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Henry William Paget, first Marquis of Anglesey (1768-1854)

This article was written by Ernest Marsh Lloyd and was published in 1895

AngleseyHenry William Paget, first Marquis of Anglesey 1768-1854, was eldest son of Henry Paget, earl of Uxbridge, who died in 1812. His younger brothers were Arthur, Charles, and Edward.

Born in London on 17 May 1768, he was educated at Westminster School and at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1790 he entered parliament as member for the Carnarvon boroughs, which he represented till 1796; he was afterwards M.P. for Milborne Port in 1796, 1802-4, 1806, and 1807-10. He served in the Staffordshire militia, which was commanded by his father; and in September 1793 he raised a regiment of infantry, the Staffordshire volunteers, chiefly from his father's tenantry. This was one of twelve regiments added to the establishment on the outbreak of the war with France, and became the 80th of the line. He was given the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel on 12 September 1793. Three months afterwards he took his regiment to Guernsey, and in June 1794 they joined the army under the Duke of York in Flanders.

The success of Jourdan at Fleurus and Charleroi in that month obliged the allies to evacuate the Netherlands. The British army fell back before Pichegru from Tournay to the Dutch frontier; it eventually had to cross the Rhine, and embarked for England at Bremen in the following spring. For a considerable part of this time Lord Paget (as he then was), though a soldier of only twelve months' service, was in command of a brigade. Sir Harry Calvert, who was on the Duke of York's staff, says that in the autumn there was only one major-general available for five brigades of infantry, and this was particularly detrimental to the service, because ‘the field officers are many of them boys, and have attained their rank by means suggested by government at home’.

In 1795, to give him a permanent position in the army, Paget was commissioned as lieutenant in the 7th Royal Fusiliers on 11 March, captain in the 23rd Fusiliers on 25 March, major in the 65th foot on 20 May, and lieutenant-colonel of the 16th Light Dragoons on 15 June. He was made colonel in the army on 3 May 1796, and on 6 April of the following year he became lieutenant-colonel of the 7th Light Dragoons.

In the expeditionary force — half English, half Russian — which was sent to Holland in 1799 under the Duke of York, he had command of the cavalry brigade, which consisted of his own and three other regiments. The operations were confined to the promontory north of Amsterdam, which did not give much scope for cavalry action; but in the battle of Bergen on 2 October, he made good use of an opportunity. Vandamme, who was engaged with Abercromby's division on the sandhills by the coast, seeing that some British guns were unsupported, charged at the head of his cavalry and captured them just before nightfall; but he was charged in his turn by Paget with the 15th light dragoons, the guns were recovered, and he was pursued for nearly a mile to Egmont-op-Zee. Four days afterwards, in the affair at Kastricum, the British cavalry again distinguished itself, and took five hundred prisoners. But the expedition had proved a failure. On 18 October hostilities ceased, and the army re-embarked for England.

Paget now devoted himself to his regiment, of which he became colonel on 16 May 1801, and made it one of the best in the army. He became major-general on 29 April 1802, and lieutenant-general on 25 April 1808. He went to Portugal in 1808, but was unattached and not engaged. In the latter part of that year he was given the command of the cavalry division which was sent out to join the army of Sir John Moore. He landed at Coruña, and, in spite of great difficulties from want of supplies, succeeded in joining Moore at Salamanca on 24 November. On 11 December Moore moved northward, and on the 20th united with Baird at Mayorga. Next day Paget, with the 10th and 15th hussars, pushed on to Sahagun, which was occupied by the French. He arrived there before daylight, and, sending the 10th straight on, he led the 15th round the town to cut off the enemy's retreat. But the alarm had been given, and he found six hundred dragoons drawn up in line to receive him. The 15th was only four hundred strong, and the 10th was not in sight, but he charged, routed the enemy, and took 167 prisoners.

