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William Carnegie, 7th Earl of Northesk

Admiral William Carnegie, 7th Earl of Northesk GCB (19 April 1758 – 28 May 1831) was born at Bruntsfield in Edinburgh to Admiral George Carnegie, 6th Earl of Northesk and Anne Melville.[1]

The Earl of Northesk
William Carnegie (1758-1831), Thomas Phillips.jpg
William Carnegie, 7th Earl of Northesk
Born19 April 1758
Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died28 May 1831 (1831-05-29) (aged 73)
Westminster, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Commands heldPlymouth Command
Battles/warsAmerican War of Independence
French Revolutionary War
Napoleonic Wars
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order

Naval careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Following his father into the navy in 1771, Carnegie served in the American War of Independence[2] on the frigate HMS Beaulieu and the ship of the line HMS Sandwich, being involved in the Battle of Martinique in 1780 under Admiral Rodney. His good conduct during the engagement was recognised by Rodney, who promoted Carnegie to commander[3] and then aided his rise to Post captain in 1782, whereupon he was given command of the frigate HMS Enterprise.

Ten years later at the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War, on 22 January 1792, Carnegie had acceded to the earldom and became the Earl of Northesk. He was given a new ship of the line HMS Monmouth to command in 1796 and having as his first lieutenant Charles Bullen, the start of an excellent professional partnership and close personal friendship. The following year he was caught up in the Nore mutiny but was released by the mutineers to take their demands to London. Like many in the fleet, Northesk had some sympathy with the initial stages of the mutiny, and so when the demands were refused, he resigned his position as untenable following his failure to restore order on his ship or gain concessions from the government.

William Carnegie as a Post Captain
of 3 year seniority

Reinstated by the Admiralty in 1803[4] with full seniority as a rear-admiral, Northesk was given the 100 gun first rate HMS Britannia as his flagship, and after a brief period in the Channel Fleet, was sent south with Sir Robert Calder to join the blockading squadrons off Spain. With him went Captain Bullen. He missed the Calder's action in 1805, and joined Nelson's fleet off Cadiz that same year.

Battle of TrafalgarEdit

As the inevitable Battle off Cape Trafalgar came closer, Northesk was largely left out of the planning of the encounter, partly because he was the third most senior admiral present behind Nelson and Collingwood and partly because unlike most of the captains at the battle, Northesk had never worked with Nelson before and was not a member of the famous Band of Brothers.

Nonetheless, when battle came Northesk was ready and although his slow ship took some time to reach the fighting, he was heavily engaged with the enormous Spanish 130 gun ship Santissima Trinidad, the Britannia suffering 52 casualties[5] in the battle. He was greatly rewarded for his service in action, but like many Trafalgar captains, never served at sea again as sufficiently senior posts could not be found abroad. He was however initiated into the Order of the Bath, eventually reaching the position of Knight Grand Cross. He also reached the rank of full admiral, the ceremonial post of Rear-Admiral of Great Britain and was made Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth[6] later in his career.


He died in 1831 in London[7] and was buried alongside Nelson and Collingwood in the crypt at St Paul's Cathedral, where his tomb can still be seen.


He married Mary Ricketts, daughter of William Henry Ricketts, on 9 December 1788 and had nine children:

Coat of Arms of the Earls of Northesk


  1. ^ "William Carnegie, Earl of Northesk". Family Search: Community Trees. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  2. ^ Promoted Lieutenant in 1777
  3. ^ 1781
  4. ^ 23 April 1803
  5. ^ 10 killed 42 wounded
  6. ^ 1827-1830
  7. ^ Albemarle Street, Piccadilly, London.
  8. ^ Wikisource:Thackeray, Frederick Rennell (DNB00)

Further readingEdit

  • The Trafalgar Captains, Colin White and the 1805 Club, Chatham Publishing, London, 2005, ISBN 1-86176-247-X

External linksEdit