Fitzjames, James (1670–1734), duke of Berwick , soldier and Jacobite, was born 21 August 1670 at Moulins, France, eldest son of James, duke of York (later James II (qv)) and his mistress Arabella Churchill, sister of John Churchill (qv), later duke of Marlborough. He was educated in France in the college of Plessis and the Jesuit college of La Flèche. In 1686 he was sent by his father to join the duke of Lorraine, who had raised an army to drive the Turks from Hungary. He distinguished himself in the company of Francis, Viscount Taaffe (qv) and behaved with remarkable gallantry during the siege of Buda. On his return to London his father ennobled him in March 1687 as duke of Berwick. Returning to Hungary in spring 1687, he received a commission as colonel of a regiment of Taaffe's cuirassiers. The emperor Leopold I promoted him to major-general on a visit to Vienna in the same year.
On his return to England in 1688 he became colonel of the Horse Guards, governor of Portsmouth, and a KG. After the invasion of William of Orange (qv) James ordered him to surrender his charge and he accompanied his father to France in James II's second flight. On 12 March 1689 he landed with his father at Kinsale, Co. Cork, and was immediately given the rank of major-general under Richard Hamilton (qv). He served at Coleraine and Derry and may have been responsible for James's disastrous decision to appear in person outside Derry. He scored a number of important victories against Williamite guerillas in Donegal and Enniskillen, and led an advance force of 600 horse and 1,000 foot to ravage the countryside, thus preventing the Williamite commander Schomberg (qv) from marching on Dublin. He suffered a setback against the Enniskilleners at Cavan, where he had a horse shot under him, and later led a fruitless attack on Birr castle. He fought with the Jacobite cavalry at the Boyne and again had a horse shot under him; he later rallied the Irish fugitives from the battle in the Phoenix Park after the rout, and supported the decision of Boisseleau (qv) and Patrick Sarsfield (qv) to hold Limerick against the Williamites. Before he sailed for France after the first siege of Limerick, Tyrconnell (qv) placed the inexperienced 21-year-old Berwick in an impossible position as commander of the Irish Jacobite army. He was totally overshadowed by Sarsfield, and the army deemed him to be little more than a puppet of Tyrconnell. He held a low opinion of his eventual replacement St Ruth (qv), but commended his choice of ground at Aughrim. However, Berwick took the view that the battle was already lost before the Frenchman's untimely death.
On his return to France he served as a volunteer under the marshals Bouffleurs and Luxembourg until James II appointed him captain and colonel of the first troop of guards in the newly constituted Jacobite army. Captured at Landen (29 July 1693), he was presented by his uncle Marlborough to William III, whom he refused to acknowledge. He was later exchanged for the duke of Ormond (qv). On his release he served under Marshal Villeroi in Flanders. Dispatched on a fruitless mission to sound out the English on a possible rising in 1696, he returned to serve the remainder of the war under Villeroi.
On the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1702, Berwick initially served as lieutenant-general under the duke of Burgundy and Villeroi in Flanders. In November 1704, after the arrival of the Habsburg claimant ‘Charles III’ (later Emperor Charles VI) on the Iberian peninsula, Louis XIV despatched his newly appointed marshal of France at the head of a large French expeditionary force. Philip V of Spain appointed him captain-general of the combined Spanish–French forces and made him a Knight of the Golden Fleece. Although he prevented a combined English and Portuguese assault on Spain, he was recalled as a consequence of court intrigue. He succeeded Villars in Languedoc in 1705, and having subdued the rebellious Camisards he effectively knocked the duke of Savoy out of the war by his capture of Nice. In 1706 he returned to Spain and routed the army of Henry de Ruvigny (qv), Lord Galway, and the marquis Das Minas at Almanza (1707), one of the most significant battles of the eighteenth century, in deciding who would occupy the Spanish throne. He later (11 November 1707) raised the siege of Lérida. Philip V made Berwick's son duke of Liria and a grandee of the first class. Berwick having consolidated Philip's grip on Spain and successfully besieged the rebellious city of Barcelona in 1714, the ever-grateful Philip bestowed the Golden Fleece on his eldest son; his stepson James Francis Edward Sarsfield, 2nd earl of Lucan, received a company in the Spanish guards; and Berwick acquired a pension of 100, 000 crowns.
Irish Jacobite poets appreciated Berwick's singular importance to the Bourbon and Stuart causes in this period. He was the hero of ‘Jacobides agus Carina’ by Seán Ó Neachtain (qv), which provided an allegorical commentary on the War of the Spanish Succession and exhibited a sharp awareness of European politics on which Stuart fortunes depended. Ó Neachtain also composed two other poems, one in English and one in Irish, which trumpeted Berwick's military prowess. Another poet, Cathal Ó hIsleanáin, also penned a poem of forty-six verses to celebrate Berwick's recovery from a wound he received at Almanza. It is possible that Berwick is ‘Mac an Cheannuighe’ (the merchant's son) of the poem by Aodhagán Ó Rathaille (qv), for if this was written in 1707 he could be the king's son, who was reported dead after Almanza. If written after 1715, the merchant's son's ‘death’ could represent Berwick's failure to support the Stuart cause.
This ‘betrayal’ stemmed back to his receipt of French citizenship in 1702, which precipitated his elevation to marshal. It sowed the seeds of his breach with his brother James Francis Edward, and in 1715 he refused his brother's commission as captain-general of his Scottish forces. On the death of Louis XIV (1715) he was appointed to the council of regency, and led the French military action to thwart the ambitions of Philip V and his minister Cardinal Alberoni. Berwick subsequently preoccupied himself with domestic concerns and the government of Limousin between the end of Franco–Spanish hostilities and the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession in 1733. Despatched to Germany in command of the Army of the Rhine, he seized Kiel, forced the lines of Ettlingen, and invested Philippsburg, where he was killed in the trenches on 12 June 1734 by a cannon ball. His body was laid in the cathedral crypt at Strasbourg until it was reinterred at the Scots College in Paris.
In spite of the objections of his father, he married (1695) Honora Burke (qv), daughter of the 7th earl of Clanricarde and widow of Patrick Sarsfield. They had one son, James, duke of Liria. After Honora's death (1698) he married Sophia Bulkeley; they had a large family including Charles, later duke of Fitzjames, and Francis, bishop of Soissons. Much of Berwick's correspondence survives in the French archives. His memoirs were first published by his grandson in 1777 with a prefatory Éloge by Montesquieu. They provide vivid detail on the Jacobite war and illuminating pen-portraits of many prominent participants including Tyrconnell, d'Avaux (qv), Rosen (qv), Sarsfield, St Ruth, William III and Henry Luttrell (qv). Sir Charles Petrie's (qv) biography reproduces portraits of the duke, his mother, his wives, and a number of his children.