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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine
10 January 1750 – 17 November 1823

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Thomas Erskine

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine was the third and youngest surviving son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan, and was born in a tenement at the head of South Grays Close on the High Street in Edinburgh. His older brothers were David (Lord Cardross and later the 11th Earl of Buchan) and Henry (later Lord Advocate of Scotland). His mother, Agnes Steuart, was the daughter of a solicitor general for Scotland and undertook much of her children’s education as the family, though noble, were not rich. The family moved to St Andrews, where they could live more cheaply, and Erskine attended the grammar school there. The family’s money having been spent on the education of his older brothers, Erskine, aged fourteen, reluctantly abandoned his formal education for the time being and went to sea as a midshipman. His family meanwhile moved to Bath to become members of the Methodist community headed by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. One of Erskine’s sisters, Anne Agnes, was to become treasurer of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon’s charities.

Erskine went to sea as a midshipman in the Tartar, under captain Sir David Lindsay, who was a nephew of Lord Mansfield and a friend of the Erskine family. The Tartar set sail for the Caribbean, where Erskine was to spend the next four years, rising to the rank of acting lieutenant. When Erskine was eighteen he resigned from the Navy. His ship had been paid off, there were no commissions available, and he didn’t want to return to sea as a midshipman after having been an acting lieutenant. The 10th Earl of Buchan had recently died, and Erskine now had just enough money to buy a commission in the army, becoming an ensign in the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot. He was stationed first at Berwick and then on Jersey. On 29 March 1770 Erskine married Frances Moore at Gretna Green, against the wishes of her father, Daniel Moore who was member of parliament for Great Marlowe. Frances was the granddaughter of John Moore, who had been attorney general of Pennsylvania. Erskine’s regiment was then posted to Minorca, and Frances went with him. Before meeting Frances, Erskine had written about the qualities he was looking for in a bride: “Let then my ornament be far from the tinsel glare, let it be fair yet modest, let it rather delight than dazzle, rather shine like the mild beams of the morning than the blaze of the noon. I seek in my fair one a winning female softness both in person and mind”. Erskine appears to have found these qualities in Frances: she is described on her memorial in Hampstead Church as “the most faithful and affectionate of women”. The couple had four sons and four daughters.

While he was stationed in Jersey and Minorca, Erskine had on occasion preached sermons to his men, prompting one biographer to say that “a taste for oratory that ultimately would lead on to his true career originated in those soldier sermons”.

He also demonstrated his future skills as an advocate in a pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Prevailing Abuses in the British Army Arising from the Corruption of Civil Government with a Proposal toward Obtaining an Addition to Their Pay“.

Whilst on leave in London in 1772, the charming and well-connected young officer was able to mix in literary circles and met Dr Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, recalled meeting “a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honorable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the Bar in Westminster-hall”. Although Erskine was appointed a lieutenant in April 1773, he decided to leave the army and, with the encouragement of his family and Lord Mansfield, study for the Bar.

Erskine was admitted as a student of Lincoln’s Inn on 26 April 1775. He discovered that the period of study required before being called to the Bar could be reduced from five years to three for holders of a degree from Oxford or Cambridge universities. He therefore on 13 January 1776 entered himself as a gentleman commoner on the books of Trinity College, Cambridge where, as the son of an earl, he was entitled to gain a degree without sitting any examinations. He did however win the English declamation prize for an oration on the “glorious revolution” of 1688. At the same time, he was a pupil in the chambers of first Francis Buller and then George Wood. These were years of poverty for Erskine and his growing family: he installed Frances and the children in cheap lodgings in Kentish Town and survived on a gift of £300 from a relative, and the sale of his army commission. Jeremy Bentham, who knew Erskine at this time, described him as “so shabbily dressed as to be quite remarkable”.

In the summer of 1778 Erskine was awarded a degree and was called to the Bar on 3 July. While many newly qualified barristers, especially those without contacts to put briefs their way, took years to establish themselves, Erskine’s success was immediate and brilliant. His first case, that of Thomas Baillie, came to him by chance. The case involved the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen, of which Captain Baillie was lieutenant-governor. Baillie had uncovered abuses in the management of the hospital and, having failed to interest the directors and governors of the hospital or the lords of the Admiralty, he published a pamphlet and was then sued by the agents of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who was first lord of the Admiralty and had been placing his agents in positions of authority in the hospital. Hearing of a newly qualified barrister who had himself been a seaman and was sympathetic to his cause, Baillie appointed Erskine to his team although he already had four counsel. Erskine was the most junior, but it was his brilliant speech that won the case and exonerated Baillie. Despite a warning from the judge, Erskine attacked Lord Sandwich calling him “the dark mover behind the scene of iniquity”. After his success in the Baillie case, Erskine had no shortage of work and a few months later was retained by Admiral Augustus Keppel in his court martial at Portsmouth. Keppel was acquitted and gave Erskine £1,000 in gratitude. For the first time in his life Erskine was financially secure.

