Category Archives: Biographies

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Seamen often curse and swear when they are aloft furling or reefing sails in a gale of wind; but I have never heard a sailor blaspheme on these occasions. Their language aloft is merely a mode of speaking. Although in the old days I have heard men blaspheme on deck, blasphemy was never heard aloft in a gale. To be aloft in a whole gale or in a hurricane impresses the mind with a sense of the almighty power of the Deity, and the insignificance of man, that puny atom, compared with the vast forces of the elements. In later life, I once said to a young man whom I heard using blasphemous language in a club: “If you were up with me on the weather yard-arm of a topsail yard reefing topsails in a whole gale, you would be afraid to say what you are saying now. You would see what a little puny devil a man is, and although you might swear, you would be too great a coward to blaspheme.”

And I went on to ram the lesson home with some forcible expressions, a method of reproof which amused the audience, but which effectually silenced the blasphemer.

The fact is, there is a deep sense of religion in those who go down to the sea in ships and do their business in the great waters. Every minister of God, irrespective of the denomination to which he belongs, is treated with respect. And a good chaplain, exercising tact and knowing how to give advice, does invaluable service in a ship, and is a great help in maintaining sound discipline, inasmuch as by virtue of his position he can discover and remove little misunderstandings which cause discontent and irritation. The discomforts of the Old Navy are unknown to the new. The sanitary appliances, for instance, were placed right forward in the bows, in the open air. If the sea were rough they could not be used. On these occasions, the state of the lower deck may with more discretion be imagined than described. As the ship rolled, the water leaked in through the rebated joints of the gun-ports, and as long as a gale lasted the mess-decks were no better than cesspools. It is a curious fact that in spite of all these things, the spirits of both officers and men rose whenever it came on to blow; and the harder it blew, the more cheery everyone became. The men sang most under stress of weather; just as they will to-day under the same conditions or while coaling ship. After a gale of wind, the whole ship’s company turned-to to clean the ship.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.


Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Henry Keppel -1809

Memoirs of Henry Keppel -1809

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 first installment of a selection of his memoirs, others will follow over the coming weeks,

There was life in the ‘small thing’

There was life in the ‘small thing’Harry Keppel, in the description of his sailor’s life, tells how he was born at Earl’s Court, Kensington, on June 14, [1809], so frail a child that he was deposited in his father’s footpan, to be interred in a garden at the back of the house, not being thought of sufficient importance to be entitled to a grave in consecrated ground; and yet, so wonderful are the contradictions and vagaries of Nature, that this frail atom of humanity, saved by the fond care of his nurse, lived to the age of ninety-four.  Descended from the Arnold Joost Van Keppel who accompanied the Prince of Orange to this country in [1688], and was created Earl of Albemarle, Harry unquestionably inherited his ancestor’s ‘sweet and obliging temper and winning manners.’  Burke said,   ‘The Keppels have two countries one of descent and one of birth.  Their interests and glory are the same.’

It is needless to say that Harry was born a pure Whig; and as his elder brother’s sponsor was Charles James Fox, so his was Henry Lord Holland, on whose statue in the park of Holland House is inscribed this quatrain:

Nephew of Fox and friend of Grey,
Be mine no higher fame
If those who deign to watch me say
I’ve sullied neither name.

His elder brother, Lord Albemarle, in his ‘Fifty Years of My Life,’ tells us how as a boy fresh from Westminster he obtained a commission as ensign in the 14th Foot, and was just in time to take part in the battle of Waterloo.

Harry has often told me how vivid was his recollection of hearing the news of that battle in his Norfolk home, and of his firm belief that his brother had personally vanquished the Great Napoleon Bonaparte in single combat.  This idea was not at all dissipated by the hero-worship which surrounded that brother on his return to Quidenham.

Out hunting one day, his fond father turned to a Norfolk farmer, and said with pride: ‘What do you think of my son’s horsemanship?’

‘He du ride just like a fule,’ replied the farmer in his Norfolk dialect.

Keppel’s schooldays were the schooldays of thousands of other high-spirited boys; and he remained a high-spirited boy to the end, an example of the truth and best meaning of the saying: ‘Whom the gods love die young.’

‘Granny’ a little child once asked, ‘are you old or young?’ ‘My dear’ was the answer,  ‘I have been young a great many years.’

