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.
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Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1902 – Order of Merit
His popularity was universal. At Cowes he visited Mr. Armour’s magnificent yacht, where he was piped on board at the suggestion of the quartermaster, who had never before seen him, but was an ardent admirer of his and had kept a record of all his exploits.
The inauguration of the new Order of Merit took place in Buckingham Palace on August 8, , and Harry, who had been selected for that great honour, must have been, I imagine, ten years older than any of the others who assembled for their investiture on that day. Nothing could exceed the gracious manner of the King in bestowing these and other decorations; and I am sure that everyone felt, as I did, how the honour was enhanced by His Majesty’s kind words to each recipient. On this occasion I was also honoured by a command to attend, to be invested with the Grand Cross of the Bath, and so was able to accompany him to Buckingham Palace. It was a sight I shall never forget to see those who were selected for that high and new Order.
Shortly after this the Athenaeum Club invited all the knights of the new Order of Merit to a dinner. My son William, probably the youngest member of that distinguished assembly, accompanied his uncle, whose health was proposed; but Sir Harry left the toast to be responded to by Sir Edward Seymour, not trusting himself to speak.
Few things bring death so vividly to our minds as a room deprived of a beloved presence. ‘The empty chair’ as Thackeray, I think, somewhere says, ‘mournfully whispers what yours and mine will some day be.’
The little treasures so dear to the possessor, so worthless in other eyes; the photograph which once gave so much pleasure, and brought back memories of loving friends and happy days long passed away, become only an encumbrance to those who remain, ignorant even of what they were and what they meant.
In his last years when the Admiral became somewhat deaf, his old friend, Mr. Read, went to visit him with Mr. Buckley, another old friend from Singapore; but Mr. Read and he found it difficult to understand each other. Turning to Mr. Buckley, Harry said, ‘There is no doubt we ought both to be in a lunatic asylum.’ But some short time before his death this deafness became worse, so bad, indeed, that he could not discern that his friends were even speaking. You have lost your voice, dear Algie,’ he said to me; ‘I cannot hear a word you are saying.’ And then, one day, he said he had been having luncheon with the King. ‘D-d dull it was; nobody except myself opened their lips all the time.’ And, sadder still, when his daughter hastened home from Malta, he thought for a few days that she would not speak to him. But three days before his death his boy had returned from the Pacific, and God, as of old, worked a miracle, and restored to him, as he lay on his bed, the hearing of his youth.
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