In 1781 Erskine had his first opportunity to address a jury when he defended Lord George Gordon who had been charged with high treason for instigating the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. Erskine’s defence not only achieved Gordon’s acquittal but also dealt a blow to the English legal doctrine of constructive treason. The case established Erskine as the country’s most successful barrister. By 1783, when he received a patent of precedence, he had earnt enough to pay off all his debts and accumulate £8–9,000. He could afford a country house, Evergreen Villa, in Hampstead as well as a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

In 1783, when the Fox-North Coalition came into power, Erskine entered parliament as Whig member for Portsmouth. Erskine’s friend Charles James Fox had been eager to have such a brilliant lawyer join the ranks of Whig members, but Erskine’s speeches failed to make the impact in parliament that they did in court. Erskine lost his seat the following year in the general election, becoming one of “Fox’s martyrs” when Pitt’s party made large gains, although he would regain the seat in 1790.

The loss of his parliamentary seat enabled Erskine to concentrate on his legal practice. In 1786, when he was thirty-six years old and had been practising at the Bar for only eight years, he was able to write: “I continue highly successful in my profession, being now, I may say, as high as I can go at the Bar. The rest depends on politics, which at present are adverse.” Amongst his notable cases in 1780s was his successful defence of William Davies Shipley, dean of St Asaph (and son of Jonathan Shipley) who was tried in 1784 at Shrewsbury for seditious libel for publishing Principles of Government, in a Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer, a tract by his brother-in-law Sir William Jones advancing radical views on the relationship between subjects and the state. Erskine’s defence anticipated the Libel Act 1792, which laid down the principle that it is for the jury (who previously had only decided the question of publication) and not the judge to decide whether or not a publication is a libel.

In 1789 he was counsel for John Stockdale, a bookseller, who was charged with seditious libel in publishing John Logan’s pamphlet in support of Warren Hastings, whose impeachment was then proceeding. Erskine’s speech, which resulted in the Stockdale’s acquittal, argued that a defendant should not be convicted if his composition, taken as a whole, did not go beyond a free and fair discussion, even if selected passages might be libellous. Henry Brougham considered this to be one of Erskine’s finest speeches: “It is justly regarded, by all English lawyers, as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury”.

Three years later he would, against the advice of his friends, take on the defence of Thomas Paine who had been charged with seditious libel after the publication of the second part of his Rights of Man. Paine was tried in his absence; he was in France. Erskine argued for the right of a people to criticise, reform and change its government; he made the point that a free press produces security in the government. But in this case his arguments failed to convince the special jury, who returned a verdict of guilty without even retiring.

Erskine’s speech is also remembered for a passage on the duty of barristers to take on even unpopular cases:

“I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.”

Erskine’s decision to defend Paine cost him his position as attorney-general (legal advisor) to the Prince of Wales, to which he had been appointed in 1786.

In 1794 William Pitt’s government, fearful of a revolution, decided to take action against people who were campaigning for parliamentary reform. Habeas corpus was suspended and twelve members of radical societies were imprisoned and charged with a variety of offences amounting to high treason. Erskine and Vicary Gibbs were assigned as counsel to seven of them. They were not paid for their services, as it was considered unprofessional to take fees for defending people charged with high treason. The treason trials began on 28 October before Lord Chief Justice Eyre at the Old Bailey with the trial of Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker and secretary of the London Corresponding Society. After eight days of evidence and speeches, including Erskine’s seven-hour speech on the final day, and several hours deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Erskine was hailed as a hero by the crowds outside who unharnessed his horses (which he never saw again ) and pulled his carriage through the streets. Although it was usual in cases where several people were jointly charged with high treason to discharge the rest if the first was acquitted, the government persisted with the trials of John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall. They too, defended by Erskine and Vicary Gibbs, were acquitted and it was only then that the prosecution was halted. A disappointed government had to scrap a further 800 warrants of arrest.

