Sir George Johnstone Hope
1767-1818. Born on 6 July 1767, he was the son of Hon. Charles Hope Vere of Craigiehall, Linlithgow, and of his third wife Helen Dunbar. He was the grandson of the 1st Earl of Hopetoun, cousin of Vice-Admiral Sir William Johnstone Hope, uncle of Admiral Sir Henry Hope, and step brother of Captain Charles Hope.
Having been educated in Edinburgh, Hope joined the Navy in 1782 and was commissioned lieutenant on 29 February 1788. He was further promoted commander on 22 November 1790, and from February to June 1792 he commanded the sloop Racehorse 16, removing from her to the Bulldog 16 and sailing for the Mediterranean in August of that year.
At the commencement of the French Revolutionary War in 1793 he was commanding the Bulldog 14 in the Leeward Islands, and returning to Europe he took several prizes off the Iberian Peninsula which were sent in to Gibraltar during May. He was employed in the same vessel at the occupation of Toulon from August, and having briefly commanded the Éclair 18, which had been captured from the French in June by the Leda 36, Captain George Campbell, he was posted captain on 13 September, being appointed to the Leviathan 74 on a temporary basis for Captain Lord Hugh Seymour-Conway who had been sent home with dispatches. However, on 27 October it was announced that Hope had arrived at Portsmouth aboard the Bulldog with Hood’s dispatches, which he delivered personally to the Admiralty. He then appears to have gone out to Toulon once more before coming home with further dispatches in December.
By August 1794 he was commanding the Romulus 36, which arrived at Portsmouth from the Mediterranean in December of that year. She was later present at the Battle of Genoa on 13-14 March 1795 and thereafter continued to serve off that coast. In September she was despatched on a cruise to the south of Sardinia with the Diadem 64, Captain Charles Tyler, in which the two vessels took five French prizes and sent them into Corsica. When the fleet under Admiral Sir John Jervis retired into the Tagus in the autumn of 1796 the Romulus was one of three vessels that remained at Gibraltar, and in company with the Mahonesa 36, Captain John Giffard, she captured the Spanish brig Nuestra Senora del Rosario off Cadiz on 24 May 1797.
It was later reported that whilst out on a cruise, the men of the Romulus demanded that the ship be returned to England otherwise they would mutiny, to which demand Hope virtually agreed if it were in his power to do so. Coming into Lisbon after the cruise, the Romulus was surrounded the next morning on the orders of Admiral Lord. St. Vincent and her crew exchanged with men from other ships in the fleet.
During the first week of November 1797 Hope took command of the Alcmène 32 at Gibraltar for the sickly Captain William Brown, and over the winter and into the following spring he led a frigate squadron out of the Tagus on several cruises which took a number of prizes, the most lucrative of which, El Cid, Cadiz-bound from Buenos Aires, was taken on 4 April off Cape St. Vincent. In May 1798 he was dispatched by St. Vincent into the Mediterranean to join Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, but during the early part of the campaign which preceded the Battle of the Nile on 1 August, he caused that officer some consternation by taking the fleet’s frigates back to Gibraltar following the storm in which Nelson’s flagship Vanguard 74, Captain Edward Berry, had been badly damaged, thereby depriving the fleet of its ‘eyes’ at a crucial juncture. Arriving off Egypt after the battle, Hope joined Captain Samuel Hood in the blockade of the remaining French forces, and on 22 August captured the Légère 6, bound for Alexandria from Toulon, with two of his crew rescuing vital French dispatches which had been thrown overboard, for which bravery and prowess they received £20 pensions from the City of London. His boats later cut out eight vessels laden with wine and brandy for the French Army from the Damietta Road on 21 September.
The Alcmène next joined Nelson off Naples, where following a rebellion and the advance of the French Army through Italy her boats assisted in the evacuation of the Neapolitan royal family on 20 December. She then remained off the city to keep a watch on the Neapolitan Navy before joining Nelson at Palermo on 5 January 1799.
On 8 March 1799 Hope was succeeded aboard the Alcmène by Captain Henry Digby at Gibraltar, and he joined the Majestic 74 at Naples. On 5 April his new command drove a 16-gun French privateer ashore to the east of Velez Malaga, and being unable to bring her off set her alight. Thereafter he served under the orders of Rear-Admiral John Duckworth in the Mediterranean until he brought home the Mediterranean convoy at the end of October. The Majestic was then paid off in December.
