Hon. William Waldegrave 1st Baron Radstock
1753-1825. He was born on 9 July 1753, the second son of John, the 3rd Earl of Waldegrave, who rose to the rank of general in the Army and had earlier served as a member of parliament. His mother was Lady Elizabeth Gower, sister to the first Marquis of Stafford, and he was the nephew of James, the 2nd Earl of Waldegrave, a favourite politician of King George II.
After a long education at Eton Waldegrave entered the service in May 1766 aboard the Jersey 60, Commodore Richard Spry, and was employed in the Mediterranean for the next three years. He then joined the West Indies-bound frigate Quebec 32, Captain Francis Reynolds, and on 1 August 1772 was given a lieutenant’s commission aboard the Montagu 60, Captain Richard Smith, flying the broad pennant of the commander-in-chief, Commodore Robert Man, which vessel returned home shortly afterwards to be paid off. From January 1773 he served on the Portland 50, Captain Andrew Barkley, which sailed in May for Jamaica to become the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney, and after returning home again he was briefly in January 1774 aboard the Preston 50, Captain John Robinson, which was the intended flagship of Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves in North America. Before this ship could sail he transferred two months later to the Medway 60, Captain William Affleck, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Robert Man in the Mediterranean.
He was promoted commander of the sloop Zephyr 10 on 23 June 1775, and posted to the Rippon 60, flagship of Commodore Sir Edward Vernon on 30 May 1776, going out to the East Indies in November. Shortly after arriving there he found that the climate was not conducive to his constitution and he was invalided home to England in the late summer.
In September 1778 Waldegrave was appointed to the newly commissioned Pomona 28, going out to the Leeward Islands with Commodore Joshua Rowley’s squadron in December. Here he captured the large and very successful American rebel privateer Cumberland 20 on 27 January 1779. After leaving the Pomona in May and returning to England he commissioned the recently captured French frigate Prudente 36 and served in the Channel Fleet campaign of June-December 1780. On 4 July, whilst in company with the Licorne 32, Captain Hon. Thomas Cadogan, he captured the newly commissioned French frigate Capricieuse 32 off Cape Ortegal. The enemy captain and his senior lieutenant were killed whilst leading a brave four hour resistance, and upwards of a hundred of the French frigates crew were killed and wounded. Such was her distressed condition at the end of the engagement that the Capricieuse had to be burned. The Prudente lost seventeen men killed and twenty-eight wounded in the action.
On 24 January 1781 Waldegrave achieved further success with his capture of the French privateer Américain 32 in the Channel, and after serving in Vice-Admiral George Darby’s relief of Gibraltar on 12 April he was with Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt during his brilliant attack on a convoy escorted by the Comte de Guichen’s force in the Bay of Biscay on 12 December. He later re-took the privateer Boulogne 14, which had been the British Jackal until her crew mutinied and sold her off to the French for three thousand guineas. After commissioning yet another new frigate, the Phaeton 38 in March 1782, he served under Admiral Lord Howe at the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October before paying her off shortly afterwards.
During the peace Waldegrave remained on half pay, and for the benefit of his health he travelled to Paris and then to Greece and Smyrna where in December 1785 he married Cornelia Van Lennep, the daughter of the president of the Dutch Levant Company. Having returned to England in 1786 he remained unemployed until the Nookta Sound dispute of 1790, when he briefly commanded the Majestic 74.
On 1 February 1793 he was appointed to the Courageux 74, going out to the Mediterranean in May as part of Vice-Admiral Lord Hood’s fleet. He was given the honour of delivering the despatches to London following the occupation of Toulon from August 1793, being landed at Barcelona by the Romulus 36, Captain John Sutton, and travelling overland through Spain from Barcelona to Coruna before taking passage for Falmouth. During his absence Captain John Matthews initially acted for him aboard the Courageux, and he was succeeded in December by Captain Benjamin Hallowell. Waldegrave returned to the fleet in the early summer through Holland, Germany and Italy, but had no sooner arrived than he was recalled on his promotion to rear-admiral, dated 4 July 1794, this following shortly upon his nomination to a colonelcy of marines on 11 April.
In early 1795 Waldegrave flew his flag for several months aboard the Marlborough 74, Captain James Saumarez, and he later commanded a squadron in the Western Approaches with his flag on the Minotaur 74, Captain Thomas Louis. He was promoted vice-admiral on 1 June 1795.
In the latter part of 1795 he was appointed to a position in the Mediterranean fleet, flying his flag aboard the Barfleur 98, Captain James Richard Dacres. On 9 March 1796, with his flagship and four 74’s, he was sent with an ambassadorial accreditation to direct the cutting out of the Nemesis 28 from neutral Tunis where she had been taken after being captured by the French, and in the same expedition his force made prize of the corvette Sardine 22. On 14 February 1797 he was third-in-command to Admiral Sir John Jervis at the Battle of St. Vincent, but his ship was barely involved and suffered minimal casualties of seven men wounded. In the proliferation of honours that followed the battle he refused the offer of a baronetcy because this was subordinate to his rank as a son of an earl.
Having been appointed commander-in-chief in Newfoundland as a reward for his efforts at the Battle of St. Vincent, he returned to England aboard the frigate Flora 36, Captain John Bligh. After sailing out with Bligh in May aboard the Latona 38, he remained in this post for three years with his flag on the Romney 50 from July 1797, and the Agincourt 64 from March 1798, both commanded by Bligh. Upon returning home via Madeira in February 1800 he was created Baron Radstock of Castle Town, Queen’s County, in the Irish peerage.
On 29 April 1802 he was promoted admiral, but he did not serve afloat again, having turned down the East Indies command on the cessation of hostilities when Captain John Bligh had commissioned the Theseus 74 for his flag. He did however officiate at Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s funeral on 9 January 1806.
Waldegrave was nominated a G.C.B. on 2 January 1815 and during his years of retirement dedicated himself with such alacrity to charitable works that his friends worried for his health. He died of apoplexy at his residence in Portland Place on 20 August 1825, and he was interred at his family’s vault at Navestock Church, Essex.
On 28 December 1785 he married the Dutch Cornelia Jacoba Van Lennep in Smyrna, Turkey, and the couple had three sons and six daughters. He was the father of George Granville Waldegrave, 2nd Baron, and of Captain Hon. William Waldegrave, who was posted captain in 1828 and died ten years later. His youngest son, Hon. Augustus Waldegrave, was killed by accident in a hunting party in Mexico in 1825 at the age of twenty-two.
The Earl of St Vincent disliked Waldegrave to some degree, possibly because he was of a mild disposition, modest and religious, and known as a ‘polished, good-natured gentleman’. During his time in Newfoundland he did much for the pastoral care of the inhabitants, and he carried on his good works, almost zealously, into his later years. He enjoyed fine art, and as well as building up a superb collection that was valued at 51,000 guineas and included Van Dyke portraits of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria, he also patronised young artists.