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. Below is an excerpt from his memoirs as published in one of the books in our library ‘Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West’ -1905.
Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.
Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1891
To get to his room involved a climb of between seventy and eighty steps; but that did not prevent the Queen and Princess Victoria from paying the ‘Little Admiral’ a visit in his declining years.
It is pleasant to see how the affection of the mother was shared by the children. ‘Sir,’ began a letter, which is lying before me, from the Prince of Wales’ That is the proper way for a lieutenant to address an Admiral of the Fleet, but I hope I may begin, “My dear Little Admiral,” which I always call you.’
His buoyant temperament was easily upset by sorrow, and he could not bear a funeral. When his elder brother, Lord Albemarle, died in , Harry attended a military service for him in Westminster Abbey. A mounted escort preceded the cortege from the Abbey, in the first coach of which he was seated. He showed some restlessness in going through Trafalgar Square, which reached a climax when he came ‘abeam’ of the Senior, and he said to his grandson: ‘Look here, Bury ; I can’t stand any more of this. Let us bring up at my club.’ And so the whole cortege was stopped, and he was released from the funeral trappings, and took refuge in his beloved old club, of which he was the senior member. When, still later on, his old friend Sir George King died, he expressed his determination to attend his funeral, notwithstanding all the persuasions of his daughter. The next day he told her that he was much annoyed at discovering that the funeral was fixed for the day of the Stockbridge Races. I think,’ he said, that I could go to the funeral and get on in time for the races; but perhaps people would not think that very nice of me, so I have made up my mind to give up the funeral’
Harry always took a deep and kindly interest in my boy Gilbert’s successful but too short naval career, which closed in . Standing by his grave in Wanborough churchyard, he said: Dear Gilbert, twenty-eight; I, eighty-two. How inscrutable are the ways of Providence. Twentyeight should be well and strong here, and eightytwo should be lying in the grave there.’ In the early days of February  died Admiral of the Fleet Sir Provo Wallis. He was born in , and I have been told that at four years of age he was entered on a ship’s books as a cook’s mate. If this were so, had he lived for four more years he would have enjoyed full pay for a hundred years; for in a scheme of retirement in  he was, by a special clause in the Act, retained on the Active List until his death, and he would have been in the Navy twenty-six years before Keppel commenced his career. When the Duke of Edinburgh’s command had come to an end he was very anxious to revive the practice, long abolished, of giving what was called a haul-down promotion to his flag-lieutenant, Colin Keppel. Great influence was brought to bear on the First Lord of the Admiralty to get him to make an exception in his favour; but Lord Spencer was not a man to allow himself to be influenced in any direction that, in his opinion, was not to the advantage of the Service over which he presided.
Further Reading and External Links