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Royal Naval Biography/Seymour, George Francis

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath; and Serjeant-at-Arms to the House of Lords.
[Post-Captain of 1806.]

The family of Seymour appeared in the navy so early as the reign of Edward VI. When Edward, Earl of Hertford, uncle to the young king; was declared protector, and created Duke of Somerset, his brother, Sir Thomas Seymour, was made Baron of Sudley, and raised to the station of Lord High Admiral, on the resignation of Viscount Lisle, Earl of Warwick. They are descended from the St. Maurs, who came to England with William the Conqueror; and by corruption of speech they were first called Seymour about the time of Edward III.

Lord Hugh Seymour, (father of Captain George Francis Seymour) was the fifth son of Francis, first Marquis of Hertford, by Lady Isabella, youngest daughter of Charles, second Duke of Grafton. His lordship was born April 29, 1759; entered the naval service when only eleven years of age; obtained the rank of post-captain in 1779; aud established his character as a brave officer and skilful seaman, when commanding the Latona frigate, at the relief of Gibraltar, in 1782. During the ensuing peace he formed an intimacy with his present Majesty, to whom he afterwards bequeathed his sword, which is still carefully preserved in the royal armoury. Lord Hugh commanded the Leviathan 74, at the occupation of Toulon, 1793; and bore a very distinguished part in the memorable battles of May 28 and 29, and June 1, 1794; his conduct on the two former days is thus noticed by Earl Howe, in a supplementary official letter, dated June 21:– “The quick approach of night” (May 28) “only allowed me to observe, that Lord Hugh Seymour in the Leviathan, with equal good judgment and determined courage, pushed up alongside of the French three-decked ship” (Revolutionnaire of 110 guns) ”and was supported by Captain Parker, of the Audacious, in the most spirited manner. I have since learnt that the Leviathan stretched on farther a-head, for bringing the second ship from the enemy’s rear to action, as soon as her former station could be occupied by a succeeding British ship.” Respecting the Leviathan, on the ensuing day, his lordship adds, “the Queen Charlotte was therefore immediately tacked, and, followed by the Bellerophon, her second astern, and soon after joined by the Leviathan, passed through in action, between the fifth and sixth ships in the rear of the enemy’s line.”

It is but justice to the memory of Lord Hugh Seymour and to the superior officers of the Leviathan, to state a fact in this place which has hitherto escaped the notice of every naval historian.

On the evening of May 28, when the Bellerophon’s main cap was upset by a shot, and she was consequently obliged to take in her main-top-sail, the Leviathan ran between her and the Revolutionnaire, which immense ship she engaged singly for about an hour before the Audacious came up, and obliged Lord Hugh to shoot a-head, and content himself with engaging a two-decker. The Leviathan continued close to the rear of the enemy’s line, occasionally shewing lights over her lee-quarter to the British fleet, during the whole of the ensuing night. On the following day. when passing close to the Queen Charlotte, she was cheered by Earl Howe and Sir Roger Curtis, his first captain, both of whom were standing in the stern gallery, waving their hats over their heads, when the Leviathan’s gallant crew manned the rigging in order to salute their veteran and noble chief.

On the glorious first of June, Lord Hugh Seymour engaged and effectually silenced l’Amerique 74, bearing a commodore’s broad pendant; but was prevented from taking possession of her in consequence of the signal being made “to close round the Queen Charlotte.” During the different actions, the Leviathan had 10 killed and 33 wounded. The names of the Lieutenants who fought under Lord Hugh Seymour, were Robert Larkan, now a Captain of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich; Samuel George Warner and John Seater, since deceased[1]; Cornelius Quinton, made a Post-Captain in 1802; and Francis John Nott, a Captain of 1810.

Lord Hugh Seymour was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, June 1, 1795; and on the 23rd of the same month, we find him assisting at the capture of three French line-of-battle ships near l’Orient. On that occasion the Sans Pareil, bearing his lordship’s flag, had 10 killed and 2 wounded; one of the latter was Lieutenant Nott, the other Mr. Richard Spencer, Midshipman, now a Captain, and C.B.

