Lord Molyneux Shuildham
@1717-98. He was born at Ballymulvy, County Longford, the second son of the Reverend Lemuel Shuldham and his wife, Elizabeth Molyneux.
He entered the Navy in 1732 aboard the Cornwall 80, Captain George Forbes, the future Earl of Granard, serving thereafter in the Solebay 20, Captain Charles Fanshawe, and Falkland 50, Captain Fitzroy Lee. Having passed his lieutenant’s examination on 25 January 1739 with a commission date of 31 August 1739 he was appointed to the Tilbury 60, Captain Robert Long, serving in the West Indies and participating in Rear-Admiral Sir Chaloner Ogle’s unsuccessful attack on Cartagena in Spanish South America during the spring of 1741. He had risen to become the Tilbury’s first lieutenant when she was destroyed by fire in the West Indies on 21 September 1742 with the death of many of her crew, after an argument between a marine and a purser’s boy got out of hand. At the subsequent court martial the officers were acquitted of all blame for the ship’s loss.
Whilst commanding the bomb Blast 8 on the Jamaican station on 19 October 1745 his vessel was captured by a couple of Spanish xebecs off Point Pedro after an astonishing defence , suffering the appalling casualties of thirty-nine men killed and thirty-eight wounded from a crew of one hundred and thirteen. Having battered the Blast into a floating wreck the Spanish called on Shuldham to surrender but the young commander stood by the colours even as the Spanish boarded. One enemy attempted to shoot Shuldham in the face but when his gun misfired struck him to the deck with the butt and stamped on his prone body. Instantly a British seaman shot the Spaniard dead. Once the inevitable striking of the colours had been effected the wounded Shuldham was removed to one of the xebecs and ill-treated until a French officer came to his rescue. Similarly the Spanish governor at Havana behaved impeccably, restoring Shuldham’s property, dismissing the xebec commanders after giving Shuldham the opportunity to sanction their immediate execution, and giving him letters of credit to ease his period of parole in Spain.
After returning to England Shuldham was posted captain of the Sheerness 20 on 12 May 1746, serving off Scotland, and in December 1748 moved to the Queenborough 24 before commissioning the new Unicorn 28 in March of the following year, serving in the Mediterranean in 1750-1 and being paid off in June 1752. After being appointed to commission the Seaford 20 in October 1754 he moved to the Warwick 60 in March 1755, going out to the Leeward Islands. Once more he was to lose his ship when the Warwick was captured off Martinique on 11 March 1756 by the French Prudente 74 and frigates Atalante 32 and Zéphyr 32 with the loss of one man killed and three wounded, despite the fact that the impending war had not yet been declared. The defeat was largely a result of his crew being ridden with sickness, whilst his ship was also slow and unable to use her lower deck guns due to her lack of sea-worthiness. After a period of imprisonment in Poitiers, Shuldham returned to England in March 1758 aboard a cartel. Upon being acquitted for the loss of the Warwick he was appointed to commission the new Panther 60 on 25 July 1758, going out to the Leeward Islands in November and serving at the reduction of Guadeloupe during the spring of 1759.
Whilst still in the Leeward Islands in July 1759 he exchanged with Captain John Montagu into the Raisonnable 64, but for the third time he lost a ship when she was wrecked on a reef whilst engaging the batteries at Fort Royal Martinique on 8 January 1762. He was temporarily appointed by Rear-Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney to his flagship the Marlborough 70, and several days later to the Rochester 50, from which he moved again a few weeks later to Rodney’s new flagship, the Foudroyant 80. He remained with this vessel thereafter and sailed for England at the peace.
Shuldham was re-employed in December 1766 aboard the guardship Cornwall 74 at Plymouth and from November 1770 commanded the newly commissioned Royal Oak 74 during the Spanish dispute over the Falkland Islands, remaining with her for over a year when she too was commissioned as a guardship at Plymouth. From 14 February 1772 he was the commodore and commander-in-chief at Newfoundland with his flag in an old command, the Panther 60, Captain Cornthwaite Ommanney, sailing out in the late spring of each of the following two years year and being promoted to rear-admiral on 31 March 1775. Meanwhile in 1774 he became M.P. for Fowey at the General Election, retaining the seat for ten years in Lord North’s interest.
On 30 December 1775 he arrived at Boston with his flag in the Chatham 50, Captain John Raynor, and having initially been appointed to a subordinate role was ordered to replace Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves as commander-in-chief in North America on 27 January. His instructions were to co-operate with the troops ashore and to destroy local trade. Promoted vice-admiral on 3 February 1776, he evacuated the fleet and army to Halifax but as the war escalated was superseded himself, much to his outrage, by Vice-Admiral Lord Howe in June 1776. Nevertheless, pending the arrival of Howe he commanded the station in the early stages of the New York campaign from July-October 1776, and on 31 July he was somewhat compensated for his loss of the command by being raised to the Irish peerage as Baron Shuldham.
He returned home early in the new year, and on 22 March 1777 he became the commander-in-chief at Plymouth, holding the post until 1783 and occasionally escorting merchantmen out to sea, as in late 1778 when he escorted Commodore Joshua Rowley’s Leeward Islands reinforcement and an East India convoy out into the western approaches. He was also charged with sending out vessels to counter the growing menace of the American privateers. Amongst other flagships he served in during his time at Plymouth were the Dunkirk 60, Captain John Milligan, during the autumn of 1782, and the Blenheim 90 and Cambridge 80, both vessels being commanded by Captain Broderick Hartwell.
Shuldham was promoted to the rank of admiral on 24 September 1787 and died at Lisbon on 30 September 1798. His corpse was taken aboard the Colossus 74, Captain George Murray, to be returned home for burial, but was temporarily lost when that vessel was wrecked in the Scilly Isles on 10 December 1798. Once his body was eventually discovered at the end of the year it was laid to rest at Wyredsbury, Buckinghamshire on 9 January 1799. At the time of his death Shuldham was junior only to Admiral Lord Howe on the admirals’ list.
He had no issue from his marriage on 4 October 1790 to Margaret Irene Sarney, widow of John Harcourt of Ankerwycke Park, Buckinghamshire, and his barony lapsed on his death.
He was a particular friend of Lord Sandwich, the first lord of the Admiralty, who respected his capabilities far more than did the rest of the cabinet or Shuldham’s peers and fought hard both to retain him in the North American command and to offer him the Leeward Islands command. The friendship continued after Sandwich left office, and not only did Shuldham loan the profligate politician £8,000 in 1784 but he also offered to provide for his children. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1777..During 1778 it was alleged by supporters of Captain William Brereton that Shuldham was responsible for the defamation and eventual dismissal from his ship of that officer.