Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bunbury, Henry Edward

BUNBURY, Sir HENRY EDWARD (1778–1860), seventh baronet, of Mildenhall and Barton Hall, Suffolk, a lieutenant-general on the retired list, and author of several historical works, was son of the eminent amateur artist H. W. Bunbury [see Bunbury, Henry William]. He was born on 4 May 1778, and received his education at Westminster School under Dr. Vincent. In 1795 he obtained a commission in the Coldstream guards, and became aide-de-camp to his uncle, General Gwyn. In 1797 he purchased a troop in the 16th light dragoons, which at that period was stationed for several years in the vicinity of the royal residences at Windsor and Weymouth. He served on the personal staff of the Duke of York in North Holland in 1799, and in 1800 was promoted to an unattached majority. He studied in the Royal Military College at Wycombe in 1800–1. During the invasion alarms of 1803–4 he was employed on the quartermaster-general's staff of the south-eastern district. In 1805 he was quartermaster-general of the force sent to the Mediterranean under Sir James Craig, which, after landing in Naples, withdrew to Sicily, and he held the same post under Sir John Stuart in the descent on Calabria in 1806, when he received a gold medal for the battle of Maida, where he had greatly distinguished himself as chief of the staff; and in Sicily up to 1809, including the expedition to the bay of Naples in the latter year. Returning home on leave, he was appointed under-secretary of state for war under the Portland administration, a post which he retained under Mr. Perceval and Lord Liverpool until its abolition in 1816. In December 1815 he was sent on an important mission to the Duke of Wellington, then at St. Jean de Luz, the secret of which has never transpired. In 1814 he became a major-general and was made a K.C.B., and in the same year was appointed special commissioner, with Admiral Lord Keith, to communicate to the ex-emperor Napoleon the decision of the British cabinet respecting his exile to St. Helena, a delicate task, for which Bunbury's tact and polished address well fitted him. An account of the transaction, drawn up by him for the information of Lord Keith, is given in Allardyce's ‘Life of Lord Keith,’ and in the memoir noticed below. A number of unpublished letters from Bunbury to Sir Hudson Lowe at this period are in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 20108–20233). Sir Henry, then Colonel Bunbury, had married in 1807 a daughter of General Fox, commanding in Sicily, and brother of the Right Hon. Charles James Fox, and by her, who died in 1828, had four sons—viz. Sir Charles James Fox Bunbury, F.R.S., his successor in the baronetcy, and author of a memoir of his father's life; Edward Herbert Bunbury, author of a ‘History of Ancient Geography’ (London, 1879); Henry William St. Pierre Bunbury, lieutenant-colonel, who commanded the 23rd fusiliers in the unsuccessful attack on the Redan at Sebastopol; and Richard Hanmer Bunbury, a captain in the royal navy. Sir Henry married secondly, in 1830, a sister of Colonel, afterwards Sir Charles Napier of Scinde. Some years before, in 1821, he had succeeded to the baronetcy and estates of his uncle, Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, who was for forty-three years M.P. for the county of Suffolk, but is better remembered as a racing man and the winner of the first ‘Derby.’ In 1830 Sir Henry came forward to fill the seat so long occupied by his uncle. He was returned with Mr. Tyrell by a majority of 400 over Sir T. Gooch, who had been for many years the tory member. Bunbury was a staunch whig, and voted for the second reading of the Reform Bill when it was carried by a majority of one. At the election which followed he was again returned among the band of reformers sent up by nearly all the county constituencies. He was at this time offered the post of secretary of war by Earl Grey, but declined it on the ground of ill-health. He therefore withdrew from parliament at the following dissolution, and from the army in 1832. In 1837 he was induced to waive personal considerations, and again to stand for the county in the liberal interest; but a reaction had by this time set in, and two conservatives were returned. Bunbury was a good judge of art and letters. He formed a fine library and a collection of pictures. He was a fellow of the Antiquarian Society, and a paper by him on Roman and British antiquities found at Mildenhall is printed in ‘Archæologia,’ xxv. 605–11. He was author of the following: 1. ‘Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bart., Speaker of the House of Commons. … To which are added other relicks of a Gentleman's [Bunbury] Family’ (London, 1838). 2. ‘Narrative of the Campaign in North Holland in 1799’ (London, 1849). 3. ‘Narrative of certain Passages in the late War with France’ (London, 1852). All of these are valuable works, and the last possesses special military interest by reason of the insight it affords to what may be called the internal history of the army at the period immediately antecedent to the Peninsular war. To Bunbury is likewise due the credit of having encouraged the establishment of our present volunteer army by a vigorous appeal to the public, penned about a twelvemonth before his death, in which he gave his personal experience of former invasion panics, and offered, in the event of the proposed movement not finding general acceptance, to raise and train a body of volunteers at his own cost. After settling in the country he took a lively interest in all measures for promoting the welfare of the labouring classes. He died at Barton Hall on 13 April 1860, at the age of eighty-two.

In the ‘Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books’ the name of Sir Henry Bunbury is suggested as the original of the supposed pseudonym ‘F. R. Soame.’ A double error is here involved. Sir Henry Bunbury never wrote under that name, and the name itself is not an assumed one, being that of his cousin Henry Francis Robert Soame (1768–1803), who died in India while serving as a lieutenant in the 22nd (formerly 25th) light dragoons, and of whom particulars will be found among the family memorials appended to the ‘Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hanmer,’ before mentioned, in which are also inserted some of H. F. R. Soame's poetical pieces, including ‘The Retrospect’ and ‘Lines written on a Blank Leaf facing the Title Page of “The Pleasures of Memory,”’ which first appeared anonymously in some of the editions of Rogers's ‘Poems.’

[Memoir and Literary Remains, edited by his son, Sir Charles J. F. Bunbury (privately printed), 1868; Burke's Baronetage; Forster's Life of Goldsmith, pp. 321–3, 387–9; Annual Army Lists; Sir H. Bunbury's Works; Allardyce's Life of Keith (Edinburgh, 1883); Brit. Mus. Cat.; Gent. Mag. 3rd ser. ix. 91; Bury and Norwich Free Press, 14 April and 28 April 1860; Illust. Lond. News, xxxvi. 1036 (will); information supplied by Sir Charles Bunbury, F.R.S., and E. H. Bunbury.]

H. M. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.42
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
266 i 14 Bunbury, Sir Henry E.: for 1815 read 1814
16 f.e. for 1820 read 1821
ii 6 after followed insert He withdrew from the army in 1832