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that the failure of success on the 27th of July, was owing to the misconduct and fault of that commander.
A court-martial being ordered by the Lords of the Admiralty, the trial commenced at Portsmouth, on the 7th of January 1778, and was not closed till the 11th of the next month. The result was very flattering to the Commander-inChief, he was not only acquitted, but the charges against him were declared to be malicious and ill-founded. The acquittal was celebrated in London for two nights successively, with the usual testimonies of popular joy, but was also disgraced by the usual ebullitions of popular outrage. The iron gates or palisades of the Admiralty were but a weak defence against the fury of the mob, and the houses of Sir Hugh Palliser, of Lord Sandwich, and of several others were threatened to be de molished, until troops were brought forward to their protection. Admiral Keppel's friends were not less anxious to obtain for him some tribute of Parliamentary applause, and the thanks of both houses were voted to him for his conduct. Sir Hugh Palliser afterwards obtained a court-martial on himself, and with due magnanimity resigned his place at the Admiralty Board, his lieutenant generalship of marines, and his government of Scarborough Castle, besides vacating his seat in the House of Commons. The court-martial after sitting twentyone days, acquitted him, but not without a slight censure. The want of temper and policy, appears to have been his greatest crime. His signal bravery during the action of the 27th of July, was acknowledged by his enemies; and if he were really blameable for a voluntary neglect of signals, and contempt of orders after the action, the Commander-in-Chief cannot well escape some censure, for not enforcing obedience, when he knew the honour and interest of his country to be at stake.
At this period, there appears to have been a sinister genius operating on the British navy, and certainly the son of the King of England could not have entered at a more inauspicious time. Admiral Arbuthnot, with a squadron of men of war, and a large fleet of merchantmen and transports, bound for
New York, was proceeding down the channel, when he fell in with a vessel sent express from Jersey, with the first account of the danger of that island. He sailed directly with a part of his squadron for its relief, ordering the rest to wait his return in Torbay; but finding on his arrival off Guernsey, that the French fleet had been repulsed, he rejoined his convoy. This deviation from his course, though short, was the cause of much subsequent delay, as the fleet was detained for nearly a month afterwards by contrary winds. In the interval of its detention, it was apprehended that the French would receive intelligence of its great value, and of the force that protected it; in consequence of which, ten ships from the channel fleet were detached under Admiral Darby, to accompany Arbuthnot to a certain latitude. The channel fleet thus weakened, was obliged to suspend a plan for blocking up
the harbour of Brest, and the French availing themselves of the opportunity, hurried to sea with an imperfect equipment, and joined the fleet of Spain on the 24th of June. This junction was truly alarming, the two fleets amounting to more than sixty sail of the line, with nearly an equal number of frigates and smaller vessels, steered for the British ehannel, in the mouth of which, Sir Charles Hardy, who had succeeded Keppel, was cruising with thirty-eight ships of the line and some frigates. The combined fleets passed him about the middle of August, neither party observing the other, and appeared before Plymouth for two or three days, until a strong easterly wind compelled them to retire. The same wind had also driven the British fleet to sea; but on the last day of August, Sir Charles Hardy entered the channel in full view of the enemy, who followed him as high as Plymouth, but as their crews were said to be sickly, their ships to be in bad condition, and the season for equinoctial gales was fast approaching, Count D'Orvilliers steered back to Brest, early in September, without effecting anything further, than the capture of the Ardent man of war, which had accidentally fallen in with the combined fleets. The naval pride of England
was certainly much mortified at these occurences on her own coasts, but the hopes of France and Spain, in fitting out so great an armament, must have been greatly disappointed.
Such was the situation of the British navy at home and abroad, when it was determined that Prince William should become a sailor. They were no piping times of peace; but a period of danger, in which the existence of England itself, depended upon the exertions of the navy, and the enemy evincing a boldness and promptitude which promised them success, considering the comparative inferiority of the force which England could bring against them.