The retreat began three days afterwards. It was full of suffering for all, but especially trying to the cavalry because of the want of shoes for the horses. Half of the horses were lost, and those that remained had to be destroyed at Coruña, as there was no room for them in the transports. Yet the cavalry played its part well in covering the rear of the army and imposing respect on the enemy. At Mayorga, on 26 December, Paget, seeing a strong body of French horse on a hill, sent two squadrons of the 10th against it, who charged up the hill, killed twenty men, and took one hundred prisoners. Three days afterwards, at Benavente, General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, fording the Esla with six hundred men of the chasseurs à cheval, pressed upon the British cavalry piquets. The latter kept the French in check until Paget brought up the 10th, and then, charging with the 10th in support, they drove the French back across the river, and took seventy prisoners, including the general. The day before this affair Moore had himself written: ‘The only part of the army which has been hitherto engaged with the enemy has been the cavalry, and it is impossible for me to say too much in their praise. ... Our cavalry is very superior in quality to any the French have, and the right spirit has been infused into them by the example and instruction of their two leaders, Lord Paget and Brigadier-general Stewart.’

Paget saw no further service in the Peninsula. He commanded an infantry division in the Walcheren expedition, and remained in that island till 2 September 1809. For the next five years he was unemployed. He became Earl of Uxbridge by the death of his father, 13 March 1812, and was made G.C.B. 2 January 1815.

A few months later, in the spring of 1815, he was ordered to Flanders. He was appointed to the command of the whole of the cavalry and horse artillery in the army under the Duke of Wellington, though, until the morning of Waterloo, the Prince of Orange retained the control of the Dutch and Belgian horse. The duke left him full discretion in handling the cavalry. ‘I felt,’ he says, ‘that he had given me carte blanche, and I never bothered him with a single question respecting the movements that it might be necessary to make’. On 17 June he was told to remain at Quatre Bras as long as he conveniently could, to give time for the army to retire on Waterloo. He remained there till 1 p.m., and then retired in a leisurely way before the French advance. After passing through Genappe, he placed his old regiment, the 7th Hussars, on the high road, some two hundred yards behind it, with the 23rd light dragoons in support. As soon as the lancers, who headed the French advanced guard, issued from Genappe, they were charged by the hussars; but the latter were not able to penetrate them, and the action went on for some time with alternate success. At length Uxbridge sent forward two squadrons of the 1st lifeguards, which overthrew the lancers and pursued them into Genappe. The retreat was then continued slowly, unmolested except by artillery fire. ‘It was the prettiest field-day of cavalry and horse artillery that I ever witnessed,’ Anglesey wrote.

On the 18th, when the English left was attacked by D'Erlon's corps, about half-past one, Uxbridge directed General Ponsonby to charge the French columns, already shattered by the fire of Picton's troops. While the union brigade was dealing with the infantry, Uxbridge himself led forward Somerset's brigade (chiefly consisting of household cavalry) against a brigade of Milhaud's cuirassiers, who were upon the left of D'Erlon's corps, and who had routed a Hanoverian battalion which was advancing to support the garrison of La Haye Sainte. General Shaw Kennedy says that this was ‘the only fairly tested fight of cavalry against cavalry during the day. It was a fair meeting of two bodies of heavy cavalry, each in perfect order.’ The French brigade, which seems to have been numerically weaker, was completely defeated, and the English horsemen swept on in spite of all the efforts of Uxbridge to stop them by voice and trumpet. He went back to bring up the second line, to cover the retirement of the first, but it was too far to the rear. He owned afterwards that it was a mistake on his part to lead the attack himself — a mistake, too, which he had made once before, and had had reason to regret. The household brigade, like the union brigade, while brilliantly successful, lost nearly half its strength, mainly from having to defend itself, when scattered and exhausted, against fresh cavalry. Uxbridge claimed that the effect of this charge was such that for the rest of the day, ‘although the cuirassiers frequently attempted to break into our lines, they always did it mollement, and as if they expected something more behind the curtain;’ but other observers hardly bear out this impression.

He received a wound in the knee from one of the last shots fired in the battle, and his leg had to be amputated. The limb was buried in a garden in the village of Waterloo; a monument was placed over it, and it is still a source of income to the proprietor. A more genuine memorial was erected on the summit of Craig y Dinas, Anglesey, ‘in commemoration of the consummate skill and undaunted bravery’ displayed by him at Waterloo. The first stone of the column was laid on the first anniversary of the battle. Uxbridge wore an artificial leg for the remainder of his life. He was created Marquis of Anglesey on 4 July 1815, in recognition of his services. He was made a knight of the Garter in 1818, and acted as lord high steward at the coronation of George IV. He became general in the army on 12 August 1819.

