née Bourke (or de Burgh; 1675–1698) [[see Fitzjames, Honora], under [Sarsfield, Patrick Jacobite first earl of Lucan (d. 1693)]], daughter of William de Burgh, seventh earl of Clanricarde, and the widow of Patrick Sarsfield, first earl of Lucan. They had one son, James Francis (1696–1738), known as earl of Tinmouth until he became duke of Liria in 1716. Volume two of the Complete Peerage (1912), following earlier authorities, thought that he was attainted in England about this time, but an appendix in volume twelve, part two, showed that no act of attainder was brought against Berwick in parliament and that there is no evidence that Berwick was outlawed, which would also have resulted in attainder. Berwick thus probably retained his English peerage until his death.

Early in February 1696 it was announced that Berwick would embark on a tour of Irish troops in French service, but this was merely a ruse to cover a secret visit to England to encourage a Jacobite rising in order to convince Louis XIV to commit French troops. After a week he returned to France, largely to avoid involvement in Sir George Barclay's assassination plot against William III. He later told the Williamite Lord James Cavendish that 'he came over to stir up rebellion, but knew nothing of the assassination' (Letters Illustrative, 2.111) but his Memoirs show that he was informed of a plot to 'kidnap' the king, which he did not countermand. He met his father starting for Calais on 18 February (28 February ns). A proclamation of 23 February, the day after the plot's exposure, offered £1000 for his capture along with the assassins. He never returned to Britain. Berwick spent the campaign seasons of 1696–7 in Flanders, but saw little fighting. After the treaty of Ryswick in 1697 James II's army was broken up, but Berwick received a regiment in the French service. On 16 January 1698 his wife died of consumption at Pezenas in Languedoc; she was buried at Pontoise. In order to recover he embarked on an extended sojourn to Italy, meeting Victor Amadeus II, duke of Savoy, in Turin and travelling via Venice and Ancona to Rome. He returned to France by way of Florence, Genoa, and Turin. In Paris on 18 April 1700 he married Anne (c.1675–1751), daughter of Henry Bulkeley, master of the household to James II. They had eight sons and five daughters.

In January 1701 Berwick was sent by James II to consult with Victor Amadeus II (next in line to the throne after James's children) over the implications of the death of William, duke of Gloucester, son of Princess Anne. He then proceeded to Modena and Rome, whence he was recalled following his father's first stroke. In September 1701 he was recalled from the army in Flanders to attend his father during the exiled king's last illness. The outbreak of war in 1702 saw Berwick serving under Marshal Boufflers in Flanders and in action at Nijmegen on 9 June 1702. In the campaign of 1703 he again served in Flanders, under Marshal Villeroy. After this campaign he received permission from his half-brother, now regarded by Jacobites as James III, and the regent, Mary of Modena, to become a naturalized Frenchman.

Berwick was appointed on 29 November 1703 to command the French troops dispatched by Louis XIV to assist the French king's grandson Philip V in Spain. Berwick duly entered Madrid on 15 February 1704, and on the following day he was appointed captain-general of the Spanish armies. In May 1704 he invaded Portugal, but after the capture of a few fortified places, stalemate ensued. In the autumn he was forced on the defensive as the forces of the allied candidate for the Spanish throne, Archduke Charles, under Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, earl of Galway, attempted to march on Madrid. He was then recalled by Louis XIV, having membership of the order of the Golden Fleece bestowed upon him by Philip V. In March 1705 Berwick was sent to Languedoc to prevent the Camisards from receiving English assistance and in November he captured Nice, the citadel surrendering on 5 January 1706. In February 1706 he was made a marshal of France and sent back to the Spanish theatre of the war, arriving in Madrid in March. A defensive campaign ended with the forces of Archduke Charles entering Madrid on 27 June, but Berwick's troops had returned to the city by 6 August.

On 25 April 1707 Berwick led a mainly French army to victory at the battle of Almanza, against a mainly English army commanded by the earl of Galway, a Frenchman. By the end of April 1707 Valencia had been captured, and in November the citadel of Lerida fell. His reward from Philip V for a successful campaign was to be created duke of Liria and Xerica, a grandee of the first class, with Spanish crown lands about Valencia to support his dignity. He was also made governor of Limousin. Berwick arrived back at Versailles in mid-March 1708 after the dispatch of the Jacobite expedition to Scotland. He spent the beginning of the 1708 campaign at Strasbourg with Maximilian II, elector of Bavaria, shadowing Prince Eugene of Savoy, although the latter evaded Berwick and joined Marlborough in July, when they were victorious at the battle of Oudenarde. Berwick was now on the defensive, but he was the recipient of a peace proposal from his uncle, Marlborough, which the French rejected, although Berwick passed on the news in French to show that it 'did not come from me' (Petrie, 233).

