Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phipps, Constantine John

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PHIPPS, CONSTANTINE JOHN, second Baron Mulgrave (1744–1792), captain in the navy and politician, born in May 1744, was eldest son of Constantine Phipps, created Baron Mulgrave in the peerage of Ireland, and of his wife Lepell, daughter of John, lord Hervey [q. v.] He entered the navy in 1760 on board the Dragon of 74 guns, with his uncle Augustus John Hervey (afterwards third earl of Bristol) [q. v.] After serving at the reduction of Martinique and St. Lucia, he was promoted by Sir George Rodney to be lieutenant of the Dragon on 17 March 1762, and took part in the reduction of Havana [see Pocock, Sir George]. On 24 Nov. 1763 he was promoted to the command of the Diligence sloop, and on 20 June 1765 was posted to the Terpsichore. In 1767 he commanded the Boreas. In the general election of 1768 he was returned to the House of Commons as member for Lincoln, and from the first identified himself with the ‘king's friends,’ gaining a certain prominence by his opposition to the popular party. In 1773 he commanded the Racehorse, which, in company with the Carcass, was fitted out to attempt the discovery of a northern route to India. The expedition sailed to the north of Spitzbergen, and, finding the sea absolutely blocked with ice, returned without any result. The voyage is now principally remembered from the fact that Nelson was a midshipman on board the Carcass. On the death of his father on 13 Sept. 1775, Phipps succeeded as second Baron Mulgrave. In 1777 he was elected member of parliament for Huntingdon, and was also appointed one of the lords of the admiralty.

In the spring of 1778 he commissioned the Courageux, a 74-gun ship which had been captured from the French in 1761 [see Faulknor, Robert]. In the action of 27 July, off Ushant, the Courageux had a distinguished part. The French three-decker Ville de Paris had fallen to leeward of their line, and lay right in the line of the English ship's advance. The look-out on the forecastle called out that they would be foul of the three-decker. ‘No matter,’ answered Mulgrave; ‘the oak of Old England is as well able to bear a blow as that of France.’ The Courageux, however, just cleared the jib-boom of the Ville de Paris and passed to windward of her, pouring in a destructive broadside. The big Frenchman, thus cut off, ought to have been detained and captured; but no orders were given, and all the English ships, except the Courageux, passed to leeward of her. Being under Palliser's immediate command, and his colleague at the admiralty, Phipps's evidence at the courts-martial had a strong bias in Palliser's favour [see Keppel, Augustus, Viscount Keppel; Palliser, Sir Hugh]. Afterwards, during the war, he continued to command the Courageux in the Channel fleet under Hardy, Geary, Darby, and Howe, and on 4 Jan. 1781 captured the 32-gun frigate Minerve off Brest after a remarkable engagement; for the heavy weather rendered it impossible for the Courageux to open her lower-deck ports, and thus reduced her force to something like an equality with that of the Minerve. The Courageux was paid off at the peace, and Mulgrave had no further service afloat.

In parliament Phipps continued to represent Huntingdon till 1784, when he was returned for Newark-upon-Trent. In April 1784 he was appointed joint paymaster-general of the forces, and on 18 May a commissioner for the affairs of India, and one of the lords of ‘Trade and Plantations.’ In 1791 ill-health compelled him to resign. On 16 June 1790 he was created a peer of Great Britain as Baron Mulgrave. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, and was ‘principally instrumental in the establishment of the Society for the Improvement of Naval Architecture.’ He collected also ‘a library, the most perfect in England as to all works connected with nautical affairs.’ He died at Liège on 10 Oct. 1792. A bust portrait of Mulgrave, painted by Ozias Humphrey, is in Greenwich Hospital. He married, in 1787, Anne Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Nathaniel Cholmeley of Howsham in Yorkshire. She died the following year in giving birth to a daughter; and Mulgrave dying without male heirs, the English peerage became extinct; the Irish barony descended to his brother Henry [q. v.]

Mulgrave published ‘A Voyage towards the North Pole,’ 1774, 4to (reprinted in Hawkesworth's and in Pinkerton's ‘Collections’). His diary of 1773 was also issued as ‘A Journal of the Voyage’ in 1773, and correspondence between him and Sir John Sinclair in 1795.

[Naval Chronicle (with portrait), viii. 89; Annual Register, 1792, pt. ii. p. 62*; A Voyage towards the North Pole, 1773 (4to, 1774); Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs; Commission and Warrant Books in Record Office; Trevelyan's Early History of Charles James Fox, pp. 334, 356; Foster's Peerage, s.v. ‘Normanby.’]

J. K. L.