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Sir George Murray 1772-1846

This article was written by Robert Hamilton Vetch and was published in 1894

Sir George Murray, general and statesman, second son of Sir William Murray, bart., and Lady Augusta Mackenzie, seventh and youngest daughter of George, third earl of Cromarty, was born at the family seat, Ochtertyre, Crieff, Perthshire, on 6 February 1772. He was educated at the High School and at the university of Edinburgh, and received an ensign's commission in the 71st regiment on 12 March 1789. He was transferred to the 34th regiment soon after, and in June 1790 to the 3rd footguards. He served the campaign of 1793 in Flanders, was present at the affair of St. Amand, battle of Famars, siege of Valenciennes, attack of Lincelles, investment of Dunkirk, and attack of Lannoy. On 16 January 1794 he was promoted to a lieutenancy with the rank of captain, and in April returned to England. He rejoined the army in Flanders in the summer of the same year, and was in the retreat of the allies through Holland and Germany.

In the summer of 1795 he was appointed aide-de-camp to Major-general Alexander Campbell, on the staff of Lord Moira's army in the expedition for Quiberon, and in the autumn on that for the West Indies under Sir Ralph Abercromby, but returned in February 1796 on account of ill-health. In 1797 and 1798 he served as aide-de-camp to Major-general Campbell on the staff in England and Ireland. On 5 August 1799 he obtained a company in the 3rd guards with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was employed on the staff of the quartermaster-general in the expedition to Holland, and wounded at the action near the Helder. He returned to Cork, whence in the autumn of 1800 he sailed for Gibraltar, was appointed to the staff of the quartermaster-general, and sent upon a special mission. In 1801 he was employed in the expedition to Egypt, was present at the landing, was engaged in the battles of 13 and 21 March at Marmorici and Aboukir, at Rosetta, and Rhamanie, and at the investments of Cairo and Alexandria. In 1802 he was appointed adjutant-general to the forces in the West Indies.

The following year he returned to England and was appointed assistant quartermaster-general at the horse guards. In 1804 he was made deputy quartermaster-general in Ireland. In 1805 he served in the expedition to Hanover under Lieutenant-general Sir George Don. In 1806 he returned to his staff appointment in Ireland. In 1807 he was placed at the head of the quartermaster-general's department in the expedition to Stralsund, and afterwards in that to Copenhagen under Sir William Schaw, afterwards Earl Cathcart. In the spring of 1808 he was quartermaster-general in the expedition to the Baltic under Sir John Moore, and in the autumn he went in the same capacity to Portugal. He was present at the battle of Vimiera, the affairs at Lago and Villa Franca, and at the battle of Corunna. His services on the staff were particularly commended in Lieutenant-general Hope's despatch containing the account of that battle.

On 9 March 1809 he received the brevet of colonel, and was appointed quartermaster-general to the forces in Spain and Portugal under Lord Wellington. He was present in the affairs on the advance to Oporto and the passage of the Douro. He was engaged in the battles of Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onoro, and Vittoria. He returned home in 1811, and in May 1812 was appointed quartermaster-general in Ireland. There he remained until September 1813, when he again joined the army in the Peninsula, and took part in the battles of the Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse, and in the subsequent operations until the termination of hostilities in 1814. He had been promoted major-general on 1 January 1812, and on 9 August 1813 he was made colonel of the 7th battalion of the 60th regiment. He was made a K.C.B. on 11 September 1813, before the enlargement of the order. On his return home in 1814 he was appointed adjutant-general to the forces in Ireland, and at the end of the year was sent to govern the Canadas, with the local rank of lieutenant-general.

On the escape of Napoleon from Elba, Murray obtained leave to join the army of Flanders, but various delays prevented him reaching it until Waterloo had been fought and Paris occupied. He remained with the army of occupation for three years as chief of the staff, with the local rank of lieutenant-general. In 1817 he was transferred from the colonelcy of the 7th battalion of the 60th regiment to that of the 72nd foot. On his return home in 1818 he was appointed governor of Edinburgh Castle. In August 1819 he was made governor of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, a post he held until 1824. On 14 June 1820, the university of Oxford conferred upon him the degree of D.C.L. In September 1823 he was transferred to the colonelcy of the 42nd royal highlanders, and the same year was returned to parliament in the tory interest as member for Perth county. In January 1824 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and the following March was appointed lieutenant-general of the ordnance. In March 1825 he went to Ireland as commander-in-chief of the forces, and was promoted lieutenant-general on 27 May. He held the Irish command until May 1828, when he was made a privy councillor on taking office as secretary of state for the colonies in the Duke of Wellington's administration. He held the post until November 1830. In September 1829 he was appointed governor of Fort George, North Britain.

At the general election of 1832 he was defeated at Perth, but regained the seat at a by-election in 1834. On his appointment as master-general of the ordnance he again lost the election, and did not again sit in parliament, although he contested Westminster in 1837, and Manchester in 1838 and 1841. He, however, continued to hold office as master-general of the ordnance until 1846. He was promoted general on 23 November 1841, and was transferred to the colonelcy of the 1st royals in December 1843. He died at his residence, 5 Belgrave Square, London, on 28 July 1846, and was buried beside his wife in Kensal Green cemetery on 5 Aug.

He married, in 1826, Lady Louisa Erskine, sister of the Marquis of Anglesea, and widow of Sir James Erskine, by whom he had one daughter, who married his aide-de-camp, Captain Boyce, of the 2nd life guards. His wife died 23 January 1842.
Murray was a successful soldier, an able minister, and a skilful and fluent debater. For his distinguished military services he received the gold cross with five clasps for the Peninsula, the orders of knight grand cross of the Bath, besides Austrian, Russian, Portuguese, and Turkish orders.

He was the author of:

  1. ‘Speech on the Roman Catholic Disabilities Relief Bill,’ 8vo, London, 1829.
  2. ‘Special Instructions for the Offices of the Quartermaster-general's Department,’ 12mo, London, and
  3. edited ‘The Letters and Despatches of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, from 1702 to 1712,’ 8vo, London, 5 vols. 1845. These letters were accidentally discovered in October 1842, on the removal to the newly built muniment room at Blenheim of a chest which had long been lying at the steward's house at Hensington, near Woodstock

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