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George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney

George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney

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George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, KB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 (bap.
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 13 February 1718 – 24 May 1792) was a British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 naval officer. He is best known for his commands in the American War of Independence, particularly his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes
Battle of the Saintes
The Battle of the Saintes took place over 4 days, 9 April 1782 – 12 April 1782, during the American War of Independence, and was a victory of a British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney over a French fleet under the Comte de Grasse forcing the French and Spanish to abandon a planned...

 in 1782. It is often claimed that he was the commander to have pioneered the tactic of "breaking the line".

Rodney came from a distinguished but poor background, and went to sea at the age of fourteen. His first major action was the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre
Second battle of Cape Finisterre (1747)
The Second Battle of Cape Finisterre was a naval battle which took place on 25 October 1747 during the War of the Austrian Succession...

 in 1747. He made a large amount of prize
Prize (law)
Prize is a term used in admiralty law to refer to equipment, vehicles, vessels, and cargo captured during armed conflict. The most common use of prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy ship and its cargo as a prize of war. In the past, it was common that the capturing force would be allotted...

 money during the 1740s, allowing him to purchase a large country estate and a seat in the House of Commons of Great Britain
House of Commons of Great Britain
The House of Commons of Great Britain was the lower house of the Parliament of Great Britain between 1707 and 1801. In 1707, as a result of the Acts of Union of that year, it replaced the House of Commons of England and the third estate of the Parliament of Scotland, as one of the most significant...

. During the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

, Rodney was involved in a number of amphibious operations such as the raids on Rochefort
Raid on Rochefort
The Raid on Rochefort was a British amphibious attempt to capture the French Atlantic port of Rochefort in September 1757 during the Seven Years War...

 and Le Harvre
Raid on Le Havre
The Raid on Le Havre was a two-day naval bombardment of the French port of Le Havre early in July 1759 by Royal Navy forces under George Rodney during the Seven Years' War, which succeeded in its aim of destroying many of the invasion barges being gathered there for the planned French invasion of...

 and the Siege of Louisbourg
Siege of Louisbourg (1758)
The Siege of Louisbourg was a pivotal battle of the Seven Years' War in 1758 which ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada and led directly to the loss of Quebec in 1759 and the remainder of French North America the following year.-Background:The British government realized that with the...

. He became well known for his role in the capture of Martinique in 1762. Following the Peace of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1763)
The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War...

, Rodney's financial situation stagnated. He spent large sums of money pursuing his political ambitions. By 1774 he had run up large debts and was forced to flee Britain to avoid his creditors. He ended up imprisoned in a French Jail, where he was when war was declared in 1778. Thanks to a benefactor, Rodney was able to secure his release and returned to Britain where he was appointed to a new command.

Rodney successfully relieved Gibraltar during the Great Siege
Great Siege of Gibraltar
The Great Siege of Gibraltar was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence. This was the largest action fought during the war in terms of numbers, particularly the Grand Assault of 18 September 1782...

 and defeated a Spanish fleet during the 1780 Battle of Cape St. Vincent
Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1780)
The naval Battle of Cape St Vincent, took place off the coast of Portugal on 16 January 1780 during the American War of Independence. A British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney defeated a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Lángara. The battle is sometimes referred to as the Moonlight Battle,...

, known as the "Moonlight Battle" because it took place at night. He then was posted to the West Indies, where he became involved in the controversial 1781 capture of Sint Eustatius. Later that year he briefly returned home suffering from ill health. During his absence the British lost the crucial Battle of the Chesapeake
Battle of the Chesapeake
The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American War of Independence that took place near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, between a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas...

 leading to the surrender at Yorktown
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...

.

To some Rodney was a controversial figure, accused of an obsession with prize money and nepotism
Nepotism
Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. The word nepotism is from the Latin word nepos, nepotis , from which modern Romanian nepot and Italian nipote, "nephew" or "grandchild" are also descended....

. This was brought to a head in the wake of his taking of Sint Eustatius for which he was heavily criticised in Britain. Orders for his recall had been sent when Rodney won a decisive victory at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, ending the French threat to Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

. On his return to Britain, Rodney was made a peer
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

 and was awarded an annual pension of £2,000. He lived in retirement until his death in 1792.

The use of Rodney as a first name originates with the admiral. It became a popular name for boys at the end of the eighteenth century.

