PICTON, Sir Thomas (1758-1815), of Iscoed, Carm.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 24 Aug. 1758, and surv. s. of Thomas Picton of Poyston, Pemb. by Cecil, da. and h. of Rev. Edward Powell of Lland?, Glam. educ. Haverfordwest g.s.; Lochee’s mil. acad., Little Chelsea 1771-3. unm. 1s. 3da. by Rosetta Smith of Trinidad. suc. fa. 1790; mother 1806; uncle Gen. Sir William Picton 1811. KB 1 Feb. 1813; GCB 2 Jan. 1815.
Ensign, 12 Ft. 1771, lt. 1777; capt. 75 Ft. 1778; half-pay 1783; capt. 17 Ft. 1794; maj. 68 Ft. 1794; lt.-col. 56 Ft. 1796 (antedated 1795); brig.-gen. 1801, maj.-gen. 1808, lt.-gen. 1813.
Military gov. Trinidad 1797-1801, civil gov. June 1801-July 1802, civil commr. July 1802-May 1803.
The younger son of a Pembrokeshire country gentleman, Picton embarked on a military career under the aegis of his uncle Sir William Picton, at Gibraltar; on half-pay from 1783 until 1794, he volunteered for service in the West Indies and was appointed a.d.c. to (Sir) John Vaughan I* and afterwards to Sir Ralph Abercromby*, who, after he had served with distinction, appointed him military governor of Trinidad 1797. An energetic administrator, he was made civil governor in due course, but was undermined by a campaign against him, instigated by William Fullarton*, alleging condonation of torture. Rather than share power with a triumvirate that included Fullarton and Samuel Hood*, Picton resigned. He was arrested in England in December 1803 and bailed out for £40,000 by his uncle. Found guilty in King’s bench, 24 Feb. 1806, he obtained a special verdict at a retrial, June 1808, and in 1810 the matter was dropped.1
Meanwhile Picton served in the Walcheren expedition, but came home with fever. In 1810 he went to Portugal in command of the third division; he was wounded at Badajos, March 1812. The House acknowledged his services on 10 Feb. and 27 Apr. 1812 and he was complimented by Lord Liverpool in the Lords on the latter date. While convalescing, he bought the Carmarthenshire estate of the Mansel family for £30,000, was knighted and, as ‘the hero of Badejos’, was returned triumphantly for Pembroke Boroughs on the interest of his admirer John Owen*: Picton regarded his election as ‘a great deal of mummery’, but wrote that ‘Mr Owen’s interest was offered me in so handsome and wholly unconditional a manner, that I had no plea for holding back’. In his address, he stated that he was ‘neither Whig nor Tory in principles’ and never would ally himself with any party, but his ‘general disposition’ would be to support the existing government as long as their measures tended to promote the empire.2
Picton’s return to Spain early in 1813 prevented attendance in Parliament, but on 11 Nov. he acknowledged the thanks of the House for his services, as also on 24 June 1814, when they were offered for the seventh time, after he had shown himself to be Wellington’s right-hand man in the Peninsula. He returned home in the summer of 1814, but did not take to his parliamentary duties. His patron was a friend of government and Picton himself was so listed: conservative by temperament, he was known for his ‘independency of mind’, but his impatient, irascible nature, his caustic tongue and want of convivial gifts were ill suited to Parliament; nor did he settle down to a country life at Iscoed.3 He was happy only in the field of action and went to his death at Waterloo, 18 June 1815, a by-word for blunt heroism. Monuments to his memory were erected in St. Paul’s and at Carmarthen.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
H. B. Robinson, Mems. Lit.-Gen.Sir Thos. Picton, 2 vols. 1835; DNB; R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 451.