Cornewall, Charles (DNB00)

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CORNEWALL, CHARLES (1669–1718), vice-admiral, son of Robert Cornewall of Berrington, Herefordshire, and uncle of Captain James Cornewall [q. v.], was baptised 9 Aug. 1669. He entered the navy in 1683; on 19 Sept. 1692 was appointed to the command of the Portsmouth sloop; and in 1693 commanded the Adventure of 44 guns, and accompanied Admiral Russell to the Mediterranean, where he remained till 1696. On 18 Jan. 1695–6 he shared in the capture of the two French ships Trident and Content. Captain Killigrew of the Plymouth, the senior officer present, was slain in the action, and Cornewall was promoted to the command of the Plymouth. In March 1701 he was appointed to the Shrewsbury, but resigned the command a few months later in consequence of the sudden death of his father, whose concerns, he wrote on 25 Sept. 1701, ‘are like to prove more troublesome and tedious than I expected, though when settled may prove of very considerable advantage to my children.’ In 1702 Cornewall commanded the Exeter, and in 1705 relieved Captain Norris in the command of the Oxford. In her he again went out to the Mediterranean, where he remained for the next two years, under the command of Sir Clowdisley Shovell, and afterwards of Sir Thomas Dilkes, having for some time, in the autumn of 1707, the charge of a detached squadron on the coast of Naples. In March 1708 he returned to England, sitting in parliament for Bewdley 1709–10, and for Weobley from 1715 till death. In December 1709 he was appointed to command in the Downs and before Dunkirk; and in October 1710 left England in command of the Dreadnought and in charge of the trade for the Levant. This he conducted safely to Smyrna, and by December 1711 was again in England. From the accession of George I he was comptroller of storekeeper's accounts at the admiralty till promoted to be rear-admiral on 16 June 1716. In the following October he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, with special instructions to take such measures as were requisite to restrain the aggressions of the Sallee corsairs, and to enter into a treaty with the Emperor of Morocco. In this work he was occupied for the next year, residing at Gibraltar, where an angry quarrel sprang up between him and the governor, arising out of the soldiers' unwillingness to admit the admiral's authority even in matters relating to the ships in the port, and gradually increasing in bitterness. The blame of this seems to have lain entirely with the governor, who said publicly, at his own table, that ‘either Mr. Cornewall or himself was the vilest fellow upon earth,’ and permitted, if he did not encourage, his officers to ‘drink damnation to the admiral and the negotiation he was conducting.’ Cornewall may possibly have also used strong language, for he seems to have been a man of hot temper; but the correspondence between the two ended in the expression of Cornewall's determination to refer the matter to the king or to the speaker of the House of Commons. He seems to have been prevented doing so by being called away from Gibraltar on more active service. He had already, in March 1717–8, been advanced to the rank of vice-admiral, and in June 1718 he hoisted his flag on board the Shrewsbury, as second in command of the fleet under Sir George Byng, in which capacity he had an honourable share in the victory off Cape Passaro on 31 July [see Byng, George; Balchen, Sir John]. He afterwards shifted his flag to his former ship, the Argyle, and convoyed the prizes to Port Mahon, whence he proceeded towards England. His health had been very feeble for some time; and putting into Lisbon on the homeward passage, he died there on 7 Oct. 1718. He left, among other children, a son Jacobs, the father of Charles Wolfran Cornwall [q. v.]; Wolfran was the name of Cornewall's uncle, a captain in the navy, who died in 1719. Cornewall's younger brother, Frederick (d. 1748), vicar of Bromfield for forty-six years, was father of Captain Frederick Cornewall, R.N., father of Folliott H. W. Cornewall [q. v.]

Till May 1709 Cornewall invariably spelled his name in this manner, as the collateral branches of his family still do. At that date he dropped the e. The change probably originated in a desire to distinguish between the different branches of the family.

[Captain's Letters, and Home Office Records (Admiralty), vol. xlvii., in the Public Record Office; Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 410; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

J. K. L.