Memoirs of Henry Keppel – 1829

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Memoirs of Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. “A man might achieve great legislative results, do great deeds, and be a most useful member of society, but unless he possessed the gift of personality he would be to the general public as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”  Henry Keppel undoubtedly possessed that gift.

Below is the second installment of a selection of his memoirs, others will follow over the coming weeks.

Chapter II – 1829

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On the arrival of the ‘Tweed’ at Spithead in August [1829], Keppel found, to his joy, that he was just in time for Goodwood.  He had inherited a love for racing, and found that his father as Master of the Horse had three of the King’s horses entered for the Goodwood Cup.  He asked with which horse he should win.  ‘Win with all three,’ said His Majesty, and the orders were obeyed.  The first three horses were his: Fleur-de-Lis, 1; Zingaree, 2; Colonel, 3.  

Harry Keppel again virtually became one of the staff of the Duke of Sussex, and accompanied him in visits to various country houses.  Captain Marryat, the future author of ‘The Naval Officer,’  ‘Peter Simple,’  ‘Midshipman Easy,’  and ‘Masterman Ready,’ which have delighted so many generations of readers, was also on the Duke’s staff, and it was believed that the principal characters in his books were taken from real life.

At that time the uniform of the staff in the evening was a green coat with royal brass buttons, buff cloth waistcoat, and trousers.  

During this short stay at home Keppel was, as a great honour, introduced to the Beefsteak Club, called the ‘Sublime Society,’ which was founded in [1735] by John Eich, the famous harlequin.  It consisted of twenty-four members.

Among the rules were:

‘Beefsteaks shall be the only meat.

‘Broiling begins at two of the clock; tablecloth removed at three of the clock.

‘Any wagers lost to be paid to the treasurer.

‘Any member absenting himself three successive days of meeting, unless excused by a majority, shall be expelled.

‘A member allowed one guest.

‘The Society consists of a president, a vice-president, a bishop, a recorder, a boots.

The meetings generally broke up in time for the theatres.

The president’s chair, carved in oak, with a gridiron and motto, ‘Beef and Liberty,’ was bought at Christie’s in [1867] for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales.

Among the names of the few members appeared those of Hogarth, Sandwich, the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Leinster, Lord Brougham, and Mr. Whitbread, each member having his crest and motto on his chair.  Soon after Keppel’s admission to the Society his brother-in-law was presented with a silver cigar-case bearing the inscription: ‘That he may keep us in his mind who lives in our hearts this case is presented to our brother, Henry Frederick Stephenson, by the hand of his Royal brother, the Duke of Sussex, in his and our names, in grateful remembrance of his service.’

Excerpt from Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West – 1905

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Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia