Bettesworth, George Edmund Byron (DNB00)


BETTESWORTH, GEORGE EDMUND BYRON (1780–1808), naval captain, was the second son of John Bettesworth of Carhayes, Cornwall, who married Frances Elinor, daughter of Francis Tomkyns of Pembrokeshire. At an early age he was sent to sea as midshipman under Captain Robert Barlow, commanding the frigate Phoebe. In this ship he remained for several years, but in January 1804 he was lieutenant of the Centaur, and took part in the action with the Curieux, when the latter vessel was taken from the French. Bettesworth received a slight wound in this engagement, but his commanding officer suffered so severely that he died, and his lieutenant succeeded to the command of the Curieux. Whilst in this position he engaged in an action with the Dame Ernouf about twenty leagues from the Barbadoes. After a sharp fight the French vessel surrendered, but Bettesworth was again wounded. In the same year (1805) he brought home from Antigua the despatches of Nelson, apprising the government of Villeneuve's homeward flight from the West Indies, and at once received from Lord Barham a post-captain's commission. Lord Byron, in October 1807, wrote: 'Next January ... I am going to sea for four or five months with my cousin, Captain Bettesworth, who commands the Tartar, the finest frigate in the navy ... We are going probably to the Mediterranean or to the West Indies, or to the devil; and if there is a possibility of taking me to the latter, Bettesworth will do it, for he has received four-and-twenty wounds in different places, and at this moment possesses a letter from the late Lord Nelson stating that Bettesworth is the only officer in the navy who had more wounds than himself.' The promised voyage never took place. In May 1808, Bettesworth was engaged in watching some vessels off Bergen, when it was deemed possible to cut some of them off from the protecting gunboats. In this attempt the Tartar became becalmed amid the rocks, and was attacked by a schooner and five gunboats, when its brave captain was killed by the first shot, 16 May 1808. The body was buried at Howick, Northumberland, in the vault of the Grey family, on 27 May. Major Trevanion, ‘a brother of Captain Bettesworth,' was a chief mourner. Byron's grandmother was a Miss Trevanion. Bettesworth had married at St. George's, Hanover Square, 24 Sept. 1807, Hannah Althea, second daughter of the first Earl Grey. His widow married, in October 1809, Mr. Edward Ellice, a well-known whig politician. Captain Bettesworth was only twenty-three years old at the time of his death, and was the beau idéal of an English officer.

[Gent. Mag. 1808, pt. i. p. 660 ; Moore's Byron, i. 174-5; Brenton's Naval Hist. ii. 99, 232; James's Naval Hist. ii. 246, v. 34-6.]

W. P. C.