New Book on The Craven Family by Clive Williams OBE

Craven montage

The launch of Clive Williams’ latest book will take place at Donnington Grove, Newbury on Sunday 6 November, 2.30pm – 5.30pm. 

Clive (above left) and and fellow researcher Pauline Wiltshire would like to thank 96 year old Rupert Craven (above right) who gave them access to all his Craven papers and photos. 
Just 200 copies of the book have been printed and they are being sold for £30, plus £3.50 p&p. The book is hardback and includes 140 photos/illustrations, with 3 appendices. To order a copy, contact Clive Williams at 01491 671631 or 07974 314929 or email

Synopsis of The Cravens

Other books have been written about the 1st Earl of Craven; the 2nd Lady Elizabeth Craven and the 2nd Earl of the 2nd creation. But this book tells the full story of the Craven family, starting with their humble beginnings in 16th century Yorkshire; their rise to fabulous wealth in the 17th century and their subsequent decline over three centuries to present times, when the 9th Earl of Craven does not even use the title.

The first William Craven was born to a poor agricultural  labouring family in Yorkshire in the C16th. He was given the opportunity of becoming  an apprentice  to a wool and silk merchant in London and put it to very good use. He was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1610 and increased his wealth  by lending out his money at interest. In 1620 his widow made £280 million in today’s money in just one year, making her the  richest woman  in England. She then proceeded to buy up England, accumulating  70,000 acres in 5 counties , including Berkshire.

Her eldest son had a spectacular career as a soldier and was created an Earl after the Restoration in 1660. But he never married and the Earldom lapsed on his death in 1698, aged 88.

The famous Elizabeth Berkeley  married into the family in 1766. She wrote plays, music, poetry and this, her colourful love life and her travels around Europe  made the headlines of the day. When fortuitously in 1791 her husband and the wife of the Margrave of Ansbach (with whom she was then living) also died, the two married and moved to England, where they alternated their time between Benham Valence and London. 

The eldest son of Lady Elizabeth Craven (or the Margravine as she liked to be called after her second marriage) also took up soldiering and ended up a General and the 1st Earl of the 2nd creation.  

Towards the end of the C19th the family were as good as broke. So pure Downton Abbey the 4th Earl married a 16 yr old American heiress and american money kept the family afloat until Countess Cordelia died in 1961. But then successive early deaths and high levels of death duty effectively wiped out the family financially. There still is an Earl of Craven, the 9th , but he lives privately with his mother in a modest house in Sussex and does not use the title. Not exactly rags but not so far financially from where the family started.

Clive Williams


One Response

  1. A great read. But a sad story of a family which started in a humble home in Appletreewick, Yorkshire and rose within a century to be one of the richest in the world in a couple of generations. Unfortunately they have sunk into obscurity with the present Earl of Craven rejecting his title and history.

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