Middleton, Charles (1726-1813) (DNB00)

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MIDDLETON, CHARLES, Lord Barham (1726–1813), admiral, second son of Robert Middleton, collector of customs at Bo'ness in Linlithgowshire, and of Helen, daughter of Charles Dundas of Arniston, was born at Leith on 14 Oct. 1726. His grandfather, George Middleton, D.D. (d. 1726), and his great-grandfather, Alexander Middleton, D.D. (d. 1684), were successively principals of King's College, Aberdeen. The last named, Alexander, was younger brother of John, first earl of Middleton [q. v.] Charles Middleton was promoted in 1745 to be lieutenant of the Chesterfield with Captain William Gordon. He seems to have remained in her till the peace and to have then been placed on half-pay. In 1754 he was appointed to the Anson, guardship at Portsmouth, and afterwards employed on convoy service to the West Indies. In 1758 he was promoted to be captain of the Arundel, taking post from 22 May. In 1761 he commanded the Emerald frigate in the West Indies, and cruised with success against the enemy's privateers, many of which he captured or destroyed. For his services in the protection of trade the assembly of Barbados gave him a vote of thanks and a gold-hilted sword. He was afterwards captain of the Adventure on the home station till the peace, and for the following twelve years remained on half-pay.

In 1775 he commanded the Ardent, guardship at Chatham, from which he was moved in November 1776 to the Prince George, and in April 1778 to the Jupiter. In August 1778 he was appointed comptroller of the navy, and held the office till March 1790. He was created a baronet on 23 Oct. 1781; was elected member of parliament for Rochester in 1784, and was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral on 24 Sept. 1787. He became a vice-admiral on 1 Feb. 1793, and admiral on 1 June 1795. In 1794-5 he was one of the lords commissioners of the admiralty under the Earl of Chatham. Ten years later, on the resignation of Lord Melville [see Dundas, Henry, first Viscount Melville], he was appointed first lord of the admiralty (30 April 1805), and raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Barham (1 May 1805). He was a near relation of Melville, and it would seem that the appointment was due to Mr. Pitt's desire to lessen the force of the blow which had struck down his friend. But Barham was now eighty years old, and no longer fit to be at the head of the English navy even in peace, still less during a great war. Later writers have, indeed, commended the promptitude with which, on the morning of 9 July 1805, when he received the news of Villeneuve's approach to Europe, he sent orders to Calder to look out for him to the west of Cape Finisterre (cf. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, ii. 168-9); but, judging from the character of the man, it would seem more probable that the contingency had been previously discussed by the board, and the course to be adopted had been decided. In any case, his term of office was short: in the administration of January 1806 he had no place. He retired from public affairs, and died on 17 June 1813.

Middleton married, in December 1761, Margaret (cf. Chatterton, Memorials of Lord Gambier, i. 139), daughter of James Gambier, barrister-at-law, and aunt of James (afterwards Lord) Gambier [q. v.] She died in 1792, leaving one daughter, Diana, married in 1780 to Gerard Noel Edwardes, who in 1798 succeeded to the estates of his maternal uncle, the Earl of Gainsborough, and by royal license assumed the name of Noel. On the death of Lord Barham, Noel, by the terms of the patent, succeeded to the baronetcy, and his wife Diana to the peerage. On her death in 1823, her eldest son, Charles Noel Noel, succeeded to the barony; on the death of his father in 1838 he succeeded also to the baronetcy, and in 1841 was created Earl of Gainsborough.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 330; official lists &c., in the Public Record Office; Complete Peerage, edited by G. E. C[okayne]; Nicolas's Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson (see Index). Several letters from Hannah More [q. v.] to Lady Middleton are printed in Lady Chatterton's Memorials of Lord Gambier.]

J. K. L.