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Royal Naval Biography/Monkton, John


JOHN MONKTON, Esq
[Superannuated Rear-Admiral.]

This officer entered the naval service in 1765, and served upwards of eleven years as a Midshipman and Master's-Mate, on board the Chatham of 50 guns, and Lark, Aurora. Carysfort, Maidstone, and Boreas frigates. The two former ships were employed principally at the Leeward Islands. His removal from the Aurora, to make room for an Admiralty Midshipman, proved a fortunate circumstance for Mr.Monkton, as that vessel was soon after lost, on her passage to India, and all on board perished. In the Carysfort he saw much hard service, and had several narrow escapes: the first was in 1771, when, being on her return from Pensacola, and the Havannah, to Jamaica, the ship, owing to the perverseness and ignorance of the pilot, ran ashore in the night, upon the Martyr reefs, in the Gulph of Florida; where her situation was such as promised little chance of being able to save the ship, and at first, not much hope of preserving the lives of the crew. However, after nine days incessant labour, she was at length got out from amongst those dangerous rocks, through a very difficult and intricate channel, and carried to Charlestown in South Carolina, under jury masts, with the loss of her guns, and most of the provisions and stores.

In the ensuing year the Carysfort was ordered to England, and on her passage thither from Jamaica, was obliged to throw all her guns overboard in a heavy gale of wind. After refitting, she was again sent to the West Indies, where she encountered a violent hurricane, during which she lost her first Lieutenant, five seamen, and all her masts, besides being once more obliged to part with her guns.

The Carysfort was paid off at Chatham, in Sept. 1773; and Mr. Monkton soon after joined the Maidstone, in which frigate he continued about three years, and was present at the capture of more than two hundred sail of vessels, principally on the Jamaica station; from whence he returned to England, in the Boreas, about the autumn of 1777.

On the 19th Nov. following, Mr. Monkton was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, and appointed to the Three Sisters, an armed ship, hired from the merchants, and employed in giving protection to the trade on the coast of Scotland, and about the Orkney and Shetland Islands. After being thus employed for a period of two years, he was appointed second Lieutenant of the Vestal frigate, then fitting at Deptford; and subsequently sent to the Newfoundland station, where she captured and destroyed many of the enemy’s vessels, and among others the Mercury, an American packet, from Philadelphia; on board of which was Mr. Henry Laurens, formerly President of the Congress, bound on an embassy to France, Spain, and Holland. The despatches found in the possession of this Envoy, determined the British ministry to issue an immediate declaration of war against the latter power, and to commit their bearer as a state prisoner to the Tower.

In 1781, the Vestal, then commanded by the Hon. G. C. Berkeley, accompanied Vice-Admiral Darby to the relief of Gibraltar[1], where she particularly distinguished herself against the enemy’s gun-boats, two of which she destroyed under the guns of the fortress of Ceuta.

Some time after the performance of this service, Captain Berkeley, accompanied by the whole of his officers and crew, removed into the Recovery of 32 guns, which ship formed part of the squadron under Vice-Admiral Barrington, at the capture of a French convoy, from Brest bound to the East Indies, in April 1782. She was also with Lord Howe, at the relief of Gibraltar, towards the close of the same year[2].

The Recovery being paid off at the peace in 1783, Mr. Monkton remained on half pay till March 1784, when he was appointed first Lieutenant of the Ardent 64, stationed as a guard-ship at Portsmouth, where she remained for a period of four years; during which no incident occurred worthy of particular notice.

During the Spanish armament, we find Lieutenant Monkton serving on board the Windsor Castle, a second rate, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Sawyer. His next appointment was to be first Lieutenant of the Niger frigate, commanded by his friend the Hon. Captain Berkeley, who had for a considerable time filled the office of Surveyor General of the Ordnance, and recently been honored with a commision of the highest importance, as President of a board of engineer officers, for the purpose of enquiring into the abuses and frauds committed against government in the West Indies; a service he performed with honor to himself, and to the entire satisfaction of his Majesty’s ministers.

