Carolina Lords Proprietors

Lady Frances Berkeley

1634 to 1695

Frances Culpeper Stephens Berkeley Ludwell (1634-1695), best known as Lady Frances Berkeley, was the wife of Sir William Berkeley, the long-serving governor of the Virginia colony and whose authority was challenged so dramatically by his wife's relative Nathaniel Bacon (Bacon's Rebellion) in 1676.

After arriving in Virginia with her parents about 1650, Frances Culpeper first married Captain Samuel Stephens, who became governor of Albemarle County in present-day North Carolina in 1667. Upon Stephens's death in 1670, his wife inherited his large estate and soon married the Virginia governor, Sir William Berkeley, taking up residence at his estate, Green Spring, and vigorously supporting him during Bacon's Rebellion during the summer of 1676. Lady Berkeley pleaded her husband's case before King Charles II in 1676 but when she returned to Virginia the next year, it was with Governor Berkeley's replacement, Herbert Jeffreys.

After William Berkeley's death in 1677, Lady Frances Berkeley became a leader of the so-called Green Spring faction, a powerful political group often at odds with the new governor. She soon married the colony's treasurer Philip Ludwell, but by the 1680s, her political influence had waned, despite Ludwell's service as Governor of Carolina (1691-1693). Lady Francis Berkeley died about 1695 and is buried in Jamestown, VA.

Upon the death of Sir William Berkeley in 1677, Lady Frances Berkeley inherited his share of Carolina, which she retained until December of 1683, when she sold this share to four Lords Proprietors - Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle, George Carteret, 1st Baronet Carteret, Sir Peter Colleton, 2nd Baronet, and William Craven, 1st Lord Craven - which they placed in a trust that was managed by Thomas Amy.

Frances Culpeper was the youngest of two sons and three daughters of Thomas Culpeper and Katherine St. Leger Culpeper. She was born in England and baptized at Hollingbourne Church, Kent, on May 27, 1634. Her parents were related to several families interested in the colony of Virginia, and in 1623 her father had become a member of the Virginia Company of London. In 1649 he was made one of the original patentees of the Northern Neck.

Frances Culpeper accompanied her parents to Virginia about 1650. Sometime early in 1653, at the age of eighteen, she married Captain Samuel Stephens, who in October of 1667 became governor of Albemarle County in North Carolina. After Stephens died in December of 1669, she petitioned the General Court of Virginia for possession of a 1,350-acre plantation in Warwick County called Bolthrope, or Boldrup. An agreement she made with Stephens before their marriage had stipulated that she inherit the property, and because they had no children, the widow received absolute possession of the estate.

Click Here for much more about Lady Frances Berkeley from the Encyclopedia of Virginia online.


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