1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anglesey, Henry William Paget
|←Anglesey, Arthur Annesley||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2
Anglesey, Henry William Paget
|See also Marquess Henry Paget, Sir Charles Paget, Sir Edward Paget, Lord Clarence Paget and Lord George Paget at Wikipedia, and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
ANGLESEY, HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, 1st Marquess of (1768-1854), British field-marshal, was born on the 17th of May 1768. He was the eldest son of Henry Paget, 1st earl of Uxbridge (d. 1812), and was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, afterwards entering parliament in 1790 as member for Carnarvon, for which he sat for six years. At the outbreak of the French Revolutionary wars Lord Paget (as he was then styled), who had already served in the militia, raised on his father's estate the regiment of Staffordshire volunteers, in which he was given the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel (1793). The corps soon became part of the regular army as the 80th Foot, and it took part, under Lord Paget's command, in the Flanders campaign of 1794. In spite of his youth he held a brigade command for a time, and gained also, during the campaign, his first experience of the cavalry arm, with which he was thenceforward associated. His substantive commission as lieutenant-colonel of the 16th Light Dragoons bore the date of the 15th of June 1795, and in 1796 he was made a colonel in the army. In 1795 he married Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of the earl of Jersey. In April 1797 Lord Paget was transferred to a lieut.-colonelcy in the 7th Light Dragoons, of which regiment he became colonel in 1801. From the first he applied himself strenuously to the improvement of discipline, and to the perfection of a new system of cavalry evolutions. In the short campaign of 1799 in Holland, Paget commanded the cavalry brigade, and in spite of the unsuitable character of the ground, he made, on several occasions, brilliant and successful charges. After the return of the expedition, he devoted himself zealously to his regiment, which under his command became one of the best corps in the service. In 1802 he was promoted major-general, and six years later lieutenant-general. In command of the cavalry of Sir John Moore's army during the Corunna campaign, Lord Paget won the greatest distinction. At Sahagun, Mayorga and Benavente, the British cavalry behaved so well under his leadership that Moore wrote:— “It is impossible for me to say too much in its praise. . . . Our cavalry is very superior in quality to any the French have, and the right spirit has been infused into them by the example and instruction of their . . . leaders ....” At Benavente one of Napoleon's best cavalry leaders, General Lefebvre Desnoëttes, was taken prisoner. Corunna was Paget's last service in the Peninsula. His liaison with the wife of Henry Wellesley, afterwards Lord Cowley, made it impossible at that time for him to serve with Wellington, whose cavalry, on many occasions during the succeeding campaigns, felt the want of the true cavalry leader to direct them. His only war service from 1809 to 1815 was in the disastrous Walcheren expedition (1809) in which he commanded a division. During these years he occupied himself with his parliamentary duties as member for Milborne Port, which he represented almost continuously up to his father's death in 1812, when he took his seat in the House of Lords as earl of Uxbridge. In 1810 he was divorced and married Mrs Wellesley, who had about the same time been divorced from her husband. Lady Paget was soon afterwards married to the duke of Argyll. In 1815 Lord Uxbridge received command of the British cavalry in Flanders. At a moment of danger such as that of Napoleon's return from Elba, the services of the best cavalry general in the British army could not be neglected. Wellington placed the greatest confidence in him, and on the eve of Waterloo extended his command so as to include the whole of the allied cavalry and horse artillery. He covered the retirement of the allies from Quatre Bras to Waterloo on the 17th of June, and on the 18th gained the crowning distinction of his military career in leading the great cavalry charge of the British centre, which checked and in part routed D'Erlon's corps d'armée (see Waterloo Campaign). Freely exposing his own life throughout, the earl received, by one of the last cannon shots fired, a severe wound in the leg, necessitating amputation. Five days later the prince regent created him marquess of Anglesey in recognition of his brilliant services, which were regarded universally as second only to those of the duke himself. He was made a G.C.B. and he was also decorated by many of the allied sovereigns.
In 1818 the marquess was made a knight of the Garter, in 1819 he became full general, and at the coronation of George IV. he acted as lord high steward of England. 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 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 discharge 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 lord-lieutenant of Ireland. The times were changed; the act of emancipation had been passed, and the task of viceroy in his second tenure of office was to resist the agitation for repeal of the union 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. To the marquess 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 retirement 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 completed by his advancement to the rank of field-marshal in 1846. Four years before, he exchanged his colonelcy of the 7th Light Dragoons which he had held over forty years, for that of the Royal Horse Guards. He died on the 29th of April 1854.
The marquess 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 marquessate; but the title passed rapidly in succession to the 3rd, 4th and 5th marquesses. The latter, whose extravagances were notorious, died in 1905, when the title passed to his cousin.
Other members of the Paget family distinguished themselves in the army and the navy. Of the first marquess's brothers one, Sir Charles Paget (1778-1839), rose to the rank of vice-admiral in the Royal Navy; another, General Sir Edward Paget (1775-1849), won great distinction by his skilful and resolute handling of a division at Corunna, and from 1822 to 1825 was commander-in-chief in India. One of the marquess's sons by his second marriage, Lord Clarence Edward Paget (1811-1895), became an admiral; another, Lord George Augustus Frederick Paget (1818-1880), led the 4th Light Dragoons in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, and subsequently commanded the brigade, and, for a short time, the cavalry division in the Crimea. In 1865 he was made inspector-general of cavalry, in 1871 lieutenant-general and K.C.B., and in 1877 full general. His Crimean journals were published in 1881.