Guest, Joshua (DNB00)

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GUEST, JOSHUA (1660–1747), lieutenant-general,was a Yorkshireman of obscure origin. Local antiquaries have discovered no trace of his father. His mother was Mary Guest, afterwards Smith, who was baptised at Halifax, Yorkshire, in April 1640, her parents, Samuel Guest and Mary Greenwood of North Owren, having been married in the preceding February. Her tombstone in Lightcliffe churchyard, near Halifax, describes her as 'Mary Smith, mother of Colonel Guest of Lydgate in Lightcliffe, who departed this life 10 Sept. 1729, aged 88 years.' The parish register describes her as Mary Smith, widow, and her tombstone also records the deaths of her son, Joshua Smith, in 1750, aged 63, his wife, and their son Sammy, who died in July 1777, aged 42. These Smiths succeeded to General Guest's Yorkshire freeholds on the death of his widow (Chester, Westm. Reg. n. at p. 380). Guest was evidently the son of Mary Guest, afterwards Smith, by a former marriage, or before she was married at all. His epitaph in Westminster Abbey shows that he was born in 1660, and began his military service in 1685. Local tradition records that he was a servant at the Angel at Halifax, and afterwards an ostler at Boroughbridge, and that he enlisted in the dragoons in that year. The first entry of his name in existing war office records is 24 Feb. 1704, when he was appointed cornet in Captain Henry Hunt's troop of Colonel George Carpenter's dragoons (Home Off.Mil. Entry Book, vi. 234). In Carpenter's, afterwards Honeywood's, afterwards Bland's dragoons (now 3rd hussars), the whole of Guest's service as a commissioned regimental officer, and most likely his previous service in the ranks, was passed. The regiment was raised in 1685, and was in the camp on Hounslow Heath. It fought with distinction under King William in the Irish and Flanders campaigns; part of it was in the Cadiz expedition in 1702; and it also served in Spain in 1707-8, and suffered heavily at the battle of Almanza, after which it was sent home to be reformed. It is probable that he was the Captain 'Joseph' Guest whose claim for extraordinary expenses incurred in bringing home letters to the queen from Spain through Italy, and having to return at once to Spain, is noted under date 5 July 1708, in 'Calendar of Treasury Papers,' 1708-14, c. viii. par. 9. On 5 June 1713 a brevet of colonel of dragoons was issued to 'Lieutenant-colonel' Joshua Guest (Home Off. Mil. Entry Book, viii. 304). Guest appears to have commanded Carpenter's dragoons in England and Scotland after 1745 for many years. He was in Scotland in 1715-16, and commanded a party of dragoons which pursued and overthrew the fugitives at Perth 21 Jan. 1716 (Campbell, Life of Argyle, p. 250). The ‘Lockhart Papers’ furnish ‘a pretty odd story, which I had from Colonel Guest, a very discreet gentleman and well disposed to the king,’ relating to the Spanish invasion of Scotland in 1719. At the time Guest was with two or three troops of dragoons quartered in Staffordshire or Warwickshire. There he is said to have received letters, signed by George I, directing him in case of disorder ‘to burn, shoot, or destroy without asking questions, for which and all that he should do contrary to the law in execution of these orders he thereby previously indemnified him.’ The story continues that the temper of the district was thoroughly Jacobite, and that Guest communicated the orders to ‘the leading gentry of the place,’ with an appeal to them to keep the peace. The district remained undisturbed (Lockhart Papers,ii. 24). Guest, with much native shrewdness, was a kindly old soldier, who, it is told, always sent a plate from his own table to the sentry at his door, saying: ‘I remember when I stood sentinel I often had abundant cause to envy those at dinner inside.’ He was one of the commissioners appointed to inquire into the Glasgow riots in 1725; he became a brigadier-general 24 Nov. 1735, and major-general 2 July 1739 (Home Off. Mil. Entry Book, xviii. 144, 208). He appears also to have been barrack-master for North Britain. His regiment went to Flanders in 1742, but he apparently did not accompany it. In 1745 he was retired on half-pay of a regimental lieutenant-colonel,the new lieutenant-colonel and major undertaking to serve on the pay respectively of a major and captain during the term of Guest's natural life to allow of the payment (ib. xx. 5). He became a lieutenant-general the same year, and was sent from London to replace Lieutenant-general Preston as deputy-governor of Edinburgh Castle. Varying accounts are given of his conduct when Edinburgh was in the hands of the rebels. According to some he was offered and indignantly spurned a bribe of 200,000l. to surrender the castle, which, his epitaph sets forth, he ‘closed a service of sixty years by faithfully defending.’ Others including Chambers in his ‘Memorials of Edinburgh,’ who bases his assertions on ‘information received from a member of the Preston family,’ declare that Guest was a true Jacobite at heart, and that at the council of war held on the arrival of the fugitives from Prestonpans he proposed to surrender, as the garrison was too weak to defend the place if attacked, a proposal vehemently and sucessfully opposed by Preston, who remained in the castle as a volunteer, and according to this version was the real defender of the place. Be this as it may, the place was sucessfully held during the time Edinburgh was occupied by the rebels, the last act of the defenders being to cannonade Prince Charles's followers at the review preceding their march into England. Preston, a veteran of eighty-seven, who, it is said, was wheeled round the guards and sentries in a chair every two hours during the hottest part of the blockade, went to his Scottish home unrewarded. Guest, who was but two years his junior and equally infirm, returned to London in a horse-litter, after the overthrow at Culloden (16 April 1746), to receive the gratitude of the king and people.

Guest died at his lodgings, Brook Street, London, 14 Oct. 1747, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument was erected to him by his widow. In his will, dated 22 May 1746, and proved 26 Oct. 1747, his wife Sarah is the only person mentioned. She died 17 July 1751, and is buried in the abbey near her husband. By her will she left lands and tenements to her husband's connections the Smiths, and considerable legacies to her own relatives of the names of Leigh, Blacklidge, and Winstanley.

[Home Office Military Entry Books; Cannon's Hist. Record of the 3rd Light Dragoons (in which Guest's name is not mentioned); J. L. Chester's Westminster Register, p. 318. At p. 380n. will be found particulars of Mrs. Sarah Guest and of the testamentary dispositions under her will. Chambers's Memorials of Edinburgh; Colburn's United Service Mag. January 1868, pp. 20-6, and September 1868, pp. 73-9, the latter a good example of the imaginative biography above alluded to.]

H. M. C.