Hugh Pigot (1)

1722-1792. Born on 28 May 1722, he was the third son of Richard Pigot of Westminster, and his wife, Frances Goode. He was the younger brother of Lord George Pigot, twice the governor and commander-in-chief of Madras, and of Major-General Sir Robert Pigot, who commanded a division of the army at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill and was commander-in-chief at Rhode Island during the American Revolutionary War. His younger son was the infamous and brutal Captain Hugh Pigot who was killed by mutineers aboard the frigate Hermione in 1797.

Pigot was the brother of Lord George Pigot, twice the governor of Madras who died whilst in imprisonment having been falsely deposed.

Pigot entered the service in 1734 as an able seaman aboard the Captain 70, Captain Alexander Geddes, which vessel was paid off in May 1737 after service in home waters. In 1739 he joined the Seaford 20, Captain Savage Mostyn, being employed in the Mediterranean, and he served thereafter as a midshipman on the newly-commissioned Cumberland 80, Captain James Stewart, and transferred with that officer to the Russell 80 which returned home from the West Indies in 1741.

On 5 November 1741 he passed as a lieutenant, receiving his official promotion on 9 February 1742 and being appointed in August to the Romney 50, Captain Thomas Grenville. After service in the Mediterranean he moved with Grenville in March 1744 to the Falkland 50, which was employed on the home station.

On 2 November 1745 Pigot was promoted commander of the fireship Vulcan 16, and he was posted to the Centaur 20 on 22 April 1746, based initially at Hull before going out to the West Indies in December. He joined the Ludlow Castle 44 in April 1747, serving in the Leeward Islands and retaining her for two years.

After a period of unemployment during the years of peace he commissioned the York 60 in early 1755, serving under Vice-Admirals Sir Edward Hawke and Edward Boscawen, and capturing the letters-of-marque Henri and Rubis on 10 April 1757, which vessels were transporting troops to Canada. He subsequently captured the privateers Mars on 7 June 1757, Cybelle on 13 June, Deux Amis on 15 June and Dromadaire three days later, and having sailed thither in January was present at the reduction of Louisbourg in 1758.

Transferring to the Royal William 84, Pigot saw duty under Vice-Admiral Charles Saunders at the capture of Quebec in the following year. After returning home with the body of Major-General James Wolfe he subsequently served under, and indeed temporarily flew, the flag of Admiral Edward Boscawen off the Iberian Peninsula in 1760, where in May he drove the Martinique-bound French Diadem 74 into Coruna. He then joined Admiral Sir Edward Hawke’s attack on Belleisle in 1761, and served at the blockade of the Basque Roads in 1762. A number of further privateer captures were made prior to the Royal William being paid off in February 1763.

There followed a long period of unemployment in the course of which, in 1769, he was appointed a colonel of marines. In January 1771, during the Falkland Islands dispute with Spain, Pigot recommissioned the Triumph 74 before leaving her later that year. On 31 March 1775 he was promoted rear-admiral and on 3 February 1776 vice-admiral, although he was denied the opportunity to serve in the American Revolutionary War by the first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, because of his political views and disputes arising from the imprisonment and death of his brother in India.

It is fair to say that Lord Hood did not think much of Admiral Pigot

With the return to power of the Whigs in 1782 Pigot became a lord of the Admiralty on 30 March at the request of the new first lord, Admiral Viscount Keppel, and after being promoted admiral on 8 April he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Leeward Islands, superseding Admiral Sir George Rodney who was not favoured by the new government. After his departure on 18 May from Plymouth aboard the Jupiter 50, Captain Thomas Pasley, a fast vessel was sent to recall him, as news had reached England of Rodney’s victory at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April. Unfortunately its despatch was too late to prevent Pigot superseding Rodney, and he assumed command on his arrival at Jamaica on 10 July, shifting his flag into his predecessor’s flagship Formidable 90, Captain James Samber.

Having had no experience as an admiral and very little as a captain Pigot was a disastrous choice for the post of commander-in-chief. In particular he suffered the scorn and even pity of Rear-Admiral Lord Hood, his thoroughly proficient if somewhat judgmental second-in-command, who was outraged that Keppel had sent Pigot out at all, and described him as ‘unequal for want of practice, with no foresight, nor judgement, nor enterprise’. To make matters worse, having been landlocked for the previous nineteen years Pigot was seasick on the voyage out to the West Indies. He remained in command of the Leeward Islands fleet until the peace, taking it to North America during the autumnal hurricane season before returning to the Caribbean for the winter of 1782-3.

Pigot left his role as a lord of the Admiralty in December 1783. During 1787 he was nominated the designate commander-in-chief in the Channel during the Dutch Armament, his flag destined for the Royal Sovereign 100, Captain James Samber, but in the event hostilities did not take place..

He died at Bristol on 15 December 1792.

Pigot was married twice, his first wife from about 1749 being Elizabeth La Neve, with whom he had a daughter and a son, General Sir Henry Pigot, who was knighted for his services to the army but was a far from popular officer. He married secondly in about 1768 Frances Wrottesley, whose sister married the prime minster, the Duke of Grafton, whilst he was in office a year later. By, her he had Captain Hugh Pigot, who met a tyrant’s end when his crew mutinied against him, and two daughters. At various times he lived in the Ranger’s Lodge at Wychwod Forest, Oxfordshire, and at Patshull, Staffordshire in the home of his brother George, who had died under controversial circumstances in India, and where he looked after his three nephews and two sons.

Pigot was the M.P. for Penryn from 1769-74 in the government interest in succession to Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney, and M.P for Bridgnorth in succession to his late brother Lord George Pigot from 1778 until he lost the seat in 1784.

He was a Whig, a gambling friend of Charles James Fox, an enemy of Lord Sandwich, and apparently ‘a very good sort of fellow’ – evidently unlike his sons. Some said that he was only appointed commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands in 1782 because the influential Fox owed him over £17,000. In his role of commander-in-chief he happily pursued prize-money, and indeed any other money available, be it corrupt or not, whilst doing little or nothing to upset anybody.