Fane, Henry (DNB00)

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FANE, Sir HENRY (1778–1840), general, was the eldest son of the Hon. Henry Fane, M.P. for Lyme Regis in Dorsetshire from 1772 to 1802, ‘keeper of the king's private roads, gates, and bridges, and conductor or guide of the king's person in all royal progresses,’ who was the second son of Thomas, eighth earl of Westmorland. He was born on 26 Nov. 1778, and entered the army as a cornet in the 6th dragoon guards, or carabineers, on 31 May 1792. He was promoted lieutenant into the 55th regiment on 29 Sept. 1792, and captain on 3 April 1793, and he exchanged with that rank into the 4th dragoon guards on 31 Aug. 1793. He served as aide-de-camp to his uncle, the tenth Earl of Westmorland, when viceroy of Ireland, in 1793 and 1794. When Westmorland retired, Fane returned to his regiment, and was promoted major on 24 Aug. 1795, and lieutenant-colonel on 1 Jan. 1797. In the year 1802 he duly succeeded his father as M.P. for Lyme Regis, then a close borough in the possession of the Westmorland family. He received the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 1st or king's dragoon guards on 25 Dec. 1804, and on 1 Jan. 1805 was appointed aide-de-camp to the king with the rank of colonel. Though Fane had up to this time seen no active service, he was nevertheless directed to join the staff of Major-general Sir Arthur Wellesley at Cork in June 1808, with the rank of brigadier-general. When the expedition landed at the mouth of the Mondego, Fane, as the youngest and most active of the English generals, received the command of the light brigade, consisting of the 50th regiment and the light companies of all the other regiments attached to the expedition. He led the advance, and at the battle of Roliça he first maintained the connection of the centre with General Ferguson, and then successfully turned General Laborde's right with his light troops by advancing along a mountain road in conjunction with Ferguson's brigade. This operation determined the French to retreat. At the battle of Vimeiro his brigade, with that of Anstruther, held the village church and churchyard against the first three furious onslaughts of Junot's troops. After the convention of Cintra he was transferred by Sir John Moore to the command of the 2nd infantry brigade in Mackenzie Fraser's division, consisting of the 38th, 82nd, and 79th regiments, and with this brigade he served in Sir John Moore's advance into Spain, in his famous retreat, and in the battle of Corunna. On Fane's return to England he received the thanks of parliament in his place in the House of Commons, where he still sat for Lyme Regis, and he eagerly pressed to be again actively employed. In the spring of 1809 he was again ordered to the Peninsula, with the rank of brigadier-general. He was placed, as an old cavalry officer, in command of one of Sir Arthur Wellesley's three cavalry brigades, consisting of the 3rd dragoon guards and the 4th dragoons. This brigade, as it consisted of heavy cavalry, took no such distinguished part in the battle of Talavera as Anson's light brigade, but it did good service throughout the campaigns of 1809 and 1810. On 25 July 1810 Fane was promoted major-general, and as the second cavalry general in order of seniority he was in 1811 detached from the main army to command the cavalry with Hill's corps in the Alemtejo, which consisted of the 13th light dragoons and four regiments of Portuguese dragoons. With this command he covered Hill's operations, and accompanied his corps to the main army, which it reached in time to be present at the battle of Busaco, where, however, none of the cavalry were engaged. In the subsequent retreat to the lines of Torres Vedras the services of the cavalry under Sir Stapleton Cotton and Henry Fane were most valuable, but the fatigues of this trying campaign were too much for Fane's health, and he was invalided home. He thus missed the important battles of 1812, but in 1813, to the satisfaction of both Lord Wellington and Sir Rowland Hill, Fane rejoined the army in the Peninsula. He was again appointed to the command of all the cavalry attached to Hill's corps, namely, a brigade of British cavalry, consisting of the 3rd dragoon guards, the royals, and the 13th light dragoons, one regiment of Portuguese dragoons, and Bean's troop of royal horse artillery. With this command he headed the advance of the right of the British army from their winter quarters at Frenada, defeated the French general Villatte in a smart cavalry engagement on 26 May, which secured the safe passage of the fords of the Tormes, and was present at the battle of Vittoria. During the winter campaign of 1813–14 the cavalry was hardly employed at all, but when Wellington determined to invade France, Fane once more took his place in front of Hill's corps upon the right of