Ligonier, John (DNB00)

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LIGONIER, JOHN, otherwise JEAN LOUIS, Earl Ligonier (1680–1770), field-marshal in the British army, and colonel 1st foot-guards, belonged to a Huguenot family of Castres, in the south of France. His father, Louis de Ligonier, sieur of Monteuquet, married Louise du Poncet, and had ten children, of whom six survived. John (Jean Louis) was second of the five surviving sons, his brothers being Abel, the eldest, who succeeded to the family seignory; Anthony (Antoine), who came to England in 1698, and died a major in the British army, in Harrison's regiment (15th foot); Francis (François Auguste) [see infra], who died a colonel in the British army; and David, who adopted the Romish faith at the time of the dragonnades, and died a lieutenant of cavalry in the French service in 1737 (Haag, La France Protestante, vol. vi.) John (Jean Louis) was born at Castres on 7 Nov. 1680, new style (ib.) He was educated in France and Switzerland. A protestant refugee, passing through France under an assumed name, he made his way to Dublin in 1697, and was provided with funds by his mother's brother, a lieutenant-colonel of Irish foot under King William. He served as a volunteer in Marlborough's army in 1702. He was one of the two who first climbed the breach at the storming of the citadel of Liège, his companion, young Alan Wentworth, a brother of Lord Raby, being killed by his side. The year after he purchased a company in Lord North and Grey's regiment (10th foot, now the Lincolnshire regiment), and fought with it at Schellenberg and Blenheim (cf. ‘Blenheim Roll’ in Treasury Papers, vol. xciii.) At the battle of Ramillies, and at the siege of Menin, where he was a major of brigade and led the assault on the counterscarp; at Oudenarde and Wynendale; at the wood of Taisnière and the battle of Malplaquet (where he had twenty-three shots through his clothes and remained unhurt); and at most of the great sieges and other affairs in the Low Countries down to 1710, Ligonier played a prominent part. He was appointed governor of Fort St. Philip, Minorca, in 1712. He was adjutant-general of the expedition to Vigo under Richard Temple, lord Cobham, in 1718, and signalised himself by carrying the strongly garrisoned Fort Marin, sword in hand, with a hundred grenadiers. On 18 July 1720 he was appointed colonel of the 8th, or black horse (so called from its black facings and horses), afterwards the 4th Irish horse, and now the 7th dragoon guards. Under Ligonier's diligent command this regiment, then on the Irish establishment, became one of the finest in Europe, and still recalls with pride its old name of ‘Ligonier's.’ It was composed almost exclusively of Irishmen, and sums of twenty to thirty guineas are said to have been paid for permission to enter it as a trooper (Colburn, United Serv. Mag. December 1833). As an instance of Ligonier's attention to the interior economy and welfare of the corps it is mentioned (ib.) that he maintained an additional surgeon at his own cost. He held the colonelcy twenty-nine years.

Ligonier became a brigadier-general in 1735, a major-general, master of the Irish buckhounds, and governor of Kinsale in 1739. A plan for the defence of Cork, drawn up by him in 1740, is in the British Museum Add. MS. 33119, f. 824. Ligonier went to the Low Countries with Lord Stair in 1742, and commanded the second division of the army in the march across the Rhine (for the order of march see Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. i. 206), and at the battle of Dettingen, 16 June (O.S.) 1743. For his distinguished conduct he was made a K.B. by George II in person, under the royal standard on the field of battle. He became a lieutenant-general in the same year. Ligonier's regiment, led by his brother Francis, was also greatly distinguished in the encounter, but, owing to the failure of another regiment of horse, it was surrounded, and had to cut its way back through the élite of the French cuirassiers, with the loss of one-third of its numbers (see Cannon's Hist. Rec. 7th Dragoon Guards). It was remarked of Ligonier's regiment that during its five years' campaigning in Flanders (1742–7) it never lost a man by desertion, never had an officer or man tried by general court-martial, never had a man or horse taken by the enemy; it lost but six men by sickness, and had no less than thirty-seven of its non-commissioned officers and troopers promoted to commissions for distinguished conduct. At Fontenoy on 11 May 1745 Ligonier commanded the British foot, and appears to have acted as military adviser to the young Duke of Cumberland. To Ligonier was assigned the credit of the skilful withdrawal of the army from the field of battle, although Ligonier generously gave all the praise to Lord Crawford [see Lindsay, John, Earl of Crawford, 1702–1749], who returned the compliment, declaring Ligonier ‘an extreme good officer.’ Ligonier commanded the troops sent home on the news of the rising in Scotland, and held command in Lancashire during the campaign in the north. On 22 Jan. 1746 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the British troops and troops in British pay in the Austrian Netherlands (see Home Office Mil. Entry Book, xx. 250–62, for his commission and warrants in full). In this capacity he was engaged in the bloody battle at Roucoux, near Liège, on 11 Oct. 1746, when Prince Charles of Lorraine, commanding the allied armies, was beaten by Marshal Saxe. In his despatch to Lord Sandwich, English ambassador at Breda, Ligonier describes the French attack on the left of the allies, ‘where the Dutch, after a long resistance, and behaving very well, were at last compelled to give way before numbers. But the English horse repulsed the enemy continually. I think the affair, to give it its right name, cannot be called a battle, for I question if a third of the army was engaged. The cannonading was terrible on both sides. I believe our loss to be between four thousand and five thousand men, and that of the French double. The army retreated in very fine order.’