Berwick's inability to get on with Marshal Vendôme saw him return to Strasbourg in November 1708. In the spring of 1709 Berwick was sent to the Piedmontese frontier to prevent the invasion of France from Italy. After the battle of Malplaquet, he was sent in September 1709 to assist Marshal Boufflers in rebuilding the army in Flanders. In May 1710 Berwick registered his patent for the French dukedom of Fitzjames. As a peer of France he was eligible to sit in the parlement of Paris. He bought Warties near Clermont in the Beauvoisis and created the territorial duchy of Fitzjames. The title was so drawn as to pass by special remainder to his sons by his second wife, thus separating it from the descent of the elder branch of his family, who were to inherit the Spanish titles and estates. He spent the years before Utrecht in the Italian theatre of the war. After spending the first part of 1714 at St Germain, he was sent to Philip V, ostensibly on a mission of condolence on the death of the queen of Spain, but in reality to persuade Philip to make peace with the Dutch and to join in ending Catalan resistance. The period from July to September 1714 was spent in reducing Barcelona, and after reducing other pockets of resistance in Catalonia he returned to Madrid in late October, and to France in November.

The death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714 provided Berwick with an incentive to make Jacobite business his priority again. Before Anne's death Louis XIV had agreed that Berwick, a French subject who needed his king's formal permission to leave France, should accompany James III to Britain as part of a Jacobite force. However, when in June 1715 Berwick asked Louis XIV to renew his permission, Louis refused. When John Erskine, twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar, raised James's standard in Scotland in September 1715, it was still assumed that Berwick would play a leading role in his half-brother's military affairs, and on 13 October 1715 he was formally commissioned captain-general of the Jacobite forces in Scotland. This placed Berwick in an acute dilemma, as his friend Philippe, duke of Orléans, who had become regent of France following the death of Louis XIV, again refused to let him leave for Britain. Berwick decided to comply; James never forgave him. Berwick was appointed to Orléans's council of war, but declined to serve under Marshal Villars. In April 1716 he did accept the office of military governor of Guyenne, on the frontier with Spain. In September 1716 he invested his heir with his Spanish lands and the dukedom of Liria, prompting at least one cynical observer to note that Berwick 'now declares himself to be entirely a Frenchman, I suppose he has sent his son to declare himself a Spaniard, so that all may be secured happen what will' (Stuart Papers, 2.327).

Such precautions were wise, for Berwick next saw military service against the Spanish. He invaded Spain in January 1719, taking Fuenterralia and San Sebastian and forcing Philip to end the war. He was appointed to the French council of regency in 1720, before returning to his governorship of Guyenne. In 1723 there were plans to rehabilitate Berwick's reputation in Spain, preparatory to sending him to Madrid as ambassador. The death of Orléans in December 1723 was followed by the abolition of the military governors in February 1724. With France at peace, and as a man associated with Orléans, he spent most of the next nine years out of employment alternating between Paris, Versailles, and Fitzjames. However, in June 1727 he was described as a member of the 'military party' (Campbell, 116) in favour of attacking the Vienna alliance. In 1730 he was appointed governor of Strasbourg. He also busied himself with Jacobite affairs, helping to secure the papers of Bishop Atterbury of Rochester following his death in March 1732. However, the Pretender's distrust of Berwick, and Berwick's commitment to France, ensured that he remained peripheral to Jacobite schemes.

Death and significance

The outbreak of hostilities in 1733, following the disputed Polish succession, saw Berwick given command of the French forces which crossed the Rhine in October. The following year's campaign saw him lay siege to Philippsburg, about 10 miles south-west of Heidelberg, at the beginning of June 1734. While he was inspecting the front line on 12 June 1734, 'three cannon balls came directly to the place, one of which took off his head from his under-jaw and dashed his brains in the face of the Duke de Duras' (GM, 4.333). His body was laid in the crypt of Strasbourg Cathedral, but may then have been transferred to the Scots College in Paris. His widow died on 12 June 1751. His Memoirs down to 1716 was published by a grandson in 1777, and continued to his death by Abbé Luke Joseph Hooke, who published a translation in 1779. His descendants continued to use the title of duke of Berwick, but were never recognized as English peers.

Berwick was the illegitimate son of a king, moreover one who was only eighteen when his father lost his throne. His early military training set him in good stead for a career serving in Ireland, Flanders, Italy, and Spain. In addition to his English dukedom, his military exploits enabled him to acquire both Spanish and French dukedoms. To some observers, such as the queen of Spain, he was a 'great dry devil of an Englishman, who always goes his own way' (Petrie, 51), and he played a significant role in Jacobite affairs, at least until 1715, when he was forced to choose between accepting his half-brother's commission or the orders of the French court. As for the English, Thomas Hearne probably summed up their attitude when he wrote upon hearing of Berwick's death, 'he served in the French army from his infancy, and distinguished himself in several actions during the late war' (Remarks, 11.353).