From September 1800 he fitted out the Prince of Orange 74 at Chatham before commissioning the newly launched Leda 38 in November at the same port. This frigate went down to Blackstakes to take on ordnance in December, and after arriving at Spithead from the Downs in January 1801 she was sent to cruise off the French coast. On 14 February she entered Plymouth before putting out again in early March to join the Channel Fleet, and shortly afterwards she recaptured the letter-of-marque Bolton 22 on the French coast. She subsequently sent the chasse-maree Desiree, laden with wheat from Lorient to Brest, into Plymouth in early April, and amongst other prizes and recaptures she also took the Cherbourg privateer Jupiter on 1 May 1801, which was also sent into Plymouth, and to which port the Leda herself returned on 14 May.
At the end of May 1801 the Leda in company with the Active 38, Captain Charles Sydney Davers, embarked a detachment of guards and treasure at Portsmouth for conveyance to Egypt, and on 28 May they passed Plymouth on their voyage south. By September the Leda was with the fleet off Cadiz under the orders of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Morice Pole, prior to entering the Tagus in November. During December she was at Gibraltar, on which station she served into the following summer, returning to Portsmouth via Cadiz on 26 July after the peace had been concluded with France. She then entered Portsmouth in early August to be paid off, and having brought home a beautiful Arab horse for delivery to the Prince of Wales.
After the recommencement of hostilities with France in 1803, Hope recommissioned the Defence 74 at Chatham in May, being sent out in haste from Sheerness in July amidst rumours that an enemy fleet was in the North Sea. Thereafter he served out of Yarmouth in the Downs and North Sea for the next fifteen months, including a patrol of the Netherlands in early 1804, prior to putting out of Sheerness in October for Portsmouth.
At the end of October 1804 the Defence sailed from Portsmouth under the orders of Vice-Admiral Sir John Orde to patrol off Cadiz, but upon sustaining a great deal of damage when striking rocks in April 1805 she was forced to return to Portsmouth in the following month. After being docked she was re-provisioned with the expectation of sailing at the end of June, but was then found to be so leaky that she was immediately unloaded and taken into dock again. During July she left Portsmouth having undergone a through refit, and she went around to Plymouth to join the Channel Fleet in accordance with the Admiralty’s plans to counter the threat of an allied invasion. However, she had no sooner put to sea from the Devonshire port than she was chased down by a gun-brig with orders to join Admiral Lord Keith in the North Sea instead, and she arrived off Deal on 28 July. Within days, news of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder’s battle with the Franco / Spanish fleet off Cape Finisterre filtered through, and it being no longer necessary to retain the Defence in the Downs she was back at Portsmouth by 2 August, preparatory to joining the Channel Fleet.
The Defence was subsequently dispatched with Calder’s replacements to join Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson off Cadiz, and at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805 was placed last in Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood’s line and thus arrived late into battle. In suffering casualties of seven men killed and twenty-nine wounded she engaged the Berwick 74 for half an hour until that vessel broke off the action, and she later forced the San Ildefonso 74 to strike colours after an hour’s engagement, at which point the Polyphemus 64 was bearing down upon them. After surviving the storm that followed the battle the Defence reached Portsmouth on 1 December, and five days later she sailed around to Chatham to make good damage received in the engagement, prior to being paid off on Boxing Day.
In March 1806 Hope recommissioned the Theseus 74, which vessel was still at Sheerness in July before sailing for Portsmouth from the Downs with a convoy. She then put out for Plymouth on 27 July, and in August began embarking troops for what at the time was reported to be a secret expedition. Contrary orders were then received to disembark the troops and for her to set sail at the beginning of September under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis to intercept Jerome Buonaparte’s squadron. After becoming detached in a chase and springing her mainmast, she arrived back at Plymouth on 14 October, being despatched to Falmouth shortly afterwards.
On 13 November 1806 the Theseus sailed from Falmouth under the orders of Commodore Hon. Robert Stopford of the Spencer 74 in escort of five thousand troops commanded by Brigadier-General Robert Crauford which were destined for the River Plate. Departing the Cape Verde Islands on 11 January 1807, the force diverted to the Cape as the naval commander of the expedition, Rear-Admiral George Murray, had failed to make a rendezvous. The Theseus and Spencer then left the Cape on 5 April for St. Helena to bring home the trade, but finding no ships at the island the two vessels sailed on to reach Portsmouth on 9 June, and Hope left his command shortly afterwards.