On the evening previously to the departure of Prince William, the whole of the royal family met at supper, at which that gloom prevailed, which is the usual attendant on the approaching loss of a member of a family, under whatever circumstances it may take place, but under those which accompanied the estrangement of Prince William from the family circle, the pain of separation was more acutely felt. being over, and the members of the family were about to retire to their respective apartment; the King on presenting Prince William with a bible, addressed him in the following terms, “ You are on the eve, my dear boy, of leaving the residence of your parents, to enter into the duties of a profession, in which I will not conceal it from you, that you will be obliged to undergo many privations, and be surrounded by many dangers. Let me impress it strongly upon your mind, that obedience to your superior officers is your first, your principal duty. By knowing how to obey, you will learn how to command, and think not that the high station in which you were born, absolves you from the performance of even the most menial duty attached to the rank which you may hold in the ship. Expect not that because you are the son of the King of England, that you will be treated with greater respect than what is shown to the other officers of the same rank as yourself. You will in every respect be subject to the same discipline, and the same routine of duty, as the other officers, and
I have issued my private commands to the officer, under whose orders you will be placed, that all distinction of rank shall be waived, and that the title of Prince be lost in the common name of the sailor. In presenting you with this book, I consider it the best gift which a father can make to a son, in the situation in which you are about to be placed ; in the midst of the dangers by which you will be surrounded, place your confidence in that God who can rule the tempest, and turn the sword of the enemy from you. You will, I fear, meet with many, who will turn your pious devotions into ridicule, but be not diverted by their sneers, from the performance of your duty to your God, and rest assured, you will thereby gain the respect and esteem of your superiors, and what you will find still more valuable to you, you will enjoy the consciousness of inward piety and rectitude, and which will carry you through the hour of trial and danger, with cheerfulness and composure. Now, go, my son, may the God of battles be with you, and should it please him to return you safe to the arms of your parents, may they receive you without a stain upon your honour-may you return to them an ornament to the glorious profession to which you are about to belong, and it will be a proud day in the life of your father, if by your courage and your skill, you may have contributed to the defeat of the enemies of your country, and to the security of your father's Crown.”
It was on the 15th of June 1779 that Prince William was rated as a midshipman on board the Prince George of 98, guns then bearing the flag of Rear Admiral Digby at Spithead. With the view of removing from his mind as much as possible, all idea of the superiority of his rank, his equipment was rather of a secondary character, than such as might be supposed to be furnished to a son of the King of England. The ridiculous foppery of a court dress, was laid aside for the plain blue jacket and trowsers of the sailor, and the little three cornered cocked hat was abandoned for the slouched low crowned hat of a member of a middy’s cabin. To say that Prince William expressed at first any particular pleasure at the situation in which he found himself, contrasting it as he did with the
royal splendour which he had just quitted, were to give him credit for a greater share of professional enthusiasm, than in reality belonged to him, or which could be expected from him. The transition from a power of command, to a state of the most unlimited obedience, from the power of control, to a station of direct submission, was too sudden to be immediately relished by a youth, who though possessing one of the principal requisites for his profession, namely courage, had in secret, argued the point with himself, touching the necessity of his entering a profession at all, considering the prospects which his rank in life held out to him. There is however one anecdote related of him, on his introduction into the midshipman's cabin, which shows that he had treasured up the counsels of his father, and that he was determined to act in conformity with them. Being seated at the midshipman's table, the youngsters of it did not know how to address him. Although they knew him to be a son of the King of England, yet there was a spirit of independence about them, which would not let them look upon him in any other light than their equal, subject in every respect to the same duties as themselves, and his superiors in rank according to the date of their commissions. There was something in the title of “your Royal Highness” too high sounding for them, and one of them, possessing a little more effrontery than the others, asked him “by what name he was rated in the books ?” “I am entered,” replied the royal youth, “as Prince William Henry, but my father's name is Guelph, and therefore if you please, you may call me William Guelph, for I am nothing more than a sailor like yourselves.” This trait of affability gained him the esteem of his youthful associates, nor did he by any after-conduct ever forfeit it.
Another anecdote that is related of the young Prince, is strongly corroborative of his natural generosity, and highmindedness. A quarrel once arose between him and a brother midshipman ; high words passed between the parties, till at length the Prince's opponent, losing all command of his temper, struck the Prince a severe blow on the face. He was a weak,