Early life


George Brydges Rodney was born either in Walton-on-Thames
Walton-on-Thames
Walton-on-Thames is a town in the Elmbridge borough of Surrey in South East England. The town is located south west of Charing Cross and is between the towns of Weybridge and Molesey. It is situated on the River Thames between Sunbury Lock and Shepperton Lock.- History :The name "Walton" is...

 or in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, though the family seat was Rodney Stoke
Rodney Stoke
Rodney Stoke is a small village and civil parish, located at , 5 miles north-west of Wells, in the English county of Somerset. The village is on the A371 between Draycott and Westbury-sub-Mendip....

, Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

. He was most likely born sometime in January 1718. He was baptized in St Giles-in-the-Fields on 13 February 1718. He was the third of four surviving children of Henry Rodney and Mary Rodney (born Mary Newton). His father had served in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 under the Earl of Peterborough
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough and 1st Earl of Monmouth, KG, PC was an English nobleman and military leader. He was the son of John Mordaunt, 1st Viscount Mordaunt, and his wife Elizabeth, the daughter and sole heiress of Thomas Carey, the second son of Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth...

 during the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

, and on leaving the army served as captain in a marine corps which was disbanded in 1713. A major investment in the South Sea Company ruined Henry Rodney and impoverished the family. In spite of their lack of money, the family was well-connected by marriage. It is sometimes claimed that Henry Rodney had served as commander of the Royal Yacht
Royal Yacht
A royal yacht is a ship used by a monarch or a royal family. If the monarch is an emperor the proper term is imperial yacht. Most of them are financed by the government of the country of which the monarch is head...

 of George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 and it was after him that George was named, but this had been discounted more recently.

George was sent to Harrow School
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

, being appointed, on leaving, by warrant dated 21 June 1732, a volunteer on board Sunderland
HMS Sunderland (1724)
HMS Sunderland was a 60-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built to the 1719 Establishment at Chatham Dockyard, and launched on 30 April 1724....

.

Early career


After serving with the Sunderland, Rodney switched to the Dreadnought where he served from 1734 to 1737 under Captain Henry Medley
Henry Medley
Henry Medley was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served as Commodore Governor of Newfoundland.Medley entered the Royal Navy in 1703 and was appointed Governor of Newfoundland in 1739 and served for two seasons.Service history:...

 who acted as a mentor
Mentor
In Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Alcimus or Anchialus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus' foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus' palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.When Athena visited Telemachus she...

 to him. Around this time he spent eighteen months stationed in Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, a city he would later return to several times. He then changed ships several times, taking part in the navy's annual trip to protect the British fishing fleet off Newfoundland in 1738.

He rose swiftly through the ranks of the navy helped by a combination of his own talents and the patronage of the Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, MP, PC was the first of fourteen children by Sir James Brydges, 3rd Baronet of Wilton Castle, Sheriff of Herefordshire, 8th Baron Chandos; and Elizabeth Barnard...

.
While serving on the Mediterranean station
Mediterranean Fleet
Several countries have or have had a Mediterranean Fleet in their navy. See:* Mediterranean Fleet * French Mediterranean Fleet* Mediterranean Squadron * United States Sixth Fleet...

 he was made lieutenant in Dolphin, his promotion dating 15 February 1739. He then served on the Namur, the flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

 of the Commander-in-Chief Sir Thomas Mathews
Thomas Mathews
Thomas Mathews was a British officer of the Royal Navy, who rose to the rank of admiral.Mathews joined the navy in 1690 and saw service on a number of ships, including during the Nine Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession. He interspersed periods spent commanding ships with time at home...

.

Captain


The War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

 had broken out by this point and in August 1742 Rodney had his first taste of action when he was ordered by Matthews to take a smaller vessel and launch a raid on Ventimiglia
Ventimiglia
Ventimiglia is a city and comune in Liguria, northern Italy, in the province of Imperia. It is located southwest of Genoa by rail, and 7 km from the French-Italian border, on the Gulf of Genoa, having a small harbour at the mouth of the Roia River, which divides the town into two parts...

 where the Spanish army had stockpiled supplies and stores ready for a planned invasion of Britain's ally the Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa
The Most Serene Republic of Genoa |Ligurian]]: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean....

, which he successfully accomplished. Shortly after this, he attained the rank of post-captain
Post-Captain
Post-captain is an obsolete alternative form of the rank of captain in the Royal Navy.The term served to distinguish those who were captains by rank from:...