Notable amongst the later cases of Erskine’s career was that of James Hadfield, a former soldier who had fired a shot at the king in Drury Lane Theatre. The shot missed and Hadfield was charged with treason. Erskine called a large number of witnesses who testified to Hadfield’s sometimes bizarre behaviour, a surgeon who testified to the nature of the head injuries that Hadfield had sustained in battle, and a doctor, Alexander Crichton, who gave evidence that Hadfield was insane. Erskine argued that, although Hadfield could appear rational, he was in the grip of a delusion and could not control his actions. He summed up: “I must convince you, not only that the unhappy prisoner was a lunatic, within my own definition of lunacy, but that the act in question was the immediate unqualified offspring of the disease”. The judge, Lord Kenyon, was convinced by Erskine’s evidence and argument and stopped the trial, acquitted Hadfield and ordered him to be detained. The trial led to two acts of parliament: the Criminal Lunatics Act 1800 which provided for the detention of people who were acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity, and the Treason Act 1800.

In 1806 Erskine was offered the Lord Chancellorship in the Ministry of All the Talents formed by Lord Grenville and Charles Fox on the death of William Pitt. Fox’s original plan had been to offer Erskine the chief judgeship of the Common Pleas or the King’s Bench when one of the holders was elevated to Lord Chancellor. But both Lord Ellenborough, chief justice of the King’s Bench and Sir James Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, declined the chancellorship. Erskine was therefore appointed although he had no experience in Chancery. He was created a peer to become Lord Chancellor. The Prince of Wales, who had inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, chose Erskine’s title, Baron Erskine of Restormel Castle, while the motto, “trial by jury” was Erskine’s own. Frances Erskine did not live to enjoy the title of Lady Erskine; she died a few weeks before her husband took the seals of office.

Although Erskine lacked experience in equity, only one of the judgements he made during his brief tenure as Lord Chancellor was appealed against and that, concerning Peter Thellusson’s will, was upheld. His handling of the impeachment of Lord Melville was generally admired. Along with Lords Grenville, Spencer and Ellenborough, Erskine was commissioned by the king to enquire into the morals of his daughter-in-law Caroline of Brunswick in what became known as the “delicate investigation”.

Erskine was Lord Chancellor for only fourteen months, having to give up the seals of office when the ministry of all the talents resigned over a disagreement with the king concerning the question of Catholic Emancipation. The king gave Erskine a week to finish pending cases, and Erskine took advantage of this to appoint one of his sons-in-law, Edward Morris, as master of Chancery.

As ex-chancellor, Erskine was not permitted to return to the Bar. He was awarded a pension of £4000 a year and remained a member of the House of Lords. He was only 57 when the ministry of all the talents fell, and hoped that he might return to office when the Prince of Wales became regent. In the event, however, the regent retained the ministry of Spencer Perceval and the Whigs would not be in power again until 1830, seven years after Erskine’s death. Erskine largely retired from public life, rarely speaking in the House of Lords. In 1818 he married for the second time. His bride was a former apprentice bonnet-maker, Sarah Buck, with whom he had already had two children. The couple travelled to Gretna Green for the marriage, with an angry adult son in hot pursuit. It was a tempestuous relationship, and the marriage ended in separation a few years later. In spite of his generous pension and the enormous sums he had earnt at the Bar, Erskine experienced financial difficulties in his later years, having to sell his villa in Hampstead and move to a house in Pimlico. He also bought an estate in Sussex, but his agricultural efforts were not a great success. He wrote a political romance, Armata, which ran to several editions.

Causes which Erskine took up in his retirement were animal rights, Greek independence, and the defence of Queen Caroline. He had always been an animal lover; amongst his favourite animals were a Newfoundland dog called Toss who used to accompany him to chambers, a macaw, a goose and two leeches. He introduced a bill in the House of Lords for the prevention of cruelty to animals, arguing that humanity’s dominion over them was given by God as a moral trust. It was the first time he had proposed a change in the law. The bill was accepted in the Lords but opposed in the Commons; William Windham arguing that a law against cruelty to animals was incompatible with fox-hunting and horse racing. Eventually the bill was introduced in the Commons and passed as statute 3 Geo 4 c71. When Caroline was being prosecuted for divorce Erskine spoke against the Bill of Pains and Penalties and, when the government dropped the bill, expressed his approval: “My Lords, I am an old man, and my life, whether it has been for good or evil, has been passed under the sacred rule of Law. In this moment I feel my strength renovated by that rule being restored”. He was invited to a public dinner in Edinburgh in February 1820, and made his first trip to Scotland since he had left it on the Tartar over fifty years before.

