Sir Henry Hotham

1777-1833. He was born on 19 February 1777, the third and youngest surviving son of Beaumont Hotham, the second Baron Hotham of South Dalton, Yorkshire, a judge and M.P., and of his wife, Susanna Hankey. He was the nephew of Admiral Lord William Hotham and the cousin of Admiral Sir William Hotham.

Schooled at the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth from May 1788, Hotham entered the navy in 1790 aboard his uncle’s flagship, the Princess Royal 98, Captain John Holloway, before serving in the Channel aboard the Lizard 28, Captain John Hutt, and in the Mediterranean on the Lapwing 28, Captain Hon. Henry Curzon, which he had joined in July 1791.

In April 1793 he was taken aboard Vice-Admiral Lord Hood’s flagship Victory 100, Captain John Knight, being present at the occupation of Toulon from August. He saw action in the siege of Bastia during the Corsican Campaign from February 1794, and on 6 June was appointed lieutenant of the Aigle 38, Captain Samuel Hood. Returning briefly to the Victory following the capture of Calvi under forces led by Captain Horatio Nelson, he moved to his uncle’s flagship, the Britannia 100, Captain Holloway, on Hood’s departure for England.

The monument to Sir Henry Hotham overlooking Valetta Harbour.

On 12 November 1794, and still shy of his eighteenth birthday, his uncle, the new commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, promoted Hotham to the command of the sloop Flèche 18, which had been taken at Bastia. Even more absurdly, and having risen from the rank of midshipman in just over six months, he was posted captain of the Calvi-prize Mignonne 32 on 13 January 1795. In the event, this frigate was found to be unseaworthy, and instead he served as a volunteer aboard the Egmont 74, Captain John Sutton, being present at the Battle of the Hyeres Islands on 13 July.

In September 1795 he joined the Dido 28 when her captain, George Towry, was promoted into the Minerve 40 after effecting that frigate’s capture. One of his first acts was to take a Yarmouth merchantman carrying oil and fruit into Gibraltar after it had been discovered unmanned and drifting. On 27 December the Dido sailed from Lisbon to Gibraltar, and in the early summer of 1796 she was with the Mediterranean Fleet off Cadiz.

Continuing in the Mediterranean, Hotham was appointed to the frigate Blanche 32 on 7 January 1797, but the men, who had previously been subjected to the indifferent discipline of the disgraced Captain Charles Sawyer and had then enjoyed Captain d’Arcy Preston’s enlightened tenure, rebelled against his posting out of a concern for his renowned severity. With the crew refusing to hear Hotham read in, Commodore Horatio Nelson eventually had to go aboard the Blanche and cajole the men in to accepting him. Once settled in, and after an inauspicious initial cruise that resulted in the capture of a mere chest of oranges, the Blanche captured a valuable prize bound from Havana to Cadiz in July, and she took the French privateers Coureur 14 after a three-hour chase on 20 November, and the Bayonnois 6 on 27 December after a six hour chase to the west of Portugal, during which pursuit the enemy threw her guns over the side.

In the early summer of 1798, the Blanche was in the Tagus, and she later escorted the Oporto convoy home, being detached with thirty ships for Ireland, Liverpool and Bristol, and arriving at Portsmouth in early July. Somewhat surprisingly, when the Blanche was paid off in August, her crew were allowed to join any ship they so desired, and many were reported to have opted for the Tigre 74, commanded by the enigmatic Captain Sir William Sidney Smith.

From January 1800 Hotham commanded the Immortalite 36 with much benefit to his pocket in the Bay of Biscay, retaking a British merchantman laden with timber from Quebec on 20 September, and destroying a grounded French brig off Noirmoutier two days later, in the course of which incident the Immortalite also grounded with the loss of an anchor, cable and a boat. During the same cruise she chased two French privateers, the Brave and Bellone, for almost two hundred and sixty miles out into the Atlantic without capturing either, although she did take the privateer Le Diable à Quatre 16 off Bordeaux on 26 November.

Returning to Plymouth in mid-January 1801, the Immortalite was with the frigate squadron which captured the French frigate Dèdaigneuse 36 off Ferrol on 28 January, although she was not engaged, and she survived a hurricane force gale before departing in March for a cruise in which she captured the French privateer Laure 18 off the south-west coast of Ireland. Hotham next displayed great skill in command of the Inshore Squadron off Brest when reconnoitring the French fleet during May, and the Immortalite captured a unique four-masted flush-decked privateer, the Invention 24, off Cape Finisterre on that vessel’s first voyage out of Bordeaux on 27 July. In early October she chased a 20-gun French corvette under the batteries at Corunna, until the wind failed and she was hulled several times by the Spanish cannon, although without suffering any casualties. She arrived at Falmouth on the 23rd, and after putting out again a week later, she was soon back at Plymouth where on 9 December she was severely battered by a gale whilst anchored in the Sound.

During the early months on 1802 the Immortalite cruised in and out of Plymouth and Falmouth, seeing some service against smugglers west of the Scilly Islands, and she had to be refitted after enduring a number of heavy gales in March. With the French Revolutionary War drawing to a close, she spent May returning Irish seamen to Cork, Waterford, Dublin, and Belfast, and in June 1802 she arrived at Portsmouth to be paid off.