And in his old age Harry Keppel was still young.

Coke of Norfolk, as he was habitually called, was a Whig of the old Charles Fox school, whose political sympathy with the Keppels drew the two families into close intimacy; and at an early age, when a large party was assembled at Holkham, Mr. Coke took Harry into his study and told him to sit in a particular chair; which he did, not without some apprehension of what was to follow.  He was soon relieved on being told by Mr. Coke that he had been sitting on the chair on which Nelson had once sat.  How little either then thought that the boy would follow in that great man’s footsteps!

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


Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia


John Wesley

John Wesley

John Wesley (1703-1791) led the most remarkable religious movement of the eighteenth century. From reading Luther on the Epistle to the Galatians, he came, like Luther, to lay the chief stress in religious teaching on personal faith in Christ.  He was himself an Anglican clergyman, but on account of his supposed mistaken zeal he was, in 1742, refused leave to preach in the church at his birthplace, Epworth, of which his father had been rector.

He preached instead in the churchyard, standing on his father’s tomb; hundreds were impressed by his words, and for more than forty years he continued the work thus begun.  George Whitefield, another clergyman of remarkable eloquence, aided him, until they quarrelled on a question of doctrine, but Wesley’s great organizing zeal directed the movement.

Their services were sometimes held in churches, but as often in the open air.  Near Bristol Whitefield preached to ten thousand of the mining population.  Both he and Wesley penetrated to the remotest parts of England, and their zeal carried them to America.  In each year Wesley travelled, usually on horseback, about six thousand miles, and preached about a thousand times.  His life is an amazing record of hard work.  His own desire was that his societies should remain voluntary organizations within the Church of England; he held no services during church hours, and at his meetings no sacraments were administered.  But soon after his death the “Methodists” severed their connection with the Church of England, and became an independent organization.

Excerpt from The British Nation by  George McKinnon Wrong – 1902 – Society in the Eighteenth Century

Sir Charles Lyttelton


Sir Charles Littleton – Governor and founder of the first town of Port Royal Jamaica in 1662

LYTTELTON or LITTLETON, Sir CHARLES (1629 – 1716), governor of Jamaica, born in 1629, was a younger son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton (1696-1650) q. v., first baronet, of Frankley, Worcestershire. He was a subaltern in the royal forces at the defence of Colchester against the parliamentarians in June-August 1648, and after the surrender escaped to France.   On 25 Oct. 1650 he was appointed cupbearer to Charles II.  He returned to England about 1659, and joined prominently in the rising in Cheshire that year, under Sir George Booth q. v. Lyttelton was committed to the Gatehouse, Westminster, on the warrant of the Lord Protector (Richard Cromwell), but was soon set at liberty.  He appears to have been employed on various secret missions between the king and his friends in England about the time of the Restoration (Carte, vol. ii.).  In December 1661 he received 600l ‘as a free gift’.

In 1662 Lyttelton was knighted and went to Jamaica as lieutenant-governor with Lord Windsor, and on the return of the latter to England succeeded him as governor.  He founded the first town of Port Royal, destroyed by the earthquake in 1692, and summoned the first legislative assembly, ‘fairly and indifferently drawn by the votes of all the inhabitants,’ which met at St. Jago de la Vega, now Spanish Town, 24 Jan. 1664. He left the island in May of the same year.  On 5 Nov. 1664 he was appointed major, with a company, and on 18 July 1665 lieutenant-colonel in the lord admirals regiment. This was the yellow-coated ‘maritime’ regiment, which was the precursor of the marine forces, and ranked as the 3rd foot. Twenty-three years later its place was filled by the Holland regiment or buffs.

Lyttelton’s company, which arrived at Portsmouth in November 1664, is described at containing ‘some very sightly men, who will do good service when used to the sea’ (State Paper, Dom. cv. 60).  On 6 April 1666 a warrant from Monck, duke of Albemarle, directs the payment to Lyttelton of 218l 5s. for 606 privates at 8l, twenty-one corporals and one drummer at 1l., and seven sergeants at 1s. 6d., lately brought from Ireland.

Excerpts taken from The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 12 – 1909

Granville Sharp

 Granville Sharp and the African Institution founded upon the passing of the Anti-Slavery Act of 1807championed by William Wilberforce.

