Frank Sotheron

1765-1839. He was baptised on 24 May 1765, the third and youngest son of William Sotheron of Darrington Hall, Yorkshire and of his wife, Sarah Saville, the heiress and daughter of a co-heiress, Elizabeth Frank. He was the younger brother of William Sotheron, who served as the M.P. for Pontefract from 1784-96.

Sotheron entered the service in 1776 as a midshipman aboard the Bienfaisant 64, Captain John MacBride, with whom he remained for the next six years, although he was on secondment to the Arethusa 32, Captain Samuel Marshall, when she fought the French frigate Belle Poule on 17 June 1778. He then rejoined the Bienfaisant in time to fight at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July, and was later present at the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780, the capture of the huge French privateer Comte d’Artois 64 on 13 August, and the taking of the privateer Comtesse d’Artois in September.

In January 1781 he followed MacBride to the recently captured French frigate Artois 40, in which he fought at the Battle of the Doggersbank on 5 August. During the next year she was present with Vice-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington’s fleet in the Channel at the capture of two sail of the line, the more famous of which was the Foudroyant’s making a prize of the Pégase 74 on 20 April 1782.

Admiral Frank Sotheron

Sotheron next joined the Danae 32, Captain George Robertson, which went out to Newfoundland in June 1782 before returning to be paid off in February 1783. Moving into the Aeolus 32 with Captain Robertson, Sotheron was commissioned lieutenant on 17 August 1783 by Vice-Admiral John Campbell at Newfoundland after the frigate had sailed there in the following summer, returning to be paid off at Chatham in January 1784. Further service was in the Mediterranean aboard the sloop Kingfisher 18, Captain William Albany Otway, from which vessel he transferred to the Trusty 50, Captain William Wolseley, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Phillips Cosby on the same station until 1789. In 1792 he joined the Romney 50, Captain William Domett, taking the flag of Rear-Admiral Samuel Granston Goodall out to the Mediterranean in June.

On 6 February 1793 he succeeded Captain Hon. William Paget in command of the sloop Fury 16 in the Mediterranean, and having reportedly sent nineteen prizes into Gibraltar he arrived at Liverpool with a convoy from the Rock before proceeding to Plymouth at the end of June. In early September the Fury assisted with the escort of the West India fleet into the Downs, and at the end of the month, having previously returned to Portsmouth, she sailed once more for the Downs. In November she took a large convoy of transports around to Portsmouth, and at the end of the month joined Rear-Admiral MacBride’s squadron to serve in an aborted expedition to support the French Royalists in Normandy and Brittany.

Sotheron was posted captain on 11 December 1793, and he became flag-captain to Commodore Sir James Wallace aboard the thirty-year-old Monarch 74 when that officer led a squadron out to cruise off France towards the end of February 1794. At the end of March the Monarch sailed from Plymouth to join Rear-Admiral John MacBride’s squadron off France, but she soon put back when Sotheron and five semen were wounded by a gun which went off whilst he was stepping forward to prevent a seaman re-priming it after it had failed to fire. Whilst his men were sent to the Royal Hospital, Sotheron retired to his lodgings at the Dock having lost his left thumb, and where he nursed a severely burned hand and face. He was replaced in temporary command of the Monarch by Captain John Cooke, and he remained ashore for the next year.

In May 1795 he once again became flag-captain to the promoted Rear-Admiral Wallace, sailing from Portsmouth aboard the Romney 50 with a convoy for Newfoundland where that officer had been appointed the commander-in-chief. After returning home in the autumn and wintering at Spithead they went out again in May 1796. On 28 August a French squadron of seven sail of the line and three frigates under the command of Rear-Admiral Joseph de Richery arrived off Newfoundland, and the inferior British force had to stand by as they destroyed the local fisheries. After returning home that autumn the Romney was employed as a guardship at St. Helens in February 1797. During April she again began preparing for Wallace’s flag, and although the admiral resigned his command Sotheron nevertheless proceeded with a convoy to Newfoundland at the beginning of May.

