Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vivian, Richard Hussey

VIVIAN, Sir RICHARD HUSSEY, first Baron Vivian (1775–1842), lieutenant-general, colonel of the 1st royal dragoons, eldest son of John Vivian of Truro, vice-warden of the Stannaries, by Betsy, only daughter and coheir of Richard Cranch, vicar of St. Clements, near Truro, was born in that city on 28 July 1775. He received the name of Hussey from his grandmother, a sister of Richard Hussey of Okehampton, attorney-general and member of parliament for St. Michael's. After education at Truro grammar school under Dr. Cardew, at Lostwithiel, at Harrow, and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he kept only two terms, Vivian went in 1791 to France to learn the language. In 1793 he was articled to Jonathan Elford, a solicitor at Devonport, but, preferring a military career, an ensign's commission in the 20th foot was procured for him on 31 July 1793. He did not join the regiment, and on 20 Oct. was promoted to be lieutenant in an independent company of foot, whence on the 30th of the same month he exchanged into the 54th foot.

Vivian was promoted to be captain in the 28th foot on 7 May 1794, and joined Lord Moira's reinforcements for the Duke of York's army in Flanders, disembarking at Ostend in June. He took part in the operations which ended in the withdrawal of the Duke of York to Antwerp and the concentration at the end of July of his whole force at Breda for the defence of Holland. He was in hot fighting at Nimeguen at the end of October, and after its evacuation and the return of the Duke of York to England, he was in the affair at Thiel under General Dundas in December, and at Geldermalsen under Lord Cathcart in extremely severe weather early in January 1795, when his regiment greatly distinguished itself.

Vivian returned to England in June 1795, and was stationed at Gosport. He embarked with his regiment in the autumn in the expedition under Sir Ralph Abercromby [q. v.], but after some weeks at sea his transport was driven back by the weather, and in August 1796 he accompanied his regiment to Gibraltar. In August 1798 he exchanged into the 7th light dragoons, and with that regiment took part in the expedition to the Helder, sailing from Deal on 13 Aug. 1799 with the first division of the British army under Sir Ralph Abercromby. He was present at the battles of Bergen on 19 Sept. and 2 Oct., and at the battle of Alkmaar on 6 Oct. In December he returned to England with his regiment. On 9 March 1800 he was promoted major, and on 20 Sept. 1804 lieutenant-colonel in the 25th light dragoons, but never joined, and on 1 Dec. exchanged back into the 7th light dragoons.

In October 1808 Vivian sailed in command of the 7th light dragoons for Spain, and, disembarking at Coruña in the following month, joined the army under Sir David Baird [q. v.] On 5 Dec. he marched with the rest of the cavalry under Lord Paget from Astorga and joined Sir J. Moore on the 10th at Toro. In the retreat to Coruña Vivian was frequently engaged, as his regiment formed the rearguard from Astorga to Coruña. On one occasion during the retreat Vivian, accompanied by only one non-commissioned officer, collected some six hundred stragglers of infantry which had been attacked by a body of French cavalry, formed them up, and beat off the enemy, for which he received the thanks of Paget and of Sir John Moore, who witnessed his success. After the battle of Coruña (16 Jan. 1809) Vivian embarked with the army for England. For his services in this campaign he was awarded the gold medal for the actions of Sahagun and Benavente.

Having recruited its losses in the Coruña campaign, Vivian's regiment was sent to Ireland in 1810, and remained there until the spring of 1813, when he returned with it to England. On 20 Feb. 1812 he was promoted to be colonel in the army on appointment as aide-de-camp to the prince regent. He was shortly after appointed equerry to the prince. In August 1813 he sailed with his regiment for Spain, landing towards the end of the month at Bilbao. In September he joined Lord Edward Somerset's brigade at Olite. He was present at the battle of the Nivelle on 10 Nov., and was soon after made a colonel on the staff to command a cavalry brigade (consisting of the 10th and 14th light dragoons) of Hill's division, which was posted between Usterits and Cambo on the river Nive. He was in command of Hill's cavalry at the passage of the Nive on 9 Dec. and in the fighting that took place on the succeeding days, and in the battle of St. Pierre on the 13th.