At the beginning of March 1808 he recommissioned the Pompée 74 at Chatham, but in the same month was appointed the captain of the fleet to Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez aboard the Victory 100, Captain Philip Dumaresq, going out to the Baltic. During August he embarked on a packet and then transferred into a gun-brig in order to return home with dispatches of a vital nature, following which it was reported that he would return to the Baltic with instructions for the commander-in-chief. The Victory returned home in November, but Hope continued to serve in the Baltic with Saumarez for the next few years, going out again in in May 1809 to return home in December, then again in May 1810 prior to coming home in early December. During the course of the same year he was appointed a colonel of marines. In April 1811 he went out once more to the Baltic with Saumarez, and although he was promoted rear-admiral on 1 August he remained as captain of the fleet. When the commander-in-chief returned home in December 1811 Hope continued in the Baltic with his flag aboard the Ardent 64, Captain Robert Honyman, in order to collect the convoy which was to have been brought home by the Rear-Admiral Robert Carthew Reynolds of the St. George 98, which officer was lost with his flagship on 24 December. The Ardent with Hope eventually arrived at the Nore on 10 January 1812.
In March 1812 he was appointed a junior lord of the Admiralty, retaining this post until May 1813 under his kinsman, Viscount Melville. In the meantime, in October 1812, and following Saumarez’ return home upon the death of his daughter, Hope was appointed to command in the Baltic, and he left the Downs for Gothenburg with his flag aboard the Egmont 74, Captain Joseph Bingham, to arrive at Karlshamm towards the end of October. He returned to England in December with a convoy in addition to fifteen Russian sail of the line and four frigates, and after landing at Sheerness on the 11th he returned to town he resume his position at the Admiralty
In March 1813 he was re-appointed commander-in-chief in the Baltic, and he left Yarmouth on the 27th of that month with his flag aboard the Defiance 74, Captain Richard Raggett, and a number of smaller men-of-war, together with a large number of empty transports which were to be used to carry Swedish troops to Pomerania. Arriving at Gothenburg at the end of the month, he set off to consult with the Swedish government in Stockholm, and by the end of May was off Kioge Bay where letters were sent in on behalf of Britain and Sweden to the Danes, who were still allied to Napoleon. In August Hope was off Rostock, and returning to Britain in September he visited his brother in Scotland prior to arriving in London from Edinburgh on 18 October to take up another appointment as a lord of the Admiralty.
Hope received a Swedish military order in 1813, and he was created a K.C.B. on 2 January 1815, being presented to the Prince Regent at a levee shortly afterwards. Following his election to parliament in 1815 he was active both in the House of Commons and in his role as a lord of the Admiralty, visiting Deptford and Chatham in 1816, and Portsmouth, Milford Haven and Plymouth in 1817. In January 1818 he was appointed a major-general of marines, but in March it was announced that he had returned to London from Hastings and was to retire from the Admiralty Board on account of a steady decline in health. Accordingly he resigned from the Admiralty in April.
Before he could make good on his intention to retire to Scotland, Admiral Hope died on 2 May 1818 at his residence in the Admiralty. His funeral took place on 9 May attended by the new Board of Admiralty, and he was interred at Westminster Abbey.
Hope was originally known as George Hope and only assumed the name George Johnstone Hope in later life. He was married twice, firstly on 28 January 1803 at Hopetoun House to his cousin, Lady Jemima Hope Johnstone, the youngest daughter of the 3rd Earl of Hopetoun, by whom he had a daughter and a son, Sir James Hope, who became the admiral of the fleet. Following her death on 5 September 1808 he was married by special licence at St. James’ Church, London, on 1 December 1814, to Hon. Georgiana Mary Anne Kinnaird, the daughter of the 7th Lord Kinnaird, with whom he had another daughter.
He was the M.P. for East Grinstead from 14 April 1815 in Lord Liverpool’s interest and at the behest of the Dowager Duchess of Dorset. He was also a groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of Sussex from 1805 until his death, and a director of Greenwich Hospital from 1815.
Hope was regarded as a typical, frank seaman, and had the manners of a perfect gentleman.