Charles Buckner

c1735-1811. He was born in Boxgrove, Sussex, the son of Richard Buckner, a steward to the Whig politician the Duke of Richmond, and of his wife, Mary Saunders. His elder brother, John Buckner, was the Bishop of Chichester from 1797-1824.

Benefitting from the patronage of the Duke of Richmond, Buckner was commissioned lieutenant on 6 June 1756 and promoted commander of the storeship Virgin on 26 September 1761, participating in the Martinique campaign of the following January-February. At the end of 1762 he briefly commanded the small sloop Savage 8.

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Admiral Buckner

He was posted captain on 17 February 1766 with his appointment to the Lark 32, going out to the West Indies. During the next three years he was flag-captain to Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Pye in the Leeward Islands, having exchanged with Captain John Falkingham of the Chatham 50 in August whilst retaining this position. He left the latter vessel in April 1769 and remained unemployed for the next eleven years.

In the spring of 1780 Buckner commissioned the French prize Protée 64, renamed the Prothee, taking an East Indian convoy south to St. Helena that summer, and after being copper-bottomed she took part in the latter stages of the Channel fleet’s operations between June and November 1781. Upon going out with Admiral Sir George Rodney to the Leeward Islands the Prothee took the American privateers Scourge on 14 February 1782, and Rhodes a day later. She fought at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April, losing six men killed including the sailing master, and twenty-four wounded. Buckner removed to the Royal Oak 74 shortly after the battle, going north with the fleet under Admiral Hugh Pigot in the autumn and then back to the Leeward Islands thereafter before he brought her home in June 1783 to be paid off.

From 1787 he commanded the royal yacht William and Mary, remaining with her until he was advanced to flag rank on 1 February 1793. He became a vice-admiral on 4 July 1794.

In March 1795 Buckner succeeded Vice-Admiral John Dalrymple as commander-in-chief at the Nore, and he was there when Princess Caroline arrived aboard the Jupiter 50, Commodore John Willett Payne for her impending marriage to the Prince of Wales, following her collection from Cuxhaven on 28 March. When the Spithead mutiny spread to his ships at the Nore on 12 May 1797 Buckner’s flag on the receiving ship Sandwich 90, Captain James Mosse was struck and she became the flagship of Richard Parker, the leader of the mutiny. Initially told to take a soft line with the mutineers, Buckner acted as go-between with them for the Admiralty but increasingly and unavoidably became a troubled figure, on one occasion deciding not to pass on an Admiralty response to the mutineers demands, and on another actually tramping between rooms in the resident commissioner’s house to pass dialogue between the ringleaders and the lords of the Admiralty. Parker in particular treated Buckner without respect, refusing to remove his hat in his presence, and the admiral’s single redeeming act appears to have been his infiltration of spies and informers into the mutineers’ camp.

Buckner was effectively superseded on Friday 2 June by the more esteemed Vice-Admiral Lord Keith, even though that officer’s instructions were issued in Buckner’s name. During the latter stages of the mutiny he hoisted his flag aboard the loyal frigate Clyde 36, Captain Charles Cunningham, and on 14 June had the satisfaction of sending a boat out to collect and arrest Parker from the Sandwich when the men returned to duty. Subsequently he was prominent in seeking revenge against the conspirators, falling out with several officers including Captain William Bligh in his zeal to bring the men to justice, although by then the decision had been taken to replace him at the Nore with Vice-Admiral Skeffington Lutwidge.

Buckner was never re-employed, but in accordance with seniority he was advanced to the rank of admiral on 14 February 1799. He died at his residence of Clewer Villa, Windsor, Berkshire, on 19 February 1811.

Buckner married Mary Peake in 1763 and had issue two sons, one of whom became a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Artillery, and a daughter. After his wife’s death he married a widow, Anne Frewen, in 1798. He was the mayor of Chichester in 1784.

He was left badly exposed by the mutiny at the Nore, and although both camps clearly saw him as too old and ineffective he was a victim of both the mutineers’ extremism and the Admiralty’s determination to make an example of them.