In 1823 Erskine set out by sea on another visit to Scotland with one of his sons, hoping to see his brother the Earl of Buchan. But he became ill with a chest infection on the journey and was put ashore at Scarborough. He managed to travel to the home of his brother Henry’s widow in Almondell in West Lothian, where they were joined by the earl. He died at Almondell on 17 November 1823 and was buried in the family burial-place at Uphall in Linlithgowshire. His widow survived him by over thirty years. She, as reports in the Times revealed, was reduced to poverty and had to rely on a small charitable allowance to survive. Even these meagre payments were withheld by Erskine’s executors when she tried to prevent them sending her son Hampden away to school, and she had to appeal to the lord mayor of London. She died in 1856.

Erskine’s first marriage produced four sons and four daughters:

  • David Montagu Erskine (1776–1855) was a member of parliament and diplomat;
  • Henry David (1786–1859) was Dean of Ripon;
  • Thomas (1788–1864) became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas;
  • Esmé Steuart (1789–1817) fought at the Battle of Waterloo where he lost an arm (his widow Eliza married Admiral James Norton, who also lost an arm in action).
  • Frances (d. 1859) married Samuel Holland, Precentor of Chichester and Rector of Poynings, Sussex (a grandson of Frances and Samuel was Thomas Erskine Holland the jurist);
  • Elizabeth (d, 1800) married her cousin Captain (later Sir) David Erskine, the illegitimate son of the 11th Earl of Buchan;
  • Mary (d. 1804) married lawyer Edward Morris.

With his second wife Erskine had one legitimate son, Hampden (b. 1821) and two children, Agnes and Erskine, born before the marriage.

Erskine’s eldest brother the 11th Earl of Buchan had no legitimate sons and was succeeded by a nephew, the son of Erskine’s brother Henry. When all Henry’s descendants in the direct male line died out in 1960 the seventh Baron Erskine (Donald Cardross Flower Erskine, Erskine’s great-great-greatgrandson) became the sixteenth Earl of Buchan.

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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.

Admiral Sir John Orde, 1st Baronet
22 December 1751 – 19 February 1824

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John Orde

Sir John Orde was the third son of John Orde, of Morpeth, Northumberland, and the brother of Thomas Orde-Powlett, 1st Baron Bolton. Remembered as a professional enemy of Nelson, Orde’s quarrel was actually more with Lord St Vincent and he never attacked Nelson personally.

Orde joined the Navy in 1766, gained the rank of Rear-Admiral in 1795, Vice-Admiral in 1799 and eventually Admiral of the Red. In 1805, despite being asked to strike his flag, he was made Admiral of the Blue and Admiral of the White in 1810.

As a Vice Admiral in 1805 he commanded a squadron of six ships of the line off Cadiz, in the flagship HMS Glory.

Orde served as the Governor of Dominica between 1783 and 1793 and was created 1st Baronet Orde, of Morpeth, co. Northumberland on 27 July 1790. From 1807 he served as Member of Parliament for Yarmouth.

Orde joined the Royal Navy in 1766 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1774. He served throughout the American revolutionary war (1775–1783), and was promoted to post captain on 19 May 1778, making him senior to Nelson by less than a month. Orde served as Governor of Dominica from 1783 until 1793 and on 9 August 1790 was made a baronet. He returned to naval service and was promoted Rear Admiral 1795.

In early 1798, Orde was appointed to the Mediterranean fleet as 3rd in command under John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent. In May 1798, acting on his own initiative but with the support of Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty; St Vincent gave command of a special squadron to Nelson.

As Nelson’s senior, Orde felt he had been unfairly passed over and complained to St Vincent who, annoyed at his subordinates questioning of his orders, relieved Orde and ordered him home.

Orde requested that he be court-martialled in order that he might have the opportunity to clear his name. The Board refused. Orde then requested that St Vincent be brought before a court-martial.

Again, the Board refused. The Board did go so far as to censure Jervis for not having supported his subordinates. Orde, unhappy with the outcome, challenged the earl to a duel. The challenge became public knowledge and the king ordered Jervis to decline. Before the challenge was formally declined however, Orde wrote to the Board to inform them that he had withdrawn it.

Neither side came out of the situation well. Had Nelson not won such an extraordinary victory at the Battle of the Nile, Jervis may have faced a court martial for not having supported Orde.

