Francis Rawdon, Earl of Moira, Marquis of Hastings

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

« Sir Thomas Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex | Index | Maurice Regan »

Rawdon, Francis, Earl of Moira, Marquis of Hastings, son of the 1st Earl of Moira, was born in Ireland 7th December 1754. He completed his education at Oxford, made a short tour on the Continent, and entered the army in 1771 as ensign in the 15th Foot. Two years later he was made lieutenant in the 5th, and embarked for America, where, in 1775, he distinguished himself at the battle of Bunker's Hill. He was second in command under Cornwallis at the battle of Camden, 1780, where he played a prominent part. On 25th April 1781, at the head of only 900 men, Lord Rawdon attacked and defeated the American General, Greene, who had nearly 2,000 troops under him, at Hobkirk's Hill. Ill health ultimately obliged him to return home. The vessel in which he embarked was captured by the French, and was carried into Brest; but he soon obtained his release. On his arrival in England, he was treated with great distinction, was appointed one of the royal aides-de-camp, and created a British peer, 5th March 1783.

Lord Rawdon was an intimate friend of the Prince of Wales, and during the illness of George III. sustained the Prince's right to assume full regal power. In the House of Lords he gained the reputation of a clear and able orator, and a judicious man of business. In October 1789 he inherited the estates of his maternal uncle, the Earl of Huntingdon, and in 1793 succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Moira. In 1794 he was advanced to the rank of major-general, and went with 10,000 troops to the assistance of the Duke of York, who was then returning through Brabant to Flanders, and was nearly surrounded by the superior forces of the French. The Earl of Moira made a rapid march across the country from Ostend, and by skilful movements in the face of much danger and under great hardships, effected a junction with the Duke and extricated him from his perilous position.

Next year Lord Moira was appointed to direct the Quiberon expedition. He was an ardent and active liberal in Irish politics, and was found associated on most questions with Grattan and Charlemont. His speech in the Irish House of Lords on 19th February 1798, was an eloquent appeal for reform, and a bitter denunciation of the cruelties and outrages to which the people were being subjected. He strenuously and to the last opposed the measure of Union. He was appointed Commander-in-chief in Scotland, and Constable of the Tower in 1803. In 1805 he effected a reconciliation between the Prince of Wales and the King, and in the same year was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. When the Whigs came into power in 1806, Lord Moira was created Master-General of the Ordnance. In 1812, on the assassination of Mr. Percival, he made an ineffectual effort to form an administration.

The same year he was appointed Governor-General of India, and in the ten years of his sway subdued the Nepaulese, the Pindarees, and other native powers, and made the British authority supreme in India. In 1816 he was created Marquis of Hastings, and was thanked by Parliament. Mr. Marshman, in his History of India, remarks on his administration: "In political genius, Lord Hastings can scarcely be said to rank with Warren Hastings or Lord Wellesley, though in completing the work they had begun, and consolidating the British Empire in India, he exhibited talent of the highest order. His administration was rendered memorable by the benefits he conferred on the old capital of the Moguls and the new capital of the Company... No Governor-General has ever laboured with greater assiduity in the performance of his duties... In the fevered climate of India — which since the facilities for visiting England have been multiplied, is considered insupportable — he laboured for nine years at the rate of seven and eight hours a day, without a hill sanitarium to resort to, or the convenience of a sea-going steamer." Broken down in health, he returned to the United Kingdom in 1822.

Embarrassed circumstances, mainly arising from the generosity of his disposition, induced him to accept the position of Governor of Malta in 1824. He was not a little mortified by the refusal of the East India Company to reimburse him for some of the outlay he had incurred in India in furtherance of their interests — "an ungrateful return," Mr. Marshman says, "to the man who had raised them to the pinnacle of political power, and invested their rule with a moral grandeur." He was ultimately advised by his physicians to try the effects of a residence in Italy. With Lady Hastings and his family, he proceeded in the Revenge to Naples; but within a few days died on board that vessel, in Baia Bay, 29th November 1825, aged 70. His last request was that his right hand might be cut off, preserved until the death of the Marchioness, and buried with her. He was greatly beloved by his own family and friends. He left two sons and four daughters. His widow survived until 1840. His Dublin residence was Moira House, now the Mendicity Institution. The title became extinct on the death of the 4th Marquis of Hastings in 1868.

Sources

36. Biographical Dictionary: William R. Cates. London, 1867.

39. Biographical Dictionary, Imperial: Edited by John F. Waller. 3 vols. London, N.D.

54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

169. India, History of: John C. Marshman. 3 vols. London, 1867.

189. Irish Parliamentary Debates.

« Sir Thomas Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex | Index | Maurice Regan »