On the 10th March, 1793, Mr. Monkton commissioned the Marlborough of 74 guns, then fitting at Chatham for Captain Berkeley, and afterwards attached to the grand fleet under Earl Howe. This was our officer’s last appointment as a Lieutenant; for in consequence of that nobleman’s representation of his gallant conduct in the glorious action of June 1, 1794[3], he was immediately afterwards promoted to the rank of Commander, and appointed to act as captain of the Marlborough, during the absence of Captain Berkeley, whose place he had so ably filled during the latter part of that memorable conflict[4].

Owing to the change which about this time took place in the administration of naval affairs, a promise which Captain Monkton had obtained from Lord Chatham, of advancement to post rank, was not realized, although he retained the command of the Marlborough for nearly twelve months; but fortunately for him he was afterwards appointed pro tempore, to the Colossus, another 74; in which ship he distinguished himself off l’Orient, June 23, 1795; and by his exertions greatly contributed to the capture of three French line-of-battle ships; an account of which will be found in our first Vol. p. 246, et seq. The Colossus on that occasion had 35 men killed and wounded, which appears to have been nearly one-fourth of the total loss sustained by the British squadron.

Captain Monkton’s post commission bears date June 29, 1795; from which period, with the exception of about two months in the Formidable of 90 guns, he was not again employed until the latter end of 1797; when he obtained the command of la Lutine frigate, fitting at Woolwich for the North Sea station, where he served under the orders of Lord Duncan, and made many captures.

His next and last appointment was at the close of 1799, to the Mars of 74 guns, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Berkeley; and he continued to serve as Flag-Captain to that officer until Jan. 1801; when a misunderstanding having arisen between the Rear-Admiral and Earl St. Vincent, commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet, the former resigned his command, and Captain Monkton was in consequence superseded. His superannuation took place June 18, 1814.

Rear-Admiral Monkton remained a batchelor until he was more than forty years of age, when he married Miss Charlotte Slade, of Burstock, co. Dorset, first cousin to the present Lieutenant-General Slade. By this lady, who died May 6, 1806, he had four children, three of whom are now living. His second wife was Charlotte, widow of his old messmate, Mr. Mackie, Purser of the ill-fated Ardent[5], and only daughter of George Button, Esq., a gentleman of considerable property, who had formerly kept an academy at Deptford. He married, lastly, Dec. 14, 1818, Elizabeth Patience, daughter of Thomas P. Phillips, of Tiverton, co. Devon, Esq., and sister of Thomas J. Phillips, of Landau House, near Launceston, Cornwall, Esq.

Residence.– Havre de Grace.



  1. See vol. 1, p. 4, and note ‡, at p. 33.
  2. See vol. 1, p. 17.
  3. See vol. I, p. 663**.
  4. The Marlborough had got into action; and whilst engaged with the Impétueux of 78 guns, and Mucius 74, the former of which ships she had completely dismasted, the Montagne of 120 guns came under her stern aud poured in a raking broadside, which killed and wounded many of her men, and caused much other mischief. It was at this moment that Captain Berkeley received a severe wound, which obliged him to resign the command of the ship to Lieutenant Monkton, who continued to fight her with the utmost skill and bravery. The Marlborough on this occasion had all her lower masts shot away, and no less than 137 men killed and wounded. Lieutenant Monkton was nominally promoted into the Calypso sloop of war, which vessel was lost on her return from Jamaica, and all on board perished.
  5. In the course of the foregoing memoir, we have alluded to the fate of the Aurora and Calypso. Of the other vessels in which Rear-Admiral Monkton served, it is remarkable, that no less than six were afterwards lost; viz. the Lark, in America, during the colonial war; the Three Sisters, in the North Sea; the Ardent, burnt at sea; the Marlborough, wrecked on the coast of France; the Colossus, on the Scilly Isles; and la Lutine, on the Dutch coast. Whilst in the latter, he discovered and corrected an error in the compasses, which he explained to his successor, the unfortunate Captain Skynner; but that officer paid no attention to his advice, and actually undid what Captain Monkton had completed, saying that compasses were of no use in the North Sea. However, the contrary proved to be the case. La Lutine sailed from Yarmouth Roads at nine A.M. on the 9th Oct. 1799, with a fair wind for the Texel, having a considerable sum of money on board; and in the course of the ensuing night, struck on the outer bank of the Vlie passage, where all hands perished, with the exception of two men taken up alive, one of whom died soon after.