Oxford University Press © 1997

Hervey, Augustus John, third Earl of Bristol 1724-1779

Name: Hervey, Augustus John
Title: third Earl of Bristol
Dates: 1724-1779
Active Date: 1764
Gender: Male

Field of Interest: Military, Politics, Government and Political Movements
Occupation: Admiral and politician
Place of
: St. James's Square, London
   Burial: Ickworth, Suffolk
Spouse: Miss Elizabeth Chudleigh
Likenesses: 1..., 2...
Sources: Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 27-34; Gent. Mag. January 1780, pp...


Hervey, Augustus John, third Earl of Bristol 1724-1779, admiral and politician, second son of John, lord Hervey of Ickworth [q.v.], and grandson of John, first earl of Bristol [q.v.], was born on 19 May 1724. He entered the navy as a midshipman in 1736, was stationed chiefly in the Mediterranean, and, as he quickly acquired a practical knowledge of nautical affairs, was advanced to be lieutenant on 31 Oct. In 1744 he met at Winchester races the notorious Miss Elizabeth Chudleigh [q.v.], then on a visit at Lainston in Hampshire, and having obtained a short leave of absence, they were married in Lainston Church at eleven o'clock on the evening of 4 Aug. 1744. A few days later the young lieutenant embarked at Portsmouth to join his vessel, the Cornwall, then the flagship of Vice-admiral Davers, on the Jamaica station. On his return to England in 1746 the married pair lived together as husband and wife in Conduit Street, Hanover Square, London, and their child, Henry Augustus, was born at Chelsea, and baptised in its parish church on 2 Nov. 1747. Walpole says that Hervey had two children by this marriage, but this statement seems to be erroneous, for the pair soon separated, and their only child, put out to nurse, shortly afterwards died. On 16 Sept. 1746 Hervey was promoted to the command of the sloop Porcupine, and was employed as a cruiser, with the result that he captured off Cherbourg a small French privateer, the Bacquer Court. In the following January he was appointed a post-captain in the navy, and promoted to the command of the Princessa, a third-rate of 70 guns, which had been taken from the Spaniards. In her and in the Phenix of 24 guns he served in the Mediterranean under Admirals Medley and Byng. While in the latter vessel, in April 1756, he was despatched by the Hon. George Edgcumbe [q.v.], then commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean squadron, from Villa Franca to England with the earliest intimation of the sailing of the French fleet from Toulon to Minorca. He joined Byng off Majorca on 17 May, and patriotically offered to convert his ship, if necessary, into a fireship, but the change was not considered desirable. Hervey took part in Byng's indecisive engagement, and when Captain Andrews was slain in the action was promoted to his place in the Defiance of 64 guns. He was ordered home as a witness at Byng's trial, and on its conclusion, being advanced to the command of the Hampton Court, was sent back to his former station where he distinguished himself (July 1757) by driving the Nymph, a French frigate of 32 guns, on the rocks off Majorca, and, on a refusal to surrender, sinking her. In February 1758, when on the same station, he fell in with the little squadron of the Marquis du Quesne, but was not fortunate enough to get to close quarters with the enemy until Captain Gardiner had attacked and captured the Foudroyant. As the captain was slain in the contest, Hervey removed to his vessel, the Monmouth, and in the following July burnt the Rose, a French frigate of 36 guns, off the island of Malta, a proceeding of which its inhabitants complained as an insult to their neutrality. During Hawke's operations in the Channel in the summer of 1759 'Hervey and Keppel were the eyes and hands of the fleet,’ and both secured their chief's enthusiastic commendation. As commodore, he watched the French fleet in Brest, and in the sight of twenty ships of the line in that harbour gallantly cut off with his boats some of the enemy's vessels that were seeking its shelter. On 28 Sept. in that year he again distinguished himself by rowing at night in the Monmouth's barge, in company with four other boats, into the harbour, and carrying off a little yacht belonging to the French admiral.