When the Duke of Cumberland assumed command in the spring of 1747 Ligonier took the rank of general of horse, to which he had been promoted on 30 Dec. 1746. At the battle of Val, otherwise Laffeldt or Kisselt, on 1 July 1747, he led a brilliant cavalry charge of the Scots Greys, Inniskillings, and two other regiments, which saved Cumberland and his retreating infantry from the French horse. In the charge Ligonier's horse was killed, and himself, like his aides-de-camp, Keppel and Campbell, was made prisoner. Marshal Saxe presented Ligonier to the French king, saying, ‘Sire, I present to your majesty a man who by one glorious action has disconcerted all my projects.’ Louis XV, who had witnessed the charge from a distance, complimented Ligonier, and, after his exchange a few days later, employed him as an intermediary in the negotiations that ended in the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. Val was Ligonier's last battle. He was then in his sixty-seventh year. On his return home the electors of Bath returned him to parliament (25 March 1748), without his having offered himself to them as a candidate. He was made lieutenant-general of the ordnance; in 1749 he was transferred to the colonelcy of the 2nd dragoon guards, or queen's bays; in 1750 he was made governor of Guernsey, and in 1752 of Plymouth; in 1753 he was appointed colonel of the blues. In 1756 Ligonier was deprived of his post at the ordnance by a political intrigue in favour of Charles Spencer, second duke of Marlborough, who was made master-general. The Duke of Cumberland is credited with a share in the shabby transaction. George II always consulted Ligonier on military questions in preference to the commander-in-chief (Cumberland), and the latter is said to have consequently countenanced Ligonier's removal (Walpole, Hist. George II, ii. 139). But when Cumberland fell into disgrace after the convention of Closterseven Ligonier succeeded him as commander-in-chief (without the rank of captain-general held by Cumberland) from 24 Oct. 1757, and as colonel of the 1st foot-guards (now grenadier guards) from 30 Nov. 1757. On 21 Dec. the same year he was raised by letters patent to an Irish viscountcy, as Viscount Ligonier of Enniskillen, co. Fermanagh. On 1 July 1759 he was appointed master-general of the ordnance, a post he held until 1762, the office of commander-in-chief remaining vacant. By letters patent of 20 May 1762 his Irish title was altered to that of Viscount Ligonier of Clonmell in the peerage of Ireland, with remainder and pension of 1,500l. a year to his nephew, Edward Ligonier [see infra]. On 27 April 1763 Ligonier was created Baron Ligonier in the peerage of Great Britain, and on 10 Sept. 1766 became an English earl by letters patent, creating him Earl Ligonier of Ripley, in the county of Surrey, in the peerage of Great Britain. In the same year he attained the rank of field-marshal.

Ligonier was a privy councillor, F.R.S., and governor of the French Protestant Hospital in St. Luke's, London, to which he was elected on the death of the founder, Jacques Gaultier, in 1748. He died on 28 April 1770, in his ninetieth year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where is a monument to him, with medallion heads of himself and the five British sovereigns he served under. At his death his English title became extinct. According to some accounts he was married, and left an only daughter, married to a Lieutenant-colonel Graham. But the statement does not appear in Collins's ‘Peerage,’ 1768.

Ligonier was a man of the most chivalrous courage, with all the light-hearted daring of his race. He took part in twenty-three general actions and nineteen sieges without receiving a wound. By his contemporaries his military talents were held in the highest esteem. As with other veterans, a later generation inclined to regard him as obsolete, and as a cover for jobbery among his subordinates. Horace Walpole sneered at ‘the coronet for his aged brows and approaching coffin’ (Walpole, Letters, v. 9; see also Shelburne, Autobiog.), but he was nevertheless a popular hero, deservedly liked and trusted. A portrait of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds, representing a spare-built veteran, with kindly weather-beaten face, mounted on a black charger, is in the National Gallery. Another portrait is in the French Hospital in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Most of Ligonier's papers are among the British Museum Addit. MSS. His autographic memoirs of the military operations of 1742–3, in French, form Addit. MS., French, 22537, ff. 13, 21, 44, 48, 50, 433. Copies of his correspondence with Marshal Saxe in 1747 form Addit. MSS. Fr. 20788 f. 168, 23835 f. 223. His correspondence with Holles, duke of Newcastle, and other celebrities is in Addit. MSS. 32714 to 32795. A number of letters to him from various persons during the period 1759–65 are noted in the Historical MSS. Commission's 9th Rep. pt. ii. p. 479 a. An auction catalogue of his military library, which was sold at the death of his nephew, was printed.

