Open main menu

Onslow, Richard (1741-1817) (DNB00)

ONSLOW, Sir RICHARD (1741–1817), admiral, born on 23 June 1741, was second son of Lieutenant-general Richard Onslow (d. 1760). George Onslow (1731–1792) [q. v.] was his brother, and Arthur Onslow [q. v.], speaker of the House of Commons, was his uncle. On 17 Feb. 1758 he was promoted by vice-admiral George Pocock [q. v.], in the East Indies, to be lieutenant of the Sunderland, from which he was moved in March 1759 to the Grafton, and in March 1760 to the Yarmouth, Pocock's flagship, in which he returned to England. On 11 Feb. 1761 he was promoted to command the Martin, and on 14 April 1762 was posted to the 40-gun ship Humber, in which he convoyed the trade to the Baltic. On his return south in September the Humber and many of the convoy were wrecked, by an error of the pilot, near Flamborough Head. Onslow was acquitted of all blame, and on 29 Nov. 1762 was appointed to the Phœnix. From 1766 to 1769 he commanded the Aquilon in the Mediterranean, and in 1770 commissioned the Diana, in which, when the dispute with Spain was adjusted, he was sent to Jamaica under the orders of Sir George Rodney. In October 1776 he was appointed to the St. Albans, and in her, in the following spring, took out a convoy to New York, where he continued under the command of Lord Howe till, towards the end of 1778, he went to the West Indies with Commodore Hotham, joined Barrington at St. Lucia, and took part in the brilliant repulse of D'Estaing in the Cul-de-sac on 15 Dec. [see Barrington, Samuel; Hotham, William, Lord].

Early in the summer of 1779 Onslow was sent to England in charge of convoy, and in February 1780 commissioned the Bellona, in which he assisted at the relief of Gibraltar by Darby in April 1781, and again under Howe in October 1782. The Bellona was then sent to the West Indies in the squadron under Sir Richard Hughes, but returned to England on the conclusion of the peace. In 1790 Onslow commanded the Magnificent at Portsmouth during the Spanish armament. On 1 Feb. 1793 he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the white, and on 4 July 1794 to be vice-admiral of the white. In 1796 he commanded for a short time at Portsmouth, and was afterwards appointed second in command in the North Sea under Admiral Duncan [see Duncan, Adam, Viscount]. During the mutiny at the Nore he had his flag flying on board the Adamant, and for a great part of the time remained off the Texel with only the one ship, keeping watch on the enemy's fleet. Afterwards he moved into the Monarch, and took a very distinguished part in the battle of Camperdown on 11 Oct. 1797 [see O'Bryen, Edward]. For his conduct, which was warmly praised by Duncan, he was created a baronet on 30 Oct., and was presented by the corporation of London with the freedom of the city and a sword, value one hundred guineas. He continued in the North Sea under Duncan till his promotion to the rank of admiral on 14 Feb. 1799, after which he had no employment. He was nominated a G.C.B. in 1815, and died at Southampton on 27 Dec. 1817.

He married, in 1773, Anne, daughter of Commodore Matthew Michell [q. v.] of Chiltern, Wiltshire, and had issue four daughters and three sons, the second of whom, Henry, succeeded as second baronet. Onslow is described by Sir William Hotham [q. v.] as below the middle stature and of a florid countenance. ‘His manner was abrupt and not very prepossessing to strangers, but his ideas and his disposition were alike generous, and he was an affectionate husband and an indulgent father. He was subject to occasional irritability of temper, proceeding in a great measure from a nautical predilection for conviviality, without a strength of constitution to support it, and this subjected him, in a much greater degree than was really the fact, to the charge of intemperance.’ A portrait, lent by the family, was in the Naval Exhibition of 1891.

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. vi. 478; Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. i. 350; Naval Chronicle, xiii. 249 (with a portrait); Official Documents in the Public Record Office; Foster's Peerage and Baronetage.]

J. K. L.