1902 Encyclopedia > Sir Charles Napier

Sir Charles Napier
British admiral
(1786-1860)




SIR CHARLES NAPIER (1786-1860), British admiral, was the second son of Captain the Hon. Charles Napier, R.N., and grandson of Francis, fifth Lord Napier, and thus cousin to the three famous Napiers, Sir Charles, Sir George, and Sir William, and was born at Merchiston Hall, near Falkirk, on March 6, 1786. He became a midshipman in 1800, was promoted lieutenant in 1805 and commander in 1807, and distinguished himself in the west Indies, where he fought his famous action with three French ships of the line, and took the "Hautpoult," seventy-four guns, into which the admiral promoted him captain. On his return to England his rank was confirmed, but he was put on half-pay. He spent some time at the university of Edinburgh, and then went some time at the university of Edinburgh, and then went to Portugal to visit his cousin in Wellington’s army. In 1811 he served in the Mediteranean, and in 1813 on the coast of America and in the expedition up to Potomac. The first years of his leisure he spent in Italy and in Paris, but speculated so much in a steamboat enterprise that by 1829 he was quite ruined. In that year he was appointed to the "Galatea." Forty-two, and was at the Azones when they were held by the Count and was at the Azores when they were held by the Count de Villa Flor for the queen of Portugal. He so much impressed the constitutional leaders that they begged him to take command of the fleet, which offer he accepted in February 1833. With it he destroyed the Miguelite fleet off Cape St Vincent on July 5, and on the demand of France was struck off the English navy list. Continuing his Portuguese services, he commanded the land forces in the successful defense of Lisbon in 1834, when he was made Grand Commander of the Tower and Sword, and Count Cape St Vincent in the peerage of Portugal. On his return to England he was restored to his former rank in the navy in 1836, and received command of the "Powerful," eighty-four, in 1838. When troubles broke out in Syria he was appointed second in command, and distinguished himself by leading the storming column at Sidon on September 26,1840, and by other services, for which he was made a K.C.B. We went on half-pay in 1841, and was in 1842 elected M.P. for Marylebone in the Liberal interest, but lost his seat in 1846.He was promoted rear-admiral the same year, and commanded the Channel fleet from 1846 to 1848. On the outbreak of the Russian War he received the command of the fleet destined to act in the Baltic, and hoisted his flag in February 1854. He refused to attack Cronstadt, and a great outcry was raised against him for not obeying the orders of the Admiralty and attempting to storm the key of St. Petersburg. On his return in December 1854 he was not again offered a command. He was elected M.P. for Southwark in February 1855, and maintained his seat, though broken in health, until his death on November 6, 1860.

See Major-General E. Napier’s Life and Correspondence of Admiral Sir Charles Napier, K.C.B., 2 vols., London, 1862; Napier’s own War in Syria, 2 vols., 1842; The Navy, its past and present state, in a series of letters, edited by Sir W.F.P. Napier, 18541; and The History of the Baltic Campaign of 1854, from documents and other materials furnished by Vice-Admiral Sir C. Napier, K.C.B., 1854. See also The Life and Exploits of Commodore Napier, 1841; and Life of Vice-Admiral Sir C. Napier, 1854.






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