Lord Amelius Beauclerk

1771-1846. He was born on 23 May 1771, the third son of Aubrey Beauclerk, the 5th Duke of St. Albans, by his wife, Lady Catherine Ponsonby, the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Besborough and a descendant of the Dukes of Devonshire. His younger brother, the Rev. Lord Frederick Beauclerk, was an eminent cricketer who became president of the MCC.

Lord Amelius Beauclerk first came to notice when following the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780 and the subsequent relief of Gibraltar, he and Prince William became involved in a fight with some young soldiers on the Rock and were arrested, requiring the interposition of Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby to secure their release. In June 1782 he was entered onto the books of the cutter Jackal 10, Lieutenant Daniel Dobreé, and he then served for two years from 1783-5 aboard the Salisbury 50, Captain James Bradby, the flagship to Vice-Admiral John Campbell on the Newfoundland station.

From 1786 Beauclerk was employed under Commodore Alan Gardner at Jamaica before returning to England in 1789 as an acting-lieutenant aboard the pennant ship Europa 50, a position that was confirmed on 21 September 1790 during the Spanish Armament. By this time he was serving aboard the Swiftsure 74, Captain Sir James Wallace, and in 1792 he joined the frigate Druid 32, Captain Joseph Ellison, which spent a short time at Jamaica before returning to England in September of that year.

Lord Amelius Beauclerk

Beauclerk was present at the occupation of Toulon from August 1793, and prior to being posted captain of the Nemesis 28 by Vice-Admiral Lord Hood on 16 September it appears that he had been appointed master and commander of the captured French sloop Alerte 14 earlier on the same day for purposes of rank only. He was subsequently detached under the orders of Commodore Robert Linzee but saw little action in that officer’s unsuccessful attack on San Fiorenzo, Corsica on 1 October.

In March 1794, whilst still on the Mediterranean station, he transferred to the twelve-pounder frigate Juno 32 in succession to Captain Sam Hood, sending a Genoese prize into Leghorn in July. During September 1795 he left for England with a convoy which fell in with Rear-Admiral Joseph de Richery’s force, resulting in the recapture by the French of the Censeur 74 on 7 October. By then Beauclerk had already parted company, and with thirty-two ships of the convoy he arrived off the Needles under the orders of Captain Richard Rundle Burges of the Argo 44 on 17 October. The Juno was paid off shortly afterwards and her crew were turned over to the newly commissioned Emerald 36, Captain Velters Berkeley.

In December 1795 Beauclerk was appointed to the Dryad 36, whose previous captain, Hon. Robert Allaster Forbes, had committed suicide at sea, and in February 1796 he sailed for the River Elbe with specie and bullion. Upon returning to Deal he took a convoy around to Portsmouth at the end of the month, whereupon Commander John King Pulling commanded in his absence for a short period and captured the French corvette Abeille 14 on 2 May off the Lizard. With Beauclerk back in command, the Dryad, with two hundred and fifty-one men aboard, fought and captured the French frigate Proserpine 40, Captain Etienne Pévrieu, with three hundred and forty-eight men, on 13 June to the south of Cape Clear. The Dryad lost only two men killed and seven wounded in the three-quarter hour duel, and as a result of her success Beauclerk’s first lieutenant, Edward Durnford King, was promoted to the rank of commander. The Proserpine was bought into the navy as the Amelia 38.

Continuing to cruise on the Irish station, Beauclerk took the fine privateer Vonteur 14 on 16 October 1796 after a six-hour chase between the Scilly Isles and Cape Clear, sending the prize into Cork. At the turn of the year his frigate had to return to Cork having lost her main-mast, and she was furnished with the main-mast of a hospital ship. She then escorted the captured French frigate Tartu 38 and privateer Musette 18, together with three transports carrying French prisoners from the failed invasion of Ireland, to Portsmouth in the company of the Apollo 28, Captain John Manley, and Hazard 16, Commander Alexander Ruddach. By March 1797 she was at Plymouth, and on returning to Ireland was chased into Bantry Bay by two large frigates, a corvette and a cutter. During May she left Cork on a cruise out into the Atlantic and in July was at Plymouth.

Returning to the Irish station, the Dryad captured the Lorient-based brig privateer Eclair 14 north-west of Cape Finisterre on 19 August 1797, which again was sent into Cork, and she also sank the Nantes-based privateer Cornélie 12 off the south-west coast of Ireland when that vessel caught fire after just a few shot on 9 September with the loss of all but seven of her ninety-man crew. Another privateer capture was the Bordeaux-based Brune 16 on 10 October when in company with the Doris 36, Captain Hon. Charles Jones. In January 1798 the Dryad joined several other frigates in escorting the Clyde portion of the West India fleet out to a safe latitude from Cork, and on 4 February 1798 to the south-west of Cape Clear she captured the Nantes-based privateer Mars 20, described as the largest and finest privateer taken in the war to date. In April the Dryad was briefly at Plymouth before sailing for Ireland, and there followed a somewhat fallow period before Beauclerk resigned the command in December.

