FORBES, George, Visct. Forbes (1685-1765), of Castle Forbes, co. Longford.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



19 Mar. 1723 - 1727
1741 - 1747

Family and Education

b. 21 Oct. 1685, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Arthur Forbes, 2nd Earl of Granard [I], by Mary, da. of Sir George Rawdon, 1st Bt., M.P. [I], of Moira, co. Down. educ. Drogheda g.s. m. 1709, Mary, da. of William Stewart, 1st Visct. Mountjoy [I], wid. of Phineas Preston of Ardsallagh, co. Meath, 2s. 1da. suc. to family estates on resignation of fa. 1717; summ. v.p. to Irish House of Lords as Lord Forbes 27 Feb. 1724; suc. fa. as 3rd Earl of Granard [I] 24 Aug. 1734.

Offices Held

Entered navy 1702; midshipman 1704; 2nd lt. Brig. Holt’s regt. of marines 1704-11; lt. R.N. 1705; capt. R.N. 1706; brig. 4 tp. Horse Gds. Mar. 1708, exempt and capt. Nov. 1708, cornet and maj. 1712-17; cdr. of Drags. and Ft. in Constantine 1711; lt.-gov. Fort St. Philip, Minorca 1716-18; v.-adm. in Austrian navy 1719-21; P.C. [I] 6 May 1721; gov. Leeward Is. 1729-31; minister plenip. to St. Petersburg 1733-4; r.-adm. 1734; v.-adm. 1736; res. 1742; gov. co. Longford and co. Westmeath 1740-56.


Lord Forbes was closely connected with the 2nd Duke of Argyll, to whom he owed his military career and whom he followed politically. Holding commissions both in the army and the navy, he served with distinction in the war of the Spanish succession, taking part in several land actions. Meanwhile, in 1717, after Argyll had dissuaded him from buying the 4th troop of Horse Guards from Lord Dundonald for 10,000 guineas, he retired from the army in order to concentrate on his naval career. In the same year his father made over to him all the family estates in return for a pension of £700 and the payment of certain annuities. In 1719 the Emperor, whom he had known as the Archduke Charles during the Spanish succession war, summoned him to Vienna to build a navy based on Trieste. Forbes, however, ran into opposition from the imperial ministers and resigned this appointment after two years. Brought in by the Government for Queenborough at a by-election in 1723, he served afloat in the Mediterranean, 1726-7, and again for the last time in 1731. From 1729 to 1731 he was nominally governor of the Leeward Islands, but never went there, on the ground that the refusal of the local assemblies to vote him a fixed salary would leave him ‘at the mercy of those whom he was to govern by instructions from the King’. In 1733 he went to St. Petersburg to conclude a trade treaty, making such a good impression on the Empress Anna that she later offered him the command of the Russian navy, which he rejected. In 1738, now Lord Granard, he refused the governorship of New York, apparently because his friends were unable to obtain for him the order of the Thistle. According to his son, Walpole disliked him, ‘giving for reason that he was a man too curious and busy’.1 On the outbreak of war in 1739 he was asked to take a squadron to the West Indies but once more declined. When Edward Vernon was sent in his place, he considered himself to be superseded and refused to serve again. Up to this time no vote by him is recorded. Brought in by Argyll for Ayr Burghs in 1741, he voted against Walpole’s candidate for the chairman of the elections committee in December. After Walpole’s resignation, his name was included in a list of new lords of the Admiralty, which was rejected by the King.2 Returning with Argyll into opposition, he was appointed to the secret committee of inquiry into Walpole’s Administration,3 voted against the Hanoverians in 1742 and 1744, and was a signatory of opposition whips in November and December 1743.4 Soon after Argyll’s death in 1743 Granard is said to have broken off ‘all commerce with public men, and confined himself to the society of a very few friends’.5 However, he attended the House during the parliamentary inquiry March-April 1745 into the indecisive action off Toulon the previous year, presumably because his son John was one of the few captains to give Admiral Thomas Mathews full support in the battle. On 14 Mar. he criticized Vice-Admiral Lestock’s evidence and, on his recall before the committee, cross-questioned him closely, though, Philip Yorke commented, ‘what passed between him and Lord Granard was but indifferently understood by those unversed in naval language and criticism’. When, on 10 Apr., an address was moved to court martial both admirals, Granard spoke in favour of omitting Matthews’ name.6

He died 19 June 1765.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. Mems. Earls of Granard, 83-190, 266-92.
  • 2. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 260.
  • 3. Walpole to Mann, 1 Apr. 1742.
  • 4. Newdegate mss 2550, Warws. RO; Add. 29597, f. 29.
  • 5. Earls of Granard, 261.
  • 6. Parl. Hist. xiii. 1254, 1269.