, having been appointed by Matthews to the Plymouth
HMS Plymouth (1708)
HMS Plymouth was a 60-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Plymouth Dockyard to the 1706 Establishment of dimensions, and launched on 25 May 1708....

on 9 November. He picked up several British merchantmen
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

 in Lisbon to escort them home, but lost contact with them in heavy storms. Once he reached Britain his promotion was confirmed, making him one of the youngest Captains in the navy.

After serving in home waters learning about convoy protection he was appointed to the newly built Ludlow Castle which he used to blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 the Scottish coast during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. Two of Rodney's midshipman aboard the Ludlow Castle were Samuel Hood
Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood
Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood was a British Admiral known particularly for his service in the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars...

, later to become a distinguished sailor, and Rodney's younger brother James Rodney. In 1746 he obtained command of the 60-gun Eagle
HMS Eagle (1745)
HMS Eagle was a 58-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Harwich to the dimensions laid down in the 1741 proposals of the 1719 Establishment, and launched on 2 December 1745. Eagle is notable as being one of the ships on which James Cook began his career in the Royal Navy...

. After some time spent blockading French-occupied Ostend
Ostend
Ostend  is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke , Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest on the Belgian coast....

 and cruising around the Western Approaches
Western Approaches
The Western Approaches is a rectangular area of the Atlantic ocean lying on the western coast of Great Britain. The rectangle is higher than it is wide, the north and south boundaries defined by the north and south ends of the British Isles, the eastern boundary lying on the western coast, and the...

, where on 24 May he took his first prize a 16-gun Spanish privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

, the Eagle was sent to join the Western Squadron.

Battle of Cape Finisterre



The Western Squadron was a new strategy by Britain's naval planners to operate a more effective blockade system of France by stationing the Home Fleet in the Western Approaches, where they could guard both the English channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 and the French Atlantic coast.

The Eagle continued to take prizes while stationed with the Squadron being involved directly, or indirectly, in the capture of sixteen enemy ships. After taking one of the captured prizes to Kinsale
Kinsale
Kinsale is a town in County Cork, Ireland. Located some 25 km south of Cork City on the coast near the Old Head of Kinsale, it sits at the mouth of the River Bandon and has a population of 2,257 which increases substantially during the summer months when the tourist season is at its peak and...

 in Ireland, the Eagle wasn't present at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre when the Western Squadron commanded by Lord Anson won a significant victory over the French. While returning from Ireland, the Eagle fell in with a small squadron under Commodore Thomas Fox which sighted a French merchant convoy heading for the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

. In total around 48 merchantmen were taken by the squadron, although Rodney ignored an order of Fox by pursuing several ships which had broken away from the rest in an attempt to escape managing to capture six of them. Afterwards the Eagle rejoined the Western Squadron now under the command of Edward Hawke.

On 14 October 1747 the ship took part in the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre a victory off Ushant
Ushant
Ushant is an island at the south-western end of the English Channel which marks the north-westernmost point of metropolitan France. It belongs to Brittany and is in the traditional region of Bro-Leon. Administratively, Ushant is a commune in the Finistère department...

 over the French fleet. The French were trying to escort an outgoing convoy from France to the West Indies and had eight large ships-of-the-line while the British had fourteen smaller ships. Rodney was at the rear of the British line, and the Eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

 was one of the last British ships to come into action engaging the French shortly after noon. Initially the Eagle was engaged with two French ships, but one moved away and for next two hours battle Rodney engaged the seventy gun Neptune until his steering wheel was struck by a lucky shot, and his ship became unmanageable. Rodney later complained that Thomas Fox in the Kent had failed to support him, and testified at Fox's court martial. The British took six of the eight French ships, but were unable to prevent most of the merchant convoy escaping, although much of it was later taken in the West Indies.

The two Battles of Cape Finisterre had proved a vindication of the Western Squadron strategy. Rodney later often referred to "the good old discipline" of the Western Squadron, using it as an example for his own views on discipline. For the remainder of the war Rodney took part in further cruises, and took several more prizes. Following the Congress of Breda
Congress of Breda
The Congress of Breda often also known as the Breda peace talks were a series of negotiations between representatives of Great Britain and France in the Dutch city of Breda that took place between 1746 and 1748. They were designed to bring an end to the Austrian War of Succession and laid the...

