Anyway, at first I thought that for this week's blog I could end it how I began, by writing a biography on the monarch or duke that I was creating the spreadsheet for. However, I decided against it. There are enough biographies out there about James II or about Mary, Duchess of York. The whole reason for this blog was to provide information about those who aren't as prominent in history, so I would like to end with that trend.
May I introduce, for the final time, this week's choice, George Legge, First Baron Dartmouth.
In 1668, despite Legge's misfortune with crashing his ship, the Duke of York's opinion of him grew enough to land him a job as one of the duke's grooms of the bedchamber. In 1669 he became captain of a company in the Tower of London and in 1670 he succeeded his father as lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth. In a rather ironic twist of events, Legge eventually became captain of the Fairfax in 1672, the ship he had formerly crashed into with his first vessel. He then took part in Sir Robert Holmes's attack on the Dutch Smyrna convoy in March of that year and fought in the battle of Solebay in May. Later that year he took command of the York before returning to shore in August. In 1673 he commanded the Royal Katherine and fought in the second Battle of Schooneveld, a Franco-Dutch war between an Anglo-French fleet commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the fleet of the United Provinces. Legge fought for the prince, defending his shattered flagship for three hours. Although Legge had worked under the Duke of York, he must have held Prince Rupert in high esteem, for he had not only defended him for hours during the battle, but he also sought to moderate extreme criticisms of Rupert's appointments and tactics made by some of the Duke of York's clients.
As one can see, Legge spent some of his early life out at sea. However, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War he began to receive important land positions instead. In 1672 he became lieutenant-general of the ordnance, in 1673 he was master of the horse to James, Duke of York, and in February 1673 he was elected MP for Ludgershall, a town in England with a ridiculously odd name. He soon became identified as a faithful supporter of the court and in May 1678 was appointed general of artillery with the English army in Flanders. He was elected to parliament for Portsmouth twice in 1679 and again in 1681 as well.
One can gather that Legge appears to be a prominent and political man. So far in his life he had gained quite a few important posts and had shown himself to be worthy of battle with his time spent at sea. Yet, none of these accomplishments would have led anyone to guess just how committed he was to his Protestant religion. In 1679 he stated that, "I am the Duke of York's servant and I will serve him affectionately, but I will live and die a Protestant and am as loyal as my family has always been." If that seemed rather bold, then his next comment that he made in 1680 will appear almost dangerous. Legge exclaimed that "...if my master the duke be popish, God's curse be on him that was the cause of it." Legge definitely had guts to so outwardly attack his master's religion. However, these statements are not at all surprising, as England was largely Protestant at the time and many were unhappy with any Catholic in a position of power like the duke. Yet even with Legge's condemnation of James's religion, he remained largely supportive of him, informing him of political developments in London while he was in exile in Brussels and Edinburgh. Unfortunately, this support created growing pressure for him to give up one of his major posts, the mastership of the ordnance and the governorship of Portsmouth. It appeared that Legge was one of the few Protestants willing to outwardly support the duke despite his hatred of Catholicism, and it was causing concern among other political figures.
As a result, Legge had to part with his governorship of Portsmouth but compensated for it by becoming a privy councilor in 1682 and also becoming Baron Dartmouth in December of that same year. In 1683 Charles II decided to evacuate and demolish Tangier, an English colony since 1661, as a way to cut costs. Legge was then appointed admiral in 1683 and was ordered to act as general of land forces and governor of Tangier. While he was there, Legge had a lot of demanding work to accomplish. He had to demolish the town, settle the compensation of the inhabitants, and convince the lord of the castle there that English forces were strong enough to resist attacks by Muslims. Writings from this time suggest that Legge was determined to remedy what he saw as abuses in the navy and attempted to create new rules governing officers' seniority. Legge finally abandoned Tangier on February 6, 1684 after it had been adequately destroyed and arrived back in Europe soon after.
When James ascended to the throne, Legge became master of the horse, constable of the Tower of London, and colonel of the Royal Fusiliers. He regularly attended James while he ruled and was even a witness of the birth of the Prince of Wales in June 1688. He was regarded as one of the king's leading Anglican advisers. In September 1688, Legge was appointed to command the fleet that had been mobilized to defend against an invasion from the Netherlands. While his fleet lay in wait, Legge struggled to suppress those who supported this invasion by William of Orange. Many of his officers had close links with the conspiracy in the army to overthrow James. Unfortunately, Legge's attempt to sail was prevented by wind and he was too late to stop William's landing at Torbay. There were no attacks, for it was believed that the Dutch had quite a large fleet and that nobody would stand a chance of surviving.
Legge took his failure to intercept the invasion quite seriously, though he realized there was nothing he could have done to control the weather conditions which prevented him from sailing. Though James publicly exonerated him from blame, he later privately suspected him for being involved in the conspiracy. As a result of this mistrust, Legge's attitude towards James changed as well. Animosity grew between the two until a letter was smuggled to Legge, inviting him to join his fleet to Herbert's. He responded positively and surrendered his fleet to William's control on December 13th, 1688. Although he had effectively helped William gain control of the throne, it was revealed through his letters that he was grieved by the king's departure and was concerned about his own future, despite the help he gave to William. He retained command of his fleet until January 10, 1689 before he was brought before William and stripped of his other offices in the revolution. He then proclaimed his allegiance to William and Mary on March 2, 1689. In 1691 he was accused of sending intelligence to the Jacobites and was subsequently arrested. Although he denied the accusations made against him he was committed to the Tower of London at the end of July and died there of apoplexy on October 25, 1691.
I said that I wanted to work on someone who was not as prominent in history, but I must admit that George Legge still has quite a place. It was his failure to prevent William of Orange's invasion that set in stone the "Glorious Revolution". Although he had spent a decent amount of time within the political realm, both on land and sea, Legge was not experienced enough to be given such a position. Compared to other captains, he was actually quite inexperienced at sea, since he had only spent about two years captaining ships. He was indecisive and split between his loyalty to the king and his loyalty to his religion. His Protestant leanings mixed with his inability to let his duty surpass his feelings towards the king is what made William's ascension possible in the end. I find Legge's confusion interesting, for it makes me wonder if many others who worked under James were going through the very same thing. Many English citizens were Protestants at this time and they had to decide who they were more loyal to, their monarch or their religion. Legge's indecisiveness must have been common among many who worked under James II, although most people's decisions probably did not have the finalizing effect that Legge's did.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed the final biography for this blog post. It's hard to believe it is over. I never imagined that I would learn so much about British court officers. Writing about these people has not only provided me with their own personal information that I could never have learned before, but it also helped me to understand trends within society at the time. Most of all, it helped me to see these people as more than just names on a spreadsheet, and for that I am the most thankful.
J. D. Davies, ‘Legge, George, first Baron Dartmouth (c.1647–1691)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16352, accessed 20 Nov 2016]