Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset

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Francis Basset in 1778 on the Grand Tour in Rome, with the Castel Sant'Angelo and St. Peter's Basilica in the background - painting by Pompeo Batoni (Prado)

Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset FRS (9 August 1757 – 14 February 1835) was an English nobleman and politician. He was the first son of Francis Basset and Margaret St. Aubyn (daughter of Sir John St Aubyn, 3rd Baronet).

Life[edit]

Basset was baptized at Charlbury, Oxfordshire on 7 September 1757 and educated at Harrow School (1770–71), Eton College (1771–74) and King's College, Cambridge (1775).[1] However, he left university for Italy in 1777, with the Revd. William Sandys as his cicerone. He passed through Rome, where he had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni (Batoni only finished it after Basset's departure, and - en route back to England on the Westmorland - it was seized by the French and sold to the Spanish). He returned to England in 1778, holding the office of Recorder of Penrhyn from that year onwards, and - like his father - being elected its Member of Parliament (between 1780 and 1796). The constituency returned two MPs, and one of his colleagues over that time was his cousin Sir John St Aubyn (son of Francis's mother's brother).

Whilst serving as lieutenant-colonel of the North Devon militia,[2] he marched Cornish miners to Plymouth, strengthened that town's defenses and fortified Portreath, all of which helped counter a Franco-Spanish invasion fleet (gathered as part of the European theatre of the American Revolutionary War). As a reward, he was made 1st Baronet Basset, of Tehidy, county Cornwall on 24 November 1779. He married Frances Susanna Coxe, daughter of John Hippesley Coxe, at St Marylebone Parish Church on 16 May 1780, and finally graduated from King's College as a Master of Arts in 1786.

He was made Baron de Dunstanville on 17 June 1796, and then Baron Basset, with special remainder to his daughter, on 30 November 1797. On his first wife's death, he remarried to Harriet Lemon (1777–1864, the fourth daughter of Sir William Lemon, first baronet, of Carclew, and Jane Buller) on 13 July 1824 but, though she survived him, they had no children. When he died without surviving male issue, his barony of Dunstanville became extinct as did his baronetcy, while the barony of Basset passed by special remainder to his only child, Frances, his daughter by his first marriage.

Legacy[edit]

Basset Monument on Carn Brea

On the highest point of Carn Brea in Cornwall is a 90 foot high (30m) celtic cross, erected by public subscription in 1836. It is dedicated to Francis Basset and inscribed 'The County of Cornwall to the memory of Francis Lord de Dunstanville and Basset A.D. 1836.'[3][4] 50°13′16″N 5°14′56″W / 50.22111°N 5.24889°W / 50.22111; -5.24889 (Basset Cross)

He is a recurring character in the Poldark novels by Winston Graham, where he is shown in a generally sympathetic light. The novels describe a long-standing struggle between Basset and George Boscawen, 3rd Viscount Falmouth for political supremacy in Cornwall.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bassett or Basset, Francis (BST775F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ "Colonel of North Devon Militia": he had a cousin and contemporary from the senior line of Basset, named Francis Basset Esq. (c.1740-1802), MP for Barnstaple, of Heanton Court, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon, who is referred to in contemporary documents as "Colonel Basset", for example by the contemporary Devon topographer John Swete, who painted a view of Heanton Court in 1797. A Colonel Basset was also master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, based around Exmoor, North Devon, at this period. It is possible that the two people have been confused in the biographies. It is certainly hard to understand why the Cornish Francis Basset should have been commanding a regiment of North Devon men rather than Cornishmen, and it is difficult to find another regiment apart from the North Devon Militia of which Francis Basset of Heanton Court might have been Colonel at this time
  3. ^ As shown by the stone inscription on the south of the monument. See inscription text on Basset Cross photograph
  4. ^ "Tuesday's Post". Jackson's Oxford Journal. 17 September 1836. A chaste and elegant monument from the chisel of Westmacott put up in parish of Illogan, Cornwall, to the memory of the late Lord De Dunstanville 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir George Osborn
William Chaytor
Member of Parliament for Penryn
17801796
With: with John Rogers 1780-1782
Reginald Pole-Carew 1782-1784
Sir John St Aubyn 1784-1790
Richard Glover 1790-1796
Succeeded by
Thomas Wallace
William Meeke
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron de Dunstanville
1796–1797
Extinct
New creation Baron Basset
1797–1835
Succeeded by
Frances Basset