, an agreement was signed at the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 ended the War of the Austrian Succession following a congress assembled at the Imperial Free City of Aachen—Aix-la-Chapelle in French—in the west of the Holy Roman Empire, on 24 April 1748...

 ending the war. Rodney took his ship back to Plymouth
Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 where it was decommissioned
Ship decommissioning
To decommission a ship is to terminate her career in service in the armed forces of her nation. A somber occasion, it has little of the elaborate ceremony of ship commissioning, but carries significant tradition....

 on 13 August 1748. Rodney's total share of prize money
Prize money
Prize money has a distinct meaning in warfare, especially naval warfare, where it was a monetary reward paid out to the crew of a ship for capturing an enemy vessel...

 during his time with the Eagle was £15,000 giving him financial security for the first time in his life.

Commander


On 9 May 1749 he was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Newfoundland, with the rank of Commodore, it being usual at that time to appoint a naval officer, chiefly on account of the fishery interests. He was given command of the Rainbow and had two smaller ships under his overall command. It was extremely difficult for naval officers to secure commands in peacetime, and Rodney's appointment suggests that he was well regarded by his superiors. Rodney's role as Governor was rather limited. Each summer a large British fishing fleet sailed for Newfoundland, where it took part in the valuable cod
Cod
Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of...

 trade. The fleet then returned home during the winter. Rodney oversaw three such trips to Newfoundland between 1749 and 1751.

Around this time Rodney began to harbour political ambitions and gained the support of the powerful Duke of Bedford
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford KG, PC, FRS was an 18th century British statesman. He was the fourth son of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Howland of Streatham, Surrey...

 and Lord Sandwich. He stood unsuccessfully in a 1750 by-election
By-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

 in Launceston
Launceston (UK Parliament constituency)
Launceston, also known at some periods as Dunheved, was a parliamentary constituency in Cornwall which returned two Members of Parliament to the British House of Commons from 1295 until 1832, and one member from 1832 until 1918...

. He was elected MP for Saltash
Saltash (UK Parliament constituency)
Saltash, sometimes called Essa, was a "rotten borough" in Cornwall which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the English and later British Parliament from 1552 to 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.-History:...

, a safe seat controlled by the Admiralty, in 1751. After his third and final trip to Newfoundland in the summer of 1751 Rodney sailed home via Spain and Portugal, escorting some merchantmen. Once home he fell ill, and was then unemployed for around ten months. During this time he oversaw the development of an estate at Old Alresford
Old Alresford
Old Alresford is a village and civil parish in Hampshire, England. It is situated some 1 km north of the town of New Alresford, 12 km north-east of the city of Winchester, and 20 km south-west of the town of Alton....

 in Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

, which he had bought with the proceeds of his prize money. In 1753 he married his first wife, Jane Compton (1730–1757), sister of Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton
Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton
Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton, DL was a British peer and diplomat.He was the eldest son of Hon. Charles Compton, in turn youngest son of George Compton, 4th Earl of Northampton, and his wife Mary, only daughter of Sir Berkeley Lucy, 3rd Baronet. Compton was educated at Westminster...

. He had initially been undecided whether to marry Jane or her younger sister Kitty who he had met in Lisbon, where their father Charles Compton was consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

, during his various visits to the city. The marriage proved happy, and they had three children together before she died in January 1757. From 1753 Rodney commanded a series of Portsmouth guard ships without actually having to go to sea before the onset of the Seven Years War.

Seven Years War




The first fighting broke out in North America in 1754, with competing British and French forces clashing
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

 in the Ohio Country
Ohio Country
The Ohio Country was the name used in the 18th century for the regions of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and in the region of the upper Ohio River south of Lake Erie...

. Despite this fighting formal war wasn't declared in Europe until 1756 and opened with a French attack on Minorca
Siege of Minorca
The Siege of Fort St Philip took place in 1756 during the Seven Years War.- Siege :...

, the loss of which was blamed on Admiral John Byng who was court-martialled and executed. He was shot on the quarterdeck of the Monarch
HMS Monarch (1747)
HMS Monarch was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She had previously served in the French Navy under the name Monarque....

, which until recently had been commanded by Rodney. Rodney excused himself from serving on the court martial by pleading illness. While Rodney disapproved of Byng's conduct, he thought the death sentence excessive and unsuccessfully worked for it to be commuted
Commutation of sentence
Commutation of sentence involves the reduction of legal penalties, especially in terms of imprisonment. Unlike a pardon, a commutation does not nullify the conviction and is often conditional. Clemency is a similar term, meaning the lessening of the penalty of the crime without forgiving the crime...