On 1 Jan. 1814 Vivian was transferred to the command of the cavalry brigade of General Alten's division (consisting of the 18th light dragoons and the German hussars) at Hasparren. He advanced with the army in the middle of February, attacked the enemy at the Gave de Pau on the 23rd, and took part in the battle of Orthez on 27 Feb., where his brigade was with the 4th and 7th divisions on the height of St. Boës. His conduct in this battle gained the approbation of Sir William Carr Beresford (afterwards Viscount Beresford) [q. v.], and he was awarded a clasp to his gold Peninsula medal. On 12 March he entered Bordeaux, and soon after joined Wellington in his advance on Toulouse. On 8 April he made, says Wellington in his despatch, ‘a most gallant attack upon a superior body of the enemy's cavalry at Crois d'Orade, and took about one hundred prisoners, gave us possession of an important bridge over the Ers, by which it was necessary to pass to attack the enemy's position. Colonel Vivian was unfortunately wounded upon this occasion, and I am afraid I shall lose his services for some time.’ On the following day the officers of the 18th light dragoons sent a letter to Vivian condoling with him on his wound, and requesting him to accept a sword of honour as a memorial of him leading them to victory. The sword was presented a few months later on the return of the regiment to England. Vivian's severe wound prevented him taking any further part in the campaign, and he returned to England in June, having been promoted to be major-general on the 4th of that month.

In January 1815 Vivian was made a knight commander of the order of the Bath, military division. His promotion severed his connection with the 7th hussars, and the officers presented him with a valuable piece of plate. He was shortly after appointed to the command of the Sussex military district, with his headquarters at Brighton.

On 16 April 1815 Vivian embarked to take command of a cavalry brigade (consisting of the 7th, 10th, and 18th light dragoons) under Lord Uxbridge in the Duke of Wellington's army assembling in Belgium. He arrived on 3 May at Ninove, where his brigade was assembled. Towards the end of May the 7th hussars were transferred from Vivian's to Sir C. Grant's brigade and replaced by the 12th hussars of the king's German legion. On 13 June Vivian, having personally ascertained that the French were concentrating, reported it to headquarters. On the 15th he was present at the Duchess of Richmond's ball at Brussels, which he left to march on Enghien and thence to Quatre Bras, where he arrived after a forty-mile march over bad roads just too late to assist in defeating the French attack. On the 17th Vivian's brigade assisted to cover on the left the British retreat to Waterloo, encountering a tremendous storm of rain, which, however, relieved them of some pressure from the enemy. Having bivouacked in the vicinity of the forest of Soignies on the night of the 17th, his brigade was drawn up on the morning of the 18th in rear of the Wavre road. It suffered little until towards the close of the last attack, as the ground on the left did not admit of the cavalry advancing.

About six o'clock in the evening, ascertaining that the cavalry in the centre had suffered severely, Vivian took upon himself to move his brigade from the left to the right centre of the British line, arriving most opportunely as Bonaparte was making his last and most desperate efforts. Wheeling his brigade into line close in rear of the infantry, Vivian was ready to charge directly they had retreated through his intervals. Lord Edward Somerset, with the remnant of the two heavy cavalry brigades (some two hundred out of two thousand), retired through Vivian's brigade, which was then for about half an hour exposed to a hot fire of shot, shell, and musketry. The presence, however, of Vivian's brigade, which was shortly after followed by the brigade of Sir John Ormsby Vandeleur [q. v.], inspired the infantry with fresh confidence. On the repulse of Bonaparte's two huge columns of attack by the fire of the allies, Vivian led his brigade to attack the French reserves posted close to La Belle Alliance. Charging with the 10th light dragoons (the 18th being in support and the king's German legion in reserve), as soon as the 10th were well mixed up with the enemy and the French making off, he galloped to the 18th. En route he was attacked by a cuirassier, but, giving him a thrust in the neck with his left hand (his right hand was in a sling from his Peninsula wound), his little German orderly cut the fellow off his horse. With the 18th light dragoons he charged the second body of cuirassiers and chasseurs, not only defeating them, but taking fourteen guns which had been firing at them during the movement. He then directed the 10th to charge an infantry square, which was gallantly carried out, the French cut down in their ranks, and Count Lobau, who commanded an army corps, taken prisoner. The last shot having been fired, the pursuit lasted as long as it was possible to see, and Vivian bivouacked for the night at Hilaincourt.

