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Royal Naval Biography/Orde, John


SIR JOHN ORDE,
Admiral of the Red; and a Vice-President of the Naval Charitable Society.


The family of Orde is of great antiquity, and has long possessed considerable landed estates in the counties of Northumberland and Durham. The subject of this memoir is the youngest son of the late John Orde, Esq. who lived chiefly at Morpeth, and acted for many years as a Magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant of the former county, by his second wife, Anne, widow of the Rev. William Pye, and was born at Morpeth, in Northumberland, Dec. 1752[1].

He entered the navy in 1766, on board the Jersey, of 60 guns, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Spry, stationed in the Mediterranean. He subsequently served under Commodore Byron, at Newfoundland; and with Sir George B. Rodney, on the Jamaica station. In 1773, Mr. Orde was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant by the latter officer, and returned to England in the Rainbow, of 44 guns. At the commencement of the dispute with our transatlantic colonies, he was appointed to the Roebuck, commanded by the present Sir Andrew Snape Hamond, with whom he continued on the coast of America until 1777[2], when he was removed into the Eagle, of 64 guns, Lord Howe’s flag-ship, as first Lieutenant, preparatory to his promotion.

Our officer commanded the Zebra, sloop of war, at the reduction of Philadelphia[3], and, May 19, 1778, was advanced to the rank of Post-Captain, in the Virginia of 32 guns, a frigate recently captured from the Americans. In the autumn of 1779, Captain Orde accompanied Commodore Sir George Collier in an expedition up the Penobscot, which terminated in the capture or destruction of the whole of the rebel fleet in that river, consisting of eighteen ships and vessels of war; and the relief of Fort M‘Lean, which had been closely besieged by the enemy.

In 1780, the Virginia assisted at the taking of Charlestown[3], where, after passing Sullivan’s island, Captain Orde served on shore in the command of a battalion of seamen, and was favourably noticed by Admiral Arbuthnot, in his official despatches relative to that event.

He afterwards commanded the Chatham, of 50 guns, and captured the General Washington, of 22 guns and 118 men. In 1781, Admiral Arbuthnot being recalled, Captain Orde conveyed him to England in the Roebuck, into which ship he had removed for that purpose. During the remainder of the war he was employed in the North Sea, and on the coast of France.

In February, 1783, the preliminaries of peace having been signed, Captain Orde was honoured with the appointment of Governor of Dominica, and Receiver of the Monies arising from the sale of land in the ceded islands; and on the 27th July, 1790, the dignity of a Baronet was conferred upon him.

At the breaking out of the French revolution, Sir John solicited and obtained permission to resign his government, and to resume the active duties of his profession. He was immediately appointed to command the Victorious, and soon afterwards the Venerable, of 74 guns, attached to the Channel Fleet. From the latter he removed into the Prince George, a second rate, and continued in her until June 1, 1795, when he was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral.

In the beginning of 1797, Sir John Orde assumed the command at Plymouth, during the absence of the Port Admiral, the late Sir Richard King. On this service he continued until the close of the disgraceful mutiny, in the month of May[4]; soon after which he hoisted his flag on board the Princess Royal of 98 guns, and joined the fleet under the orders of Earl St. Vincent on the Mediterranean station. In November following, the Rear-Admiral was sent by his Lordship with the command of a squadron of eight sail of the line, and a proportionate number of frigates and sloops, to blockade the port of Cadiz.

There he continued till relieved by Sir W. Parker, in January, 1778, and was sent back again on the same service, after that officer had been compelled to leave his station by a superior force. This service, though certainly not the most splendid, was not the least arduous, especially during the winter months, when Sir John principally conducted it. The position necessarily taken by the blockading squadron was embayed. In the port of Cadiz there were about twenty sail of the line, with some frigates, kept apparently in constant readiness to put to sea, which threatened on one side; whilst, on another, the squadron was liable to attack from the Toulon fleet, unchecked in its operations, and known to be preparing for some important expedition.

On Earl St. Vincent resuming the immediate command off Cadiz, the Rear-Admiral received his thanks in the following words; “You have shewn uncommon ability and exertion in preserving your position during the late unpleasant weather, and I very much approve every step you have taken.”