.

Louisbourg



Rodney had in 1755 and 1756, taken part in preventive cruises under Hawke and Edward Boscawen
Edward Boscawen
Admiral Edward Boscawen, PC was an Admiral in the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament for the borough of Truro, Cornwall. He is known principally for his various naval commands throughout the 18th Century and the engagements that he won, including the Siege of Louisburg in 1758 and Battle of Lagos...

. In 1757, he took part in the expedition against Rochefort
Raid on Rochefort
The Raid on Rochefort was a British amphibious attempt to capture the French Atlantic port of Rochefort in September 1757 during the Seven Years War...

, commanding the 74-gun battleship Dublin
HMS Dublin (1757)
HMS Dublin was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 6 May 1757 at Deptford.She was broken up in 1784....

. After an initial success, the expedition made no serious attempt on Rochefort
Rochefort, Charente-Maritime
Rochefort is a commune in southwestern France, a port on the Charente estuary. It is a sub-prefecture of the Charente-Maritime department.-History:...

 and sailed for home. Next year, in the same ship, he was ordered to serve under Boscawen as part of an attempt to capture the strategic French fortress of Louisbourg in North America. He was given the task of carrying Major General Jeffrey Amherst, the expedition's commander to Louisbourg. On the way Rodney captured a French East Indiamen
East Indiamen
An East Indiaman was a ship operating under charter or license to any of the East India Companies of the major European trading powers of the 17th through the 19th centuries...

, and took it into Vigo
Vigo
Vigo is a city and municipality in north-west Spain, in Galicia, situated on the ria of the same name on the Atlantic Ocean.-Population:...

. This action saw the beginning of criticism of Rodney that he was obsessed with prize money ahead of strategic importance, with some claiming he spent two weeks or more in Vigo making sure of his prize money instead of carrying Amherst to Louisbourg. This appears to be untrue, as Rodney sailed within four days from Vigo.

Rodney and his ship played a minor role in the taking of Louisburg
Siege of Louisbourg (1758)
The Siege of Louisbourg was a pivotal battle of the Seven Years' War in 1758 which ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada and led directly to the loss of Quebec in 1759 and the remainder of French North America the following year.-Background:The British government realized that with the...

, which laid the way open for a British campaign up the St Lawrence River the following year, and the fall of Quebec
Battle of the Plains of Abraham
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, also known as the Battle of Quebec, was a pivotal battle in the Seven Years' War...

. In August 1758 Rodney sailed for home in charge of six warships and ten transports carrying the captured garrison of Louisbourg who were being taken to Britain as prisoners of war.

Le Havre



On 19 May 1759 he became a Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

 and shortly afterwards he was given command of a small squadron
Squadron (naval)
A squadron, or naval squadron, is a unit of 3-4 major warships, transport ships, submarines, or sometimes small craft that may be part of a larger task force or a fleet...

. The admiralty had received intelligence that the French had gathered at Le Havre
Le Havre
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. Le Havre is the most populous commune in the Haute-Normandie region, although the total...

, at the mouth of the River Seine, a large number of flat-bottomed boat
Flat-bottomed boat
A flat-bottomed boat is a boat with a flat bottomed, two-chined hull, which allows it be used in shallow bodies of water, such as rivers, because it is less likely to ground....

s and stores which were being collected there for an invasion of the British Isles
Planned French Invasion of Britain (1759)
A French invasion of Great Britain was planned to take place in 1759 during the Seven Years' War, but due to various factors including naval defeats at the Battle of Lagos and the Battle of Quiberon Bay was never launched. The French planned to land 100,000 French soldiers in Britain to end British...

. After drawing up plans for an attack on Le Havre, Lord Anson briefed Rodney in person. The operation was intended to be a secret with it being implied that Rodney's actual destination was Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. This soon became impossible to maintain as Rodney tried to acquire pilots who knew the Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 coast.

Rodney received his final orders on 26 June, and by 4 July he was off Le Havre. His force includes six bomb-vessels which could fire at a very high trajectory. In what become known as the Raid on Le Havre
Raid on Le Havre
The Raid on Le Havre was a two-day naval bombardment of the French port of Le Havre early in July 1759 by Royal Navy forces under George Rodney during the Seven Years' War, which succeeded in its aim of destroying many of the invasion barges being gathered there for the planned French invasion of...

