Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brudenell, James Thomas
BRUDENELL, JAMES THOMAS, seventh Earl of Cardigan (1797–1868), general, the only son of Robert, sixth earl of Cardigan, was born at Hambledon in Hampshire on 16 Oct. 1797. From his childhood he was spoilt; for he, as well as his seven sisters, possessed the proverbial good looks of the Brudenell family. He spent two years at Christ Church, Oxford, and when hc came of age, in 1818, was returned to parliament by his father’s cousin, the first marquis of Ailesbury, as M.P. for Marlborough. He entered the army, and purchased a cornetcy in the Sth hussars in May 1824, when he was twenty-seven years of age. He made up for his delay by lavish expenditure in purchasing his grages, and became lieutenant in January 1825, captain in June 1826, major in August 1830, lieutenant-colonel in December 1830, and lieutenant-colonel of the 15th hussars in 1832. In 1829 he resigned his seat for Marlborough on account of a difference with the Marquis of Ailesbury on the sulject of catholic emancipation, and at once purchased a seat for Fowey. In 1832 he fought a most expensive election for North Northamptonshire, and was returned with Lord Milton for his colleapie. Lord Brudenell found himself soon hemmed in by troubles among his officers. They had a natural feeling against the lord who had bought himself into his command, and his unconciliuting temper caused perpetual quurrels. At last, in 1833, he illegally ordered one of his ollicers, Captain Wathen, into custody at Cork. Wathen so thoroughly justified himself before a court-martial that Brudenell had a hint to resign the command of the 15th hussars. His father, however, who was an old friend of William IV, obtained for him the command of the 11th hussars, which he assumed in India in 1836. The regiment was at once ordered home, and on its arrival in 1837 Brudenell found that his father was dead, and that he had succeeded to the earldom and 40,000l. a year.
As Lord Cardigan he was not more successful in getting on with his officers than he had been as Lord Brudenell. Yet he was liberal with his money, and as he spent 10,000l. a year on the regiment, the 11th hussars soon became the smartest cavalry regiment in the service, and was selected afterwards by the queen to bear the title of Prince Albert's Own Hussars. The regiment on its return from India was stationed at Canterbury, and there occurred what was known as the ‘Black Bottle’ riot. Cardigan ordered a certain Captain Reynolds under arrest for a trifling reason, and a feud arose, which again brought him into notoriety. He shortly afterwards met another Captain Reynolds of his regiment at Brighton, and ordered him under arrest for impertinence. A garbled account of this transaction appeared in the ‘Morning Chronicle,’ signed ‘H. T.’ Cardigan found out that the writer was a certain Captain Harvey Tuckett, and immediately challenged him. The duel took place on Wimbledon Common on 12 Sept. 1840, and at the second shot Captain Tuckett was wounded. This duel created immense excitement, and public feeling ran strongly against Cardigan, who demanded his right to be tried by his peers. On 16 Feb. 1841 Lord Denman presided as lord steward, Sir John Campbell, the attorney-general, prosecuted, and Sir William Follett led for the defence. The trial lasted only one day; the prosecution had omitted to prove the identity of Captain Tuckett with Captain Harvey James Tuckett, and Cardigan was declared by all the peers present ‘not guilty upon my honour,’ except the Duke of Cleveland, who said ‘not guilty legally upon my honour.’ Cardigan retained the command of his regiment till his promotion to the rank of major-general in 1847. He lived the ordinary life of a wealthy nobleman until the Crimean war broke out in 1854. He was then sent out in command of a cavalry brigade in Major-general Lord Lucan's division. Lord Lucan and Cardigan, whose sister Lord Lucan had married, were old enemies. Cardigan declared that he understood his command to be independent of Lucan's control, and their hostility appeared both at Varna and the day before the battle of the Alma. When the cavalry division encamped outside Balaclava, Lord Lucan lived in camp with the men and shared their privations, while Cardigan had his luxurious yacht in the harbour, and dined and slept on board. At the attack on Balaclava, when the Russians had been driven back by the 93rd Highlanders, and charged in flank by the heavy cavalry, an order was sent down by Captain Nolan, aide-de-camp to Major-general Airey, that the light brigade was to charge along the southern line of heights and drive the enemy from the Turkish batteries. The order was easy of execution; Lord Lucan must have known along which line the light brigade was to charge, and Captain Nolan knew perfectly whither to lead the troopers. But Cardigan could see nothing from his station, and believed he was to charge straight along the valley in front of him. Lord Lucan did not inform him of his error, and Captain Nolan was unfortunately killed just as he perceived the erroneous direction the brigade was taking and while trying to set it right. Straight down the valley between the Russian batteries along one line of hills, and the captured Turkish batteries on the other, and right at the Russian batteries in his front, Cardigan galloped many yards in front of his men. He was first among the Russian guns, receiving but one slight wound in the leg, and then rode slowly out of the mêlée. Unfortunately for his reputation, although he was the first man among the Russian guns, he was not the last to leave them. Officers and men stood about looking for their general and waiting for orders, and then rode away from the guns in tens and twenties, in twos and threes. Cardigan had played the part of a hero, but not of a general. Great was the excitement in camp after the charge. Lord Raglan was profoundly displeased; some blamed Lord Lucan, some Cardigan, others General Airey, who had only written the order, and others Captain Nolan. In truth, no blame could be fixed on any one. Cardigan faithfully obeyed the order he had misunderstood. His subsequent conduct was unfortunately indiscreet. He returned to England in January 1855, and was treated as a hero. His portrait was in every shop window, and his biography in every newspaper. He was invited to a banquet by the lord mayor at the Mansion House on 6 Feb., and boasted of his prowess after the dinner. He was made inspector-general of cavalry in 1855, which post he held for the usual term of five years, was made K.C.B., a commander of the Legion of Honour, and knight of the second class of the order of the Medjidie, and was promoted lieutenant-general in 1861. He was made colonel of the 5th dragoon guards in 1859, which he exchanged for the colonelcy of his old regiment, the 11th hussars, in August 1860. Not satisfied with all these honours he always insisted on being regarded as a hero, and in 1863 applied for a criminal information for libel against Lieutenant-colonel the Hon. Somerset J. G. Calthorpe, Lord Raglan's nephew and aide-de-camp, for a statement in his ‘Letters from Headquarters,’ that after the charge of Balaclava ‘unfortunately Lord Cardigan was not present when most required;’ but he was nonsuited. After the trial he lived quietly at Deene Park, his seat in Northamptonshire, where he died from injuries caused by a fall from his horse on 28 March 1868. He left no children, and his titles devolved on his second cousin, the second marquis of Ailesbury. Cardigan was the author of ‘Cavalry Brigade Movements,’ 4to, 1861.
[There is no life published of Lord Cardigan, and for a general sketch of his life reference must be made to the Times obituary notice, &c. An account of his trial before the House of Lords was published in 1841, and there is a useful analysis in Townsend's Modern State Trials, i. 209 (1850). For his behaviour at Balaclava see above all Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea, vol. v.; the Report of the Proceedings in the Queen's Bench taken by Lieut.-gen. the Earl of Cardigan on applying for a criminal information for libel against Lieut.-col. the Hon. S. J. G. Calthorpe, 1863, and a curiously abusive little work, Was Lord Cardigan a Hero at Balaclava? by George Ryan, 1855.]