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Hilgrove Turner

General Sir (Tomkyns) Hilgrove Turner, GCH (12 January 1764 – 6 May 1843) was a British Army officer and courtier.

Turner was born at Uxbridge, Middlesex, the eldest son in the family of three sons and two daughters, of Richard Turner of Shepherd's Bush and Jersey (a surgeon-major in the British army), and his wife, Magdalen née Hilgrove (1736–1807). Educated at Southampton Grammar School, the Revd. Mr Hinton's school in Hayes, Dr Rutherford's school in Uxbridge, and Eton College (which he entered in 1779), he was commissioned an ensign in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards on 20 February 1782, and was promoted to lieutenant and captain on 13 October 1789.


Military career

He went to the Netherlands in February 1793 with the brigade of guards under the Duke of York. After landing at Hellevoetsluis on 5 March, Turner marched to Tournai, encamped at Maulde in May, and took part in the Battle of St Amand (8 May,) and the action of Famars (23 May,). He participated in the Siege of Valenciennes in June and July, which culminated in the successful assault of 25–28 July. On 18 August, he was present at the brilliant affair of Linselles, a village the French had recently captured from the Dutch. The outnumbered guards succeeded in driving the French out of their entrenched position.

During the British siege of Dunkirk in September, Turner was involved in repulsing the garrison's attempted sorties of 6 and 8 September,. However, the covering army withdrew to Veurne (Furnes) under pressure from Houchard, and this forced the Duke of York to raise the siege. Turner next marched with the guards to Cysoing situated between Lille and Orchies. On 5 October, the guards joined the Austrians across the River Sambre to surround Landrecies. However, the siege was not prosecuted, and Turner re-crossed the river with his regiment en route for Ghent.

On 17 April 1794 Turner took part in the successful attack on the French forces posted at Vaux, between Landrecies and Guise. The enemy were driven behind the Oise and Landrecies was besieged. Turner was present during this siege, and was also at the action of Le Cateau, near Troisvilles, on 26 April,. He then went with the Duke of York's army to Tournai and participated in the repulse of the French attack on 23 May,. He accompanied the army in its retreat towards the Netherlands in July and behind the Aar in September, took part in the action at Boxtel on 15 September, and then in the retreat behind the Meuse to Nijmegen. He greatly distinguished himself during Abercromby's capture of Fort St André on 11 October, prior to the army's retreat behind the Waal.

Turner was promoted captain of the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards in February 1795. While on service he met Esther Senecaut (1773/4–1863), the adopted daughter of the French royalist L'Oignon family. They were married, on 24 March 1795, at the Catholic chapel at Wildhausen, Westphalia (confirmed by a Protestant ceremony at Greenwich on 24 February 1803). They had three sons and two daughters, born between 1798 and 1818. He returned to England in May 1795 and lived in Greenwich until 1800, when he was posted to Ireland. He was promoted brevet colonel on 1 January 1801, the year in which he went with his regiment to Egypt, landing at Abu Qir Bay on 8 March,. He participated in the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March,. He was also involved in the action in the western part of Alexandria with the guards brigade under Lord Cavan on 22 August, and witnessed the surrender of the city on 2 September,. For his services in Egypt, Turner received the medal, and was made a knight of the Order of the Crescent by Selim III.

Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone

Under the terms of article 16 governing the surrender of Alexandria, all the man-made and natural wonders collected by the Institut de France were to be handed over to the allies. The French attempted to evade the agreement on the ground that the collections were all private property. For example, General Menou claimed that the Rosetta Stone, discovered by the French in 1799 when repairing the ruined Fort St Julien, and now in his house in Alexandria, was his. Turner, who was a fine antiquary, and responsible for the captured French antiquities in Egypt, was ordered by the commander of the British forces, Lord Hutchinson, to negotiate on the subject. After much correspondence and several meetings with Menou it was decided that, owing to the manner in which the French had cared for the collection of insects and animals, these should be retained by their present owners. However, Lord Hutchinson, 'with his usual zeal for science', in Turner's words, insisted that the French hand over all antiquities and Arabian manuscripts. This decision provoked the French into breaking the cases and removing the protective coverings of many of their precious artefacts. According to his own account Turner went with a party of gunners, the first British soldiers to enter Alexandria, and a 'devil' cart to transport the Rosetta Stone from Menou's house amid the jeers of the French officers and men. Having seen the remains of more ancient Egyptian sculpture being taken aboard the Madras, Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton's ship, Turner embarked with the Rosetta Stone, determined to share its fate, aboard a French frigate, Egyptienne, which had been captured in Alexandria harbour. In February 1802 Turner landed at Portsmouth and persuaded the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Lord Hobart, that the stone should initially be sent to the Society of Antiquaries. It resided there for much of the year before being deposited in the British Museum. In January 1803, Turner sent the Society of Antiquaries a version of the inscription on Pompey's Pillar, taken by Captain Dundas, Royal Engineers. He later contributed several more articles to the society's journal Archaeologia. Turner's account of the British acquisition of the Rosetta Stone was contradicted by the version of events given by the traveller Edward Daniel Clarke and the antiquary William Richard Hamilton, and more recently evidence has been brought to light suggesting that the stone was brought to Britain on another ship, the Madras.

In July 1803, Turner was appointed assistant quartermaster general to the forces at home and on 25 June 1804 he was made a brigadier general on the home staff. In April 1807 he was transferred as a brigadier general to the staff in South America; he embarked on 24 June, and, after the failure of the South American expedition, joined the British forces in the Cape of Good Hope. He returned home the following autumn. He was promoted to major general on 25 April 1808, and commanded a brigade in London until 1813. He was appointed colonel of the 19th (1st Yorkshire North Riding) Regiment of Foot on 27 April 1811 after a transfer from the colonelcy of the Cape regiment, which he had recently held. He was promoted to lieutenant general on 4 June 1813.

Honours and appointments

Turner enjoyed royal favour, and held a succession of royal appointments at court. From 1803 he was Groom of the Bedchamber to George III, and was Keeper of the King's Collection of Prints. In 1809 he became gentleman attendant to George, Prince of Wales, and was for many years deputy secretary to the Prince at Carlton House under General Sir John Macmahon, becoming a Groom of the Bedchamber during the Regency. On 4 May 1814 he was made a DCL by the University of Oxford. On 28 July, having attended to Catherine Pavlovna of Russia during her visit to England, he was knighted by the Prince Regent. In 1814 he received the Order of St Anne from Alexander I of Russia. On 12 June 1814 he had been appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jersey and commander of the troops there, a post he held until March 1816, when he returned to his court offices in England. In 1820 Turner was made a KCH and promoted to a GCH in 1827.

In 1825, Turner was appointed Governor of Bermuda, a post in which he remained for six years. On 22 July 1830 he was promoted to general, and on his return from Bermuda in 1832, he was once more appointed a Groom of the Bedchamber. He retired to Jersey, where he encouraged the artist Millais.

He died on 6 May 1843, aged seventy-nine, at his home, Gouray Lodge, Jersey, and was buried in Grouville churchyard.


Government offices
Preceded by
Sir George Don
Lieutenant Governor of Jersey
Succeeded by
Sir Hugh Gordon
Preceded by
William Lumley
Governor of Bermuda
Succeeded by
Sir Stephen Chapman
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Hew Dalrymple, Bt
Colonel of the 19th (The 1st Yorkshire North Riding) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Sir Warren Peacocke


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