Though a shot passed through his coat, he was not wounded, and he won the gratitude of the sailors who supported him by surrendering to them his share of the prize and head money. With this in-shore work off Brest Hervey's ship, the Monmouth, was so worn out that he was obliged to come home, and thus experienced the mortification of missing his lawful share in Hawke's victory of Quiberon (November 1759). By way of reward, he was appointed in the spring of 1760 to command the Dragon, a new ship of 74 guns. He now served under Keppel at Belleisle, when he made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the isle of Groa, near Quiberon. In the autumn of 1761 Hervey was ordered to proceed with Commodore Barton to the West Indies to join Rodney in his expedition against the French island of Martinico. Here he aided in the successful attack, and was afterwards ordered by Rodney to proceed in the Dragon with five other vessels to demand the surrender of St. Lucia. The island was at once given up (February 1762). An expedition, the naval part of which was under the direction of Sir George Pocock, had sailed from England against the Havannah, and this was joined by a portion, including Hervey's ship, of the fleet previously under Rodney's command. Hervey captured the castle which defended the river Coximar, and, at Keppel's direction, under whose immediate command he now acted, hastened to cannonade with three other vessels from the seaward the fort of Moro Castle, which commanded the entrance to the harbour of the Havannah. He had the misfortune to be grounded, but persevered in firing until ordered to desist, when his ship was obliged to withdraw in order to be refitted. After a terrible loss of life Moro Castle was taken nearly a month later, and the Havannah was soon afterwards surrendered. Hervey was despatched to England with the news, and on his way captured a large French frigate laden with military stores for Newfoundland, which the enemy had a short time before made a descent upon. Peace quickly followed, when Hervey resigned his command and accepted the captaincy of the Centurion of 50 guns under the Duke of York.

Hervey's active life at sea now ceased. He had long been in parliament. At the general election of 1754 he, Lord Petersham, and his uncle, Felton Hervey, were all returned for the family borough of Bury St. Edmunds, and the two latter were declared elected. Hervey succeeded to a vacancy in 1757, and he was again returned in 1761. In February 1763 he vacated his seat, and in December 1763 represented Saltash in Cornwall, and sat for Bury from 1768 until he succeeded to the peerage in 1775. During this period his preferment was rapid. On 6 Nov. 1762 he was created colonel of the Plymouth division of marines, when the corporation of Plymouth made him a freeman of the borough (12 Jan. 1763). For a short time in 1763 he was commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, and in that year was made a groom of the bedchamber. When his elder brother became lord-lieutenant of Ireland, Hervey was appointed his chief secretary, and was sworn a member of its privy council (14 Oct. 1766), but resigned on 6 July 1767 through a difference with his brother concerning their relations with the Grenville family. From 26 Jan. 1771 he held a lordship of the admiralty under Lord Sandwich, but on succeeding, 18 March 1775, to the earldom of Bristol and to considerable wealth, he resigned all his offices. In the last month he was advanced to be rear-admiral of the blue, and in January 1778 he was promoted to be vice-admiral of the blue. Hervey was a frequent speaker in parliament, and a constant writer in the newspapers. He and his elder brother arranged the reconciliation of Lord Temple and George Grenville in 1765. Through his connection with the Duke of York he took an active part in May 1766 in the debates on the grants to the royal dukes, and made himself so obnoxious to the Rockingham ministry that Rockingham thought of depriving him of his posts. When the Grafton-Chatham cabinet was formed, he moved the address in the commons with 'a directly opposition speech’ (November 1766). In the subsequent year he made himself popular in the navy by a measure for raising the half-pay of lieutenants from 2s. to 3s. a day, and in 1771, when just appointed to the admiralty under Sandwich, and eager to maintain its efficiency, he made a candid speech on the address of thanks on the convention with Spain (CAVENDISH, Debates, ii. 305-7). While Hervey sat at the board of admiralty he ranked as a prime favourite of Lord Sandwich, but on becoming Lord Bristol he grew dissatisfied with his friend and became his personal enemy. Some difference existed between him and Keppel in 1765, but it was gradually effaced, and in 1778 Keppel received from him among the peers the highest praise. He was the first to rouse the navy over the attack on Keppel, and he signed a memorial to the king in condemnation of the court-martial on that admiral, and on the acquittal his house in St. James's Square was brilliantly illuminated. His speech on 23 April 1779 over the condition of the navy, which ended with a motion for the removal of Sandwich from his office, was printed in that year. His constitution, naturally strong, was weakened by the changes of climate necessary in his profession. He died at St. James's Square, London, on 23 Dec. 1779, and on 28 Dec. was buried at Ickworth, Suffolk, where in the previous year he had restored the church and built the brick tower. As he left no legitimate issue, the title and entailed estates passed to his brother Frederick Augustus [q.v.], bishop of Derry, but he alienated all that he could. He bequeathed all his personalty and an estate of 1,200l. a year in Yorkshire to Mrs. Nesbit, and she was to allow Augustus Henry, his natural son by Mrs. Clarke ('Kitty Hunter’), 300l. a year during a minority and 400l. afterwards. To this son he left his father's manuscripts, but these and the 'Memoirs’ were not to be published during the reign of George III, and neither he nor Colonel the Hon. William Hervey, their next possessor, was to 'give, lend, or leave them to his brother Frederic.’