  • C. Petrie, The marshal duke of Berwick: the picture of an age (1953)
  • Calendar of the Stuart papers belonging to his majesty the king, preserved at Windsor Castle, 7 vols., HMC, 56 (1902–23), vols. 1–5
  • The manuscripts of his grace the duke of Portland, 10 vols., HMC, 29 (1891–1931), vols. 3–5
  • GM, 1st ser., 4 (1734)
  • P. R. Campbell, Power and politics in old regime France, 1720–1745 (1996)
  • J. Childs, The army, James II, and the Glorious Revolution (1980)
  • A. M. Coleby, Central government and the localities: Hampshire, 1649–1689 (1987)
  • Remarks and collections of Thomas Hearne, ed. C. E. Doble and others, 11 vols., OHS, 2, 7, 13, 34, 42–3, 48, 50, 65, 67, 72 (1885–1921), 11.353
  • The letterbook of Sir George Etherege, ed. S. Rosenfield (1928)
  • G. Agar-Ellis, ed., The Ellis correspondence: letters written during the years 1686, 1687, 1688, and addressed to John Ellis, 2 vols. (1829)
  • L. B. Smith, ‘Spain and the Jacobites, 1715–16’, Ideology and conspiracy: aspects of Jacobitism, 1689–1759, ed. E. Cruickshanks (1982), 159–78
  • J. Childs, Nobles, gentlemen and the profession of arms in Restoration Britain, 1660–1688, Society for Army Historical Research Special Publication, 13 (1987), 7
  • Letters illustrative of the reign of William III from 1696 to 1708 addressed to the duke of Shrewsbury by James Vernon, ed. G. P. R. James, 3 vols. (1841)
  • C. T. Wilson, James II and the duke of Berwick (1876)
  • C. T. Wilson, The duke of Berwick, marshal of France, 1702–1734 (1883)
  • Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, ed. A. Browning, 2nd edn, ed. M. K. Geiter and W. A. Speck (1991)
  • C. Dalton, ed., English army lists and commission registers, 1661–1714, 2 (1894)
  • Historical Register, 15 (1730), 15
  • R. Sharp, The engraved record of the Jacobite movement (1996), 137–9
  • private information (2007) [P. A. Hopkins; P. Drummond-Murray of Mastrick]
  • E. Corp, ‘The duke of Berwick: a new identification for a portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud’, Apollo, 141/6 (June 1995), 53–60


  • N. de Largillière, oils, 1685 (A young man with his tutor), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • G. Kneller, oils, 1688, Palacio de Liria, Madrid; repro. in Corp, ‘Duke of Berwick’, 53
  • P. Drevet, engraving, 1693 (after B. Gennari), Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; repro. in Corp, ‘Duke of Berwick’, 54
  • P. Drevet, engraving, 1693 (after B. Gennari), AM Oxf., Sutherland collection
  • P. Drevet, engraving, 1693 (after B. Gennari), Drambuie Liqueur Company, Edinburgh
  • P. Drevet, engraving, 1693 (after B. Gennari), AM Oxf., Hope portrait collection
  • oils, 1705–10, Château de Breteuil, Yvelines, France
  • oils, 1705–10, Palacio de Liria, Madrid
  • H. Rigaud, oils, 1706–8, priv. coll.; repro. in Corp, ‘Duke of Berwick’, 55
  • H. Rigaud, oils, 1706–8, Château de Breteuil, Yvelines, France; repro. in Corp, ‘Duke of Berwick’, 60
  • H. Rigaud, oils, 1706–8, Musée National de Versailles, France; repro. in Corp, ‘Duke of Berwick’, 59
  • N. de Largillière, oils, 1720–29, Musée de Nîmes, Paris
  • engraving, 1734, priv. coll.
  • C.-A. Bercy, engraving, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
  • H. Bonnart, etching with engraving, NG Scot.; repro. in Sharp, Engraved record, 138
  • H. Bonnart, etching with engraving, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
  • N. Cassana, oils, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
  • N. Cassana / F. de Troy?, oils, Althorp, Northamptonshire
  • V. Vangelisty, engraving, NPG; Denys Eyre Bower Trust, Chiddingstone Castle, Kent
  • engraving, AM Oxf. [see illus.]
  • engraving, AM Oxf., Sutherland collection; repro. in Sharp, Engraved record, 138
  • engraving, AM Oxf., Sutherland collection
  • engraving, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
  • engraving, NPG
  • portrait, repro. in Petrie, The marshal duke; priv. coll.
Historical Manuscripts Commission
Gentleman's Magazine
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
Oxford Historical Society