Lord Robert Manners

1758-82. He was born on 6 February 1758, the second son of Lieutenant-General John Manners, the Marquis of Granby, and grandson of John, 3rd Duke of Rutland. His mother was Lady Frances Seymour.

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Lord Robert Manners

Manners was educated at Eton from 1763-71 before joining the Navy. On 13 May 1778, as a beneficiary of the King’s fleet review, he was commissioned lieutenant of the Ocean 90, Captain John Laforey, in which ship he was present at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July. He transferred to Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel’s flagship Victory 100 on 17 September, and from 15 July 1779 served on the Alcide 74, Captain John Brisbane, being present at the Moonlight battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780 and the subsequent relief of Gibraltar by Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet.

The first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, had already written to Rodney requesting that the highly-connected Manners be promoted as a personal favour to satisfy the young man’s political allies, indeed his family had constantly badgered Sandwich for the young officer’s promotion, claiming that to deny it was a slight to such a prominent family, and that Manners would resign if not given his chance. Accordingly on 17 January 1780 Manners was posted captain of the Resolution 74 bearing the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Chaloner Ogle.

Upon returning to England under the orders of Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby, the Resolution led the ships which first engaged the Protée 64, leading to its capture on 24 February. Shortly afterwards Manners’ first lieutenant, William Nowell, quelled a mutiny aboard the Resolution.

Remaining as flag-captain to Ogle, Manners sailed for North America with Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves’ squadron in the summer before departing for the Leeward Islands with Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet. Upon Ogle being advanced to flag rank, Manners assumed full command of the Resolution at the beginning of 1781, and he was present at the capture of St. Eustatius on 3 February where he was rebuked for opening fire on the Dutch frigate Mars after his first lieutenant, William Nowell, had allowed her to fire her cannon as a gesture of defiance after surrendering During the same year he fought at the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April and at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September, where he afforded excellent support to the rear. Once Hood returned to the Leeward Islands the Resolution was present at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25/26 January 1782.

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Lord Manners is fatally wounded at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782

At the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April the Resolution found herself in the thick of the action from her position of third in line of battle behind the flagship. Manners received a number of splinter wounds, his arm was broken, and he was wounded in the chest before receiving such serious wounds to his legs that one had to be amputated. He was invalided to the Andromanche 32 bound for England and commanded by his friend, Captain George Anson Byron, but despite being initially in good spirits he died a week later on 23 April when tetanus set in, being buried at sea.

Manners was unmarried. He had been elected MP for Cambridge in 1780 in a hard fought, often scurrilous and expensive contest held in his absence, but he never took up his seat.

A monument to his memory is in Westminster Abbey with those of his fellow captains William Blair and Alfred Bayne, who also lost their lives at the Battle of the Saintes. Manners was resolute, well respected, bright, skilled and gallant, and famed for his sense of fashion. A fair-minded disciplinarian, he quickly turned the Resolution into an excellent and esteemed ship, and he was deemed more than worthy of the early opportunities granted him by his birthright. Upon being informed of Manners’ death the King informed the Duke of Portland that ‘he would rather have lost three of the best ships in his service’.