, he bombarded the town for two days and nights, and inflicted great loss of war-material on the enemy. The bomb ships fired continuously for fifty two hours, starting large fires. Rodney then withdrew to Spithead
Spithead
Spithead is an area of the Solent and a roadstead off Gilkicker Point in Hampshire, England. It is protected from all winds, except those from the southeast...

, leaving several ships to blockade the mouth of the Seine. Although the attack hadn't significantly affected French plans, it proved a morale boost in Britain. In August Rodney was again sent to Le Havre with similar orders but through a combination of weather and improved French defences he was unable to get his bomb-vessels into position, and the Admiralty accepted his judgement that a further attack was impossible. The invasion was ultimately cancelled because of French naval defeats at the Battle of Lagos
Battle of Lagos
The naval Battle of Lagos between Britain and France took place on August 19, 1759 during the Seven Years' War off the coasts of Spain and Portugal, and is named after Lagos, Portugal. For the British, it was part of the Annus Mirabilis of 1759.-Origins:...

 and Battle of Quiberon Bay
Battle of Quiberon Bay
The naval Battle of Quiberon Bay took place on 20 November 1759 during the Seven Years' War in Quiberon Bay, off the coast of France near St. Nazaire...

.

From 1759 and 1761 Rodney concentrated on his blockade of the French coast, particularly around Le Havre. In July 1760, with another small squadron, he succeeded in taking many more of the enemy's flat-bottomed boats and in blockading the coast as far as Dieppe.

Martinique



Rodney was elected MP for Penryn
Penryn (UK Parliament constituency)
Penryn was a parliamentary borough in Cornwall, which elected two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of England from 1553 until 1707, to the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800, and finally to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from 1801 to until 1832...

 in 1761. Lord Anson then selected him to command the naval element on a planned amphibious attack on the lucrative and strategically important French colony of Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

 in the West Indies, promoting him over the heads of a number of more senior officers. A previous British attack on Martinique
Invasion of Martinique (1759)
A British invasion of Martinique took place in January 1759 when a large amphibious force under Peregrine Hopson landed on the French-held island of Martinique and unsuccessfully tried to capture it during the Seven Years War...

 had failed in 1759. In October of that year he was formally appointed commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands
Leeward Islands
The Leeward Islands are a group of islands in the West Indies. They are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean...

 station. The land forces for the attack on Martinique were to be a combination of troops from various locations including some sent out from Europe and reinforcements from New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, who were available following the Conquest of Canada which had been completed in 1760. During 1761 Martinique was blockaded by Sir James Douglas
Sir James Douglas, 1st Baronet
Admiral Sir James Douglas, 1st Baronet naval officer and Commodore of Newfoundland.-Naval career:Douglas became a captain in the Royal Navy in 1744 In 1745 commanded the HMS Mermaid at Louisbourg and in 1746 he commanded the HMS Vigilante at Louisbourg. In 1746 was appointed Commodore of...

 to prevent reinforcements or supplies from reaching it.

Within the first three months of 1762 had reduced the important island of Martinique
British expedition against Martinique
The British expedition against Martinique was a military action from January to February 1762, as part of the Seven Years' War.- Prelude :...

, while both St Lucia and Grenada
Grenada
Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

 had surrendered to his squadron. During the siege of Fort Royal (later Fort de France)
Fort-de-France
Fort-de-France is the capital of France's Caribbean overseas department of Martinique. It is also one of the major cities in the Caribbean. Exports include sugar, rum, tinned fruit, and cacao.-Geography:...

 his seamen and marines rendered splendid service on shore. Afterwards Rodney's squadron, amounting to 8 ships of the line joined the British expedition to Cuba bringing the total number of ships of the line to 15 by the end of April 1762. However he was later criticised for moving his ships to protect Jamaica from attack by a large Franco-Spanish force that had gathered in the area, rather than waiting to support the expedition as he had been ordered.

Following the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1763)
The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War...

 in 1763, Admiral Rodney returned home having been during his absence made Vice-Admiral of the Blue and having received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. In the peace terms Martinique was returned to France.

Years of peace


In 1764, Rodney was created a baronet
Baronet
A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess , is the holder of a hereditary baronetcy awarded by the British Crown...