Following the resumption of hostilities in 1803, Hotham was appointed to the Imperieuse 44 in August, with the frigate sailing on a cruise from Plymouth in early September but returning for repairs weeks later after springing her mainmast in the Bay of Biscay whilst chasing a French frigate. She left harbour in mid-October, saw service off Cape Clear, and returned to Plymouth on 21 January 1804 having left Portugal twelve days earlier with the Oporto convoy. By the end of March, she was in the Downs.

In April 1804 the officers and crew of the Imperieuse transferred to the Révolutionnaire 44 which was fitting out at Portsmouth for ‘a noble prince’. She sailed for Cork on 31 May, arrived in the Tagus during July, and brought the Duke of Sussex back from Lisbon to Portsmouth on 14 August. At the end of the month, she escorted an East Indian convoy to safe waters before proceeding to Halifax, and by November she was off New York. For some three months over the winter, she blockaded the French frigate President 40 in the Chesapeake, it being known that Jerome Buonaparte was seeking to obtain passage home aboard her, and this standoff was the cause of much merriment in the American Press. During early March 1805 the Révolutionnaire returned to England, giving passage to the recalled Captain William Bradley of the Cambrian 40 and achieving the crossing in a record sixteen days.

On 27 March 1805 the Révolutionnaire departed Portsmouth, and in the following month she received orders to fit out once more for a royal prince, again reportedly the Duke of Sussex, who was bound for Lisbon. On 20 August, during the Trafalgar campaign, she entered Plymouth from the Channel Fleet off Brest with news that Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder had been dispatched to his old station off Ferrol, and she later served under Commodore Richard Strachan at the capture of the escapees from the Battle of Trafalgar on 4 November, suffering casualties of two men killed and six wounded.

In March 1806 Hotham was appointed to the Defiance 74, which on 10 April sailed from Portsmouth to Plymouth prior to joining the Channel Fleet at the end of the month, with Hotham taking command of the squadron off Lorient. The Defiance arrived at Falmouth from Belleisle on 28 July, and after returning to the fleet, she sailed for the Tagus with Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent in August. She returned to Plymouth for a refit in February 1807 and sailed in early March to join Commodore Richard Keats off Rochefort, where she remained for the rest of the year.

In the first weeks of 1808 the Defiance arrived at Plymouth for an overhaul and to provision for five months, and although she departed a month later, she had to go up the harbour for another refit towards the end of March. On 22 May she sailed to rejoin the Channel Fleet, and Hotham subsequently commanded a squadron of two sail of the line and two frigates off Ferrol on the north coast of Spain. When news of the Spanish revolt against Napoleon reached him, he provided a passport to a Spanish officer who wished to take the news to South America. By October, he was in the harbour at Corunna under the orders of Rear-Admiral Hon. Michael de Courcy where he worked closely with the Spanish patriots and sent his squadron to protect their dispersed troop transports. After a brief visit to Plymouth, the Defiance sailed for Rochefort on 30 October, where by January 1809 Hotham had three sail of the line and four frigates under his command in opposition to three French sail of the line, a 50-gun vessel, and two frigates.

On 24 February 1809, whilst serving under Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Stopford in the Bay of Biscay, the low draught of the Defiance allowed her to work inshore and drive three French frigates aground at Les Sables d’Olonne. These vessels had formed part of the French force that would later come under attack from Captain Lord Cochrane at the Battle of the Basque Roads on 11 April. On 19 April the Defiance again left Plymouth for Rochefort, and towards the end of June Hotham assisted the Spanish who were in the process of evacuating Coruna and Ferrol, by helping fit out of five sail of the line, an equal number of frigates and some sloops of war, which were dispatched to Cadiz to put them out of French way. He also sent men ashore to destroy French guns and engage in cutting out expeditions. On 21 October the Defiance arrived at Plymouth from Rochefort to refit and re-victual, and by November she was patrolling in Quiberon Bay. On the last day of the year her boats cut out a British West Indiaman from Le Palais, Belleisle, which had been taken thither by a French privateer, and had an estimated value of eighty thousand guineas.

Remaining in Quiberon Bay during the early months of 1810, the Defiance’s boats cut out three chasse-marees on 1 June after a row of six hours. Back at Plymouth, on 11 July two teenage deserters who had been condemned to death by a court-martial were brought up on deck for their expected execution, only to be advised that they had been reprieved at the pleasure of the King.

The destruction of the Ariane and Andromache, 22 May 1812.

In August 1810 Hotham transferred to the Northumberland 74, sailing on 22 September from Portsmouth for Brest, and serving afterwards off Lorient and Rochefort. An early capture on 22 November was the St. Malo privateer Gleneuse 14 after the Northumberland had chased her for some hours the day previously but had then lost her at night. On board the prize was an Irishman who claimed to have been seeking a passage to his native isle, but who was sentenced to death by the jury at his trial with an appeal for mercy. The Northumberland was employed with Channel Fleet off Brest for the remainder of the year.

