Keppel, Henry (DNB12)

KEPPEL, Sir HENRY (1809–1904), admiral of the fleet, born in Kennsington on 14 June 1809, was sixth surviving son of William Charlos, fourth earl of Albemarle, by his wife Elizabeth Southwell, daughter of Edward, 20th Lord de Clifford. This grand-uncle was Augustus, Viscount Keppel [q. v.], and his elder brothers, Augustus Frederick and George Thomas, became successively fifth and sixth earls of Albemarle. Henry entered the navy on 7 Feb. 1822. After leaving the Royal Naval College at Greenwich he was appointed to the Tweed, of twenty-eight guns, and went out to the Cape. He passed his examination in 1828, and was promoted to lieutenant on 29 Jan. 1829. Early in 1830 he was appointed to the Galatea, Capt. Charles Napier [q. v.], which, after a spell of home service, went to the West Indies. At Barbadoes Keppel jeopardised his career by breaking an arrest in order to attend a dignity ball. He was next appointed to the Magicienne, Capt. James H. Plumridge [q. v.], going out to the East Indies, where he saw active service during the war between the East India Company and the Rajah of Nanning. His promotion to commander, dated 20 Jan. 1833, recalled him, and in 1834 he was appointed to command the Childers, brig, in which he served first on the south coast of Spain, co-operating with the forces of the Queen Regent against the Carlists, and afterwards on the west coast of Africa. On 6 Dec. 1837 he was promoted to be captain. In August 1841 he commissioned the Dido, corvette, for the China station, where he served wdth distinction during the latter part of the war under Sir William Parker. When peace was made in August 1842 Keppel was sent to Singapore as senior officer on that part of the station. There he made friends with Sir James Brooke [q. v.], with whom he returned to Sarawak. For eighteen months he co-operated with Brooke for the suppression of Borneo piracy, and, after many boat actions, the Dido, together with the East India Co.'s steamship Phlegethon, destroyed the chief stronghold of the pirates, together with some 300 prahus. After two years on half-pay Keppel was appointed in 1847 to the Mseander, frigate, and returned to the same station, where his intercourse with Brooke was resumed. Towards the end of the commission he visited Australia, and in 1851 returned to England by the Straits of Magellan (The Times, 22, 26, and 26 Jan. 1904).

In 1853 Keppel was appointed to the St. Jean d'Acre, then oonsidered the finest line-of-battleship in the navy, and lenred with distinction in her during the Baltic campaign of 1854, following which the ship was tent to the Black Sea. In July 1855 Keppel was moved into the Rodney, and took command of the naval brigade ashore before Sevastopol, continuing with it till the fall of the fortress. In addition to the Baltic and Crimean medals, he received the cross of the Legion of Honour, the third class of the Medjidie, and, on 4 Feb. 1850, was made a companion of the Bath.

When in the autumn of 1856 Keppel commissioned the Raleigh, frigate, as commodore and second in command on the China station, his reputation for courage and conduct combined with his family interest to give the ship a certain aristocratic character somewhat uncommon in the service; among the lieutenants were James G. Goodenough [q. v.]. Lord Gillford [see Meade, Richard James, fourth earl of Clanwilliam, Suppl. II], and Prince Victor of Hohenlohe [q. v.], while Lord Charles Scott [q. v. Suppl. II], Henry F. Stephenson, Arthur Knyvet Wilson, and Hon. Victor Montagu were midshipmen on board. During the Raleigh's passage war broke out in China, and every effort was made to hurry the ship to Hong Kong, shortly before reaching which she struck upon an uncharted pinnacle rock. The ship was totally lost, but there was no loss of life, and Keppel was acquitted by the subsequent court-martial. He next hoisted his broad pennant in the chartered river steamer Hong Kong, and took part in the operations in the Canton River. The attack delivered on the grand fleet of war junks in the upper reaches of Fatshan Creek on 1 June 1857 was entrusted to Keppel, under whose personal command practically the whole of the junks, to the number of about seventy, were burnt. The Chinese had obstructed the stream, measured the distances, and made other careful preparations for the defence of their position, and they fought stoutly. Keppel's galley was sunk, and five of her crew were lulled or wounded. He was warmly complimented by the commander in chief [see Seymour, Sir Michael], on whose recommendation he was awarded the K.C.B. On 22 August following he was promoted to his flag, and returned home.

In Sept. 1858 Sir Henry was appointed groom-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, a poet which he resigned in May 1860 to hoist his flagon board the frigate Forte as commander-in-chief on the Cape station. There was some friction between Keppel and the governor at the Cape [see Grey, Sir George], and he was shortly transferred to the Brazilian command. He became a vice-admiral on 11 Jan. 1864, and in December 1866 was chosen to be commander-in-chief on the China station, where he had his flag in the Rodney. On 3 July 1869 he was promoted to admiral, and returned home. In April 1870 he was awarded an admiral's good service pension, and in May 1871 was advanced to the Grand Cross of the Bath. From November 1872 to 1875 he was commander-in-chief at Devonport; on 5 Aug. 1877 he received his promotion to be admiral of the fleet; and in March 1878 he was appointed first and principal naval aide-de-camp to the queen. By a special order in council his name was retained on the active list of the navy until his death, which took place in London on 17 Jan. 1904. He was buried at Winkfield with naval honours, a memorial service being held in the Chapel Royal, St. James's.

Keppel's social reputation stood as high as his service character. He was no less remarkable for the charm of his personality than for his love of sport and exuberant vitality. With King Edward VII, especially while Prince of Wales, he was on terms of intimate friendship; and with Queen Alexandra and the whole royal family his relations were such as are rarely permitted to a subject.

A bust by Count Gleichen was presented to the United Service Club by King Edward VII in 1905. Cartoon portraits appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1876 and 1903.

Keppel was twice married: (1) in 1839 to Katherine Louisa (d. 5 June 1859), daughter of Gen. Sir John Crosbie, G.C.H.; (2) on 31 Oct. 1861 to Jane Elizabeth, daughter of Martin J. West and sister of Sir Algernon West. By his second wife, who died on 21 April 1895, he left issue CoHn Richard, b. 3 Dec. 1862, now a rear-admiral, and Maria Walpole, who married Capt. (now Vice-admiral) Frederick Tower Hamilton, R.N.

Keppel published his memoirs in 1899 with the title 'A Sailor's Life under Four Sovereigns,' 3 vols.

[Keppel's Sailor's Life, 1899; Memoir by Keppel's brother-in-law. Sir Algernon West, G.C.B., 1905; The Times, 18 Jan. 1904, based chiefly on Keppel's book.]

L. G. C. L.