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 third installment in our series of a selection of his memoirs, others will follow over the coming weeks.
CHAPTER III – Memoirs of Henry Keppel -1832
While still in the ‘Magicienne’ Keppel was sent on a little blockading expedition to the Moowar River, where he was to assist the Rajah, who was a loyal adherent of the English. The Rajah provided him with elephant and alligator shooting. So struck was he with Keppel that he offered him his daughter in marriage on condition that he should become heir to his throne of Moowar. This offer was not sufficiently tempting. Had he accepted it he would have avoided a nasty tossing from a buffalo and a bad fall out hunting at Barrackpur. Such accidents, however, were the rule rather than the exception in his career, and in after-years he often remarked, with a laugh, ‘There is not a bone of my body that has not been broken,’ adding, and some of them have never been set!’.
At Madras the mail brought him news of his promotion to the rank of commander, and he immediately returned home in a trading vessel, which reached England in . On arrival he found an invitation awaiting him to dine with the King at the Pavilion at Brighton. The Duke of Sussex, who was staying there, took Keppel to Holkham, which he was delighted to revisit, though later he returned to Brighton. At that time Almack’s balls took place at the Pavilion, where the King and Queen held their Court from October to February. One morning the King’s carriage came round to the door with the coachman evidently drunk. The King indulged in strong naval language, and, evidently thinking he was still on board ship, told the coachman he would report him to the master-at-arms!
Here Keppel made acquaintance with the dandies of the day, with whom Lord Lamington has made us all so familiar; but in the middle of these amusements he was appointed to the brig ‘Childers’ for service in the Mediterranean, and was presented at Court by Sir James Graham, then First Lord of the Admiralty.
He was advised by his brother-in-law, through whose instrumentality he had obtained his nomination, not to show himself at the Admiralty, where the Board might think his appearance too young and small to justify his appointment; so he went straight down to Portsmouth, where bills were soon posted, ‘Wanted, petty officers and able seamen for H.M.S. “Childers,” Commander Keppel; none but the right sort need apply.’ And the right sort did apply.
Excerpt from Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West – 1905
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