ROOKE, James (c.1742-1805), of Bigsweir House, Mon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1742, o. s. of Maj. James Rooke by 2nd w. Jane, da. and h. of Tracy Catchmay of Bigsweir. m. 3 Sept. 1777, Elizabeth Brown of St. Briavels, Glos., s.p.; 1s. 2da. illegit. suc. fa. 1773.
Ensign, 69 Ft. 1759; lt.-col. 14 Ft. 1779, brevet col. 1780; maj.-gen. 1787; col.-commdt. 60 Ft. 1788-96; col. 38 Ft. 1796-d.; lt.-gen. 1797, gen. 1802.
Rooke continued to sit for his county unopposed, with the backing of his friend the 5th Duke of Beaufort. When present, he supported government.1 He was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. But he was no politician: on 1 July 1794, the duke wrote to Pitt in support of Rooke’s wish for ‘the government of Hull or Dunbarton or any other government that may become vacant’ and added that Rooke had
always been a firm and eager supporter of government, and, whenever it has been intimated to him that a full attendance in the House of Commons has been wished by government, he has immediately come to London notwithstanding any inconvenience or expense to himself.
Rooke continued to apply to Pitt in the same vein.2
Subsequently he became colonel of the 38th Foot stationed at Bristol, and after quelling the disturbance in that district in 1800, retired to his estate in 1802 with a general’s rank. Although he had supported Addington in 1801, when peace was made,3 on 23 Apr. 1804 he divided with the minority on Fox’s defence motion and two days later on Pitt’s. On Pitt’s return to power, he again applied for a governorship to cover the expense of attending Parliament, 14 May 1804. The Duke of Beaufort asked for the government of Limerick for him, 24 May, adding that
though General Rooke was not employed in actual service during the last war, yet in his military situation at Bristol and its neighbourhood, which was at one time I believe a rather difficult one, his conduct was such as to meet with the approbation of his Majesty’s government, and at the same time to gain the esteem and regard of all those who were under his command.4
He was listed a supporter of Pitt in September 1804 and July 1805. No speech by him is known. A keen sportsman, he died while shooting on the Trelleck hills, near his residence, 4 Oct. 1805: he had ‘just fired at a bird, when he fell dead from his horse, in an apoplexy’. Rooke was voted ‘a gentleman of the Old English School’. He ‘cursed Lord Charles [Somerset]* to the day of his death for being the ruin of his son, as being the sole means of his going to jail and an exile’ (i.e. by allowing his regiment to gamble).5