Ligonier, Francis, otherwise François Auguste (d. 1746), colonel of the 13th dragoons and 59th foot (48th) in the British army, next younger brother of the above, entered his brother's regiment, the black horse, in 1720, and was wounded as lieutenant-colonel of it at Dettingen. On 25 April 1745 he was appointed colonel 59th foot, since the 48th, now 1st Northampton regiment. When Colonel James Gardiner [q. v.] fell at Prestonpans, deserted by his men, George II assigned his regiment to Ligonier, swearing he ‘would give them an officer who should show them how to fight.’ Ligonier was appointed colonel 13th dragoons on 1 Oct. 1745, and held the colonelcies of both regiments at the time of his death. He left a sickbed to rally the dragoons of General Henry Hawley's force at Falkirk Muir on 16 Jan. 1746, and contracted a pleurisy, of which he died a few days later. His brother John erected a monument to him in Westminster Abbey, which has disappeared. The inscription on it is given by Maclachlan (Duke of Cumberland's Order-Book, p. 83).

Ligonier, Edward, Earl Ligonier in the peerage of Ireland (d. 1782), lieutenant-general, only son of Colonel Francis Ligonier [see supra], entered as cornet in the 2nd dragoon guards, or queen's bays, in 1752, and obtained his troop in the 7th dragoons (now hussars) in 1757. He was aide-de-camp to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick at the battle of Minden on 1 Aug. 1759, and brought home the despatches (see Walpole, Letters, iii. 244–5). He was one of the principal witnesses against Lord George Sackville [see Germain, Gorge Sackville, first Viscount Sackville] at his court-martial. On 15 Aug. 1759 he was promoted to captain and lieutenant-colonel 1st foot-guards, a position he held until appointed colonel 9th foot in 1771. He was made aide-de-camp to the king in 1763, and was secretary to Lord Rochford's special embassy to the court of Madrid in that year. On the death of his uncle, Earl Ligonier, in 1770, he succeeded to the Irish viscountcy and pension. He was made a K.B. 17 Dec. 1781, and on 4 July 1776 was created an Irish earl under the title of Earl Ligonier of Clonmell in the peerage of Ireland. He became a major-general in 1775, and lieutenant-general in 1777. Ligonier was twice married. His first wife was Penelope, eldest daughter of George Pitt, earl Rivers. Ligonier fought on her account a duel with swords, in Hyde Park, with the Italian poet Count Alfieri. Ligonier behaved very generously to his opponent when he found him unskilled with his weapon. A catchpenny account of the affair was printed at the time under the title of ‘The Generous Husband, or Lord Lælius and the Fair Emilia,’ London, 1771, 16mo. Ligonier obtained a decree of divorce on 10 Dec. 1771, and thirteen years later the lady married a trooper in the blues at Northampton (Gent. Mag. 1771 p. 567, 1784 pt. i. p. 395). Ligonier married, secondly, Mary, second daughter of Lord-chancellor Northington, who survived him. At his death, without issue, in 1782, the title became extinct.

[Haag's La France Protestante, 2nd ed. by Bordier, Paris, 1877, vi. 91–4; Smiles's Huguenots in England, 6th ed. 1888; Dict. Univers. (Michaud), under ‘Ligonier;’ Anacharsis Combes's J. L. Ligonier—Une Étude, Castras, 1866, 12mo; Collins's Peerage, 4th ed. 1768, vi. 211 et seq.; Hayward's Essays—Marshal Saxe; Cannon's Hist. Rec. 7th Princess of Wales's Dragoon Guards; Anecdotes of the 4th Horse, in Colburn's United Service Mag. December 1833; A. N. C. Maclachlan's Order-book of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Southampton, 1876, 8vo; Hamilton's Hist. Grenadier Guards, 1872, vol. ii.; Military Entry and Commission Books in Public Record Offices in London, and at the Four Courts, Dublin; Stanhope's Hist. of England; R. Chambers's Hist. of the Rebellion of 1745, new ed. 1869; Walpole's Hist. of George II; Walpole's Letters, vols. i. ii. iii. v. ix.; Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. under ‘Ligonier.’]

H. M. C.