A Blupete Biography Page

Admiral Edward Boscawen

Boscawen, coming from a distinguished family of Cornwall1, entered the navy in 1726 and was put aboard the 60 gun Superbe; in 19 months time, while serving in the West Indies, he was made a midshipman. By 1732 he made Lieutenant and by 1737 Commander. In 1739, he distinguished himself in action during the taking of Porto Bello and the siege of Cartagena. By 1742, at the age of 31 years of age, Boscawen was the Captain of his own ship, the Shoreham. It was also in 1742 that Boscawen married Frances Evelyn-Glanville. At age 33 he became the captain of the Dreadnaught, a 60 gun ship. In 1744, Boscawen distinguished himself once again by capturing the Medee.

He was apparently with Warren and Anson, when, in 1747, they beat the French fleet of La Jonquiere off Cape Finisterre. "Badly wounded in the shoulder" in the Cape Finisterre action, Boscawen, in July of that year, 1747, was made a Rear Admiral of the Blue. In the autumn of 1747 he was sent to take charge of the fleet off India. While in India, in May of 1749, he was again promoted, Rear Admiral of the White. In 1750, he was back in England and was based there for the next five years, during which time he was at the centre of political and naval affairs. In 1755, Boscawen was again promoted, Vice Admiral of the Blue, and given command of a squadron and secret orders to intercept all French reinforcements being sent to America (See "The Taking of the Alcide and the Lys"). This brought him to the unfamiliar waters off Louisbourg and "the dismal prospect of floating islands of ice sufficient to terrifie the most daring seaman." His blockading duties off Louisbourg could only be carried on for limited stretches of time, when it was necessary to head for Halifax and lay up for a spell. Indeed, it was during one of these layovers that he got himself involved in the administration of the affairs of the colony and the record shows he attended council meetings, at the invitation of Governor Lawrence. It was during this time, in 1755, that the decision was taken to disperse the Acadians away from Nova Scotia. Before the season was out he was back in England still much regarded and welcomed as, a hero. He continued to receive promotions, such that as of 1757 he was a Vice Admiral of the Red. As the commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, it would have been Boscawen who would have signed the order for the execution of Admiral Byng.

In 1758, Pitt chose Boscawen2, at the same time seeing to his further promotion as Admiral of the Blue, to command the naval forces for the attack on Louisbourg.

After Louisbourg -- Admiral Saunders having been appointed to accompany Wolfe up the St Lawrence -- Boscawen took up sea duty in the English Channel, during which time, 1759, he was to crown his career with the defeat of the "French Toulon fleet," in the Bay of Largos.

It wouldn't appear, as is the case for many career seaman, that Boscawen got much time to spend at home; but, enough, however, to sire five children.

Boscawen was known as "Old Dreadnought" to some, "Wry-necked Dick" to others. He has been described as "offensively minded and a courageous leader." He made "full use of the knowledge of his juniors" and had "a rare concern for the welfare of common seamen."3

Admiral Boscawen's tomb, with its impressive inscription, can be found in the church yard at St. Michael, Penkivel, Cornwall. With "ardent zeal" and "successful valour, he served his country ... with the highest exertions of military greatness he united the gentlest offices of humanity ... died of a fever [during] ... the 50th year of his age [1761] at Hatchlands Park, in Surrey, a seat he had just finished (at the expense of the enemies of his country); and (amid the groans and tears of his beloved Cornishmen) was here deposited."


[1] A correspondent of mine wrote giving this accounting of the family, which, he says, comes from The 92nd Annual Report of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society published in 1925: "The present family descends from Edward Boscawen, who married a daughter of Sir Francis Godolphin, and died in 1686. Edward's son, Hugh, was Warden of the Stannaries and Comptroller of the Royal Household, and was created Viscount Falmouth and Baron of Boscawen-Rose in 1720. He died in 1734. By Charlotte (Godfrey) he had five sons, three of whom became Generals in the army. His eldest son, Hugh, succeeded him as 2nd Viscount, but had no children. The second eldest son, Edward Boscawen (1711-1761), became a very distinguished Admiral who distinguished himself in naval battles from 1739-1760 in all parts of the world. When Hugh died in 1761, Edward's son, George Evelyn Boscawen, succeeded his uncle as 3rd Viscount."

[2] Pitt liked Boscawen, who told others that when he (Pitt) proposed expeditions all he heard from his officers were difficulties. As for Boscawen, who was much like Rowan ("A Message To Garcia"), he would carry out his instructions without asking a lot of dumb questions: he would simply set out and get the job done. Little wonder that he was to receive, early on, one promotion after another. As for those under him: Boscawen would but suggest his plan to those who were to assist him and ask for criticism. He would then redraft the plan and would change or incorporate solutions to the problems that were pointed out; he would then hand out the amended plan. His officers then would usually line up enthusiastically behind Boscawen. Those who continued to protest, well, -- he would simply see them off to another theatre. The principal trait in Boscawen's character, is, that he would hear any objector out and was always ready to learn. As Pitt was to say, "It is easier to bend the head of the likes of Alexander or Boscawen than to imitate their courage or intrepidity." (As quoted by Hart, Fall of New France, p. 158. I note: that Alexander the Great was wounded so to effect his neck, it appeared slightly bent; just as was Boscawen's.)

[3] See DCB.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)