RODNEY, Hon. John (1765-1847), of Armsworth, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 10 May 1765, 3rd s. of George Rodney†, 1st Baron Rodney, being 1st s. by 2nd w. Henrietta, da. of John Clies of Lisbon; half-bro. of Hon. George Rodney†. m. (1) 4 July 1784, Lady Catherine Nugent (d. 26 Feb. 1794), da. of Thomas, 6th Earl of Westmeath [I], 3da.; (2) 19 Oct. 1799, Lady Louisa Martha Stratford (d. 2 Dec. 1814), da. and coh. of John, 3rd Earl of Aldborough [I], 2s. 6da.; (3) 7 June 1815, Antoinette, da. of Anthony Pierre Reyne of Vancouver, 1s. 5da.
Midshipman RN 1778, lt. 1779, capt. 1780; equerry to Duke of Clarence 1789-1814; commr. victualling office July 1796-Nov 1803; chief sec. Ceylon 1803-34.
Under the aegis of his father the Admiral, Rodney had a meteoric career in the navy: he was a post-captain at the age of 15, on which his father’s only comment was, ‘He is grown, I believe, to near six feet, and manly’. Such promotion is nevertheless believed to have been unique, even in that age.1 After seeing active service in the American war, Rodney embarked on an equally precocious marital career and, still under age, was the unsuccessful candidate in the Hereford by-election of 1785, standing on his sister-in-law’s family interest. Through his father’s devotion to the Prince of Wales, he became a member of the latter’s set and equerry to the Duke of Clarence in 1789. It was most likely the Prince who persuaded the Duke of Northumberland to return Rodney for Launceston in 1790. There is no evidence of parliamentary activity after the Whigs had listed him an absent friend on the division of 12 Apr. 1791, but some light is thrown on his tenure of his seat by a letter of the Duke of Clarence to the Prince of Wales, 20 July 1795,2 enclosing
a letter wrote by the Duke of Northumberland to Jack Rodney on the subject of politics. He called on me with it ... to know your sentiments. I must observe that if you wish him to decline the duke’s offer it will be very inconvenient for poor Jack to remain out of Parliament.
Northumberland in his letter, dated 26 June 1795,3 referred to the opposition he had received from ministers at Launceston in the by-election of 1795, which had decided him to ‘oppose them to the utmost’: he wished therefore to know
precisely the sentiments of those gentlemen who I am to bring into the next Parliament. This session you may recollect you did not attend on account of the particular manner in which you was situated with the princes, to which for that time I made no objection, but you must also be convinced that this same conduct cannot continue, as otherwise if my Members and I do not agree in sentiments, my weight and consequence in Parliament is totally lost.
He added that if Rodney would join him in opposing ministers, he should be happy to recommend him again. Rodney evidently could not accept these terms and he was not again in Parliament. This was not the least of his misfortunes: he was placed on the retired list after being tried, and broken, by court martial (though reinstated, he never obtained his flag),4 and was involved in an accident which nearly cost him a leg. He found security first as a commissioner at the victualling office, then as chief secretary in Ceylon, where he became in due course a member of the governor’s council.5 He died at Boulogne, 9 Apr. 1847.6