SOMERSET, Lord Fitzroy James Henry (1788-1855), of Cefntilla Court, Usk, Mon. and 85 Pall Mall, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 30 Sept. 1788, 8th s. of Henry, 5th duke of Beaufort (d. 1803), and Elizabeth, da. of Hon. Edward Boscawen†; bro. of Lord Arthur John Henry Somerset*, Lord Charles Henry Somerset†, Henry Charles Somerset, mq. of Worcester†, and Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset*. educ. Westminster 1803. m. 6 Aug. 1814, Emily Harriet, da. of Hon. William Wellesley Pole*, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. KCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCB 24 Sept. 1847; cr. Bar. Raglan 11 Oct. 1852. d. 28 June 1855.
Cornet 4 Drag. 1804, lt. 1805; mission to Constantinople with Sir Arthur Paget† 1807; lt. 6 Garrison Batt. 1808, 43 Ft. 1808; a.d.c. to Sir Arthur Wellesley† in Portugal 1808; military sec. to Lord Wellington 1811-14; maj. 1811; lt.-col. 1812; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1814; col. and a.d.c. to prince regent 1815-22; maj.-gen. 1825; col. 53 Ft. 1830; lt.-gen. 1838; gen. 1854; f.m. Nov. 1854; col. R. Horse Gds. 1854-5; c.-in-c. Crimea Feb. 1854-d.
Sec. embassy Paris 1814-15, 1815-18; sec. of ordnance 1818-27; military sec. war office 1827-52; master-gen. of ordnance 1852-5; PC 16 Oct. 1852.
Somerset received an annuity of £600 on his father’s death in 1803, in addition to unspecified provision already made.1 A professional soldier who lost an arm at the battle of Waterloo, he served for decades in various secretarial capacities to the duke of Wellington, his uncle by marriage. He had been returned for Truro in 1818 on the interest of the Tory patron, his cousin Lord Falmouth, despite strong opposition from a rival party within the corporation. However, in 1820 he was involved in a double return for the second seat and was defeated at the resulting by-election.2 He accompanied Wellington to the congress of Verona in 1822 and in January 1823 was sent on a mission to Spain to convey the duke’s suggestions for strengthening the government, in an unsuccessful attempt to avert French military intervention.3 The following year the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, considered him as a possible candidate for the governorship of Madras.4 On meeting him at dinner about this time, the Whig Thomas Creevey* declared, ‘I never was more pleased with anyone than I was with him during our conversation’.5 At the general election of 1826 he was returned unopposed for Truro, where Falmouth had regained control of the corporation.6
His appointment as military secretary at the horse guards, when Wellington became commander-in-chief in January 1827, helps to explain Somerset’s sporadic attendance in the Commons. He divided against Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He voted with Wellington’s government against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., presented a Truro petition against the small notes bill, 1 May, and voted against terminating the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, listed him as being ‘with government’ on Catholic emancipation, and he chose to vacate his seat that month rather than join with Falmouth in the Ultra opposition to Wellington.7 Thereafter he concentrated on his military career. Following the Bristol reform riots in November 1831 he assisted with preparations for the defence of London against any revolutionary outbreak.8 He was raised to the peerage as Lord Raglan in 1852 and two years later took command of the British expeditionary force to the Crimea, but he endured intense personal criticism for the campaign’s military and logistical shortcomings before succumbing to dysentery in June 1855. As a former parliamentary colleague observed on learning of his death:
Poor fellow! I have not a doubt that it was welcome to him. The awful responsibility of his post, the apparent hopelessness of the struggle ... and above all the adverse comments of the press must have been almost sufficient without disease to weigh him down to the grave ... No man living had ever had such an opportunity of acquiring information about the military and diplomatic affairs of the world ... His personal appearance was highly in his favour, tall, well made, fair, with a remarkable bland and agreeable countenance and address, his whole air giving the appearance of a gentleman, you were won by him the moment you approached him ... In all his intercourse with others there was a conspicuous probity, a clearness and candour, a discretion and yet a kindness, which won your admiration and regard. Thus he had a swarm of friends in the army and never an enemy ... Few soldiers have ever enjoyed a more unquestionable character for intrepidity. All who had seen him in battle spoke of him as being apparently unconscious of danger, so calm and collected was he in the most critical moment ... That he possessed that vastness of comprehension, that power of mind that could embrace every object, reach every detail ... provide for every exigency, compel ready assistance by removing the tardy or unthoughtful and promoting the energetic, counselling and directing the government ... I doubt.9
He was succeeded by his only surviving son, Richard Henry Fitzroy Somerset (1817-84), but left all his real and personal estate to his wife. Parliament granted annuities of £1,000 to his wife and £2,000 to his son and his male heir.10
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Terry Jenkins
- 1. PROB 11/1401/946; IR26/82/9.
- 2. West Briton, 10, 17 Mar., 9 June 1820.
- 3. Wellington Despatches, ii contains many letters regarding the Spanish mission.
- 4. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 297.
- 5. Creevey Pprs. ii. 74.
- 6. R. Cornw. Gazette, 10, 17 June 1826.
- 7. West Briton, 6 Mar. 1829.
- 8. E.A. Smith, Reform or Revolution, 101-5.
- 9. C. Hibbert, The Destruction of Lord Raglan, passim; Hatherton diary, 4 July 1855.
- 10. PROB 11/2226/59; IR26/2074/18; CP, x. 724-5.