Slave Trade Abolished Medal 1807
Slave Trade Abolished Medal 1807

 SHARP, GRANVILLE (1735-1813), philanthropist, pamphleteer, and scholar, born at Durham on 10 Nov. 1735 (old style), was ninth and youngest son of Thomas Sharp (1693-1758) q. v. and grandson of John Sharp q. v. archbishop of York. He was educated at Durham grammar school, but his father, though archdeacon of Northumberland, was possessed of small means and a large family, and in May 1750 Granville was apprenticed to one Halsey, a quaker linendraper of Tower Hill, London. He served successively under a quaker, a Presbyterian, an Irish Roman catholic, and an atheist.  During his scanty leisure he taught himself Greek and Hebrew, and in August 1757 he became a freeman of the city of London as a member of the Fishmongers’ Company. In June 1758 he obtained a post in the ordnance department, and in 1764 was appointed a clerk in ordinary, being removed to the minuting branch. In the following year he published ‘Remarks’ on Benjamin Kennicott’s ‘Catalogue of the Sacred Vessels restored by Cyrus,’ etc., defending ‘the present text of the old Testament’ against the charge of corruption in the matter of proper names and numbers; a second edition of Sharp’s work was published in 1775. This was followed in 1767 by a ‘Short Treatise on the English Tongue’ (two editions), and in 1768 by ‘Remarks on several very important Prophecies, in five parts’ (2nd ed. 1775). In 1767 his uncle, Granville Wheler, offered him the living of Great Leek, Nottinghamshire, but Sharp refused to take orders.

Meanwhile he had become involved in the struggle for the liberation of slaves in England. In 1766 he befriended a negro, Jonathan Strong, whom he found in a destitute condition in the streets, where he had been abandoned by his master, one David Lisle. Two years later Lisle threw Strong into prison as a runaway slave, but Sharp procured his release and prosecuted Lisle for assault and battery.

During the last years of his life Sharp took a prominent part in founding the British and Foreign Bible Society. He helped to found the African institution in 1807 – founded upon the passing of the Anti-Slavery Act of 1807 championed by William Wilberforce.

Excerpts taken from the Dictionary of National Biography Volume 17 – 1907



William Wilberforce

The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 21, 1909

William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce – A Leader of the Movement to Abolish the Slave Trade

William WilberforceWILBERFORCE, WILLIAM (1769-1833), philanthropist, born in the High Street, Hull, on 24 Aug. 1769, was the only son of Robert Wilberforce by his wife Elisabeth, daughter of Thomas Bird of Barton, Oxfordshire. Of three other children a daughter alone reached maturity. The family had long been settled in Yorkshire, and took their name from the township of Wilberfoss, eight miles east of York…

…Wilberforce was re-elected for Yorkshire without opposition in July 1802, and in 1804 again brought forward the abolition of the slave trade. Conditions had become more favourable. The anti-Jacobill sentiment which had animated the last parliament was no longer a dominant factor in the situation. The Irish members introduced by the union were almost unanimously against the slave trade, and public opinion nad been greatly altered. The abolition committee again became active, and was joined by Brougham, Z. Macaulay, and James Stephen and in the next year Clarkson was again able to take part in the agitation, after a long illness.

The new government of Fox and Grenville was generally in favour of abolition, though the opposition of two members prevented it from being adopted by the cabinet. Resolutions in favour of abolition were carried by 116 to 14 on 10 June 1806.  On the dissolution of parliament Wilberforce was again returned without opposition for Yorkshire in November, and afterwards finished a book upon the slave trade.  It was published on 31 Dec., and had a marked effect.   The bill for abolishing the slave trade was introduced in the House of Lords in January 1807, and, though still opposed by a few bigots, the second reading was carried by 100 to 36, and it was sent to the House of Commons on 10 Feb.  Counsel was heard against it during the following week. On 23 Feb. the chief debate took place, when Romilly, as solicitor-general, made an eloquent comparison between Napoleon and the ‘honoured man who would that day lay his head upon his pillow and remember that the slave trade was no more.’  Wilberforce was too much affected to be conscious of the cheers with which the house greeted him, and the motion was carried by 283 to 16.

The bill finally received the royal assent on 26 March 1807 just before the resignation of the ministry.  The ‘African Institution’ was founded upon the passing of the act, in order to promote the effective application of the measure and the suppression of the slave trade in foreign countries.

