John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton

John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton

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Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton, GCB
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...

Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

Royal Guelphic Order
The Royal Guelphic Order, sometimes also referred to as the Hanoverian Guelphic Order, is a Hanoverian order of chivalry instituted on 28 April 1815 by the Prince Regent . It has not been conferred by the British Crown since the death of King William IV in 1837, when the personal union of the...

, PC
Privy Council of Ireland
The Privy Council of Ireland was an institution of the Kingdom of Ireland until 31 December 1800 and of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1801-1922...

 (16 February 1778 – 17 April 1863) was a 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...

 field marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 and colonial governor.

Early service

Colborne was born at Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Lyndhurst is a village and civil parish in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. It is a popular tourist location with many independent shops, art galleries, cafés, restaurants, pubs and hotels. The nearest city is Southampton located around nine miles to the north-east...

 and educated at Christ's Hospital
Christ's Hospital
Christ's Hospital is an English coeducational independent day and boarding school with Royal Charter located in the Sussex countryside just south of Horsham in Horsham District, West Sussex, England...

, London from 1785 to 1789 and at Winchester College
Winchester College
Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

 from 1789 to 1794. He entered the 20th (East Devonshire Regiment) in 1794 as an Ensign
Ensign (rank)
Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank itself acquired the name....

, winning thereafter every step in his regimental promotion without purchase
Sale of commissions
The sale of commissions was a common practice in most European armies where wealthy and noble officers purchased their rank. Only the Imperial Russian Army and the Prussian Army never used such a system. While initially shunned in the French Revolutionary Army, it was eventually revived in the...


He first saw service in the Helder expedition of 1799. He was promoted to captain in January 1800 and took part in Sir Ralph Abercromby
Ralph Abercromby
Sir Ralph Abercromby was a Scottish soldier and politician. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-general in the British Army, was noted for his services during the Napoleonic Wars, and served as Commander-in-Chief, Ireland.He twice served as MP for Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire, and was...

's expedition to Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in 1801. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Maida
Battle of Maida
The Battle of Maida on 4 July 1806 saw a British expeditionary force fight a First French Empire division outside the town of Maida in Calabria, Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. John Stuart led 5,200 British troops to victory over about 6,000 French soldiers under Jean Reynier, inflicting...

, and soon afterwards was brought under the notice of Sir John Moore
John Moore (British soldier)
Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore, KB was a British soldier and General. He is best known for his military training reforms and for his death at the Battle of Corunna, in which his force was defeated but gained a tactical advantage over a French army under Marshal Soult during the Peninsular...

, who obtained a majority for him in January 1808 and made him his military secretary. In this capacity he served through the Battle of Corunna
Battle of Corunna
The Battle of Corunna refers to a battle of the Peninsular War. On January 16, 1809, a French army under Marshal Soult attacked the British under Sir John Moore...

 campaign, and Sir John Moore's dying request that he should be given a lieutenant-colonelcy was at once complied with. In the summer of 1809 Lieut-Colonel Colborne was again in the Peninsula
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

, and before taking command of the 2nd battalion of the 66th Foot Regiment, he witnessed the defeat of the Spaniards at the Battle of Ocaña
Battle of Ocana
The Battle of Ocana or Battle of Ocaña was fought on 19 November 1809 between French forces under Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult and King Joseph Bonaparte and the Spanish army under Juan Carlos de Aréizaga, which suffered its greatest single defeat in the Peninsular War...


With the 66th he was present at Busaco
Battle of Buçaco
The Battle of Bussaco resulted in the defeat of French forces by Lord Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese Army, in Portugal during the Peninsular War....

 and shared in the defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras
Lines of Torres Vedras
The Lines of Torres Vedras were lines of forts built in secrecy to defend Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Named after the nearby town of Torres Vedras, they were ordered by Arthur Wellesley, Viscount Wellington, constructed by Sir Richard Fletcher, 1st Baronet and his Portuguese workers between...

, and in July 1811, after temporarily commanding a brigade with distinction at the Battle of Albuera
Battle of Albuera
The Battle of Albuera was an indecisive battle during the Peninsular War. A mixed British, Spanish and Portuguese corps engaged elements of the French Armée du Midi at the small Spanish village of Albuera, about 20 kilometres south of the frontier fortress-town of Badajoz, Spain.From...