For the best part of the next two years Beauclerk remained unemployed until in November 1800 he was appointed to the brand new 18-pounder frigate Fortunée 36, fitting out at Woolwich and going down the Thames at the beginning of February 1801. She put into Portsmouth on 17 March after detaining a Danish vessel and sending her into the Downs, and she later captured the schooner privateer Mascarade 12 on 5 April. A further capture was the troublesome Maloin privateer lugger Renard 10 near St. Aubin’s Bay, Jersey on 20 April when in company with the Trent 36, Captain Sir Edward Hamilton, and the cutter Dolphin.

On 16 May 1801 Beauclerk found himself hauled before the King’s Bench and issued with ‘a rule to shew cause’ for insulting Sir John Carter, the Mayor of Portsmouth, after becoming enraged by the mayor’s refusal to get out of bed at midnight two weeks earlier and vouch for a man who had been improperly pressed and detained as a seaman. The incident had culminated with Beauclerk throwing his sword at the mayor and the next day requesting ‘an interview’, this being interpreted as a challenge to a duel. More happily, in June 1801 the Fortunée was despatched to Yarmouth to escort the Royal Family on their annual Weymouth holiday and Beauclerk led the first dance with the 32 year-old Princess Augusta on 1 August at Her Majesty’s fete at the Parsonage House in Radipole, Weymouth. Five days later he hosted the royal family to what was described as an ‘elegant dejeuné’.

On 2 October the Fortunée arrived at Portsmouth having been released from the royal duty, and she soon put out to escort the West India convoy from Cork to the vicinity of the Azores on the 26th before returning to the Irish port. In February 1802 she was sent to Scattery Island in the Shannon Estuary on preventative duty, but clearly this posting was not to Beauclerk’s liking as in the following month he took leave of absence, being temporarily replaced by Captain John Clements, prior to the war ending in April.

After the resumption of hostilities in 1803 Beauclerk was appointed to the Majestic 74 in June, going out from Plymouth in August to serve with the Channel Fleet, and being at anchor in Berehaven Bay under Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder in December. In March 1804 she arrived at Plymouth and in April sailed with bullocks and vegetables for the fleet off Brest where she remained. During June Captain Edward Hawker temporarily acted as her captain for Beauclerk, and after a further few months with the Channel Fleet the latter passed the Majestic over to Captain Robert Moorsom at the end of the year.

Beauclerk was popular with the Royal Family and was a life-long friend of King William IV

In July 1805 Beauclerk recommissioned the Saturn 74, fitting out at Portsmouth and sailing on 17 November with the Gibraltar convoy. She then joined the Mediterranean Fleet under the orders of Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood, and Beauclerk was a member of the court-martial that dismissed Captain John Oakes Hardy from the service in September 1806 for ‘un-officer like conduct’. During the late summer the Saturn returned to England for a refit, and in September 1807 she came into Portsmouth with a convoy, having left Gibraltar on 17 August. She remained at Portsmouth for the next few months before sailing in December to join the fleet off Rochefort. From March to June 1808 Captain Thomas Boys held the acting command of the Saturn, and thereafter Beauclerk saw further service with her in the Channel Fleet off Brest.

In early February 1809 the Saturn and several other sail of the line sailed from Portsmouth to join Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan’s North Sea squadron in the Downs, where in May Beauclerk was appointed to the new Royal Oak 74. He served in the Walcheren Expedition from July, superintending the disembarkation of part of the army and then leading a brigade of four hundred seamen ashore where his willingness to get his hands dirty in the hard work of hauling guns up on to the beach was commented upon. On 4 October the Royal Oak returned to Portsmouth.

From December 1809 Beauclerk commanded a squadron off Cherbourg, where on 13 January 1810 a large frigate unfortunately escaped his blockade. At the end of July the Royal Oak arrived at Portsmouth from Cherbourg, and as a reward for his distinguished long service Beauclerk was appointed a colonel of marines on 31 July. He returned to his station off Cherbourg before seeing further service in the Basque Roads and off Rochefort, and in April 1811 he put back to Portsmouth from Cherbourg after another period in command there before returning once more to that station.

