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George Thomas Keppel, sixth Earl of Albemarle (1799-1891)

This article was written by Henry Manners Chichester and was published in 1892

George Thomas Keppel, sixth Earl of AlbemarleGeorge Thomas Keppel, sixth Earl of Albemarle, second son of William Charles, fourth earl, by his first wife, the Hon. Elizabeth Southwell, daughter of Lord de Clifford, and grandson of George Keppel, third earl of Albemarle, was born 13 June 1799. His childhood was passed with his grandmother, the Dowager Lady De Clifford, who at the time was governess to the Princess Charlotte of Wales. The princess, three years his senior, often ‘tipped’ him liberally. He idled at Westminster School from the age of nine until nearly sixteen. When Dr. Page, the headmaster, had pronounced him unfit for any learned profession, an ensigncy was obtained for him in the old third battalion of 14th foot (now West Yorkshire regiment). The battalion, consisting chiefly of raw recruits, was in Belgium, and young Keppel, whose commission was dated 4 April 1815, joined it in time to be present with it at the battle of Waterloo. Footsore and ragged, he marched with the victorious troops to Paris. He returned home with the battalion at the end of the year, and when it was disbanded served with the second battalion of the regiment in the Ionian Islands. This battalion was disbanded at Chichester in 1818, when Keppel was appointed to the 22nd (Cheshire) foot, with which he was in Mauritius and at the Cape, returning home with the regiment in 1819.

For a time he was equerry to the Duke of Sussex. In 1821 he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the 24th foot, was transferred to the 20th, and ordered to India. There he served as aide-de-camp to the governor-general, the Marquis of Hastings, but upon Hastings's resignation in 1823 he obtained leave to return home overland. Relying on a scanty stock of Persian acquired during the long and weary passage out, he visited the ruins of Babylon and the court of Teheran, thence journeying to England by way of Baku, Astrakan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, a rare feat in those days. His published narrative is an interesting volume. He next served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis Wellesley when lord-lieutenant of Ireland; obtained a company in the 62nd foot in 1825, and after studying at the senior department of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, obtained a majority on half-pay unattached, 20 March 1827.

He was not on full pay again, but he rose step by step, finally attaining the honorary rank of full general (on half-pay of his former commission), 7 February 1874. In 1829 he paid a visit to the seat of war between the Russians and Turks, was with the English fleet in Turkish waters, visited Constantinople and Adrianople, and crossed the Balkans. In 1832 he was returned, in the whig interest, for East Norfolk, in the first reformed parliament, and sat until 1835. In 1846 he became one of the private secretaries to Lord John Russell, the new premier, and in 1847 was returned for Lymington, for which he sat until 1849, the year of his father's death.

On the death of his brother, Augustus Frederick, the fifth earl, 15 March 1851, he succeeded to the title. He was appointed a trustee of Westminster School in 1854, in succession to the (first) Marquis of Anglesey, and was long the ‘father of the trust.’ Few men have been longer known or more generally popular in London society. He retained his faculties to the end of his life, during the latter part of which he held receptions on each anniversary of Waterloo, at his daughter's house in Portman Square.

Albemarle died at his London residence in Portman Square, 21 February 1891, in his ninety-second year, and was buried at Quiddenham, Norfolk. He married in 1831 Susan, third daughter of Sir Coutts Trotter, bart., and by her had a son, the seventh earl, best known as Viscount Bury, who died in 1891. Of the sixth earl's four daughters, two predeceased their parents. Lady Albemarle died in 1885.

Albemarle was author of:

1. ‘Personal Narrative of a Journey from India to England …’ London, 1825, 2 vols. A third edition of this work appeared as ‘Travels in Babylonia, Media, Assyria, and Scythia,’ London, 1827.
2. ‘Narrative of a Journey across the Balkans … and a Visit to newly discovered Ruins in Asia Minor,’ London, 1830. A volume of extracts from the narrative, with added letters, appeared in Dublin in 1831.
3. ‘Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham and his Contemporaries,’ London, 1852, 2 vols.
4. ‘Fifty Years of my Life,’ London, 1876. A third and revised edition appeared in London, 1877.

Some of Albemarle's speeches in the House of Lords, as on the Marriage Bill in 1856 and on ‘Torture in the Madras Presidency’ in the same year, were printed in pamphlet form.

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