Hervey lost reputation through his relations with his wife. Their union was dissolved by the ecclesiastical court on 11 Feb. 1769 through collusion, and Walpole adds that Hervey's consent was obtained through a bribe of 14,000l. When she was presented at court as Duchess of Kingston in March 1769, 'Augustus Hervey chose to be there, and said aloud that he came to take one look at his widow.’ He afterwards denied the rumour that he was about to marry Miss Moysey, the daughter of a physician at Bath. His original correspondence with Lord Hawke is in the Record Office (Admirals' Despatches, Channel, vol. vi.), and his journals 'kept on board the Greyhound, John Ambrose, commander; Pembroke, the Hon. Will. Hervey, commander; and Gloucester, the Hon. George Clinton, commander, from 5 June 1736 to 15 Feb. 1739-40,’ are at the British Museum (Addit. MS. 12129). Many letters by him are in Keppel's 'Life of Lord Keppel’ and the 'Grenville Papers,’ vols. iii. and iv. On account of the similarity of handwriting, Dr. O'Conor suggested him as a possible author of the letters of 'Junius.’ His portrait by Reynolds was engraved by Edward Fisher in 1763, and is now, as the property of the corporation of Bury St. Edmunds, in its public library. The background represents the attack on Moro Castle. A portrait of him by Gainsborough was engraved by James Watson in 1773. A character of Lord Bristol by Lord Mulgrave was circulated in 1780, and is reprinted in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,’ viii. 11-12. He was active and brave, but reckless and over-confident.


Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 27-34; Gent. Mag. January 1780, pp. 10-14, 125; Walpole's George III, ii. 173, 330, 336; Walpole's Journals, 1771-83, i. 258, 477, 490, ii. 212, 215, 324-9; Walpole's Letters, passim; Jesse's Selwyn, iv. 88-93; Mundy's Life of Rodney, i. 81; Keppel's Lord Keppel, i. 279, 344, 352-67, 378-9, ii. 34-5, 97, 239; Burrows's Lord Hawke, pp. 365, &c.; J. C. Smith's Portraits, ii. 495, iv. 1514; Leslie and Taylor's Reynolds, i. 208-9, 219; Grenville Papers, i. 350-1, iii. xiv; Albemarle's Rockingham, i. 122; Faulkner's Chelsea, p. 119; Hervey's Suffolk Visitation, ed. Howard, ii. 200; Bury and West Suffolk Archæol. Instit. ii. 428-9.

Contributor: W. P. C.


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