1902 Encyclopedia > Henry William Paget, First Marquis of Anglesey

Henry William Paget, First Marquis of Anglesey
British general
(1768-1854)




HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, FIRST MARQUIS OF ANGLESEY, one of the most distinguished British generals of the 19th century, was bora on the 17th of May 1768. He was the eldest son of Henry Lord Paget, first Earl of Uxbridge, of whose family of twelve sons and daughters he was the last survivor. He received his early education at West-minster school, and passed thence to Christchurch, Oxford, where he took the degree of M.A. Quitting the university in 1790, he entered parliament the same year as member for the Carnarvon group of boroughs, for which he sat six years.

But to his high-spirited and impetuous nature the soldier's life was most attractive ; and during the excitement which was occasioned by the outbreak of the wars of the French Revolution, Lord Paget raised on his father's estate the regiment known at first as the Staflordshira Volunteers, and afterwards as the 80th Foot in the regular army. Of this regiment he was named lieutenant-coloneL Having entered the army, and passed rapidly through the subordinate grades, he obtained his commission as lieutenant-colonel on the 12th September 1793. In the following year he commenced his career of active service in the campaign of Flanders, under the Duke of York. So greatly did he distinguish himself, especially during the retreat which followed the repulse of Turcoing, that notwithstanding his youthful years, he was appointed, in the temporary absence of Lord Cathcart, to the command of his brigade.

Transferred soon after his return to England to a cavalry regiment, 16th Light Dragoons, he was thenceforth attached to that branch of the service which he was to raise to the highest degree of efficiency, and in connection with which he was to achieve his greatest triumphs. About the same time (July 1795), Lord Paget married Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of the Earl of Jersey. Promoted colonel in 1796, he was transferred in April 1797 to the command of the 7th Light Dragoons, and then began to apply himself strenuously to the improve-ment of discipline, and the introduction of a new system of cavalry evolutions. In 1799 he took part in the cam-paign, brief and disastrous, of the Duke of York in Hol-land In the general attack (Oct. 2) he distinguished himself by a dashing and successful charge on a superior body of the enemy's cavalry. On him devolved the arduous task of guarding the rear in the retreat, and while thus engaged, he routed a much larger body of French cavalry under General Simon, recovering some captured cannon, and taking five of the enemy's guns. Devoting himself through the following eight years, with zeal equal to his abilities, to the discharge of his regimental duties, and to the perfecting of the reforms which he had previously introduced, he attained the rank of major-general in April 1802, and that of lieutenant-general in April 1808.





At the close of this year the great war with the French in the Peninsula began, and Lord Paget was sent, with two brigades of cavalry, to join the division of the army under Sir David Baud, who was then marching to join Sir John Moore in his advance on Salamanca. He landed at Coruna, and in the face of very great difficulties succeeded in effecting the junction. It was during this march that the first conflict with the French in Spain took place,—a small party of French posted at Rueda being surprised and cut off by Lord Paget. In the retreat ordered by Sir John Moore, after the fall of Madrid, Lord Paget was charged with the protection of the rear, and, notwithstanding the frequent harassing attacks of the enemy, the losses of the British were trifling. He especially distinguished himself by brilliant and successful encounters with the French at Sahagun, Mayorga, and Benevente. His spirited repulse of the advanced guard of the French at Benevente, where he also captured the commander of the imperial guard, General Le-febvre Desnouelles, especially contributed to the safe arrival of the British at Coruna. At the battle of Coruna, fought on the 16th January 1809, and mournfully memorable for the fall of the brave Sir John Moore, Lord Paget had the command of the reserve; and while the dying commander was being carried from the field, his lordship, by a swift, courageous movement, repulsed a superior force of the enemy, thus deciding the fate of the day and securing the safe embarkation of the British army.

With this action his services in the Peninsular war terminated, and in the autumn he returned to England, where he applied himself to his parliamentary duties as member for Milbourne Port. He sat for that borough six years (1806 to 1812). In 1810 he obtained a divorce from his wife, by whom he had had eight children, but with whom he had not lived a happy life. The same year he married Lady Cowley, who had about the same time been divorced from Lord Cowley. Lady Paget was soon after married to the Duke of Argyle. In 1812 he succeeded his father and took his seat in the House of Lords as Earl of Uxbridge.

