Villettes, William Anne (DNB00)

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VILLETTES, WILLIAM ANNE (1754–1808), lieutenant-general, born at Berne on 14 June 1754, was the second son of Arthur Villettes. His family withdrew from France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. His father was British plenipotentiary at Turin, and afterwards in the Helvetic cantons. In later life he resided at Bath, where he died in 1776. Villettes, who was educated at a private school at Bath and at St. Andrews University, was intended for the bar, and kept two or three terms at Lincoln's Inn. But being bent on a military life, his father gave way to his inclinations and obtained for him a cornetcy in the 10th light dragoons on 19 Dec. 1775. He was promoted lieutenant in the regiment on 25 Dec. 1778, and captain on 22 Jan. 1782. On 24 Dec. 1787 he was promoted to a majority in the 12th light dragoons. During a portion of the earlier period of his service in the army he served as aide-de-camp and military secretary to General Sir William Pitt, commanding the forces in Ireland. On 30 July 1791 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the 69th foot, and commanded that regiment during the siege of Toulon, where his good services were acknowledged by General Charles O'Hara (1740?–1802) [q. v.] and his successor, General David Dundas (1735–1820) [q. v.]; and later, during the defence of Les Sablettes, Faron, and Fort Mulgrave, in command of the Neapolitan troops, he earned a high reputation.

Villettes was next engaged in the conquest of Corsica in 1794. He commanded the detachments of British soldiers which landed from the fleet, and, in conjunction with Nelson, then captain of the Agamemnon, he was entrusted with the siege of Bastia. Admiral Lord Hood bore testimony to his good services, and Nelson entertained a high opinion of him, as may be read in his letters which were afterwards published. On 9 May 1794 the garrison of Bastia, consisting of 4,500 men, laid down their arms to twelve hundred British troops and seamen, and the four stands of colours taken on the occasion are still preserved in the museum of the Royal United Service Institution at Whitehall. As a reward for his services Villettes was appointed governor of Bastia and gazetted colonel in the army from 21 Aug. 1795. In the following year he relinquished this command on account of ill-health, and returned to England. On 30 Nov. 1796 he was appointed a brigadier-general in Portugal, where he served with the army under Sir Charles Stuart (1753-1801) [q. v.] On 23 March 1797 he was transferred from the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 69th foot to that of the 1st dragoon guards, and was shortly afterwards made comptroller of the household to the Duke of Kent.

On 12 June 1798 he was promoted to the rank of major-general. He served for a short period in Corfu in 1799, until appointed second in command of the troops in Malta, succeeding in 1801 to the chief command there. In the meantime he was made colonel of a newly raised regiment of foot from 12 April 1799, and was appointed colonel-commandant of a newly raised battalion of the 4th king's own on 28 March 1801. This battalion was disbanded on 24 May 1802. He served in Malta until 1807, exhibiting great tact and firmness during a somewhat troublesome period. He raised the royal regiment of Malta, and was appointed its colonel on 7 Dec. 1804. On 30 Oct. 1805 he was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general.

He returned to England in 1807, on 7 Nov. of which year he was appointed lieutenant-governor of the island of Jamaica, and commander of the forces there, with the local rank of general. On 4 Jan. 1808 he was appointed colonel of the 64th foot. While on a tour of inspection in the island in July 1808 he was seized with fever, and died, unmarried, on 12 July, at Union. He was buried with military honours in the parish of Halfway Tree, near Kingston, and a monument was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey.

[Short View of the Life and Character of Lieutenant-general Villettes, by J. Bowdler, 1815; Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson, by Sir H. Nicolas, 1846; Gent. Mag. 1808 ii. 852, 1809 i. 297, 301, ii. 798.]

R. H.