Not long after this, Sir Orde was much mortified at finding an officer[5] junior to himself, just arrived from England, selected to command a squadron on the only service of distinction likely to happen; and himself, by the junction of Sir Roger Curtis, with a reinforcement from Ireland, reduced to be only fourth in command of the fleet; whereas, he had accepted the appointment under Earl St. Vincent, on an intimation from one of the Lords of the Admiralty, the late Lord Hugh Seymour, that he should be second to the noble Earl, with all the distinctions and advantages annexed to that station.

This led to a correspondence between his Lordship and Sir John, which terminated in the latter receiving orders to shift his flag to the Blenheim, and to return to England in charge of a large fleet of merchantmen. Before he left the fleet, the Rear-Admiral, conceiving that he had been treated in a manner unsuitable to his rank, wrote a letter to the Admiralty, requesting a court martial on the Commander-in-Chief, which he sent to Lord St. Vincent to forward. On Sir John’s arrival in England, he was acquainted by Mr. Secretary Nepean, that the Board did not consider the reason Earl St. Vincent had assigned for sending him home, sufficient to justify the measure; but that, having already signified their opinion to his Lordship on that head, it was not necessary to take any further steps on the occasion. The Blenheim was immediately dismantled, and a few weeks after, Sir John was offered a command in the Channel Fleet. This, however, he thought proper to decline.

On the 14th Feb. 1799, our officer was advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral; and in the following autumn Earl St. Vincent returned to England for the purpose of recruiting his health. Sir John Orde, who considered himself to have been personally insulted by his Lordship, lost no time in calling upon him for private satisfaction; and a meeting was appointed to take place between them, but was happily prevented through the interference of the police.

In 1802, soon after the definitive treaty of peace was signed, Sir John, who seems to have waited for that event, published his case in a small pamphlet entitled “Copy of a Correspondence, &c. between the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the Right Hon. Earl St. Vincent, K.B., the Right Hon. Earl Spencer, K.G., and Vice-Admiral Sir John Orde, Bart.” The circulation of which he had previously confined to his friends. This pamphlet appears to have been written with temper and moderation, and is well worthy of perusal, especially by professional men.

On the renewal of hostilities, and the removal of Lord St. Vincent from the chief administration of naval affairs, Sir John accepted the command of a squadron, and cruised off Cape Finisterre during the Autumn of 1804. In 1805, we find his flag in the Glory, of 98 guns, off Cadiz; from which station he was compelled to withdraw, in consequence of the appearance of the combined fleets, on their way to the West Indies. He was promoted to the rank of Admiral of the Blue, November 9, following.

Sir John Orde was one of the supporters of the pall at the funeral of Lord Nelson, to whose merits he had ever rendered the fullest justice, however much he had had occasion to condemn the preference shewn to him in the summer of 1798.

In 1807, when his nephew, the present Lord Bolton, was called to the House of Peers, in consequence of the demise of his father, Sir John Orde succeeded him in the representation of the Borough of Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight. He married first, Feb. 8, 1781, at Charlestown, Margaret, daughter and heiress of Richard Stephens, of St. Helena, in South Carolina; she died in 1789, leaving no surviving issue; secondly, in Dec. 1793, Jane, eldest daughter of John Frere, of Finningham, co. Suffolk, Esq.

Country seat.– Bognor, co. Sussex.

Town residence.– 20 Gloucester Place, Portman Square.


Addenda

SIR JOHN ORDE, (p. 71) Commanded, but never went to sea in the Prince George.


  1. Sir John’s eldest brother, Thomas, married the only daughter of Charles, fifth Duke of Bolton, in whose right he succeeded, on the death of Harry, the sixth and last Duke, without male issue, to the principal family estates of the Dukes of Bolton, and assumed the name of Powlett. He was afterwards created a Peer, by the title of Baron Bolton.
  2. For the services on which the Roebuck was employed between 1775 and 1777, see Retired Captain Sir Andrew S. Hamond.
  3. 3.0 3.1 See Sir A. S. Hamond.
  4. See Memoirs of Admiral Sir John Knight, and Vice-Admiral E. Griffith Colpoys.
  5. Sir Horatio, afterwards Viscount Nelson.