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The Earl of St Vincent
John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent

Admiral of the Fleet John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent GCB, PC (9 January 1735 – 14 March 1823) was an Admiral in the Royal Navy.


Early career

Jervis was born at Meaford, Staffordshire in 1735, and entered the Navy in 1749.[1] He reached the rank of Lieutenant in 1755 and took part in the conquest of Quebec in 1759. In 1760 he was promoted to Post-Captain, and commanded various ships in the Mediterranean and the English Channel. HMS Alarm, under his command from February 1769, was saved from being wrecked in a storm off Marseille on 1 May 1770 by the French harbourmaster Georges René Le Peley de Pléville, and Jervis returned to Marseille in her to give him a letter of thanks from the Lords of the Admiralty. In 1775 Jervis was given the command of HMS Foudroyant.[1] Jervis served as Captain throughout the War of American Independence, and fought in the Battle of Ushant in 1778.

Jervis was made a Knight of the Bath after his capture of the French ship Pégase in 1782,[1] and the following year he entered Parliament, representing Launceston (and later Yarmouth and Wycombe) as a Whig.

Napoleonic Wars

In 1787 he attained flag rank, and in 1788 he married his cousin Martha Parker. With the outbreak of war with Revolutionary France (note: at this point France was not under Napoleon as Napoleon's coup did not take place until October of 1799) he was put into service in the West Indies co-operating with the Army in the conquest of the French islands. On return to Great Britain in 1795 he was promoted to Admiral. In November he took command in the Mediterranean, where he maintained the blockade of Toulon, and aided the allies of Great Britain in Italy. He was an excellent logistician, and kept his fleet well supplied and healthy, closely blocking Toulon until his position became untenable. When Spain capitulated to France his fleet abandoned Elba and withdrew to Gibraltar. He ordered Nelson to complete the withdrawal from Elba; Nelson later joined the fleet just prior to the Battle of Cape St Vincent.[2]

He was Commander-in-Chief of the British Mediterranean Fleet from 1796 to 1799. One of his chief duties was to watch the Spanish fleet at Cadiz. He defeated the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St Vincent. For this victory he was created Baron Jervis, of Meaford in the County of Stafford, and Earl of St Vincent.[3] He also despatched a successful expedition to capture Minorca.

That same year, however, the Spithead and Nore mutinies threatened the Navy. He prevented any outbreak in his command through foresight and severity, including the flogging and hanging of sailors and public berating of his officers, one of whom, Sir John Orde challenged him to a duel. Nevertheless, he raised the discipline of the Navy to a higher level than it had reached before; he was always ready to promote good officers, and the efficiency of the squadron with which Lord Nelson won the Battle of the Nile was largely due to him.

Lord St Vincent resigned his command temporarily in 1799, due to his failing health, but he recovered and resumed command the following year, and became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1801, also being created Viscount St Vincent, of Meaford in the County of Stafford, with a special remainder.

As First Lord of the Admiralty, Jervis started improving the administration of the Navy. As a result of his uncovering of corruption in supplying the Navy, a Royal Commission of Enquiry into irregularities within the Navy Board, who were responsible for maintaining the dockyards and supply, was created. It revealed widespread corruption and Lord Melville, formerly treasurer of the Navy and First Lord was impeached. This made Jervis unpopular with some politicians. When the government fell in May 1804, Jervis was obliged to retire from his post. However, he was once more asked to command the Channel Fleet from 1806 to 1807, and retired from the Navy in 1811. In 1821 he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on the occasion of the coronation of King George IV.

When he died in 1823, the Barony of Jervis and the Earldom of St Vincent became extinct, but the Viscountcy of St Vincent passed to his nephew.

There is a monument to him in St. Paul's Cathedral, and portraits of him at different periods of his life are numerous.

"I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea." addressing the House of Lords as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1801.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Grunder 4
  2. ^ The Age of Nelson Pages 69-74
  3. ^ Grunder 5

Major Sources

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Bowlby
Charles Perceval
Member of Parliament for Launceston
1783 – 1784
With: Charles Perceval
Succeeded by
Charles Perceval
George Rose
Preceded by
Charles Townshend
Richard Walpole
Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth
With: Henry Beaufoy
Succeeded by
Henry Beaufoy
Charles Townshend
Preceded by
Robert Waller
Earl Wycombe
Member of Parliament for Wycombe
1790 – 1794
With: Earl Wycombe
Succeeded by
Earl Wycombe
Sir Francis Baring, Bt
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl Spencer
First Lord of the Admiralty
1801 – 1804
Succeeded by
The Viscount Melville
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Earl of St Vincent
1797 – 1823
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount St Vincent
1801 – 1823
Succeeded by
Edward Jervis

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