Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stopford, Robert

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STOPFORD, Sir ROBERT (1768–1847), admiral, third son of James Stopford, second earl of Courtown (d. 1810), by his wife Mary, daughter and coheir of Richard Powys of Hintlesham Hall, Suffolk, was born on 5 Feb. 1768. He entered the navy in May 1780 on board the Prince George, the flagship of Vice-admiral George Darby [q. v.], and was in her at the relief of Gibraltar in April 1781. The Prince George afterwards went out to the West Indies, and took part in the action of 12 April 1782. In December Stopford was moved into the Aigle, and afterwards into the Atalanta and Hermione. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 15 July 1785, and, after serving on the Newfoundland station and in the Mediterranean, was made commander on 2 June 1789. On 12 Aug. 1790 he was posted to the Fame, from which he was, a few months later, moved to the Lowestoft, and from her to the Aquilon, in which he remained for three years, and was present in the action of 1 June 1794; during the engagement he took in tow the Marlborough when disabled and in a critical situation. From July 1794 to July 1799 he commanded the Phaeton, of 38 guns, which played an important part in the celebrated retreat of Admiral William Cornwallis [q. v.] on 16 and 17 June 1795, and was declared by the admiral to have done the work of three frigates. The Phaeton continued to be employed in the Bay of Biscay, where she captured a great number of the enemy's privateers and small vessels of war, till July 1799, when Stopford was appointed to the Excellent, forming part of the grand fleet under Lord Gardner; in 1802 he was sent to the West Indies under the orders of Rear-admiral Totty; after Totty's return he was left there, as senior officer, to deliver up the French and Dutch settlements in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Amiens.

Early in 1803 Stopford was obliged by ill-health to return to England. Some months later he was appointed to the Spencer, which through 1804 was one of the fleet off Brest or detached off Ferrol, and, having joined Nelson in the Mediterranean, took part in the celebrated chase to the West Indies. The Spencer was afterwards one of the fleet with Nelson off Cadiz, but was detached with Rear-admiral Thomas Louis [q. v.] a few days before the battle of Trafalgar. She then went to the West Indies with Sir John Thomas Duckworth [q. v.], and took a brilliant part in the battle of San Domingo on 6 Feb. 1806, for which Stopford received the gold medal. Shortly after this he returned to England. Still in the Spencer in November he went out to the Rio de la Plata with Rear-admiral Charles Stirling [see under Stirling, Sir Walter], and on his return to England in July 1807 joined the expedition against Copenhagen under the command of Admiral James (afterwards Lord) Gambier [q. v.], when, with other senior captains, he entered a protest against a junior being appointed over his head to the responsible post of captain of the fleet [see Popham, Sir Home Riggs]. On 28 April 1808 he was promoted to be rear-admiral and appointed to command the blockading squadron off Rochefort with his flag in the Spencer and afterwards in the Cæsar. While on this service he was repeatedly engaged with the French batteries and frigates, several of which he drove ashore and destroyed. In April 1809 he was joined by the main fleet under Lord Gambier off the Basque roads, and was a witness of the attack made on the French shipping by Lord Cochrane in the Impérieuse, and the unsatisfactory results of Gambier's negligence [see Cochrane, Thomas, tenth Earl of Dundonald].

In the autumn of 1810 Stopford went out as commander-in-chief at the Cape of Good Hope with instructions to reduce Mauritius, which, however, had fallen before his arrival on the station. In August 1811, on the news of the death of Vice-admiral Drury, he left his station to take command of the expedition against Java, where, in co-operation with the army, he gained a complete success. The extraordinary step of leaving his station to take the command in another naturally excited the indignation of the officer whom he superseded [see Broughton, William Robert], who applied for a court-martial on Stopford, an application which the admiralty, approving of Stopford's conduct, refused to grant. After the conquest of Java Stopford returned to his own station. On 12 Aug. 1812 he was promoted to be vice-admiral, and shortly afterwards returned to England. He was nominated a K.C.B. on 2 Jan. 1815, became admiral on 27 May 1825, a G.C.B. on 6 June 1831, and a G.C.M.G. on 10 May 1837. From April 1827 to April 1830 he was commander-in-chief at Portsmouth.

In 1837 he went out to the Mediterranean as commander-in-chief, with his flag in the Princess Charlotte, and was still there when the English government deemed it necessary to undertake active measures in support of the sultan against his rebellious subject Mehemet Ali. In August 1840 Stopford was instructed to demand, and if necessary to enforce, the restoration of the Turkish ships which had been treacherously delivered to Mehemet Ali by the Capitan Pasha. The situation was extremely critical, for the French were avowedly in favour of Mehemet Ali's claims, and it was thought not impossible that, as their fleet was in splendid order, they might attack the English, whose ships were manned on what was then known as the ‘peace establishment.’ In September Stopford was joined on the coast of Syria by a reinforcement under Commodore Charles Napier [q. v.], and the operations against Mehemet Ali were carried out with celerity and vigour. Sidon and Beyrout were successively occupied, and on 3 Nov. Acre was reduced after a few hours' bombardment. This was decisive; Mehemet Ali evacuated Syria, and the threatening attitude of France was abandoned. The thanks of both houses of parliament were voted to Stopford and to the fleet; Stopford received also the freedom of the city of London, a sword of honour from the sultan, and honours from Austria, Prussia, and Russia; besides which the promotion after Acre was very large. In 1834 Stopford had been appointed rear-admiral of the United Kingdom; on 1 May 1841 he became governor of Greenwich Hospital, a post which he held till his death at Richmond, Surrey, on 25 June 1847. Stopford married, in 1809, Mary, daughter of Captain Robert Fanshawe, commissioner of the navy at Portsmouth, and by her had a large family.

A portrait, by F. Ramsay, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. iii. 1; James's Nav. Hist.; Jurien de la Gravière's La Marine d'Autrefois; Napier's Hist. of the War in Syria; Letters of Sir H. J. Codrington; Official letters in the Public Record Office; Foster's Peerage.]

J. K. L.