From this period Lord Hugh was almost constantly and actively employed afloat until his lamented demise, Sept. 11, 1801[2]. An officer who had long served under him says, that “his lordship possessed a suavity of manners to his inferiors that conciliated their esteem, but at the same time an air of dignity that precluded familiarity. His zeal for the service was unremitting; his attention to his men impartial and uniform; as a patron, his discernment raised many officers in the service, who must otherwise have been lost in obscure stations. He possessed not only the spirit of a seaman, but his mildness; and he was justly placed by professional men among the best officers in the navy.” Sir Charles V. Penrose informs us that “the noble Admiral’s heart was as humane as his professional skill was eminent; and that, although ardent in the feelings of honorable ambition, and, of course, desirous of enlarged command, the greatest pleasure he derived from his promotion to a flag, was the thought that it relieved him from superintending punishment at the gang-way[3].” Another officer, who was with Lord Hugh Seymour at the time of his death, describes him as “an accomplished gentleman, a zealous gallant officer, a fond and affectionate husband and father, and a sincere friend.” “In no man,” says he, “was ever more conspicuous the dignity of high birth, or the true consequence of an elevated situation; yet such was the conciliating manner and elegant grace which accompanied his words and actions, that as he never rose too high on professional, so he never sank too low on convivial occasions. His ambition was confined within the most just bounds; he sought honor only by truly honorable means, and he was governed at all times by principles of genuine rectitude.” Lord Hugh was successively elected M.P. for Newport, in Cornwall; for Tregony, Wendover, and Portsmouth. Although his flag was never struck but for a short period, his name appears as a Lord of the Admiralty, from Mar. 1795 until the latter end of 1798.

The subject of the following sketch is the eldest son of Lord Hugh Seymour, by Anne Horatia, daughter of Maria Duchess of Gloucester, by her first husband, James Earl of Waldegrave. He obtained the rank of Lieutenant in Feb. 1804, on which occasion he was appointed to the Donegal 74, on the Mediterranean station. We subsequently find him serving on board the Northumberland 74, and receiving a severe wound in the battle off St. Domingo[4], immediately after which he was made a Commander into the Kingfisher sloop of war. His post commission, and appointment to the Aurora frigate, bears date July 29, 1806.

In the spring of 1808, Captain Seymour was removed into the Pallas 32, which ship formed part of the fleet under Lord Gambler at the destruction of four French two-deckers and a frigate, in Aix roads, April 12, 1809. She afterwards accompanied the expedition sent against Antwerp, under the command of Earl Chatham and Sir Richard J. Strachan, was present at the siege of Flushing, and bore a part in the subsequent operations against the enemy’s forces in the Scheldt[5].

Captain Seymour’s next appointment was to the Manilla, the loss of which frigate will be noticed in our memoir of Captain John Joyce, who had been appointed to her pro tempore, in the absence of her proper commander.

From this period, we find no mention of Captain Seymour until the ensuing summer (1812) when he obtained the command of the Fortunée 36. About Jan. 1813, he removed into the Leonidas, another ship of the same force; and on the 23d May following, captured the American privateer Paul Jones, of 16 guns and 85 men, 5 of whom were wounded by his fire during the chase.

Captain Seymour was nominated a C.B., June 4, 1815; and in the year 1818, his uncle, the late Marquis of Hertford, Lord Chamberlain of the King’s Household, appointed him Serjeant-at-Arms to the House of Lords, an office vacant by the death of William Watson, Esq. F.R.S. He married, in 1811, Georgiana, second daughter of Admiral the Hon. George C. Berkeley, then commander-in-chief at Lisbon.

Agents.– Messrs. Cooke, Halford and Son.


(Suppl. Part I. p. 160.)

In May 1827 this officer was appointed to the Briton frigate, for the purpose of conveying his noble relative, the Marquis of Hertford, to St. Petersburgh. He was nominated one of the King’s naval aides-de-camp, in Aug. 1830; master of the robes to his Majesty, on the 13th of the following month; and a Knight Commander of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, April 12th, 1831.

  1. Captain John Seater, of the Mediator 44, died in 1806. His meritorious conduct on different occasions obtained him post rank, although he commenced his naval career in the most subordinate capacity.
  2. See Vol. II. Part II., note at p. 503.
  3. Observations on Corporal Punishment,” by Vice-Admiral Sir C. V. Penrose, K.C.B. p. 6.
  4. See Vol. I. note at p. 262. N.B. Lieutenant Seymour is represented to have been “struck by a grape-shot, which penetrated his jaw, and carried away several teeth”.
  5. See p. 150.