, (his brigade was slaughtered by Polish Vistula Uhlans) he was appointed to command the famous 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot
Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was an infantry regiment of the British Army.The regiment was formed as a consequence of Childers reforms, a continuation of the Cardwell reforms, by the amalgamation of the 43rd Regiment of Foot and the 52nd Regiment of Foot , forming the 1st...

 with which corps he is most closely identified. He led it and was severely wounded at Ciudad Rodrigo
Ciudad Rodrigo
Ciudad Rodrigo is a small cathedral city in the province of Salamanca, in western Spain, with a population of about 14,000. It is the seat of a judicial district as well....

 (1812). During his recuperation he married Elizabeth Yonge of Puslinch, Devon
Puslinch, Devon
Puslinch, Devon, England, is a small but ancient rural locality to the south of Yealmpton village in the South Hams district of the county. Its most famous landmark is Puslinch House, a Georgian mansion owned for generations by the Yonge family...

. Colborne was appointed to the order of the Tower and the Sword of Portugal in March 1813.

In late 1813, Colborne was placed in temporary charge of the 2nd brigade of the Light Division which he commanded in the battles of the Nivelle
Battle of Nivelle
The Battle of Nivelle took place in front of the River Nivelle near the end of the Peninsular War . After the Allied siege of San Sebastian, Wellington's 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops were in hot pursuit of Marshal Soult who only had 60,000 men to place in a 20-mile perimeter...

 in November 1813 and the Nive the following month. He returned to the 52nd and commanded the regiment at the battle of Orthez
Battle of Orthez
The Battle of Orthez saw the Anglo-Portuguese Army under Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington defeat a French army led by Marshal Nicolas Soult in southern France near the end of the Peninsular War.-Preliminaries:...

 in February 1814 and later at the siege of Toulouse
Battle of Toulouse (1814)
The Battle of Toulouse was one of the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition...

. For his services, he was awarded the Army Gold Cross with three clasps.

At the peace he was made colonel, aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

to the Prince Regent
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...

 and appointed K.C.B.
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...

 in January 1815. Following Napoleon's escape from Elba Colborne resumed command of the 52nd. On 18 June 1815, Colborne and the 52nd at Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 took part in the repulse of the Middle Guard. On the evening of 18 June, between approximately 19.00hrs and 20.00hrs, Colborne on his own initiative took the 52nd forward and wheeled it to the left so that it was at right angles to the French Army. The 52nd then fired repeated volleys into the right flank of the French Imperial Guard and drove it back in disorder. The ensuing charge of the 52nd and the rest of Adam's Brigade, led to the rout of the Imperial Guard which broke up and fled. Colborne was with the 52nd in Paris, as part of the army of occupation, until January 1816. Colborne was made a knight of the Habsburg order of Maria Theresia and the Russian order of St George in August 1815.


Colborne was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey
Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey
The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey is the representative of the British monarch in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a Crown dependency of the British Crown. The role of the Lieutenant Governor is to act as the de facto head of state in Guernsey and as liaison between the governments of Guernsey and the...

 in July 1821. He was promoted to Major-General in May 1825. He served as Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant governor
A lieutenant governor or lieutenant-governor is a high officer of state, whose precise role and rank vary by jurisdiction, but is often the deputy or lieutenant to or ranking under a governor — a "second-in-command"...

 of Upper Canada
Upper Canada
The Province of Upper Canada was a political division in British Canada established in 1791 by the British Empire to govern the central third of the lands in British North America and to accommodate Loyalist refugees from the United States of America after the American Revolution...

 from 1828 to 1836. He was appointed GCH in October 1836.

As Lieutenant Governor, Colborne more than doubled the population of the province by initiating an organised system of immigration to bring in settlers from Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

. He also aided settlement by expanding the communication and transportation infrastructure through a campaign to build roads and bridges. He brought changes to the structure of the legislative council, increased fiscal autonomy and encouraged greater independence in the judiciary. In 1829, Colborne founded Upper Canada College
Upper Canada College
Upper Canada College , located in midtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is an independent elementary and secondary school for boys between Senior Kindergarten and Grade Twelve, operating under the International Baccalaureate program. The secondary school segment is divided into ten houses; eight are...

 as a school based on the elite English public school model to educate boys in preparation for becoming leaders of the colonies.

