Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mostyn, Savage

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MOSTYN, SAVAGE (d. 1757), vice-admiral, a younger son of Sir Roger Mostyn, bart. (1675–1739) [q. v.], was on 2 March 1733-4 promoted to be lieutenant of the Pembroke. He afterwards served in the Britannia, flagship of Sir John Norris [q. v.], and on 3 July 1739 was promoted to be commander of the Duke, fireship attached to the fleet off Cadiz under Rear-admiral Nicholas Haddock [q. v.], by whom, on 17 Dec. 1739, he was posted to the Seaford. The rank was confirmed by the admiralty to 6 March 1739-40. In April he was appointed to the Winchelsea, and towards the end of the year to the 60-gun ship Deptford, one of the fleet which went out to the West Indies with Sir Chaloner Ogle (d. 1751) [q. v.], and, under Vice-admiral Edward Vernon [q. v.], took part in the operations against Cartagena in March and April 1741. In December 1743 he was appointed to the Suffolk, one of the fleet with Sir John Norris off Dungeness, on 24 Feb. 1743–4.

In April he was moved to the Hampton Court, one of four ships which, on 29 Dec. 1744, lost sight of the fleet in the Soundings, and while looking for it broad off Ushant, fell in with two French ships of the line on 6 Jan. 1744–5. Two of the English ships, the Captain [see Griffin, Thomas, d. 1771] and the Sunderland, parted company [see Brett, John]. The Hampton Court and Dreadnought continued the chase; but, although the Hampton Court came up with the French ships, Mostyn did not engage, as the Dreadnought was then four or five miles astern. During the night and the next day the ships continued near each other, but the Dreadnought could not come up with the enemy; Mostyn would not engage without her; and thus the two Frenchmen got safely into Brest (Mostyn to the Secretary of the Admiralty, 23 Jan.; Voyages and Cruises of Commodore Walker, pp. 27 et seq.; Laughton, Studies in Naval History, p. 231). In England Mostyn's conduct evoked unfavourable comment, and at his request the admiralty ordered a court-martial, but without appointing a prosecutor. The evidence brought before the court was to the effect that in the fresh breeze that was blowing the Hampton Court lay along so much that her lower deck ports were under water, and that her main-deck guns, with extreme elevation, would not have carried more than fifty yards, while the French ships were remarkably stiff and all their guns were effective. There was no cross-examination, and the court decided that Mostyn had done 'his duty as an experienced good officer, and as a man of courage and conduct' (Minutes of the Court-martial, published 1745, 8vo). It was probably influenced by the fact that Daniel Finch, second earl of Winchilsea, Mostyn's maternal uncle, had only just gone out of office as first lord of the admiralty and might hold that office again. Afterwards, in letters to the admiralty, Mostyn persistently urged that the ship's spars and weights ought to be reduced; that, 'if their lordships will give me leave to say, we have too much top for our bottom' (Captains' Letters, M. 11). It may be that his judgment and seamanship were more at fault than his personal courage; but public opinion was far from accepting the court's decision, which was palpably absurd, and was severely criticised in a pamphlet attributed to Admiral Vernon (An Enquiry into the Conduct of Captain Mostyn, being Remarks on the Minutes of the Court-martial and other Incidental Matters. Humbly addressed to the Honourable House of Commons by a Sea Officer, 1745, 8vo). Nearly a year afterwards, in November, Mostyn, still in command of the Hampton Court, was hooted out of Portsmouth dockyard and harbour by workmen and sailors calling out, 'All's well! there's no Frenchman in the way!' (Charnock, iv. 431).

In the early months of 1746 Mostyn, still in the Hampton Court, commanded a cruising squadron in the Bay of Biscay. In July 1747 he was returned to parliament as member for Weobley in Herefordshire, and continued to represent the constituency till his death. On 22 March 1749 he was appointed comptroller of the navy. This office he resigned to accept his promotion to flag rank, 4 Feb. 1755, and in the summer of that year was second in command of the fleet sent to North America under the command of Vice-admiral Boscawen [q. v.] During the following year he was second in command of the western squadron under the command, successively, of Hawke, Boscawen, and Knowles. In April 1757 he was appointed a junior lord in the short-lived administration of the admiralty by the Earl of Winchilsea, which terminated in June. He died 16 Sept. 1757. A portrait of Mostyn in early youth was engraved by T. Worlidge.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. iv. 429; official letters and other documents in the Public Record Office; other authorities in the text.]

J. K. L.