Unfortunately for Orde, Nelson’s victory was so complete that any criticism of Nelson or Jervis fell on deaf ears. Nelson naturally took Jervis’s side and regarded Orde as a personal enemy but Orde maintained that it was the principle of the appointment he objected to, not the person who had been chosen.

Things became worse for Orde when St Vincent was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. St Vincent now controlled appointments and Orde found himself left ashore. St Vincent left the Admiralty in 1804 and Orde was offered command of a newly formed squadron off Cadiz. This further angered Nelson who saw it as a deliberate diminution of his authority.

Orde’s squadron of six ships of the line were stationed off Cadiz when Villenueve arrived with the Toulon fleet in April 1805. Orde’s ships, which were busy revictualling at the time, cast off their store ships and hastily formed line of battle. Villenueve however, with his eleven ships of the line and six frigates, made no attempt to engage the squadron. Greatly outnumbered Orde retired, an act that earned him condemnation from some, Nelson included. Villenueve gathered the ships that were ready to sail and put to sea again. Orde believed they were bound for the Channel but in fact Villenueve was on his way to the West Indies. Orde therefore took his squadron north to rendezvous with the Channel Fleet. Although technically correct, Orde’s behaviour was not in accordance with the country’s mood at the time and he was ordered to strike his flag. He never served at sea again.

In 1807 Orde became the member of parliament for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight and served in that capacity until his death on 19 February 1824.

Orde never appeared to reciprocate Nelson’s animosity and was one of the pall-bearers at Nelson’s funeral in January 1806.

Sir John Orde was married twice, to Margaret Emma Stephens in 1781, who died in 1790; and Jane Frere in 1793, with whom he had two children: John Powlett Orde, born 9 June 1803 and Anna Maria Fenn Orde, born 1806.

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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.

Admiral of the Fleet James Gambier 1st Baron Gambier
13 October 1756 – 19 April 1833

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James Gambier

James Gambier 1st Baron Gambier was born the second son of John Gambier, the Lieutenant Governor of the Bahamas and Deborah Stiles, a Bermudian, Gambier was brought up in England by an aunt. He was a nephew of Vice-Admiral James Gambier and of Admiral Lord Barham and became an uncle of the novelist and travel writer Georgiana Chatterton.

Gambier entered the Navy in 1767 as a midshipman on board the third-rate HMS Yarmouth, commanded by his uncle, which was serving as a guardship in the Medway, and followed him to serve on board the 60-gun fourth-rate HMS Salisbury in 1769 where he served on the North American Station. He transferred to the 50-gun fourth-rate HMS Chatham under Rear Admiral Parry, in 1772, in the Leeward Islands. Gambier was placed on the sloop HMS Spy and was then posted to England to serve on the 74-gun third-rate HMS Royal Oak, a guardship at Spithead.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 12 February 1777, in which rank he served in a successively in the sloop Shark, the 24-gun frigate HMS Hind, the third-rate HMS Sultan under Vice-Admiral Lord Shuldham, and then in HMS Ardent under his uncle’s flag. Lord Howe promoted Gambier to commander on 9 March 1778 and gave him command of the bomb ship HMS Thunder, which was promptly dismasted and surrendered to the French. He was taken prisoner for a short period and, after having been exchanged, he was made a post captain on 9 October 1778 and appointed to the 32-gun fifth-rate HMS Raleigh and saw action at the capture of Charleston in May 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. He was appointed commander of fifth-rate HMS Endymion, cruising in British waters, later in the year. In 1783, at the end of the War, he was placed on half-pay.

In February 1793 following the start of the French Revolutionary Wars, Gambier was appointed to command the 74-gun third-rate HMS Defence under Lord Howe. By faith an evangelical, he was regarded as an intensely religious man, nicknamed Dismal Jimmy, by the men under his command. As captain of the Defence Gambier saw action at the battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794, gaining the distinction of commanding the first ship to break through the enemy line and subsequently receiving the Naval Gold Medal.

Gambier became a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty Board led by Earl Spencer in March 1795. Promoted to rear-admiral on 1 June 1795 and to vice-admiral on 14 February 1799, Gambier left the Admiralty after the fall of the First Pitt the Younger Ministry in February 1801 and became third-in-command of the Channel Fleet under Admiral William Cornwallis, with his flag in the 98-gun second-rate HMS Neptune. He went on to be governor and commander-in-chief of Newfoundland in March 1802. In that capacity he gave property rights over arable land to local people allowing them to graze sheep and cattle there and also ensured that vacant properties along the shore could be leased to local people. It was around that time that he also bought Iver Grove in Buckinghamshire.

