Royal Naval Biography/Fancourt, Robert Devereux

Vice-Admiral of the Red.

This officer was first Lieutenant of the Gibraltar, of 80 guns, bearing the broad pendant of the late Sir Richard Bickerton, in Feb. 1782, at which period that officer sailed for the East Indies, with several men of war, to reinforce the squadron on that station under Sir Edward Hughes. On his passage the Commodore touched at Rio Janeiro, where he purchased a cutter on Government account, and promoted Mr. Fancourt into her, with the rank of Commander. In this vessel, .which we believe was named the Substitute, and mounted 14 guns, Captain Fancourt proceeded to India, and continued there during the remainder of the war.

In 1790, a dispute arose with Spain relative to Nootka Sound; and Captain Fancourt, who had been advanced to post rank, on the 2d Dec., in the preceding year, was appointed to the command of the Ambuscade frigate, stationed in the Mediterranean. Soon after the commencement of the war with France, in 1793, we find him in the Chichester, of 44 guns, employed principally in escorting the trade to and from the West Indies and Mediterranean. This vessel, in company with the Intrepid, 64, captured la Sirenne, French corvette, off St. Domingo, about the month of Aug. 1794.

In the year 1797, Captain Fancourt was removed into the Agamemnon, of 64 guns, attached to Admiral Duncan’s fleet in the North Sea. This ship appears to have been implicated in the mutiny at the Nore, but previous to its suppression seceded from the rebellious cause[1]. In the summer of 1800, she formed part of the squadron sent to Elsineur under the orders of Vice-Admiral Dickson, for the purpose of giving weight to the arguments adduced by the British Minister in support of the right claimed by Great Britain to search neutral vessels [2].

We next find Captain Fancourt accompanying Sir Hyde Parker on an expedition against Copenhagen, in the spring of 1801; but from the unfortunate circumstance of the Agamemnon striking upon a shoal when approaching the Danish line of defence, he was prevented from participating in the glorious victory achieved by Lord Nelson, to whose division he had been attached. On the Agamemnon’s return to England, she was stationed as a guard ship in Hosely Bay. Captain Fancourt subsequently commanded the Zealand, 64, bearing the flag of the Commander-in-Chief at the Nore. He was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, April 28, 1808; and Vice-Admiral, Aug. 12, 1812.

  1. See p. 163.
  2. In Dec. 1799, a Danish frigate, convoying a fleet of merchantmen in the vicinity of Gibraltar, refused to permit the search of some British cruizers, and fired into a boat sent for that purpose; but this difference was compromised by a disavowal of orders on the part of the Danish court. In July 1800, a similar refusal on the part of the Commander of the Freya, another frigate of that nation, having six vessels under his protection, in the English Channel, was productive of an action, which ended in the Dane striking his colours, and being brought with his charge into the Downs [ See Rear-Admiral Thomas Baker. ]. To prevent any hostile consequences from this affair, the British government lost no time in despatching Lord Whitworth to the Court of Denmark; and to give weight to his Lordship’s arguments, as well as to secure and protect the Baltic convoy, should not the Danish government accede to the desired arrangements, that minister was accompanied by a squadron of four sail of the line, (to which the Agamemnon and five others were afterwards added,) three 50-gun ships, and several frigates and smaller vessels, under Vice-Admiral Dickson.

    The British squadron reached Elsineur Roads on the 20th Aug., and on the 29th the negociation terminated in a convention between the two powers, by virtue of which, the Freya and the vessels detained with her were to be repaired at the expence of Great Britain and then released; but the question of the right of search was left for future discussion. Vice-Admiral Dickson left the Sound on the 7th of the ensuing month, and returned to Yarmouth Roads. On this occasion Denmark was awed into forbearance; but her resentment was not appeased, as will appear hereafter in our memoir of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Foley.