John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent

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The Earl of St Vincent

John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (9 January, 1735-14 March, 1823) was an admiral in the British Royal Navy.

Jervis was born at Meaford in Staffordshire, and entered the navy in 1749. He reached the rank of lieutenant in 1755, and that same year took part in the conquest of Quebec. In 1760 he was promoted to Post-Captain, and commanded various ships in the Mediterranean and the English Channel. He 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 Pegase in 1782, and the following year he entered Parliament, representing Launceston (and later Yarmouth) as a Whig.

In 1787 he attained flag rank, and in 1788 he married his cousin Martha Parker. With the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars he was put into service in the West Indies co-operating with the army in the conquest of the French islands. On return to UK in 1795 he was promoted 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 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. 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 Nelson won the Battle of the Nile was largely due to him.

Jervis resigned his command temporarily in 1799, due to his failing health, but he recovered and resumed command the following year. He was later created the Earl of St Vincent, and became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1801.

He took command of the Channel fleet from 1806 to 1807, and retired from the Navy in 1811. In 1821 he was conferred the rank of Admiral of the Fleet on the coronation of George IV.

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.

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Preceded by:
The Earl Spencer
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by:
The Viscount Melville

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