Anglesey's leg

Shown in this photo are Anglesey's stump cap (bottom right). For months after the amputation, the stump gave Anglesey great pain and it was well into 1816 before the wound was properly healed. Also shown is his glass water bottle in a wickerwork case (bottom left). The main part of the photo shows "the Anglesey leg" – one of his artificial limbs dating from about 1830. It was patented by James Pitts of Chelsea and — since it was jointed — was a great advance over the “clapper leg”, so called because of the noise it made in use.  Anglesey walked daily: at the age of 67 he recorded “I walked 7 or 8 miles yesterday – [my doctor] Hahnemann is astonished”’ and at 71 he danced the Polonaise at the Emperor of Russia’s Winter Palace.

When Canning formed his ministry, and the Duke of Wellington resigned the master-generalship of the ordnance, as well as the commandership-in-chief, Lord Anglesey was appointed to succeed him in the former post, which carried with it a seat in the cabinet. He was master-general from 30 April 1827 till 29 January 1828. He then succeeded Lord Wellesley as lord-lieutenant in Ireland (27 February). The Duke of Wellington had become prime minister in January, and the change was supposed to be of his making, but in fact the appointment had been settled before the new ministry was formed, and they merely confirmed it.

Anglesey's sympathies were with the Canningite portion of the government, and when they seceded in May he intimated to the duke that he might find it necessary to follow their example. His relations with the duke and Peel, not thoroughly cordial to begin with, soon became strained. Ireland was in a ferment, and the Catholic Association, under O'Connell's guidance, was forcing forward the question of catholic emancipation, which the king would not hear of, and which the ministry was pledged to him not to enter upon. ‘God bless you, Anglesey! I know you are a true protestant,’ the king had said, when Anglesey took leave of him before going to Ireland. ‘Sir,’ he replied, ‘I will not be considered either protestant or catholic; I go to Ireland determined to act impartially between them, and without the least bias either one way or the other’. He soon came to the conclusion that some concession must be made. Writing to the new chief secretary on 2 July to explain the situation, he said: ‘I abhor the idea of truckling to the overbearing catholic demagogues. To make any movement towards conciliation under the present excitement and system of terror would revolt me; but I do most conscientiously, and after the most earnest consideration of the subject, give it as my conviction that the first moment of composure and tranquillity should be seized to signify the intention of adjusting the question’.

With these views he tried to calm the public feeling. He was averse to interference with processions and meetings; and in his conversation and his answers to addresses he showed his wish to have the question settled. The king wanted to recall him in August, but the duke was unwilling to take that step without such reasons as would satisfy the public, and on 11 November wrote a strong letter of remonstrance to him, complaining especially of the countenance shown by the lord-lieutenant to members of the Catholic Association. A correspondence followed, which the duke regarded as ‘intemperate’ on Anglesey's side, and on 28 December the duke informed him that, as this correspondence had left them in a relation which ought not to exist, the king had decided to recall him. Anglesey's departure from Ireland was hastened, but it was not caused, by his letter to Dr. Curtis, the Roman catholic archbishop of Armagh. Dr. Curtis had drawn from the Duke of Wellington a letter, in which he said that he should not despair of seeing a satisfactory remedy if party spirit disappeared, and recommended that the question should be buried in oblivion for a time. On seeing this letter, Anglesey wrote to Dr. Curtis dissenting from the duke's opinion, and advising, on the contrary, that ‘all constitutional (in contradistinction to merely legal) means should be resorted to to forward the cause; but that, at the same time, the most patient forbearance, the most submissive obedience to the laws, should be inculcated’. This letter, written on 23 December, was published on 1 January 1829, and led to his immediate recall, though he continued to hold the office of lord-lieutenant till March. Anglesey's general attitude, and especially his latest action, had made him very popular in Ireland, and the day of his departure was kept as a day of mourning in Dublin. The door seemed to be closed more firmly than ever against catholic emancipation; but the Duke of Wellington had been gradually breaking down the king's resistance, and on 5 February the relief bill was announced from the throne.

