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Sir Herbert Taylor (1775-1839)

This article was written by Robert Hamilton Vetch and was published in 1898.

Herbert TaylorSir Herbert Taylor, lieutenant-general, second son of the Rev. Edward Taylor (1734-1798), of Bifrons, Kent, rector of Patricksbourne, by his wife, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Payler of Ileden, Kent, was born on 29 September 1755 at Bifrons. A younger brother, Sir Brook Taylor (1776-1846), was in the diplomatic service, and acted as British minister successively at the courts of Hesse-Cassel, Wurtemberg, and Munich, and as ambassador at Berlin from 1828 to 1831; he was created G.C.H. in 1822, and was admitted to the privy council in 1828.

During the wanderings of his family on the continent between 1780 and 1790 Herbert received private tuition, and became a good linguist. In Rome he made the acquaintance of Lord Camelford, by whom he was introduced to Lord Grenville, who gave him a place in the foreign office under Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Bland Burgess. Taylor's knowledge of foreign languages made him very useful, and Lord Grenville occasionally employed him on confidential work at his own house. In December 1792 he accompanied Sir James Murray (afterwards Murray-Pulteney) on a special mission to the Prussian headquarters at Frankfort. After a few weeks Murray left Frankfort to take up his military duties as adjutant-general to the Duke of York's army at Antwerp, and Taylor remained behind for a short time in charge of the mission. In April 1793, on Murray's application, Taylor joined the army headquarters. Murray presented him to the Duke of York, to whom he became greatly attached. He was employed as Murray's secretary, and was present as a volunteer at the action of St. Amand (8 May), the battle of Famars (23 May), and the sieges of Valenciennes and Dunkirk.

On 25 March 1794 Taylor was given a commission as cornet in the 2nd dragoon guards, and on 17 July following he was promoted to be lieutenant. Upon the return of Murray to England, Taylor remained with the Duke of York as assistant secretary. He generally joined his regiment when in the field, and was present at the actions of 17, 22, and 26 April, near Cateau; of 10 and 22 May, near Tournay, and at other operations of the campaign, including the retreat into Holland. On 6 May 1795 he was promoted to be captain in the 2nd dragoon guards. On the return of the Duke of York to England, Taylor remained with the army as assistant secretary to the commander-in-chief of the British forces on the continent, and served in that capacity successively with Lieutenant-general Harcourt and Sir David Dundas.

On 16 September 1795 Taylor returned to England, having been appointed on 1 August of that year aide-de-camp to the commander-in-chief, the Duke of York. He was soon afterwards nominated assistant military secretary in the commander-in-chief's office.

In July 1798 Taylor accompanied Lord Cornwallis to Ireland on his appointment as lord-lieutenant, in the threefold capacity of aide-de-camp, military secretary, and private secretary. He returned to England in February 1799 to take over the duties of private secretary to the Duke of York. He went to Holland as aide-de-camp to the duke in the expedition to the Helder in September, and was present at the battles of 19 September and of 2 and 6 October.

On 22 January 1801 Taylor was promoted to be major in the 2nd dragoon guards, and on 26 December of the same year to be lieutenant-colonel in the 9th West India regiment. On 25 June 1802 he was placed on half-pay, and on 25 May was brought into the Coldstream guards, of which the Duke of York was colonel. He continued in the appointment of private secretary and aide-de-camp to the Duke of York until 13 June 1805, when he was appointed private secretary to the king. The king placed every confidence in him, so that his position was one of great delicacy, but his straightforwardness secured the good opinion of all. On the establishment of the regency he was continued in the same office to the queen, who was appointed by act of parliament guardian of the king's person. By the same act Taylor was appointed one of the three commissioners of the king's real and personal estate. He was promoted to be brevet colonel on 25 July 1810, and to be major-general on 4 June 1813.

In November 1813 he was appointed to command a brigade in the army of Sir Thomas Graham (afterwards Lord Lynedoch), which was besieging Antwerp. He returned to England in March 1814, when he was sent on special military missions to Bernadotte, crown prince of Sweden, then commanding the Swedish force in Germany, and to The Hague. During these absences from the court his place was taken by his brother (afterwards Sir) Brook Taylor. He resumed the duties of private secretary to Queen Charlotte on his return, and continued in this office until her death in November 1818. In 1819 he was made a knight of the royal Guelphic order. From 1820 to 1823 he represented Windsor in parliament, resigning his seat because he found he could not satisfactorily fulfil both his parliamentary and other duties. On 25 March 1820 Taylor was appointed military secretary at the Horse Guards. On 23 April 1823 he was made colonel of the 85th foot, in 1824 a knight grand cross of the royal Guelphic order, and on 27 May 1825 was promoted to be lieutenant-general. On the death of the Duke of York in January 1827, he was appointed military secretary to the new commander-in-chief, the Duke of Wellington; but on the duke resigning the command-in-chief in July 1827, Taylor was nominated by Lord Palmerston, then secretary at war, to be a deputy secretary at war in the military branch of the war office; the king had already made him his first and principal aide-de-camp on 1 May 1827.

On 19 March 1828 Taylor was appointed master surveyor and surveyor-general of the ordnance of the United Kingdom. On 25 August of the same year he became adjutant-general of the forces, an appointment which he held until the accession of William IV, to whom he became private secretary, and continued in the office during the whole of his reign. On 16 April 1834 the king conferred upon him the grand cross of the order of the Bath. On the death of William IV in 1837 Taylor retired into private life, but was continued by the young queen in the appointment of first and principal aide-de-camp to the sovereign. He had already received from George III a pension of £1,000 a year on the civil list, with remainder to his widow. In the autumn of 1837 he went with his family to Cannes. In the spring of 1838 he went on to Italy, and he died at Rome on 20 March 1839. His body was embalmed for conveyance to England, but was buried in the protestant cemetery at Rome. In the middle of April his remains were exhumed and sent to England, and on 13 June were deposited in a vault of the chapel of St. Katherine's Hospital, Regent's Park, to the mastership of which he had been appointed in 1818.

Taylor married, in 1819, Charlotte Albina, daughter of Edward Disbrowe of Walton Hall, Derbyshire, M.P. for Windsor, vice-chamberlain to Queen Charlotte, and granddaughter of the third Earl of Buckinghamshire. By her he left two daughters, who, with their mother, survived him.

Taylor, who was a confidential friend of the Duke of York, and who was nominated one of the duke's executors, wrote the ‘Memoirs of the last Illness and Decease of H.R.H. the Duke of York,’ London, 1827, 8vo. In 1838, in a pamphlet (‘Remarks,’ &c.) he defended his patrons George III and George IV from some strictures in an article in the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ No. 135.

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