At the end of March 1812, the Northumberland arrived at Plymouth, and she went up the Hamoaze on 4 April to refit. Whilst ashore, Hotham attended a levee with Prince Regent. Once back at sea, on 22 May his exceptional knowledge of the French coast near Lorient enabled him to drive ashore two frigates, the Ariane 40 and Andromache 40, in addition to a brig, the Mamelouk 16, which force had already accounted for thirty British merchant vessels. During June the Northumberland was in dock at Plymouth having her mizzen fitted with the expectation that she would sail for the Basque Roads on 1 July, and she returned to Plymouth on 24 December.

In January 1813 the Northumberland was paid off and Hotham was appointed the captain of the fleet to Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren off North America, sailing that month for Halifax with a broad pennant aboard the Hogue 74, Captain Thomas Bladen Capel, and joining Warren aboard the St. Domingo 74. In this role he presided over the court-martial into the capture of the Macedonian 38, Captain John Carden, by the United States 44 on 25 October. He later undertook the role of captain of the fleet aboard the Asia 74 for Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane.

Hotham was nominated a colonel of marines on 4 December 1813, and on 4 June 1814 he was promoted rear-admiral. In August he raised his flag aboard the Superb 74, Captain Hon. Charles Paget, and he led a force of two sail of the line and three frigates operating between the Delaware and Martha’s Vineyard in blockade of the American heavy frigates. Whilst engaged on this task, his squadron captured, burnt, or destroyed one hundred and sixteen American vessels between 6 August and 29 January 1815 alone, and on 15 January 1815, ships from his squadron captured the U.S.S President 44.

On 2 January 1815 Hotham was created a K.C.B., and he had reached Plymouth by April after returning to England at the end of the War of 1812. During Napoleon’s One Hundred Days he led the blockade of the coast around Rochefort with his flag aboard the Superb 74, Captain Humphrey Fleming Senhouse, and his knowledge of the Biscay coast helped prevent the emperor’s escape to America, indeed, it was to the Bellerophon 74, Captain Thomas Maitland, acting under Hotham’s orders, that Napoleon surrendered on 15 July, allowing Hotham to breakfast with the old enemy on the next morning. Returning once more to England, on 7 September he struck his flag at Plymouth.

On 26 March 1818 he became a lord of the Admiralty under Viscount Melville, albeit that within two months it was mooted he might resign at the recommendation of his physician. A tour of the country appears to have restored him, and in October he undertook an inspection of Sheerness Docks. Rumours about his poor health resurfaced in April 1819, but he continued at the Admiralty until March 1822 and was also a regular attendee at Court. He became a vice-admiral on 27 May 1825 and returned to the Admiralty under Melville in the Duke of Wellington’s Tory government from September 1828 until the Whigs assumed power in November 1830, during which period he toured Portsmouth Docks in June 1829.

Rumours had abounded as early as 1825 that Hotham would take the Mediterranean command, and it was finally announced in January 1831 that he would succeed Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm. This was regarded in some quarters as a political appointment which would upset Vice-Admiral Sir John Gore, who had considered himself primed for the role, and much derision was made of a comment that Hotham would have the post as he was the ‘most distinguished officer in the service’. Towards the end of the month, he had an audience with the King at Brighton, in February and March he attended two more levees, and after another long audience with the King he at last hoisted his flag at Portsmouth aboard the St. Vincent 120, Captain Sir Humphrey Fleming Senhouse, on 5 April. Even then he attended another levee in London, and it was not until 20 May that he sailed for his station to succeed Malcolm at Malta on 24 June. Shortly afterwards, on 4 July 1831, he was made a K.C.M.G.

During 1832 Hotham’s squadron was at Nafplio in the Peloponnese where he was busily involved with affairs relating to Greek independence, and at the end of the year the St. Vincent was ordered to Lisbon, leaving him temporarily without a flagship. In January 1833 he returned to Nafplio aboard the Alfred 74 to attend the newly installed King Otto of Greece.

Sir Henry Hotham died suddenly at Malta on 19 April 1833 after a very short illness described as a bleeding of the skull. He was buried at the Msida Bastion Cemetery at Floriana. The Belvidera 38, Captain Hon Richard Saunders Dundas, brought home Lady Hotham to arrive at Portsmouth on 18 June.

He married Lady Frances Anne Juliana Rous, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Stradbroke and half-sister of Admiral Hon Henry John Rous, at St. Georges, Hannover Square, on 6 July 1816 and had three sons, Henry John, Frederick Henry, and Beaumont Williams, the first two entering the clergy and the third the Army. His brother, the Hon. Beaumont Hotham, was the father of Captain Hon. George Hotham, who was posted in 1828, and another brother, Rev. Francis Hotham, was the father of Captain Sir Charles Hotham, who was posted in 1833.

In 1819 he had a residence in Grosvenor Place, in 1828 a residence in Hertford Street, and he also built Silverlands at Chertsey in Surrey.

Despite his reputation for harshness amongst the men, Hotham was well regarded by his contemporaries, both as an officer and a gentleman.