Being a member of the Family Compact
Family Compact
Fully developed after the War of 1812, the Compact lasted until Upper and Lower Canada were united in 1841. In Lower Canada, its equivalent was the Château Clique. The influence of the Family Compact on the government administration at different levels lasted to the 1880s...

, Colborne was a strong supporter of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and British traditions. Colborne considered that the province was unready for responsible government
Responsible government
Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability which is the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy...

. The conflict between the assembly and the executive over fiscal matters combined with the difficult economic situation contributed to the Rebellions of 1837
Rebellions of 1837
The Rebellions of 1837 were a pair of Canadian armed uprisings that occurred in 1837 and 1838 in response to frustrations in political reform. A key shared goal was the allowance of responsible government, which was eventually achieved in the incident's aftermath.-Rebellions:The rebellions started...

 during which he was made commander-in-chief of the armed forces and acting Governor General of British North America
British North America
British North America is a historical term. It consisted of the colonies and territories of the British Empire in continental North America after the end of the American Revolutionary War and the recognition of American independence in 1783.At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 the British...


Colborne raised a local militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 to join the same contingent of British regulars to suppress a rebel
Lower Canada Rebellion
The Lower Canada Rebellion , commonly referred to as the Patriots' War by Quebeckers, is the name given to the armed conflict between the rebels of Lower Canada and the British colonial power of that province...

 force in December 1837. He personally led the offensive at St-Eustache
Battle of Saint-Eustache
The Battle of Saint-Eustache, fought on December 14, 1837, was a decisive battle in the Lower Canada Rebellion in which British forces defeated the principal remaining Patriotes camp at Saint-Eustache.-Prelude:...

 in Lower Canada
Lower Canada
The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence...

. In Canada the actions of some of his irregular forces were to result in him being nicknamed le vieux brûlot.

Later life

Colborne was promoted to Lieutenant-General in June 1838. He was appointed GCB in October 1839. He was raised to the 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...

 as Baron Seaton of Seaton in Devonshire in December 1839. He was appointed GCMG in July 1843. He was high commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

 of the Ionian Islands
Ionian Islands
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e...

 from 1843 to 1849. He was promoted to full general in June 1854 and from 1855 to 1860 he was Commander-in-Chief, Ireland
Commander-in-Chief, Ireland
Commander-in-Chief, Ireland was title of the commander of British forces in Ireland before 1922.The role nominally is held by the President of Ireland today as the supreme commander of the Defence Forces.-Commanders-in-Chief, Ireland, 1700-1922:...

. Colborne was promoted to Field Marshal in April 1860. He had purchased the house and grounds of Beechwood, by Sparkwell, Devon in 1856 and lived there in retirement. Colborne was appointed honorary colonel of the 2nd Life Guards and bearer of the gold stick in March 1854. He was appointed honorary colonel of the Rifle Brigade (95th) in February 1862, in succession to the Prince Consort, at the express wish of Queen Victoria. He died at Valetta House, Torquay
Torquay is a town in the unitary authority area of Torbay and ceremonial county of Devon, England. It lies south of Exeter along the A380 on the north of Torbay, north-east of Plymouth and adjoins the neighbouring town of Paignton on the west of the bay. Torquay’s population of 63,998 during the...

, Devon on 17 April 1863. He is buried in the churchyard of Newton Ferrers, Devon. He was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son, James Colborne.

A cairn was built in 1844 by the Glengarry Highlanders on an island in Lake St Francis, Ontario, in honour of Colborne. In November 1866, a bronze statue, by George Adams, raised by public donations was placed at Mount Wise, Devonport, Devon. There is also a statue of Colborne at Peninsula Barracks, Winchester, Hampshire.

Port Colborne, at the south end of the Welland Canal
Welland Canal
The Welland Canal is a ship canal in Canada that extends from Port Weller, Ontario, on Lake Ontario, to Port Colborne, Ontario, on Lake Erie. As a part of the St...

, is named after him. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada at the time of the opening of the First Welland Canal, which runs through the city. The town of Colborne, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, also carries his name, as does Colborne Street, one of the main streets in the city of Brantford. Lakeshore Road, in Oakville
Oakville, Ontario
Oakville is a town in Halton Region, on Lake Ontario in Southern Ontario, Canada, and is part of the Greater Toronto Area. As of the 2006 census the population was 165,613.-History:In 1793, Dundas Street was surveyed for a military road...

was formerly named Colborne Street in his honour.