Three years later his services as general were called for on a grander field, and his reputation was raised to the highest pitch. In the spring of 1815 all Europe was startled by the news of the escape of Napoleon I. from his island prison, Elba, of his reappearance in France at the head of an army, and of his reassumption of the imperial dignity. Without delay the armies of the allies were sent again into the field, the English under the Duke of Wellington, commander-in-chief, and the English cavalry under the command of the Earl of Uxbridge. At the decisive battle of Waterloo (18th June), after twice leading the guards to the charge, he placed himself at the head of the heavy brigade, and, by a third rapid and terrific charge, completely over whelmed the trusted French guards, led by Count D'Erlon, making 3000 prisoners, and killing most of the rest. Other brilliant feats followed, which won for the Earl of Uxbridge on that day a place of honour second only to that of the great duke himself. In the confusion which followed, Napoleon, from a low rising ground, directed the fire of four guns, and by one of their discharges, almost the last shot that was fired, the earl was struck on the knee, and amputation of the limb was found to be necessary. This was effected in a private house at Waterloo, and the limb was buried in the garden. Visitors are shown the chair in which the earl sat during the operation, the boot taken from the amputated leg, and the monument over its burial-place. A pension of £1200 a year was voted to him on account of the loss of his limb, but he generously declined to accept it.

Five days after the battle the ser-vices of the earl were rewarded by the dignity of Marquis of Anglesey, conferred on him by the Prince Regent; and he was soon after nominated Knight Grand Cross of the Bath. Similar honours were bestowed on him by the emperors of Austria and Russia and the king of Hanover. In 1818 he was elected Knight of the Garter. He attained the full rank of general in the following year. His support of the proceedings against Queen Caroline made him for a time unpopular, and when he was on one occasion beset by a crowd, who compelled him to shout " The Queen," he added the wish, " May all your wives be like her." At the coronation of George IV. the Marquis of Anglesey filled the post of lord high steward of England At the close of April 1827 he became a member of the Canning administration, taking the post of master-general of the ordnance, previously held by Wellington. He was at the same time sworn a member of the privy council.





Under the Wellington administration he accepted the appointment of lord-lieutenant of Ireland (March 1828), and in the dis-charge of his important duties he greatly endeared himself to the Irish people. The spirit in which he acted, and the aims which he steadily set before himself, contributed to the allaying of party animosities, to the promotion of a willing submission to the laws, to the prosperity of trade, and to the extension and improvement of education. On the great question of the time his views were opposed to those of the Government. He saw clearly that the time was come when the relief of the Catholics from the penal legislation of the past was an indispensable measure, and in December 1828 he addressed a letter to the Roman Catholic primate of Ireland distinctly announcing his view. This led to his recall by the Government, a step sincerely lamented by the Irish. He pleaded for Catholic emancipation in parliament, and on the formation of Earl Grey's administration, in November 1830, he again became viceroy of Ireland, The times were changed; the great act of emancipation had been accomplished, and the task of the viceroy in his second tenure of office was to resist the agitation commenced and carried on by O'Connell He felt it his duty now to demand Coercion Acts for the security of the public peace; his popularity was diminished, differences appeared in the cabinet on the difficult subject, and in July 1833 the ministry resigned, the viceroy retiring at the same time. To the Marquis of Anglesey Ireland is indebted for the Board of Education, the origination of which may perhaps be reckoned as the most memorable act of his viceroyalty.

For thirteen years after his retire-ment he remained out of office, and took little part in the affairs of government. He joined the Russell administration in July 1846 as master-general of the ordnance, finally retiring with his chief in March 1852. His promotion in the army was continued by his appointment to the com-mand of the horse guards in 1842, and completed by his advancement to the rank of field-marshal in 1846. A life of brave service and faithful devotion to duty was closed by a peaceful death on the 29th April 1854.

The charac-ter of the Marquis of Anglesey, appreciated and admired by all classes and parties, was sketched by a contemporary journalist in the following terms :—"Seldom have bravery, gentleness, and generosity been combined in such noble proportions. In his character there was not a fold, it was all open as the day. His politics were thoroughly liberal, and with more far-sighted and sound statesmanship in them than the world has perhaps given him credit for. . . . He had a sound, shrewd understanding, a judgment seldom at fault, often acting like an instinct, and accompanied with a moral courage not inferior to his brilliant physical bravery in the field of battle." He strenuously supported every measure of reform in church and state, and, with sagacious forecast anticipating public opinion, earnestly advocated in their days of unpopularity the great measures of Catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, and free trade. The marquis had a large family by each of his two wives,—two sons and six daughters by the first, and six sons and four daughters by the second. His eldest son, Henry, succeeded him in the marquisate. (w. L. E. C.)




Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries