Biography

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Fitzroy James Henry Somerset: Lord Raglan (1788 - 1855)

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Fitzroy James Henry Somerset - later Lord Raglan - was born at Badminton on 30 September 1788; he was educated at Westminster School. He was youngest son of Henry, fifth Duke of Beaufort and his wife Elizabeth, the daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen.

Raglan was commissioned as a Cornet in the 4th Light Dragoons on 9 June 1804, being promoted to Lieutenant on 30 May 1805. In 1807 he accompanied Sir Arthur Paget's mission to Constantinople and purchased a company in the 6th garrison battalion on 5 May 1808; on 18 August he was transferred to the 43rd Foot. He took part in the Peninsular Campaign as aide-de-camp to Sir Arthur Wellesley (Wellington), and was present at the battles of Rolica and Vimeiro. Raglan returned to England with Wellington and went back to Portugal in the spring of 1809. Raglan served on Wellington's staff until the close of the French Wars, being appointed as his military secretary on 1 January 1811. He was promoted to Brevet-Major on 9 June after the battle of Fuentes d'Onoro. At Wellington's special request he was made Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel on 27 April 1812. He received the cross with five clasps for the Peninsula campaign and was created a KCB on 2 January 1815. On 25 July 1814 he was transferred to the 1st Guards regiment, as Captain and Lieutenant-Colonel. On 6 August he married Emily Harriet Welesley-Pole, Wellington's niece.

After Napoleon's first abdication, Wellington went to Paris as British Ambassador, accompanied by his secretary, Raglan who was left in charge from 18 January 1815 until 20 March when Napoleon reached Paris; on the 26th Raglan left and joined Wellington in the Netherlands, once more as the Duke's military secretary.

At Waterloo he was wounded and his right arm had to be amputated. At the end of the surgery he told orderly not to take away his arm until he had removed a ring that his wife had given him. Wellington recommended him as the aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent, a post that was given on 28 August 1815 together with the rank of Colonel. Raglan returned to the British embassy at Paris and remained there as secretary until the end of 1818 when the allied armies were withdrawn from France. Wellington was then made Master-General of the Ordnance, and Raglan continued as his secretary, accompanying Wellington to the Congress of Verona in 1822. In January 1823 Raglan was sent to Spain in the hope of preventing French intervention in the constitutional crisis there. He spent two months at the court in Madrid with a remarkable lack of success.

Raglan was promoted to the rank of Major-General on 27 May 1825; in 1826 he went with Wellington to St. Petersburg on the accession of Nicholas I. Whilst there he assisted in the negotiations for a common action against Turkey on behalf of Greece, which was trying to gain its independence from the Porte. He was also an MP for Truro in 1818-20 and in 1826-9.

When Wellington became Commander-in-Chief of the army after the Duke of York died on 22 January 1827, Raglan became the military secretary at the Horse Guards, holding the post for more than twenty-five years. Wellington described him as 'a man who wouldn't tell a lie to save his life'.

Raglan became a Colonel of the 53rd Foot on 19 November 1830, a Lieutenant-General on 28 June 1838 and was created a Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath on 24 September 1852. He was granted an honourary Degree in 1834 when Wellington became Chancellor of Oxford University. Wellington died on 14 September 1852 and Hardinge succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief; Raglan succeeded Hardinge as Master-General of the Ordnance. He was appointed as a Privy Councillor and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Raglan of Raglan, Monmouthshire, on 12 October 1852.

At the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, Raglan was chosen to command the British troops, despite the fact that he was sixty-five years old. He had never led troops in the field. He left London on 10 April and reached Constantinople at the end of the month. By the end of June most of the English and French armies were in camp at Varna. On 29 June instructions were sent to Raglan that he should prepare for the siege of Sebastopol. On 14 September nearly fifty thousand men were landed without opposition at Kalamita Bay on the west coast of the Crimea, an ideal landing-place chosen by Raglan himself.

On 20 September the battle of the Alma was fought and won, raising hopes of an early capture of Sebastopol. The defences of the fortress were incomplete but the Allied commanders were convinced that a bombardment would have to precede the assault so preparations were made for a siege. On 25 October the Russians attacked Balaclava; this resulted in the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. On 5 November the battle of Inkerman was fought.

Raglan had been made a Colonel of the Horse Guards on 8 May 1854, and was promoted to the rank of General on 20 June. From 5 November he became a Field Marshall. However, after the Battle of Inkerman a winter in the Crimea was inevitable. On 14 November the 'great storm' in the Black Sea wrecked twenty-one vessels which were full of urgently-needed supplies; then the cold weather set in. The sufferings and losses of the troops increased and WH Russell of The Times had already said that the absence of entrenchments covering the right wing of the allied armies was the result of over-confidence. He also said: 'If central depots had been established while the fine weather lasted, much, if not of all, of the misery and suffering of the men and of the loss of horses would have been averted'; before Christmas The Times accused Raglan and his staff of neglect and incompetence.

Although the Commissariat carried much of the responsibility for the distress and extreme hardships suffered by the army in the Crimea, the government shifted responsibility to the staff in the Crimea. On 29 January the government was defeated on Roebuck's motion for an enquiry into the conduct of the war. Aberdeen's ministry was brought down and Palmerston formed a government that included Lord Panmure as Secretary for War. Raglan was accused of not visiting his troops and was told that a change of leadership was all that would satisfy the public. The accusation of not visiting his men had some basis of truth but was exaggerated. He preferred to work at his desk, and the visits he had made passed almost unnoticed.

18 June 1855 was chosen for the general assault on Sebastopol: the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. It was to be preceded by a two-hour cannonade but the French commander decided at the last moment to attack at daybreak, a decision that Raglan reluctantly accepted. The result was disastrous. The French columns were driven back with heavy loss. Raglan ordered the British forward against the Redan where the two leading British columns met a murderous fire of grapeshot and musket fire. Raglan felt responsible for the failure. He was already suffering from dysentery and on the evening of 28 June he died. His body was taken to the Caradoc with the full military honours: the seven miles of road from his headquarters to Kazatch Bay was lined with troops. The ship reached Bristol on 24 July; Raglan was buried privately at Badminton on the 26 July.


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