, and the same year he married Henrietta, daughter of John Clies of Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

. From 1765 to 1770, he was governor of Greenwich Hospital, and on the dissolution of parliament in 1768 he successfully contested Northampton
Northampton (UK Parliament constituency)
Northampton was a parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Northampton which existed until 1974.It returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until its representation was reduced to one member for the 1918 general election...

 at a ruinous cost. When appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Jamaica station in 1771, he lost his Greenwich post, but a few months later received the office of Rear-Admiral of Great Britain. Until 1774, he held the Jamaica command, and during a period of quiet, was active in improving the naval yards on his station. Sir George struck his flag with a feeling of disappointment at not obtaining the governorship of Jamaica, and was shortly after forced to settle in Paris. Election expenses and losses at play in fashionable circles had shattered his fortune, and he could not secure payment of the salary as Rear-Admiral of Great Britain. In February 1778, having just been promoted Admiral of the White, he used every possible exertion to obtain a command to free himself from his money difficulties. By May, he had, through the splendid generosity of his Parisian friend Marshal Biron
Louis Antoine de Gontaut
Louis Antoine de Gontaut-Biron, duc de Biron was Duke of Biron and a French military leader who served with distinction under Louis XV, and was made a Marshal of France in 1757....

, effected the latter task, and accordingly he returned to London with his children. The debt was repaid out of the arrears due to him on his return. The story that he was offered a French command is fiction.

In London he suggested to Lord George Germain that George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 could "ceirtainly be bought - honours will do it".

American War of Independence


Moonlight Battle



Sir George was appointed once more commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands late in 1779. His orders were to relieve Gibraltar on his way to the West Indies. He captured a Spanish convoy
Action of 8 January 1780
The Action of 8 January 1780 was a naval encounter off Cape Finisterre between a British Royal Naval fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney, and a fleet of Spanish merchants sailing in convoy with seven warships of the Caracas Company, under the command of Commodore Don Juan Augustin de Yardi....

 off Cape Finisterre
Cape Finisterre
right|thumb|300px|Position of Cape Finisterre on the [[Iberian Peninsula]]Cape Finisterre is a rock-bound peninsula on the west coast of Galicia, Spain....

 on 8 January 1780, and eight days later at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent
Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1780)
The naval Battle of Cape St Vincent, took place off the coast of Portugal on 16 January 1780 during the American War of Independence. A British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney defeated a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Lángara. The battle is sometimes referred to as the Moonlight Battle,...

 defeated the Spanish Admiral Don Juan de Lángara
Juan de Lángara
Juan Francisco de Lángara y Huarte was a Spanish naval officer and Minister of Marine.-Life and career:He was born at Coruña, Galicia, the son of a renowned Basque family...

, taking or destroying seven ships. He then brought some relief to Gibraltar by delivering reinforcements and supplies

Battle of Martinique



On 17 April an action, which, owing to the carelessness of some of Rodney's captains, was indecisive
Battle of Martinique (1780)
The Battle of Martinique, also Combat de la Dominique, took place on April 17, 1780 during the American War of Independence in the West Indies between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.-Origins:...

, was fought off Martinique with the French Admiral Guichen
Luc Urbain de Bouexic, comte de Guichen
Luc Urbain de Bouëxic, comte de Guichen - French admiral; entered the navy in 1730 as "garde de la Marine," the first rank in the corps of royal officers.His promotion was not rapid...

.

Capture of St Eustatius



Following the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War
Fourth Anglo-Dutch War
The Fourth Anglo–Dutch War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Dutch Republic. The war, tangentially related to the American Revolutionary War, broke out over British and Dutch disagreements on the legality and conduct of Dutch trade with Britain's enemies in that...

 between Britain and the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 Rodney, acting under orders from London, captured the valuable Dutch island of St Eustatius on 3 February 1781. It had been a great entrepôt of neutral trade, and was full of booty, which Rodney confiscated. As large quantities belonged to English merchants, he was entangled in a series of costly lawsuits. Rodney ordered that all male Jewish merchants be deported to England without their wives or children. He even went so far as to order his men to strip the lining of their coats in an effort to prevent them from taking any gold coins with them.

