PALMES, Francis (d. 1719), of Charlton, Kent
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Family and Education
1st s. of Francis Palmes of Corgrig, co. Limerick by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Taylor of Ballynort, co. Limerick. unm.1
Capt. Ld. Cavendish’s (William*) Horse (7 Drag. Gds.) 1688; capt. Duke of Schomberg’s Horse 1693–4; lt.-col. Hugh Wyndham’s Horse (6 Drag. Gds.) 1694, col. 1706–13 brevet col. of horse, 1704; brig.-gen. 1704, maj.-gen. 1707, lt.-gen. 1709; envoy extraordinary, Emperor 1707–8, 1709–11, Brunswick-Lüneburg 1708, Prussia 1708, Savoy-Sardinia Jan. 1708–10, Poland 1718–d.; envoy, United Provinces Jan. 1708; col. of Drag. 1716–17; PC [I] 1715–d.2
MP [I] 1715.
Master, Kilmainham hospital [I] 1715.3
Palmes came from an Irish family about which little has been discovered. He began a lengthy military career shortly after the Revolution, being granted a captain’s commission in the regiment of the eldest son of the Earl of Devonshire in 1688. Given Devonshire’s strong support for William of Orange’s landing earlier that year, this appointment suggests that Palmes had supported the Revolution. Palmes served in Ireland during the early 1690s, and for the remainder of this decade enjoyed a steady though unspectacular rise through the ranks to that of lieutenant-colonel. He continued in active service during the War of the Spanish Succession, and, in the absence of his colonel in Portugal, Palmes assumed command of his regiment at Blenheim. One report of Blenheim claimed that ‘hardly anyone was more instrumental to the success of that day’ than Palmes, and his endeavours appear to have attracted the attention of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). Marlborough recommended that Palmes be appointed brigadier-general, and in August Palmes received both this promotion and a commission as brevet colonel of horse. He quickly became associated with William Cadogan* and Thomas Meredyth*, two other Irishmen serving in the English army who received rapid promotion in the mid-1700s thanks to Marlborough’s patronage. Such favour led to adverse comments from contemporaries, it being reported in 1705 that the Dutch allies and ‘others’ were concerned that Marlborough ‘does not advise so much either with the officers of experience and in the highest characters of his own and the States’ army as with two or three favourites whom he himself has raised such as Brigadier Cadogan, Brigadier Palmes and Brigadier Meredith’. Though Marlborough was unable in 1705 to secure for Palmes the governorship of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the following year he was appointed colonel of a regiment of horse and in 1707 was promoted to major-general. Contemporaries clearly recognized the close relationship between Palmes and the captain-general, as the endorsement of a poem written in 1707 stated that Palmes was to marry Marlborough’s illegitimate daughter and receive a portion of £10,000. That this claim amounted to little more than rumour or slander is suggested by Palmes’s failure to marry.4
Returned for West Looe at a by-election in January 1707, Palmes made no significant recorded contribution to this Parliament and he did not stand for re-election in 1708. Instead, his energies were focused upon a number of diplomatic missions, his appointment to which he owed to his good relationship with Marlborough. From February 1708 he travelled extensively, undertaking missions to the United Provinces, Hanover, Prussia, Vienna and Savoy in order to concert measures with the allies. One of Palmes’s tasks when in Hanover was to assure the Elector that everything would be done for ‘the advancement of the interests of the common’, a task which Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) wrote would be made easier by the ‘spirit’ Parliament had shown against the Pretender’s failed invasion of 1708. Ministerial satisfaction with Palmes’s endeavours is suggested by his promotion at the beginning of 1709 to lieutenant-general, and in the summer of that year he again undertook diplomatic missions in Savoy and Vienna. That Palmes was fully aware of the changing political situation in England was apparent in October 1710 when he wrote to Marlborough asking whether it would not be better for him to be recalled ‘rather than be farther exposed to the peevish resentment of men who I believe are resolved to keep no measures with all those who are faithful servants to your Grace and true friends of their country’. Marlborough’s response to this suggestion is unknown, but Palmes remained in Vienna until March 1711. He returned to England in April and shortly afterwards made overtures to Robert Harley* through the Earl of Peterborough, but this approach bore little fruit as Palmes received no further diplomatic appointment. In April 1713 Swift reported that he was to be forced to sell his regiment. The day of the fall of Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley) contemporaries were surprised to hear that, in an approach to the Duke of Marlborough, Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*) had entertained Cadogan and Palmes to dinner. Palmes again found favour following the Hanoverian succession. In 1715 he was chosen master of Kilmainham hospital in Ireland, and, though he delayed his departure for Dublin in order to press his claim for arrears due to him as a general officer, following his arrival in Ireland he was elected to the Irish parliament and appointed to the Irish privy council. The following year Palmes was given the colonelcy of a new regiment on the Irish establishment, and in 1718 was appointed envoy to Poland. He arrived at Dresden in October, and died there early in the new year, on 15 Jan. 1719. In his will he left ‘the little’ he had left to dispose of, mainly annuities and jewels, to his brother Stephen Palmes, an army officer, and, clear of all debts, ‘my little house in Charlton, surrounded with good neighbours, where my friends used to laugh’.