Gambier then returned to the Admiralty as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty Board led by Viscount Melville when the Second Pitt the Younger Ministry was formed in May 1804. Promoted to full admiral on 9 November 1805, Gambier left the Admiralty in February 1806. He returned briefly for a third tour on the Admiralty Board led by Lord Mulgrave when the Second Portland Ministry was formed in April 1807.

In May 1807 Gambier volunteered to command the naval forces, with his flag in the second-rate HMS Prince of Wales, sent as part of the campaign against Copenhagen during the Napoleonic Wars. Together with General Lord Cathcart, he oversaw the bombardment of Copenhagen from 2 September until the Danes capitulated after three days (an incident that brought Gambier some notoriety in that the assault included a bombardment of the civilian quarter). Prizes included eighteen ships of the line, twenty-one frigates and brigs and twenty-five gunboats together with a large quantity of naval stores for which he received official thanks from Parliament, and on 3 November 1807 a peerage, becoming Baron Gambier, of Iver in the County of Buckingham.

In 1808 Gambier was appointed to command the Channel Fleet. In April 1809 he chased a squadron of French ships that had escaped from Brest into the Basque Roads. He called a council of war in which Lord Cochrane was given command of the inshore squadron, and who subsequently led the attack. Gambier refused to commit the Channel Fleet after Cochrane’s attack, using explosion vessels that encouraged the French squadron to warp further into the shallows of the estuary. This action resulted in the majority of the French fleet running aground at Rochefort.

Gambier was content with the blockading role played by the offshore squadron. Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey, who had commanded “Fighting Temeraire” at the Battle of Trafalgar, believed they had missed an opportunity to inflict further damage upon the French fleet. He told Gambier “I never saw a man so unfit for the command of a fleet as Your Lordship.” Cochrane threatened to use his parliamentary vote against Gambier in retaliation for not committing the fleet to action. Gambier called for a court martial to examine his conduct. The court martial, on 26 July 1809 on Gladiator in Portsmouth, exonerated Gambier. Consequently, neither Harvey nor Cochrane were appointed by the Admiralty to command for the remainder of the war. The episode had political and personal overtones. Gambier was connected by family and politics to the Tory prime minister William Pitt. In Parliament, Cochrane represented the riding of Westminster, which tended to vote Radical. In the aftermath of Basque Roads, Cochrane and Gambier quarreled and Gambier resentfully excluded Cochrane from the battle dispatches. There is little wonder that Cochrane took the unusual move of standing in opposition to parliament’s pro forma vote of thanks to Gambier.

In 1813 Gambier was part of the team negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 7 June 1815. Promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 22 July 1830, he died at his home, Ivor House in Iver, on 19 April 1833 and was buried at St. Peter’s churchyard in Iver.

Gambier was a founding benefactor of Kenyon College in the United States, and the town that was founded with it. Gambier, Ohio is named after him, as is Mount Gambier, the extinct volcano in South Australia, and Gambier Island in British Columbia.

In July 1788 Gambier married Louisa Matthew; they had no children.

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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.

John Shortland
5 September 1769 – 21 January 1810

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John Shortland

John Shortland was a naval officer, the eldest son of John Shortland. Shortland joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman and went to Quebec in a transport commanded by his father. From 1783 to 1787 he served in the West Indies. In 1787 he was master’s mate in the Sirius when the First Fleet sailed for Australia. Shortland spent nearly five years in Australia including time on Norfolk Island where Sirius was wrecked in 1790. In 1792 he returned to England.

In 1794 he returned to Australia with the new governor, John Hunter as first lieutenant.

On 9 September 1797, while on his way to Port Stephens in pursuit of some runaway convicts, Shortland entered the estuary of the Hunter River on which Newcastle, New South Wales is situated. During his brief stay, Shortland named the river, though for some years it was often referred to as the Coal River, made the first chart of the harbour in the form of an eye-sketch and collected some samples of coal. In a later letter to his father, Shortland predicted that his discovery would prove a great acquisition to the settlement.

The suburb of Shortland is named after him.

In 1800 Earl Spencer promoted Shortland to the rank of master and commander. Then his friend, Admiral John Schank, a commissioner of the Transport Board, was able to get Shortland appointed to the troopship Pandour as agent of the troops then going to Egypt.

