Rainsford, Charles (DNB00)

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RAINSFORD, CHARLES (1728–1809), general, born at West Ham on 3 Feb. 1728, was the only son of Francis Rainsford (d. 1770), by his wife Isabella, daughter of William Bale of Foston, Derbyshire. He was educated at Great Clacton, Essex, by a clerical friend of his father, and in March 1744 was appointed second cornet in General Bland's dragoons, through the influence of his uncle, Charles Rainsford (d. 1778), deputy lieutenant of the Tower of London. The regiment was then serving in Flanders against the French; Rainsford joined it at once, and carried the standard at the battle of Fontenoy on 30 April 1745. On 1 May following he was appointed ensign in the Coldstream guards, and with them was ordered home on the news of the Jacobite rebellion. In 1751 he was gazetted lieutenant with the rank of captain, and when James O'Hara, second lord Tyrawley [q. v.], became colonel of the Coldstream guards, he made Rainsford successively adjutant to the battalion, major of brigade, and aide-de-camp. In 1758 Rainsford went to Gibraltar as Tyrawley's private secretary; he returned in 1760, and in the following year was given a company and sent to serve under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in Germany.

In 1762, when Spain threatened to invade Portugal, Rainsford again accompanied Tyrawley thither as aide-de-camp, and was shortly afterwards appointed brigadier-general and chief engineer in Portugal; in this capacity he fortified many strong places in the country. He was ordered home in 1763, and promoted second major in the Grenadier guards. In 1773 he was elected M.P. for Maldon, Essex, by Lord Rochford's influence; in 1787 he represented Beeralston, Devonshire, and in 1790 Newport, Cornwall, through the favour of the Duke of Northumberland, but he took little part in parliamentary proceedings. During 1776 and 1777 he was employed in raising troops in Germany for the American war, and in the latter year was appointed aide-de-camp to George III and promoted major-general. During the Gordon riots in 1780 he commanded the infantry stationed in Hyde Park and then at Blackheath; he was also appointed equerry to the Duke of Gloucester, and colonel of the 44th regiment. In 1782 he was sent to take command of the garrison at Minorca, but before his arrival the island capitulated to the Spaniards.

On the outbreak of the revolutionary war in 1793, Rainsford was sent as second in command to Gibraltar, where he remained till March 1795. On his return home he was made a general and appointed governor of Cliff Fort, Tynemouth; he saw no further active service, and died at his house in Soho Square on 24 May 1809. He was buried in a vault in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower, with his father, his uncle Charles, and his first wife. He married, first, Elizabeth Miles (1758–1781), by whom he had one son, Colonel William Henry Rainsford (d. 1823), and two daughters, Julia Anne and Josephina; the latter, for whom Sir Joseph Yorke stood godfather, died in infancy. Rainsford married, secondly, Ann Cornwallis, daughter of Sir William More Molyneux of Loseley Park, Guildford; by her, who died in 1798, he had no issue.

Rainsford was a man of varied tastes. He was elected F.R.S. in 1779; he was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a member of a society for making discoveries in Africa, and various benevolent institutions. He dabbled in alchemy, was a Rosicrucian and a freemason. He left behind him nearly forty volumes of manuscript, which were purchased by the British Museum, and now comprise Additional MSS. 23644–80; they include autobiographical memoranda, papers and letters referring to Portugal, 1762–4, to Gibraltar, 1793–6, to raising of German mercenaries, 1776–8, a narrative of the expedition to the Mediterranean, 1781–2, correspondence with Lord Amherst, the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and others, papers on freemasonry, magnetism, and alchemical processes, copies of the correspondence and papers of Lord Tyrawley, and of the journal of the Duke of Gloucester. The papers relating to the raising of German mercenaries for the American war of independence have been printed in the ‘Proceedings of the New York Historical Society,’ 1879.

[Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 23644–80, esp. No. 23667 (see above); Gent. Mag. 1809, i. 486, 583; Official Return of Members of Parl.; Morant's Essex, i. 464; Genealogist, ii. 108–9; Thomson's Hist. Roy. Soc.]

A. F. P.