When Lord Grey became prime minister, Anglesey was again made lord-lieutenant, on 23 December 1830; but the agitation for repeal had now taken the place of that for emancipation, and he at once found himself at war with O'Connell. ‘Things are now come to that pass that the question is whether he or I shall govern Ireland,’ Anglesey wrote, a month later, when it had been determined, after a long consultation with the law officers, to arrest O'Connell. O'Connell thought it best to plead guilty, but the war between them continued, and by July O'Connell was writing: ‘I wish that ridiculously self-conceited Lord Anglesey were once out of Ireland. I take him to be our present greatest enemy.’ The lord-lieutenant had to ask for stringent coercion acts, which were distasteful to a section of the whig cabinet, and the renewal of which was in fact the cause of its break-up in 1834. But before that time Anglesey had left Ireland. He was succeeded by Lord Wellesley as lord-lieutenant in September 1833. The most satisfactory work of his viceroyalty was the establishment of the board of education, in which he took an active part. This brought him into close relations with Archbishop Whately.

When Lord John Russell formed his ministry in 1846, Anglesey became for the second time master-general of the ordnance, on 8 July, and remained so till 27 February 1852. It was during his tenure of the office that the letter of the Duke of Wellington to Sir John Burgoyne drew general attention to the "defenceless state of our coasts", but little came of it at the time. He was made field-marshal on 9 November 1846, and lord-lieutenant of Staffordshire on 9 November 1849. He had been lord-lieutenant of Anglesey since 21 April 1812. After holding the colonelcy of the 7th light dragoons for more than forty years he exchanged it for the horse-guards, on 20 December 1842.

He died at the age of eighty-six, on 29 April 1854, and was buried in the family vault in Lichfield Cathedral. His portrait was painted by Lawrence, and a copy of it (by W. Ross) is in the United Service Club. He was tall, with a courteous bearing; impetuous, but not wanting in shrewdness and judgment. He was no speaker, but he showed his readiness in repartee on a well-known occasion. At the time of Queen Caroline's trial a mob of her sympathisers, who knew he was no friend of hers, insisted on his cheering her. He complied, and gave: ‘The Queen, and may all your wives be like her!’

He had married (25 July 1795) Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, third daughter of the Earl of Jersey, by whom he had three sons and five daughters; but in 1810 she obtained a divorce, and he then married Charlotte, daughter of Earl Cadogan, the divorced wife of Henry Wellesley, afterwards Lord Cowley, by whom he had three sons and three daughters.

His eldest son by his second marriage, Lord Clarence Edward Paget 1811-1895, was educated at Westminster School, and joined the navy in 1827. He served as a midshipman on board the Asia at Navarino. He was captain of the Princess Royal, of 91 guns, in the expedition to the Baltic in 1854, and during the blockade and bombardment of Sebastopol in 1855; he also took part in the expedition to Kertch and Yenikalé (medals, Sebastopol clasp, and fourth class of the Medjidie). He attained flag rank in 1858, and was made a rear-admiral of the red in 1863, vice-admiral in 1865, admiral in April 1870, and was placed on the retired list in 1876. From 1859 to 1866 he was secretary to the admiralty in Lord Palmerston's second administration, and from 28 April 1866 to 28 April 1869 was commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. He was a privy councillor, and became a G.C.B. in May 1886. He represented Sandwich in the liberal interest from 1847 to 1852, and from 1857 until he took command in the Mediterranean in 1866. He died at Brighton on 22 March 1895. He married, in 1852, Martha Stuart, daughter of Admiral Sir Robert Otway, G.C.B., by whom he left issue. Lady Clarence Paget died at Brighton on the day after her husband's death.

Anglesey's second son by his second marriage was Lord Alfred Henry Paget 1816-1888, for many years equerry and clerk-marshal of the royal household. He was educated at Westminster School, became a lieutenant in the blues on 14 March 1834, purchased an unattached company on 20 October 1840, and exchanged into his father's regiment, the 7th hussars, in which he served for several years; he rose finally to the rank of general on the retired list in 1881. He was chief equerry to the queen and clerk-marshal from July 1846 to March 1852, from December 1852 to March 1858, and from June 1859 to August 1874, when he resigned the office of chief equerry only. He represented Lichfield in the whig interest from 1837 to 1865. He died on board his yacht Violet at Inverness on 24 August 1888, leaving a family by his wife Cecilia, second daughter and coheir of George Thomas Wyndham of Cromer Hall, Norfolk.

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