While Shortland was in Egypt, he flew a kite over Pompey’s Pillar. This enabled him to get ropes over it, and then a rope ladder. Then on 3 February 1803 he and John White, Pandour‘ s Master, climbed it. When they got to the top they displayed the Union Jack, drank a toast to King George III, and gave three cheers. Three days later they climbed the pillar again, erected a staff, fixed a weather vane, ate a beef steak, and again toasted the king.

On Shortland’s return from Egypt in 1803, he paid off Pandour. A few days later he was appointed to Dolphin, also a troopship. After serving briefly on her, he transferred to the 18-gun sloop Trompeuse.

On 13 December 1809 he was captain of Junon when it engaged and was overwhelmed by two 48-gun and two 20-gun French ships. Shortland was very seriously wounded and his ship so badly damaged that the enemy was compelled to burn her. The French took his mangled body to the hospital at Guadeloupe where he died on 21 January 1810, ‘firm in his attachment to the Protestant faith’. He was buried with full military honours at Basse-Terre.

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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.

Sarah Lyttelton Baroness Lyttelton
29 July 1787 – 13 April 1870

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Sarah Lyttelton

Sarah Lyttelton Baroness Lyttelton was born Lady Sarah Spencer at the Spencer seat of Althorp in Northamptonshire on 29 July 1787, and was the eldest daughter of the Whig politician Sir George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer and Lady Lavinia Bingham.

Sarah Spencer married Sir William Henry Lyttelton, 3rd Baron Lyttelton, on 4 March 1813. They had five children:

  • Caroline
  • Lavinia
  • George
  • Spencer
  • William

On 25 July 1839 her eldest son George (by then 4th Baron) married Mary, the daughter of Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, 8th Baronet. The marriage took place at Hawarden, the seat of William Ewart Gladstone who was simultaneously marrying Mary’s sister Catherine. George became a distinguished classical scholar like his father, but committed suicide in 1876 by throwing himself down the stairs. Sarah’s daughter, Lavinia, was later to marry Reverend Henry Glynne, brother of Catherine and Mary Glynne.

Sarah Lyttelton was widowed in 1837, and shortly afterwards was offered the post of lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. She is said to have commented to a friend at this time that “the character of an advisor, a woman of influence, a probable preserver or improver of the national morals is exactly the very last I could fill decently”. Over time, Lyttelton earned the respect of the Queen and the Prince Consort and, in April 1843, she was appointed governess to the royal children, who continued to called her “Laddle”, even once they were grown. She was also made a Lady of the Bedchamber by Queen Victoria.

Sarah Lyttelton died at Hagley on 13 April 1870 at the age of 82.

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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.

Thomas Frognall Dibdin
1776 – 18 November 1847

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Thomas Frognall Dibdin

Thomas Frognall Dibdin was orphaned at a young age. His father died in 1778 while returning to England and his mother died one of the following two years, and an elderly maternal aunt eventually assumed responsibility for Dibdin. He was educated at St John’s College, Oxford, and studied for a time at Lincoln’s Inn. After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain practice as a provincial counsel at Worcester, he was ordained a clergyman at the close of 1804, being appointed to a curacy at Kensington. It was not until 1823 that he received the living of Exning in Sussex. Soon afterwards he was appointed by Lord Liverpool to the rectory of St Mary’s, Bryanston Square, which he held until his death.

The first of his numerous bibliographical works was his Introduction to the Knowledge of Editions of the Classics (1802), which brought him under the notice of the second Earl Spencer, to whom he owed much important aid in his bibliographical pursuits. The rich library at Althorp was thrown open to him; he spent much of his time in it, and in 1814–1815 published his Bibliotheca Spenceriana. As the library was not open to the general public, the information given in the Bibliotheca was found very useful, but since its author was unable even to read the characters in which the books he described were written, the work was marred by the errors which more or less characterize all his productions. This fault of inaccuracy however was less obtrusive in his series of playful, discursive works in the form of dialogues on his favourite subject, the first of which, Bibliomania (1809), was republished with large additions in 1811, and was very popular, passing through numerous editions.

To the same class belonged the Bibliographical Decameron, a larger work, which appeared in 1817. In 1810 he began the publication of a new and much extended edition of Ames’s Typographical Antiquities. The first volume was a great success, but the publication was checked by the failure of the fourth volume, and was never completed. In 1818 Dibdin was commissioned by Earl Spencer to purchase books for him on the continent, an expedition described in his sumptuous Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in France and Germany (1821).

