Legge, George (1648-1691) (DNB00)

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LEGGE, GEORGE, Lord Dartmouth (1648–1691), admiral and commander-in-chief, born in 1648, was the eldest son of William Legge (1609 ?-1672) [q. v.]; by the mother's side, was grand-nephew of George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham of that family [q. v.]; was first cousin once removed of George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham [q. v.]; and, through his father's sister, Mary, was the first cousin of Sir Edward Spragge (d. 1673) [q. v.] After an education at Westminster and King's College, Cambridge, he served with Spragge, as volunteer and lieutenant, during the second Dutch war, 1665-7; and in 1667 was promoted to be captain of the Pembroke. In 1672 he was captain of the Fairfax in the engagement, under Sir Robert Holmes [q. v.], with the Dutch Smyrna fleet, 12-13 March, and in the battle of Solebay, 28 May. In July he was moved into the York, and early in 1673 into the Royal Katharine of 84 guns, which he commanded with distinction under Prince Rupert [q. v.] in the three actions with the Dutch fleet. Meanwhile, in the intervals of war by sea, he was holding high civil and military appointments. In 1668 he became groom of the bedchamber, and in 1673 master of the horse and gentleman of the bedchamber to the Duke of York. In 1670 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth; in 1672 lieutenant-general of the ordnance; in August 1673 'warden and captain of the town and isle of Portsmouth.' In 1678, with the rank of colonel in the army, he commanded the forces at Nieuport in Flanders. On 28 Jan. 1681-2 he was appointed master-general of the ordnance, after some six months' discussion whether he could hold this mouth. In several letters to him the Duke of York expressed the opinion that he could hold both, but advised him, if he could only hold one, to decline the ordnance. 'If they do oblige you to part with Portsmouth,' he wrote on 17 Nov., 'I shall look on it as a very ill sign as to myself' (Dartmouth MSS. p. 72; cf. the art. on James II of England. Apparently he was obliged 'to part with Portsmouth.' his appointment there terminating 4 Feb. 1681-2.

On 2 Dec. 1682, in memory of the great merits and faithful service of his father, 'and farther considering that he, following his father's steps in divers military employments, especially in sundry sharp and dangerous naval fights wherein he aid freely hazard his life,' the king created him Baron of Dartmouth (Preamble to the Patent in Collins, iv. 310). On 11 June 1683 he was elected master of the Trinity House, and on 10 Aug. was appointed 'admiral of a fleet, captain-general in Africa, and governor of Tangier.' the object of the expedition being to evacuate the place, destroy the works, and bring back the troops to England. The fleet sailed from St. Helens on 19 Aug. and returned on 30 March 1684, the service having been performed 'very exactly and effectively.' On his return, Dartmouth received 10,000l., and a further grant 'to hold a fair twice a year and a market twice a week upon Blackheath' (ib.)

Within a few weeks of the accession of James II, Dartmouth was appointed master of the horse, 10 April 1685; and on 24 June governor of the Tower. For fully twenty-years his relations to the king had been almost those of son to father. If there was one man in the kingdom on whose loyalty James had a right to count, it was Dartmouth; and accordingly, when he understood the imminence of the Dutch invasion in 1688, he appointed Dartmouth admiral and commander-in-chief of the fleet, with in- structions, dated 1 Oct., to prevent any Dutch ships of war approaching our coasts, and 'to endeavour, by all hostile means, to sink, burn, take, or otherwise destroy or disable the Dutch fleet when and wheresoever he should meet with it.'

Dartmouth would doubtless have honestly carried out these instructions had it been in his power to do so, but his experience afloat was extremely small; he had no pretensions to be a practical seaman ; and in all that related to the conduct of the fleet he was dependent on his officers and the council of war. The most influential of the captains had been already won over to the interests of the Prince of Orange; and when on 24 Oct. it was proposed to put to sea and wait for the Dutch fleet on the coast of Holland, they had little difficulty in persuading a majority of the council that it would be 'hazarding the fleet to lie on that dangerous coast at this season of the year,' and that it would be 'much better' to stay where they were, at the Gunfleet (Memoirs relating to the Lord Torrington, p. 26). The fleet was accordingly lying at the Gunfleet when on 8 Nov. the Dutch fleet was seen, in a hard gale at E.S.E., making its way to the westward. Tide and wind were against him, and Dartmouth was obliged to remain at anchor till the next day, when he got to sea. It was known that he would follow, and there had been a meeting of those captains who were in the prinqas interest. Some were of opinion that if Dartmouth came up with the Dutch and attacked, they were bound in honour to do their duty; others held that they should, on such an occasion, leave the fleet and join the Dutch. Off Beachy Head a council of war was called, 'which was so managed that the result of it was not to fight if in honour it could be avoided' (ib. p. 29). A westerly gale in the night settled the question by driving the fleet back into the Downs. There it remained nine days, and on 16 Nov. sailed again for the westward ; but meeting another gale, the ships, partly from stress of weather, partly from predetermined want of seamanship, were scattered, and made their way in disorder to Spithead, 22 Nov. (ib. p. 80). There it remained. Dartmouth gradually became aware of the strong feeling against the king which had infected the fleet: a conspiracy to kidnap him and put the Duke of Grafton in his place as commander-in-chief was nearly successful ; and he found on his toilet-table a letter from the Prince of Orange inviting his co-operation (ib. p. 82; Dartmouth MSS. p. 219). His position was one of great difficulty, and the more so as — while personally attached to the king — he was compelled to dissent from the king's measures. On 1 Dec. he signed and forwarded an address from the fleet, thanking the king for calling a parliament; though in a private note he added 'it was unanimously received that there was no delaying the ad- dress. ... I hope it will be no offence nor disservice to your Majesty, for now, if the Prince of Orange does not desist, it will show the world he hath other meanings than are pretended' (ib. p. 275). It was just then, however, that James had determined to smuggle the little Prince of Wales out of the country. The infant was sent to Portsmouth, to be carried away in a yacht by Sir Roger Strickland [q. v.] ; but Dartmouth, in a courteous, a submissive, but still decided manner, refused to further the infant's escape. He may possibly have been under some degree of compulsion when he gave orders to certain of his captains to intercept the yachts if they should come out of the harbour, and set armed boats to go on board the yacht and take the child out of her (Memoirs relating to the Lord Torrington, p. 38) ; but he was certainly a free agent in writing to James on 3 Dec. that assisting in such a measure would be 'treason to your Majesty and the known laws of the kingdom : when your Majesty shall farther deliberate on it I most humbly hope you will not exact it from me. ... I beg leave to advise you and give you my humble opinion that sending away the Prince of Wales without the consent of the nation is at no time advisable, and therefore the doing it at this time especially, and that to France . . . will be of fatal consequence to your person, crown, and dignity' Dartmouth MSS. pp. 275-6).

The infant was withdrawn from Portsmouth only to be sent to France by another route ; and when, on 11 Dec, the king himself left the country, and the lords spiritual and temporal, assuming the executive power, sent Dartmouth an order to take measures 'for the prevention of all acts of hostility.' and 'forthwith to remove all popish officers out of their respective commands.' he saw no other course open to him than to obey. Afterwards, when he had news of the king's being brought back, he wrote to him on 17 Dec. explaining his action as the only one possible under the circumstances of the king 8 deplorable flight, and expressing a hope that now all would end in his majesty's