For the next few Saturdays, in place of my usual “Saturday Snippets,” I’m going to give you some background into some of the people and places in my new series, The Culpepper Saga. The series consists of four books which will be released between April and September.
One of the main characters is Sir William Berkeley. I write stories of my ancestors, but Berkeley is not one of my ancestors. He was, however, a life-long friend of our hero and my 10th great grandpa John Culpepper.
In the 1st book, Berkeley and John are young law students in England. In the 2nd and 3rd books, Berkeley plays a daily role in John’s life and is the Governor of Virginia. In the final book, Berkeley is married to John’s niece and is at the center of a deadly rebellion.
William Berkeley, referred to as “Will” by his family and friends, was born in England in 1605. He was the colonial governor of Virginia from 1642 until his death in 1677. Upon his arrival in Virginia, he built a plantation called Green Spring House and planted corn, wheat, barley, rye, and tobacco, though he despised tobacco. In 1670, he wed thirty-six-year-old Frances Culpepper, the niece of our hero John. Historical records show him fleeing Jamestown during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 and taking refuge in Accomac, Virginia. Most people leave it at that, but in my writing world, I happen to know that John had a house in Accomac, so it is obvious he went to John’s. After all, they had been friends for many years, and they were family through marriage. I’ll let you read the rest of his story in the Culpepper Saga, but I’ll leave you with a tidbit from the day he and John met as young boys at law school–a place called Middle Temple.
Note: Wikipedia does not confirm that Berkeley attended Middle Temple, but in “The History of Middle Temple” by Hart Publishing, records of Middle Temple show Berkeley as a student. He also wrote and published a few plays in the 1630s, which was a large part of the curriculum at the school.
The following is an excerpt from “I, John Culpepper.”
John clapped along with the other boys as the headmaster strolled toward the center of the room. The man looked as stern as JC had warned. A pair of spectacles rested on the tip of his pointed nose, and his rather large ears stuck out from under his cap. He began stroking his goatee as if caressing the family pet. For a moment, John couldn’t put his finger on what was so amusing about the man’s appearance, then it struck him—the man looked like a goat. John tried unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle.
Barnaby’s brow wrinkled and the corners of this mouth turned down like a fish as he scanned the group of boys. He looked at each one as if viewing a repulsive heap of trash. He cleared his throat and his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, a frizzy-headed boy ran into the room, allowing the door to slam behind him. The sound echoed loudly within the stone walls and the tardy boy’s face turned red with embarrassment. Barnaby followed the boy’s movement with his narrowed eyes as the boy took the only empty seat in the room—right next to John. John felt a trickle of sweat drip down his back as the headmaster slowly walked toward them.
“You’re tardy for my class,” the man scoffed, his eyes filled with hostility. When he said the word class, he drew out the a for an inappropriate amount of time, and John was again reminded of a goat, but with the man standing directly in front of him, he didn’t dare giggle.
“My apologies. I just arrived, sir.”
“What is your name, boy?” Barnaby growled.
“William Berkeley, sir.”
“William Berkeley.” He stared at Berkeley for a long time, as if attempting to memorize every feature of the boy’s face. He then repeated the name. After what seemed like an hour of uncomfortable silence, with the tension in the room growing by the second, Barnaby said, “William Berkeley, I will speak with you in private following this evening’s supper.”
“Yes, sir.” William lowered his eyes to the floor.
As Barnaby turned his back on Berkeley and returned to the center of the room, Berkeley glanced around the room at the other boys. John wondered if Berkeley’s humility was in respect for the headmaster or due to his embarrassment for being late, or both.
Berkeley leaned over to John and whispered, “Who’s that old goat?”
John almost laughed out loud and his hands flew up to his mouth.
Berkeley winked at him and grinned.
The first book in the Culpepper Saga, “I, John Culpepper,” will be released April 10, 2015.