the army. He was engaged in innumerable little skirmishes during the advance, and distinguished himself in the charges of the British cavalry which completed the rout of Soult's army at Orthes. He then once more took his place in front of Hill's column, and was present, though not actively employed, at the final battle of Toulouse. On the conclusion of peace Fane succeeded Sir Stapleton Cotton in command of all the British cavalry upon the continent, which he conducted safely right across France to Calais. During these long and varied campaigns Fane had won the reputation of being the best commander of cavalry in the army, next to Sir Stapleton Cotton. He was made colonel of the 23rd light dragoons on 13 July 1814, from which he was transferred on 3 Aug. to the colonelcy of his old regiment, the 4th royal Irish dragoon guards; he received a gold cross with one clasp for the battles of Vimeiro, Corunna, Talavera, Vittoria, and Orthes, in which he had been actively engaged; he received the thanks of parliament in his place in the House of Commons; he was made one of the first K.C.B.'s on the extension of the order of the Bath, and he was appointed inspector-general of cavalry for Great Britain. In 1815 he prepared the cavalry regiments which were employed at the battle of Waterloo, though he was not himself present in that campaign. In 1816 he was appointed to a special command in the midland counties to put down riots. In 1817 he was made a local lieutenant-general for the continent, and appointed to command all the cavalry and horse artillery in the army of occupation in France, a post which he held until the complete evacuation of that country in 1818. In that year he resigned his seat in the House of Commons, and retired to Fulbeck in Lincolnshire, a country seat which he had inherited on his father's death in 1802. He lived in retirement for some years, but was promoted in due course to be lieutenant-general on 12 Aug. 1819, made a G.C.B. in 1826, and appointed colonel of the 1st or king's dragoon guards, a colonelcy which ranks next to those of the regiments forming the brigade of household cavalry, on 24 Feb. 1827. In 1829 the Duke of Wellington induced Fane to accept the office of surveyor-general of the ordnance. He re-entered the House of Commons as M.P. for Sandwich, and in 1830–1 was M.P. for Hastings. He went out of office when the reform cabinet of Earl Grey was formed, but continued on intimate terms with the Duke of Wellington, who appointed him commander-in-chief in India during his short tenure of office in 1835. Lord Melbourne's cabinet confirmed the appointment, and Fane took over the command-in-chief from Lord William Bentinck in September 1835, when he found India in a state of profound peace. Fane personally inspected every station in his command in 1836, and an interesting account of this tour of inspection, and of his interview with Ranjít Singh, the famous ruler of the Punjab, was published by his nephew and aide-de-camp, Henry Edward Fane. Towards the end of his period of command there were signs of war upon the north-west frontier, and in 1838 Fane got ready an army to proceed to the relief of Herat, which was then besieged by the Persians, and Lord Auckland and his advisers then began to mature the plans which brought about the first Afghan war. Fane entirely disapproved of this policy, and resigned his office, but the authorities at home took the unusual course of refusing to accept this resignation in January 1839, on the ground that they could find no general competent to succeed him. On Fane, therefore, devolved the final preparations for the Afghan war, and in 1839 he directed the operations, which led to the acquiescence of the Mírs of Sind in the proposed violation of their territory for the purpose of the invasion of Afghanistan. His health was by this time completely undermined, and on his reiterated demand to resign, Major-general Sir Jasper Nicholls, the commander-in-chief in Madras, was appointed to succeed him. He then handed over the command of the expeditionary army against Afghanistan to Major-general Sir John Keane, the commander-in-chief in Bombay, and prepared to leave India. He left that country in the last stage of weakness, and he died at sea on board the Malabar off St. Michael's in the Azores, at the comparatively early age of sixty-one, on 24 March 1840.

[Army Lists; Royal Military Calendar; Napier's Peninsular War; Five Years in India, by Henry Edward Fane, 1843.]

H. M. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.120
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
174 i 15 Fane, Sir Henry: for 1768 to 1796 read 1772 to 1802
33  for In the previous year he had succeeded read In 1802 he succeeded
175 i 13f.e.  for 1825 read 1826
7f.e.  for master-general read surveyor-general
5f.e.  after Sandwich. insert He was M.P. for Hastings 1830-1.