Wilberforce was henceforth the object of unique respect.

The Biography of Elizabeth I (1533-1603)


The Biography of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Queen of England and Ireland
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 6, 1908

ELIZABETH I (1533-1603), queen of  England and  Ireland, was born at Greenwich on 7 Sept. 1533. She was the daughter of Henry VIII, by Anne Boleyn q. v., whose secret marriage had been celebrated in the previous January. Three days after her birth (10 Sept.) she was baptised at the church of the Grey Friars at Greenwich by Stokesley, bishop of London, Cranmer, who had been consecrated archbishop of Canterbury that same year, standing as her godfather. The ritual was that of the Roman church, and the ceremonial was conducted with great pomp and magnificence. Margaret, lady Bryan, mother of the dissolute but gifted Sir Francis Bryan q. v., was appointed governess to the young princess, as she had previously been to her sister, the Princess Mary. Lady Bryan proved herself to be a careful and affectionate guardian, who, under circumstances of extraordinary difficulty, consistently kept in view the interests of her ward. During the first two or three years of her infancy the princess was moved about from house to house. Sometimes she was at Greenwich, sometimes at Hatfield, sometimes at the Bishop of Winchester’s palace at Chelsea. On Friday, 7 Jan. 1536, Queen Catherine died at Kimbolton. On Friday, 19 May, Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Next day the king married Jane Seymour. On 1 July the parliament declared that the Lady Mary, daughter of the first queen, and the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the second, were equally illegitimate, and that ‘the succession to the throne be now therefore determined to the issue of the marriage with Queen Jane. Less than six months before (Sunday, 9 Jan.), Henry, in the glee of his heart at Queen Catherine’s death, ‘clad all over in yellow, from top to toe, except the white feather he had in his bonnet,’ had sent for the little princess, who was ‘conducted to mass with trumpets and other great triumphs,’ and after dinner, ‘carrying her in his arms, he showed her first to one and then to another.’


The Biography of Mary I (1516-1558)

Mary I


The Biography of Mary I (1516-1558)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 12, 1909

MARY I (1516-1558), queen of  England and Ireland, third but only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, was born at four o’clock in the morning of Monday, 18 Feb. 1515-16 at Greenwich Palace. She was baptised with great solemnity on Wednesday, 20 Feb., in the monastery of Grey Friars, which adjoined Greenwich Palace. Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury q. v., carried her to the font, assisted by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Princess Catherine Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV, and the Duchess of Norfolk were her godmothers. Cardinal Wolsey stood godfather. The infant was named Mary, after her father’s favourite sister see Mary, 1496-1533, After baptism, the girl received the rite of confirmation, the Countess of Salisbury acting as sponsor. To the countess, a very pious catholic, the queen confided the general care of the child, while Catherine, wife of Leonard Pole (a kinsman of the countess’s husband, Sir Richard Pole), was appointed her nurse, and before she was a year old, Henry Rowte, a priest, became her chaplain and clerk of the closet. For her first year Mary chiefly lived under the same roof as her parents. The autumn of 1517 she spent at the royal residence of Ditton Park, Buckinghamshire, within easy reach of Windsor. In February 1518, when she was just two, Henry VIII, carrying her in his arms, introduced her to a crowd of courtiers, including Wolsey and Sebastian Giustinian, the Venetian ambassador. All kissed the child’s hand, but Mary suddenly cast her eyes on a Venetian friar, Dionisius Meno, the king’s organist, and calling out, ‘Priest, priest,’ summoned him to play with her (Giustinian, ii. 161; BREWER, i 232).  The childish cry – Mary’s first reported words – almost seems of prophetic import. About the same time Margaret, wife of Sir Thomas Bryan, was made governess to the princess, and there were added to her household a chamberlain (Sir Weston Browne) and a treasurer (Richard Sydnour).