Battle of the Saintes


After a few months in England, restoring his health and defending himself in Parliament, Sir George returned to his command in February 1782, and a running engagement with the French fleet on April 9 led up to his crowning victory at the Battle of the Saintes
Battle of the Saintes
The Battle of the Saintes took place over 4 days, 9 April 1782 – 12 April 1782, during the American War of Independence, and was a victory of a British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney over a French fleet under the Comte de Grasse forcing the French and Spanish to abandon a planned...

 off Dominica, when on 12 April with thirty-five sail of the line he defeated the Comte de Grasse, who had thirty-three sail. The French inferiority in numbers was more than counterbalanced by the greater size and superior sailing qualities of their ships, yet five were taken and one sunk, after eleven hours' fighting. This important battle saved Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 and ruined French naval prestige, while it enabled Rodney to write: "Within two little years I have taken two Spanish, one French and one Dutch admirals." A long and wearisome controversy exists as to the originator of the manoeuvre of "breaking the line" in this battle, but the merits of the victory have never seriously been affected by any difference of opinion on the question. A shift of wind broke the French line of battle, and the British ships took advantage of this by crossing in two places.

Recall


In a 15 April letter to Lord Germain, who unknown to Rodney had recently lost his position, he wrote "Permit me most sincerely to congratulate you on the most important victory I believe ever gained against our perfidious enemies, the French". The news of Rodney's victories boosted national morale in Britain and strengthened the pro-war party who wished to carry on the fight. George III observed to the new Prime Minister Lord Shelburne that he "must see that the great success of Lord Rodney's engagement has so far roused the nation, that the peace which would have been acquiesced in three months ago would now be a matter for complaint".

Retirement


Rodney arrived home in August to receive unbounded honour from his country. He had already been created Baron Rodney of Rodney Stoke, Somerset, by patent of 19 June 1782, and the House of Commons had voted him a pension of £2000 a year. From this time he led a quiet country life until his death in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He was succeeded as 2nd Baron by his son, George (1753–1802).
In 1782 Rodney was presented with the Freedom of the City of Cork, Ireland. The gold presentation box is held by the National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. The historic buildings forming part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, it also incorporates the Royal Observatory, Greenwich,...

, Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

, London.

Legacy


Rodney was unquestionably a most able officer, but he was also vain, selfish and unscrupulous, both in seeking prize money, and in using his position to push the fortunes of his family, although such nepotism was common (not to say normal) at the time. He made his son a post-captain at fifteen. He was accused by his second-in-command, Samuel Hood
Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood
Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood was a British Admiral known particularly for his service in the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars...

, of sacrificing the interest of the service to his own profit, and of showing want of energy in pursuit of the French on 12 April 1782. It must be remembered that he was then prematurely old and wracked by disease.

See General Mundy, Life and Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney (2 vols, 1830); David Hannay, Life of Rodney; Rodney letters in 9th Report of Hist. manuscripts Coin., pt. iiL; "Memoirs," in Naval Chronicle, i. 353-93; and Charnock, Biographia Navalis, v. 204-28. Lord Rodney published in his lifetime (probably 1789) Letters to His Majesty's Ministers, etc., relative to St Eustatius, etc., of which there is a copy in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

. Most of these letters are printed in Mundy's Life, vol. ii., though with many variant readings.

At least four serving warships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Rodney
HMS Rodney
Six ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Rodney, at least the last five after Admiral George Brydges Rodney. A seventh was planned but never completed:...

 in his honour.

One of the five houses
House system
The house system is a traditional feature of British schools, and schools in the Commonwealth. Historically, it was associated with established public schools, where a 'house' refers to a boarding house or dormitory of a boarding school...

 of British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 public school Churcher's College
Churcher's College
Churcher's College is an English co-educational independent, fee-paying school which is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference . The senior school is located in the market town of Petersfield, Hampshire with the junior school in nearby Liphook...

 is named for him.


In February 1783, the government of Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 commissioned John Bacon, a renowned British sculptor, to create a statue of Admiral Lord Rodney, as an expression of their appreciation. The Assembly spent $5,200 on the statue alone and a reputed $31,000 on the entire project. Bacon sourced the finest marble from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to create the Neo-classical
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 of the Admiral, dressed in a Roman robe and breastplate. On its completion, the statue was fronted with a cannon taken from the French flagship in the battle.

Due to his popularity with citizens of Newfoundland as governor, small round-bottomed wooden boats, propelled by oars and/or sails, are often referred to as a "Rodney" up to the present day in Newfoundland. Also there is a Rodney Bay
Rodney Bay
Rodney Bay is a bay on Saint Lucia; it is along the northwestern coast of the island to the north of Choc Bay. It is named after British naval officer George Brydges Rodney. At Rodney Bay you can climb aboard the brig Unicorn, used in the film Pirates of the Caribbean and see the west side of the...

 named after him on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. St Lucia Distillers also have an award winning rum named 'Admiral Rodney Extra Old'.

External links