Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dalzell, Robert

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DALZELL, ROBERT (1662–1758), general, whose name is generally misspelt ‘Dalziel,’ belonged to the family of the earls of Carnwath, the records of which, for the period of his birth, are imperfect. He was born in 1662, and is described as having entered the military service at an early age, and ‘made eighteen campaigns under the greatest commanders in Europe’ (Grainger, iii. 1221). Family tradition has it that his father was Earl of Carnwath, and himself in the direct line of succession to the title, which was forfeit during the latter half of his lifetime, and that he began his military career as ensign in the foot company of his kinsman, Sir John Dalzell of Glenae. This is confirmed by the muster-rolls of the Earl of Mar's regiment (21st Royal Scots fusiliers) now in the Register House at Edinburgh, which show a Robert Dalzell serving as ensign in Captain Sir John Dalzell's company of that regiment at Dumfries, Glasgow, Ayr, &c., at various dates from January 1682 to May 1686. Mar's regiment came into England in 1688; and it is possible that Dalzell was the ‘Dalyell’ serving as a lieutenant in the regiment of foot of Gustavus Hamilton, Viscount Boyne (20th foot), in Ireland, in 1694 (Add. MS. 17918). In 1698–9 Dalzell appears as ‘Robert Daliel’ in the list of the captains of Gibson's foot (28th foot) ordered to be reduced (All Souls' Coll. MS. 154, f. 130). This regiment had been originally raised in 1694 by Sir John Gibson, knight, lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth, whose daughter Dalzell married, and after serving in Flanders, the West Indies, and Newfoundland, was disbanded in 1698, except a detachment in Newfoundland. It was raised again on 10 March 1702 (Home Off. Mil. Entry Book, iv.), Dalzell, like Gibson himself, reverting to his former rank in the regiment. This is the earliest mention of him in existing War Office records. The baptism of Dalzell's eldest child, Gibson Dalzell, appears in the register of the parish church, Portsmouth, under date 9 March 1698, and the baptisms of his other children all appear in the same register. On 2 July 1702 Dalzell was appointed town-major of Portsmouth (ib. vi.), an appointment worth 70l. a year, which he retained for many years. Gibson's regiment went from Portsmouth to Ireland in 1702, and in 1704 Gibson sold the colonelcy to Sampson de Lalo, a Huguenot officer in the British service. De Lalo's regiment, as it was now called, joined Marlborough's army, and served at the recapture of Huy and the forcing of the enemy's lines at Neer Hespen in 1705, and at the battle of Ramillies in 1706, during all which time the name of Robert Dalzell appears as lieutenant-colonel (Chamberlayne, Angl. Not.) De Lalo exchanged the colonelcy with Lord Mordaunt on 26 June 1706, and under the name of Mordaunt's the regiment went to Spain, and was one of those cut up at the disastrous battle of Almanza, 24 April 1707. Dalzell reformed the regiment in England, and it again went to Spain in April 1708 (Add. MS. 19023). A writer from the army under date 23 April 1708 says: ‘We cannot yet give any certain account of the number of our forces, but what we have are the finest in the world, such as the regiments of Southwell, commanded by Col. Hunt; of Blood, commanded by Col. Du Bourgay; and of Mordaunt, commanded by Col. Robt. Dalziel’ (Compleat State of Europe, June 1708). Some account of the regiment up to this period will be found in Colonel Brodigan's ‘Hist. Recs. 28th Foot,’ London, 1884, but the details are imperfect and not always accurate, and throw no light on Dalzell's services. Dalzell became a colonel in 1708 (1709?), brigadier-general in 1711, major-general 1715, in which year his appointment as town-major of Portsmouth was renewed. In 1709 he raised a regiment of foot (the 41st) in Spain (Add. MS. 19023), which appears in a list of regiments in 1713 (Eg. MS. 2618, f. 205) as Brigadier Dalzell's, but was afterwards disbanded. Dalzell became major-general in 1727; colonel of a regiment of foot (33rd foot) in 1730, in succession to General Hawley; commander of the forces in North Britain, 1732; colonel of a regiment of foot (38th foot), in succession to the (second) Duke of Marlborough, in 1739; lieutenant-general in 1735, and general in 1745. He retired by the sale of his regimental commissions in 1749. In 1720 Dalzell was appointed treasurer of the Sun Fire Office, the only office then taking fire risks outside the bills of mortality. He is said to have been one of a party of Scottish gentlemen who took over the concern from the projector; but although this is probable, the books of the office contain no information respecting his interest in it prior to 1720. Thirty years later he was chairman of the directors, of whom his son, Gibson Dalzell, was one. Gibson Dalzell appears to have had a lease of one of the coal-meters' offices in the city of London, and shares in the Sun office and the Company for working Mines and Metals in Scotland. He died in Jamaica in 1755, and was buried at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London.

Dalzell died in London on 14 Oct. 1758, in the ninety-sixth year of his age. In his will, proved on 19 Oct. 1758, he spells his name as here indicated, and describes himself as of Craig's Court, Charing Cross, expressing a desire to be buried in Westminster Abbey. He was buried in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Several engraved portraits of Dalzell exist; one at the age of eighty-four, from a painting at Glenae, once the seat of the earls of Carnwath, is believed to be an excellent likeness. Dalzell's wife and children predeceased him, and his only surviving descendants at his death were the two children of his son Gibson Dalzell: Robert, of Tidmarsh Manor-house, Berkshire, and Frances, who married the Hon. George Duff, son of the first Earl of Fife.

A grandson of Robert Dalzell was the late Robert Dalzell, M.A., D.C.L., barrister-at-law, of the Middle Temple, and joint author of a ‘Treatise on the Equitable Doctrine of the Conversion of Property (London, 1825), who died in 1878 at the age of eighty-three, and whose daughter is now the only surviving representative of this branch of the family. [Particulars supplied, from family sources, by Miss Caroline Margaret Legh Dalzell of Wallingford. Some very curious information respecting the orthography of the name is given in the Christian Leader, September 1883, p. 687. Information has also been obtained from the secretary of the Sun Fire Office; Walford's Cyclopædia of Insurance; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England (ed. 1806), vol. iii.; Regimental Muster Rolls in Register House, Edinburgh; MS. Army and other Lists in Library, All Souls' Coll., Oxford; War Office (Home Office) Military Entry Books; Chamberlayne's Angliæ Notitiæ; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 17918, also 19023 (abstracts of Muster Rolls); Eg. MSS. 2618; wills of General Robert Dalzell and of Gibson Dalzell in Somerset House; Gent. Mag. xxviii. 504.]

H. M. C.