The Biography of Edward VI (1537-1558)

The Biography of Edward VI (1537-1558)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 6, 1908

Edward VI
Edward VI

EDWARD VI (1537-1553), king of  England, was son of Henry VIII by his third wife, Jane Seymour, daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, Savernake, Wiltshire. His father married 19 May 1536, and the son was born at Hampton Court 12 Oct 1537. A letter under the queen’s signet announced the event to ‘the lord privy seal’ on the same day. The christening took place in the chapel at Hampton Court on 15 Oct Princess Mary was godmother, and Archbishop Cranmer and the Duke of Norfolk godfathers. The Marchioness of Exeter carried the infant in her arms during the ceremony. On 19 Oct. Hugh Latimer sent the minister Cromwell a characteristic letter, entreating that the child should be brought up in the protestant faith. Queen Jane Seymour died on 24 Oct., and the despatch sent to foreign courts to announce her death dwelt on the nourishing health of the prince. In his first year Holbein painted his portrait and that of his wet nurse,’ Mother lak.’ As early as March 1539 a separate household was established for the boy. Sir William Sidney became chamberlain, and Sir John Cornwallis steward. There were also appointed a comptroller, vice-chamberlain, almoner dean, lady-mistress, nurse, and rockers. Lady Bryan, who had brought up both the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, received the office of lady-mistress, and Sybil Penne, sister of Sir William Sidneys wife, was nominated chief nurse in October 1538. George Owen was the prince’s physician from the first.

The Biography of Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

The Biography of Henry VIII (1491-1547) King of England
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 9, 1908

Henry VIIIHENRY VIII (1491-1547), king of  England, was the second son of  Henry VII, by his queen, Elizabeth of York q. v. He was born at Greenwich on 28 June 1491. When little more than three years of age he was, 12 Sept. 1494, appointed lieutenant of Ireland, with Poynings as his deputy. On 31 Oct. following his father dubbed him knight of the Bath, and next day created him Duke of York. In 1495 he was admitted into the order of the Garter, and installed on 17 May. In 1501 a marriage was proposed between him and Eleanor, daughter of the Archduke Philip, but the project was soon dropped. After the death of his brother Arthur (1486-1502) q. v. he was created Prince of Wales on 18 Feb. 1503, and soon after contracted to his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon q. v.  A dispensation was granted for the match by Julius II on 26 Dec. 1503, and was sent by Ferdinand of Spain to England in 1504. But on 27 June 1505, being then close upon the age of puberty, he protested that the contract made during his minority was against his mind, and that he would not ratify it (Collier, Exl Hist., ed. 1862, ix. 66). This, however, was merely a device of his father to keep himself free from any engagement to Ferdinand until the latter should send to England Catherine’s stipulated dowry, only part of which had been paid see under  Henry VII. Owing to the dispute on this subject,  Henry VII to the close of his reign would not allow his son to proceed to the completion of this marriage, and young Henry himself was not impatient for it. Rumours were even spread that his father intended to marry him to Margaret, sister of Francis, count d’Angouleme, afterwards Francis I, a match first suggested by Cardinal d’Amboise. In 1506 Philip, king of Castile, who was driven by storms to land in England on his way from the Netherlands to Spain, conferred upon young Henry the order of the Toison d’Or.

From his earliest boyhood he was carefully educated. Erasmus, who visited the royal household when he was nine (or more probably only eight) years old, was struck even then with a sort of royal precocity of intellect which he combined with a highly polished manner. Boy as he was, he wrote during dinner a note to the great scholar requesting to be favoured with some production of his pen, which Erasmus gave him three days after in the form of a Latin poem (Prefatory epistle to Botxheim, in Catalogo Erasmi Lucubrationum, Basle, 1523). Nor was he less devoted to bodily than to mental exercises. At seventeen he was daily to be seen tilting at the ring with friendly rivals. At twenty-nine, when he had been some years king, and was the handsomest prince in Europe, he could tire out eight or ten horses in the course of a day’s hunting, mounting each successively after one was exhausted. His tennis playing also excited the admiration of the Venetian ambassador Giustinian. Added to these gifts was a great delight in music, and a devout observance of religious ordinances.

On 22 April 1509 he was called to the throne by his father’s death, and on 11 June following he married Catherine of Arragon. They were both crowned together at Westminster on the 24th. His father had been on ill terms with his father-in-law for some time before his death. But now many things were changed. A general pardon had been proclaimed at his accession; many debtors of the crown were released from their engagements; Empson and Dudley were thrown into the Tower, and were next year beheaded. Young Henry was at peace with all the world, and the first two years of his reign went merrily in pageants and festivities.