Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.
5 December 1758 – 20 February 1830
Eliab Harvey was born in Chigwell, to William and Emma Harvey. His father was a Member of Parliament for Essex, but died when Harvey was only five years old. Until 1768, Harvey was raised at the family estate of Rolls Park in Chigwell, which had passed to his elder brother William on the death of their father.
Harvey then attended Westminster School for two years before moving to Harrow School in 1770. At the age of thirteen in 1771, Harvey was entered onto the books of the naval schooner HMS Mary, although he did not actually serve aboard the ship. Utilising a standard legal fiction of the time, Harvey’s name was entered on the ship’s books without his actual presence, a ruse that would provide him with sufficient seniority to gain rapid promotion when he did enter the Navy. In his summer holidays from school, Harvey served at sea, joining HMS Orpheus in 1773.
Entering the Navy in 1774, Harvey became a midshipman aboard the sloop HMS Lynx and spent the next two years in the West Indies. Briefly returning to Britain at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Harvey returned to the eastern seaboard of North America late in 1776 aboard HMS Mermaid, before transferring to the flagship of the North America Station HMS Eagle. From there Harvey joined HMS Liverpool on temporary assignment, only to be wrecked on Long Island in 1778. Harvey rejoined Eagle after the wreck and returned to Britain in her. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1779.
Following his promotion, Harvey took a leave of absence from the Navy which would last three years. He stood for parliament in the seat of Maldon in Essex, which he won in 1780 and represented for the next four years. In 1781 Harvey briefly commanded HMS Dolphin, but took leave once again. In 1782 Harvey again returned to the Navy just as peace was agreed and was promoted to commander. Briefly taking over the sloop HMS Otter before rapidly making the jump to Post Captain less than a year later. (DWW-this was very quick. Either Harvey was the most skilled and noticed Ship Commander on the Seas, or he had a great deal of influence.)
With the peace of 1783, Harvey again took leave from the Navy, seeing out his parliamentary term and continuing his notorious lifestyle of gambling and debauchery. The young death of Harvey’s elder brother William Harvey, MP in April 1779 had provided Harvey with a substantial fortune, which he immediately began squandering in epic nights at London’s fashionable drinking and gambling establishments. Harvey gained a reputation among this crowd for playing exceptionally high stakes; one often repeated story concerns his loss, on his 21st birthday in 1779, of over £100,000 in a single game of hazard to a Mr O’Byrne. O’Byrne, recognising that such a sum would bankrupt his opponent, refused to take more than £10,000, insisting that they roll the dice again to determine the fate of the remaining £90,000. Harvey won and kept his fortune, but reportedly failed to pay the £10,000.
Harvey married Lady Louisa Nugent in 1784. Louisa was a daughter of Robert Nugent, 1st Earl Nugent and co-heir to his substantial wealth. The couple had nine children, eight of whom survived infancy and six of whom, all daughters, outlived their father. Harvey’s eldest son was killed in action serving in the British Army under the Marquess of Wellington at the Siege of Burgos in 1812. Harvey remained in semi-retirement until 1790, dividing his time between London and Rolls Park.
In 1790, Harvey was called back to the Navy during the Spanish armament and commanded the frigate HMS Hussar for six months, until the Navy returned to its peacetime complement. Three years later, Harvey was once again recalled to the Navy with the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars. Harvey would remain in service for the next 16 years, only briefly taking leave in 1802 during the Peace of Amiens. In 1793, Harvey became captain of the frigate HMS Santa Margarita in the West Indies. There he participated in the successful campaigns against the French colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique under Admiral John Jervis. In May 1794 Harvey returned to Britain and served in the squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren which raided the French coast with great success in 1794 and 1795.
In 1795, Harvey took command of the ship of the line HMS Valiant, initially in the Channel Fleet and later in the West Indies under Sir Hyde Parker. In 1797 Harvey returned to Britain due to ill-health, and was given command of the Essex sea fencibles during the next year. In 1800 Harvey returned to sea in command of HMS Triumph, which he retained until the Peace of Amiens. During the peace he again dabbled in politics, becoming MP for Essex in 1802. Even after returning to the Navy in 1803 as captain of the second rate HMS Temeraire, Harvey remained in parliament, serving until 1812.
With the resumption of the war against France, Temeraire was attached to the Channel Fleet and blockaded ports in eastern France until 1805, when Harvey was sent to join Horatio Nelson’s blockade off Cadiz. When the Battle of Trafalgar was joined on 21 October, Harvey’s Temeraire was the second ship in Nelson’s division and was a faster and more agile ship than HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship. As a result, Temeraire began to pull ahead of Victory as the division closed on the Franco-Spanish fleet and Harvey was consequently reprimanded by Nelson, who hailed Temeraire: “I will thank you Captain Harvey, to keep your proper station which is astern of the Victory“.
During the combat that followed, Harvey was heavily engaged with the enemy, passing behind Bucentaure and astern of Redoutable. The broadside fired into Redoutable reduced the French ship to a wreck and forced its surrender soon afterwards when it became tangled with Victory and Temeraire. The three ships then drifted into the following French Fougueux, British fire disabling her and giving cover to a boarding party led by Temeraire‘s first-lieutenant, Thomas Fortescue Kennedy, which forced the surrender of Fougueux’s crew. In later years Harvey would use this incident for his personal motto “Redoutable et Fougueux”.
Controversy erupted concerning Harvey’s role in the battle. Although his bravery and skill were not questioned, his prominence in the dispatch sent home by Cuthbert Collingwood was. In the dispatch, Harvey was singled out over the other captains for his bravery, Collingwood writing: “I have not words in which I can sufficiently express my admiration of it”. As a result of this special mention, Harvey was promoted to rear-admiral on 9 November 1805, and given the honour of being one of Nelson’s pallbearers at the admiral’s funeral despite their short acquaintance. Harvey’s new motto and his penchant for “bragging” further alienated him from his fellow officers.
Returning to naval service, Harvey was given the 80-gun HMS Tonnant as his first flagship, in which he remained until 1809. Serving under Lord Gambier in the Channel Fleet, Harvey was outraged not to be given command of the British ships in action at the Battle of Basque Roads. Harvey expressed his disgust that command had been given to the more junior Lord Cochrane in no uncertain terms to Gambier, and was dismissed from the admiral’s council as a result.
Harvey resigned his commission on 23 May 1809, before the attack went ahead, in protest at Cochrane’s preferment. Returning to the Navy a year later, Harvey was never again called to active service, Gambier blocking his efforts to obtain gainful employment.
Despite his failure to return to the sea, Harvey’s seniority brought more promotions; he made vice-admiral in 1810 and finally became a full admiral in 1819. He was also made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1815 when the order was reformed, becoming a Knight Grand Cross in 1825. Harvey’s retirement included a further period in politics, returning to his seat as MP for Essex between 1820 and 1830.
Harvey died in 1830 at his family estate of Rolls Park and was buried in the Harvey family crypt at St Andrews Church at Hempstead in Essex, which contains the remains of over 50 family members.
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