Gardiner, William (1748-1806) (DNB00)

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GARDINER, WILLIAM or WILLIAM NEVILLE (1748–1806), minister plenipotentiary at Warsaw, second son of Charles Gardiner (d. 1765), and brother of Luke Gardiner, viscount Mountjoy was born on 23 April 1748, and on 31 Dec. 1767 was gazetted cornet in the old 18th light dragoons or Drogheda light horse. On 31 March 1770 he was promoted to a company in the 45th foot, then in Ireland. He went to America with his regiment, made the campaigns of 1775–6, part of the time as aide-de-camp to the commander-in-chief, Sir William Howe; and brought home the despatches after the battle of Long Island, for which he received a majority in the 10th foot. He served with the 10th in Philadelphia in 1777, and was wounded at Freehold during the operations in New Jersey, on 28 June 1778 (Cannon, Hist. Rec. 10th Foot). On 29 June 1778 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel 45th foot. Joining his old corps in England, he commanded it for three and a half years, during which time, in accordance with resolutions passed at a general county meeting of the Nottinghamshire gentry (August 1779), the 45th foot (now Sherwood Foresters) was ordered to assume the title of the ‘Nottinghamshire Regiment,’ so soon as three hundred men should have been recruited in the county. An extra bounty of six guineas per man was paid out of the county subscriptions. The title was given three years before county titles were bestowed on other line regiments (Lawson Lowe, Hist. Nottingham Regt. of Marksmen). In January 1782 Gardiner was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant of the 88th foot, and in February 1783 colonel of the 99th or Jamaica regiment of foot, a corps raised in England at the cost of the Jamaica planters, and the second of the six regiments which have successively borne that numerical rank. He appears never to have joined the corps, being employed in Ireland as aide-de-camp to the lord-lieutenant. The 99th was disbanded at the peace of 1783, and Gardiner, who was then put on half-pay, had no government employment until December 1789 (see memorial in For. Office Recs. in Public Record Office under ‘Poland,’ vol. cxxviii.), when the revolution occurred in the Austrian Netherlands (Alison, Hist. of Europe, ii. 383–5; Ann. Reg. xxxiii. 1–35). He was then sent to report on the condition of the fortress of Luxemburg, which he describes as ‘a most dangerous service’ (For. Off. Recs. ‘Flanders,’ vol. ccxvi.) He was subsequently stationed at Brussels as a special envoy until 1792. His despatches from Ostend and Brussels during this period are among the Foreign Office Records in the Public Record Office, enrolled under ‘Flanders,’ 216, 217, 218, 219, 220 (1790–2), and his private letters during the same period addressed to the secretary of state are in Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 28064, 28065, and 28066. On 5 Jan. 1792 he was transferred as minister plenipotentiary to Warsaw, with an expression of approval for his ‘zeal and assiduity.’ Leaving his family as before in England, he reached Warsaw on 13 Oct. 1792. He was surprised to learn that there were already a hundred and twenty thousand Russian troops in the country. He had simply to watch and report the events, which followed in quick succession, and of which his weekly despatches (Public Rec. Off., Foreign Off. Recs., ‘Poland,’ 128, 132, 133, 134, 135) supply many interesting details. The second partition of Poland in 1793 was followed by the insurrection, the success and speedy fall of Kosciusko, and the sack of Praga on 4 Nov. 1794 (Ann. Reg. xxxiv. 1–48; xxxv. 1–42). Gardiner speaks of the fine appearance and good order of the Russian troops which entered Warsaw at the invitation of King Stanislaus Augustus a few days later, but states that great atrocities were committed by the Cossacks at the storming of Praga. He was informed by the Russian authorities, without much courtesy, that his mission was at an end.

On 6 March 1795 Gardiner, who had attained the rank in 1793, was appointed major-general on the staff in Corsica, and on 21 March was appointed colonel of a new 99th foot, the third regiment bearing that number. The regiment was broken up in Demerara in 1796, and Corsica was abandoned the same year; but Gardiner was still detained in Warsaw by inability to pay his debts. His military emoluments were stopped, except 170l. for the governorship of Hurst Castle, during his employment under the foreign office. His salary was insufficient to keep his family at home, and during the sack of Praga he had to maintain three hundred persons at the embassy. It was not until April 1797 that, apparently through the urgent representations of Coutts, the banker, Gardiner was enabled to quit Warsaw. In March 1799 he was in Dublin, where the commander-in-chief, Lord Cornwallis, strongly but unsuccessfully recommended him for military employment. ‘He is like Lake in manner, but graver,’ wrote Cornwallis (Corresp. iii. 77, 81). Gardiner sat in the last Irish parliament for Thomastown, King's County (Off. List Members of Parl. vol. ii.) In 1799 he attained the rank of lieutenant general, and was appointed colonel commandant of the newly raised 6th battalion 60th foot. He was subsequently transferred to the governorship of Kinsale from Hurst Castle. During the invasion alarms of 1803–5 Gardiner commanded the north inland district, one of the twelve military districts into which England was then divided. In 1805 he was appointed commander-in-chief in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He died 7 Feb. 1806.

Gardiner married in 1777 Harriet, youngest daughter of the Rev. Sir Richard Wrottesley, baronet of Wrottesley, and sister of the Duchess of Grafton, and by her left a son, Charles, major 60th foot, and four daughters.

[Debrett's Peerage, 1825, under ‘Earl of Blessington;’ Gent. Mag. lxxvi. pt. ii. 682, and correction at p. 771; Army Lists; Regimental Muster Rolls in Public Record Office and Foreign Office Recs. and Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. ut supra; information from Sir W. A. White, K.C.M.G., H.B.M. ambassador in Turkey.]

H. M. C.