In 1824 he made an ambitious venture in his Library Companion, or the Young Man’s Guide and Old Man’s Comfort in the Choice of a Library, intended to point out the best works in all departments of literature. His culture was not broad enough, however, to render him competent for the task, and the work was severely criticized. For some years Dibdin gave himself up chiefly to religious literature. He returned to bibliography in his Bibliophobia, or Remarks on the Present Depression in the State of Literature and the Book Trade (1832), and the same subject furnishes the main interest of his Reminiscences of a Literary Life (1836), and his Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in the Northern Counties of England and Scotland (1838).

Dibdin was the originator and vice-president, Earl Spencer being the president, of the Roxburghe Club, founded in 1812, the first “book club”.

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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.

William Henry Lyttelton 3rd Baron Lyttelton
3 April 1782 – 30 April 1837

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William Henry Lyttelton

William Henry Lyttelton 3rd Baron Lyttelton was the son of William Henry Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, by his second marriage to Caroline, daughter of John Bristow of Quiddenham, Norfolk. He was educated at Rugby School, then matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 24 October 1798 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) on 17 June 1802 and a Master of Arts (M.A.) on 13 December 1805. A student from December 1800 until 1812 a brilliant scholar of Greek, on 5 July 1810 he was created a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) on the occasion of Lord Grenville’s installation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Lyttelton unsuccessfully contested Worcestershire in March 1806, but was returned in the following year, and represented the county until 1820 for the Whig party. His maiden speech was made on 27 February 1807 in favour of the rejection of the Westminster petition; and on 16 March he brought forward a motion (rejected by 46 votes) expressing regret at the substitution of the Duke of Portland’s administration for Lord Grenville’s. He attacked the new ministers, especially Spencer Perceval, for bigotry. He supported the naval expedition to Copenhagen in opposition to the bulk of his party, but voted with them on the motion of Samuel Whitbread for the production of papers relative to it.

Lyttelton felt the Whig jealousy of the influence of the court. In supporting John Christian Curwen’s bill for the prevention of the sale of seats, he suggested that the Duke of York and Albany, the late Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, had to some extent corrupted members of parliament; and in speaking on the budget resolutions of 1808 he declared his belief that the influence of the prerogative had increased. Again, on 4 May 1812, in a debate on the Royal Sinecure Offices Bill, he said that the Prince Regentwas surrounded by favourites. Nevertheless, Lyttelton in 1819 thought that the “revolutionary faction of the radicals” ought to be opposed. In the same session he thought an inquiry was needed into the Peterloo massacre.

Lyttelton advocated abolishing the system of having climbing boys sweep chimneys, and was a strong opponent of the property tax. He supported Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s motion of 6 February 1810 against the standing order for the exclusion of strangers from the house. In the same session, on 16 February, he opposed the voting of an annuity to the Duke of Wellington. He spoke strongly against the Alien Bill in 1816 and 1818.

On the death of his half-brother George Lyttelton, 2nd Baron Lyttelton, on 12 November 1828, Lyttelton succeeded to the title. He did not take much part in the debates of the House of Lords, but on 6 December 1831 he made an speech in favour of the Reform Bill in the debate on the address. He was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Worcestershire on 29 May 1833.

Lyttelton died at the house of John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer, his brother-in-law, in Green Park, London, on 30 April 1837, aged 55.

Sydney Smith’s Letters of Peter Plymley were for a time ascribed to Lyttelton before their authorship was known. In August 1815, through his friendship with the captain, he obtained a passage on board the HMS Northumberland (1798) from Portsmouth to Plymouth to witness Napoleon’s departure into exile, and privately printed 52 copies of An Account of Napoleon Buonaparte’s Coming on Board H.M.S. Northumberland, 7 Aug. 1815; with Notes of Two Conversations Held with Him. He also printed a Catalogue of Pictures at Hagley (date of publication unknown), and published Private Devotions for School Boys.

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Lady Sarah Spencer

Lyttelton married Lady Sarah Spencer, daughter of George John, 2nd Earl Spencer, on 4 March 1813; she was for a time governess to the children of Queen Victoria and a Lady of the Bedchamber, and died 13 April 1870. They had three sons:

  • George William, who succeeded to the title;
  • Spencer (1818–1882), who became marshal of the ceremonies to the royal household; and
  • William Henry Lyttelton, canon of Gloucester;

They also had two daughters, Caroline (1816–1902), who died unmarried; and Lavinia (1821–1850), wife of Henry Glynne, rector of Hawarden.

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