Upon being advanced to rear-admiral on 1 August 1811 Beauclerk left the Royal Oak, and in December, whilst he temporarily remained on the beach, he attended a sumptuous dinner given by the Navy for the Duke of Clarence at Portsmouth.

Returning once more to raise his flag aboard the Royal Oak, Captain Thomas Shortland, Beauclerk sailed from Portsmouth for the Downs in March 1812 with five sail of the line to join Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan in patrolling off the Schelde amidst rumours that the enemy fleet there was re-equipping. By June he was commanding the blockade of the Texel where nine sail of the line were anchored, and on 9 October he arrived in the Downs from the Dutch coast with six sail of the line before returning to that station where he remained until striking his flag the end of the year.

At the beginning of 1813 Beauclerk re-hoisted his flag aboard the Royal Oak at Portsmouth, and he got underway a couple of weeks later with several sail of the line and a couple of frigates to patrol off the Outer Hebrides until 10 May when the squadron returned to Portsmouth having enjoyed little opportunity of success against the enemy. In June he re-hoisted his flag on the Royal Oak at Portsmouth with Captain Edward Dix serving as his flag-captain, and he took command of a squadron which was sent to the North Capes in pursuit of two ships under the command of the American Commodore John Rodgers.

After returning to Portsmouth in October Beauclerk and the Royal Oak were ordered to Plymouth from where he set out for the Basque Roads at the end of the month, and in April 1814, as the Napoleonic War drew to an end, he negotiated a truce with the local French commander-in-chief at La Rochelle.

On 2 January 1815 Beauclerk was created a K.C.B. and on 12 August 1819 a vice-admiral. He had by now assumed a leading position in ‘Society’, as in August 1821 when he formed part of the King’s retinue on the occasion of the royal visit to Anglesey. He also spent time on the Continent in the early summer of 1822.

In June 1824 he was appointed the commander-in-chief at Lisbon and on the Portuguese coast, with the intention that he go out from Plymouth aboard the Blanche 46, Captain William Bowen Mends, and with Michael Wroot as his flag-lieutenant. He later shifted his flag to the Ocean 80 with Lucius Hardyman serving as his flag-captain until 1825 when he was replaced by Captain John Sykes. In early 1827 the Spartiate 76, Captain Frederick Warren, relieved the Ocean, and Beauclerk left the Tagus on 1 May 1828 to arrive home three weeks later after a draining voyage, whereupon he struck his flag and went ashore.

Returning to fashionable society, he spent much time with his extended family, as in September 1829 when their large party attended the Lincoln races. On 22 July 1830 he was promoted admiral, and in August became the principal naval aide to the newly crowned King William IV, who on 29 March 1831 created him a G.C.H. In August 1832 Beauclerk made the news after taking a cabriolet driver to court for driving his carriage so recklessly that his own gig was overset. During this period he was a regular visitor to the King at Windsor Castle, and he also dined with the royal family on many other occasions. He was further honoured by being invested with a G.C.B. on 4 August 1835.

From April 1836 Beauclerk was the commander-in-chief at Plymouth with his flag aboard the Royal Adelaide 104, Captains John Sykes, and with Lieutenant Humphrey Butler serving as his flag-lieutenant. In the summer of 1837 Sykes was replaced by Captain Sir William Elliott, and when that officer died in September 1838 he was succeeded by Captain Thomas White. Whilst holding this command Beauclerk still did his best to attend royal events, taking a steamer around to Portsmouth in April 1837 to travel overland to visit Queen Adelaide, and leaving Plymouth in March 1838 to visit the newly crowned Queen Victoria and be re-appointed the first and principal Naval aide-de-camp. He struck his flag aboard the Royal Adelaide at sunset on 1 May 1839 and thereafter did not see any further employment.

Lord Beauclerk died on 10 December 1846 at his home, Winchfield House, near Farnborough in Hampshire.

Beauclerk never married although he did father an illegitimate son, Charles de Vere Beauclerk, in his 65th year. His nephews, Lord Frederick Beauclerk, born on 28 June 1808, and Lord Amelius Wentworth Beauclerk, born on 16 August 1815, both became captains in the Navy. He owned a property in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square.

Beauclerk was an eccentric character, as illustrated by his notoriously performing a country dance with his old friend, King William IV, at the Brighton Pavilion in 1833. When commander-in-chief at Plymouth he would take a morning walk and would delight in being incognito. The locals considered him a popular old sea-dog and he was frequently described as gallant and respected. A Whig by political persuasion, he was a fellow of the Royal Society from 7 December 1809, and in 1816 he introduced into Yorkshire a specimen of flax which he hoped would be of benefit to the poor.