On 19 June Vivian moved near Wellington's headquarters, and his brigade formed the advanced guard in the march to Paris. On the 26th, near Nesles, a reconnoitring party of the 10th hussars captured General Lauriston, aide-de-camp to Napoleon. On 2 July Vivian reached Bourget. On the 8th he went into Paris to see the king enter, and on the 10th proceeded on leave of absence to England. For his services at Waterloo Vivian, who was mentioned in despatches, received the thanks of both houses of parliament, knighthood of the royal Hanoverian order, of the Austrian order of Maria Theresa, and of the Russian order of St. Vladimir. During the occupation of France he was with his brigade in Picardy. He returned to England with the army in 1818, and was for a short time unemployed. On the disbandment of the 18th hussars on 10 Sept. 1821, the soldiers of the regiment presented him with a silver trumpet and banner purchased with part of the prize-money due to them for horses of the enemy captured by the brigade at Waterloo. This trumpet was presented by the second Lord Vivian to the new regiment of 18th hussars on 10 Sept. 1880.

In 1819 Vivian was sent to Newcastle-on-Tyne on account of disturbances which had occurred there, and thence to Glasgow, where serious riots were apprehended. In 1820 he was elected a member of parliament for Truro, and continued to represent it until 1825. From 1825 until 20 July 1830 he held the appointment of inspector-general of cavalry. On 22 June 1827 he was promoted to be lieutenant-general, and on the following day received the colonelcy of the 12th or Prince of Wales's royal lancers. From 1826 until 1831 he represented Windsor in parliament. During the time Vivian sat in the House of Commons he was a frequent speaker, especially on military subjects. In 1828 he was created a baronet. On 1 July 1831 he was appointed commander of the forces in Ireland, whereupon he retired from parliament, and was given the grand cross of the Hanoverian order. From 1830 to 1837 he was groom of the bedchamber to William IV. In 1835 he was offered the post of secretary at war, but declined it. On 4 May 1835 he succeeded General Sir George Murray [q. v.] as master-general of the ordnance, and was made an English privy councillor; he was already a member of the Irish privy council.

On 29 Jan. 1837 he was transferred from the colonelcy of the 12th lancers to that of the 1st royal dragoons, and on 30 May was given the grand cross of the order of the Bath (military division). In this year he was returned to parliament as member for East Cornwall, and continued to represent it until 1841, when he was created a peer as Baron Vivian, and took his seat in the upper house. He died suddenly at Baden-Baden on 20 Aug. 1842. He was buried in the family vault in St. Mary's, Truro. A cenotaph of white marble to the memory of Lord Vivian was erected in the church.

Vivian was twice married: first, on 14 Sept. 1804, to Eliza (d. 1831), daughter of Philip Champion de Crespigny of Aldeburgh, Suffolk; and, secondly, on 10 Oct. 1833, to Letitia, third daughter of the Rev. James Agnew Webster of Ashford, co. Longford. By his first wife he had issue, besides daughters, two sons: Charles Crespigny [see under Vivian, Sir Hussey Crespigny, third Baron Vivian]; John Cranch Walker (d. 1879), captain 11th hussars, M.P. for Truro, and permanent under-secretary of state for war; and an unmarried daughter. By his second wife, who survived him, he left a daughter, Lalagé Letitia Caroline (1834–1875), who married Henry Hyde Nugent Banks, son of the Right Hon. George Banks of Kingston Hall, Dorset. Lord Vivian also left a natural son, Sir Robert John Hussey Vivian [q. v.]

Vivian's portrait was painted full-length in uniform with his horse by Shee, and engraved in mezzotint by Meyer. The portrait of his second wife with her daughter was painted by Corbaux and engraved by Edwards.

[War Office Records; Despatches; Siborne's History of the Waterloo Campaign; Napier's Peninsular War; Moore's Narrative of the Campaign in Spain, 1808–9; Smith's Wars in the Low Countries; Autobiographical Memoir, dated Royal Hospital, Dublin, 9 March 1832, published in Letters of Sir Walter Scott addressed to the Rev. R. Polwhele, &c., London, 8vo, 1832, pp. 69–79 (Polwhele wrote a poetical tribute to Vivian with which Sir Walter Scott expressed himself delighted); Memoir by the Hon. Claude Vivian, 8vo, London, 1897; Gent. Mag. 1842; United Service Journal, 1847; Vivian Family of Cornwall, pedigree, p. 13.]

R. H. V.