Following the arrival at Newfoundland of the new commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Hon. William Waldegrave, aboard the Latona 38, Captain John Bligh, Sotheron exchanged into that vessel on 22 July. Unfortunately, the frigate had been heavily involved in both the Spithead and Nore mutinies when Captain Bligh had been one of those officers thrown off his ship, and she remained a most disaffected vessel. Despite replacing elements of her crew, a mutiny broke out on 3 August when the topmen refused to go aloft, and it was only the loyalty of the marines and the drawn swords of the officers that quelled the insurrection, allowing the ringleader to be punished. A worrisome week followed the outbreak, and it was later reported that one mutineer even managed to get as far as the sleeping Sotheron’s cabin door with the apparent intention of murder. Eventually order was restored once the men were placated by news of the government’s settlement on the mutineers back home.

After escorting the Newfoundland convoy to Portugal in the autumn of 1797 the Latona remained on that station, capturing the Bordeaux privateer schooner Aigle 12 on 29 November and the Nantes corvette brig privateer Intrépide 18 on 3 December. She returned to Portsmouth on 7 January 1798 with two transports in company, and she sailed for Newfoundland again in April where she spent the summer before once more escorting the trade from St. John’s to Lisbon in the late autumn. On 9 December she departed the Portuguese capital with dispatches from Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson announcing the capture of Malta, having under her care a convoy which she defended from two privateers off the Lizard later that month. The dispatches were delivered to the Admiralty in London on 22 December.

Next operating out of Yarmouth, Sotheron had the Latona off the Texel in the spring of 1799 in command of a small but active squadron, the activity of which earned the appreciation of the commander-in-chief of the North Sea station, Admiral Lord Duncan. The frigate subsequently participated in the invasion of the Netherlands from August, returning to Yarmouth in the second week of September with the Dutch frigate Ambuscade 40 under the colours of the Prince of Orange. In October she sailed once more to patrol off the Helder with Admiral Archibald Dickson’s squadron.

In January 1800 Sotheron had the honour of being presented to the King at a levee by Vice-Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell, and on 9 March his frigate left the harbour at Sheerness for the North Sea. Whilst in passage to Shields she captured the troublesome Dunkirk privateer Virginie 14 off Flamborough Head on 5 April but was deprived of her consort by a descending fog. She then proceeded to Tynemouth where she took under escort for North Bergen the Dutch frigate Jager 36, which vessel had been driven by bad weather into Shields whilst operating, allegedly, as a cartel. Returning to Yarmouth, the Latona embarked the British envoy to Berlin, Lord Carysfort, together with his family for passage to the continent in July, and at Cuxhaven she took aboard William Wyndham, the ambassador to Florence, who was returning home. By September she was in the Downs where she remained for some weeks before going back to Yarmouth in November,

Sotheron conveyed Prince William of Gloucester to the Baltic in 1802 and spent several weeks there.

On 3 December 1800 the Latona arrived at Elsinore in the company of the Desiree 36, Captain Henry Inman, under apparent orders to escort home the Baltic convoy. However, with relations towards the Northern Powers deteriorating, she remained behind after the convoy had sailed in order to take aboard vital dispatches. Eventually leaving Danish waters on 8 January, she briefly returned to Yarmouth and then put out on the 27th for Sheerness. Whilst lying off Kent one of the Latona’s lieutenants, Christian Laschen, was fatally wounded in a duel at Queenborough with a marine officer from the Monarch 74 who lost his life on the ground, their dispute having arisen at Elsinore.

At the end of March 1801 the Latona returned to Yarmouth where she briefly rejoined the squadron under Admiral Dickson serving off Goree in the Netherlands to watch over a Dutch force, but on 30 April she came back to port to embark Lord St. Helens, who had been selected to undertake a diplomatic mission to St. Petersburg. Sailing for the Baltic on 9 May with several Russian dignitaries also on board, the Latona arrived off the Danish capital on 15 May, and falling in with the Baltic Fleet she delivered dispatches to Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, who on 2 April had fought and won the Battle of Copenhagen. She then proceeded to St. Petersburg where she was still anchored in that city’s roads as late as 5 July.

By the middle of July 1801 the Latona was back at Yarmouth where, after embarking the Portuguese ambassador to Russia, the Marquis de Niza, and his suite, she put to sea on the 27th. Reaching Elsinore on 4 August and presumably sailing thereafter for Russia, she arrived back at Yarmouth with dispatches on 14 September and then went around to Portsmouth. A cruise followed before in November she hoisted the flag of the commander-in-chief of the Plymouth station, Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, once that officer had arrived in Portsmouth to preside over the court-martial of Vice-Admiral Sir William Parker.

During the early spring of 1802 the Latona was at Spithead, and although she put to sea on 20 March the moment dispatches were taken on board from the Admiralty, she was back at Portsmouth nine days later. Further visits to Plymouth and Torbay ensued before she returned to Portsmouth on 19 April, and shortly afterwards, with the war against France drawing to an end, she sailed for the Thames to be paid off and immediately recommissioned with orders to fit out for the Baltic. Having embarked the King’s nephew, Prince William of Gloucester, she sailed from Greenhithe for Copenhagen at the beginning of June to arrive off the Danish capital on the 12th. Nine days later she departed for Stockholm having re-embarked the prince, and following a lengthy stay off that country, during which the King of Sweden dined aboard the Latona on 30 July, and visits were made to modern day Tallinn and Finland, she proceeded with Prince William to St. Petersburg. Arriving on 8 August, Sotheron was unfortunately absent ashore when the Tsar decided to drop in unannounced for breakfast with the Latona’s officers. Having re-embarked Lord St. Helens, the frigate returned to Sheerness at the end of September and was paid off in October, during which month Sotheron was again presented to the King.

In the summer of 1803, following the return to war with France, Sotheron was appointed to the Excellent 74, which vessel escorted a convoy out to Gibraltar prior to joining the Mediterranean Fleet on 24 November, and in so doing providing a crucial reinforcement to the under-strength force commanded by Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. In February 1805 the Excellent entered the Naples Roads where she remained for many months, thereby missing the Battle of Trafalgar, and in 1806 she was still serving off Naples from where she evacuated King Ferdinand to Palermo in the face of the French advance during the early part of the year. Sotheron then took part in the defence of Gaeta and the capture of Capri on 11 May under Rear-Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith. On 8 July the Excellent departed the Mediterranean for home, and Sotheron left this ship shortly after she returned to Portsmouth in July.

Sotheron did not see any further active employment, and by December he was riding with the hounds in Yorkshire aboard his favourite horse ‘Brocket’. Somewhat confusingly, he was known as Frank Frank from 1806-18 before he resumed the name of Sotheron, and in 1816 he succeeded to the family estates in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire on the death of his elder brother. He was promoted rear-admiral on 1 August 1811, vice-admiral on 12 August 1819, and admiral on 22 July 1830.

Concurrently, he was the M.P. for Nottinghamshire from 1814-31, initially in the Duke of Newcastle’s interest as a supporter of Lord Liverpool’s government, although he seemed somewhat unsure of his political beliefs. In his later political career he claimed to be independent, and with nobody coming forward to contest his seat he was repeatedly returned unopposed. Towards the end of his tenure he flip-flopped over reform and eventually voted against it, resulting in his being disowned by his constituents, and burned in effigy at Radford, near Nottingham.

Sotheron died in Grosvenor Street, London, on 7 February 1839 and was buried in a coffin reputed to weigh a half ton.

He married firstly Caroline Matilda Barker of Potternewton, Yorkshire, on 6 October 1808, and following her death on 29 May 1812 he married Jane Braddyll of Conishead Priory in modern-day Cumbria on 13 November 1813. He had one daughter, Lucy Sarah. His country estate was at Kirklington Hall, Southwark, Nottingham, and his London address was 14 Harewood Place, Hanover Square. An address in 1808 was given as Darrington, near Ferrybridge.

Sotheron was granted a two hundred guinea pension in 1797 in respect of wounds. His fellow M.P, diarised that Sotheron was ‘the greatest ass I ever talked to’ and he was accused of lacking character and firmness. He spent much time on the management of his estates and was described as a ‘correct specimen of an old English gentleman’.