George Anson, 1st Baron Anson
|Admiral of the Fleet
The Lord Anson
PC, FRS, RN
|First Lord of the Admiralty|
|Prime Minister||The Duke of Newcastle
The Earl of Bute
|Preceded by||The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Halifax|
|Prime Minister||Henry Pelham
The Duke of Newcastle
|Preceded by||The Earl of Sandwich|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Temple|
|Born||23 April 1697
|Died||6 June 1762
Moor Park, Hertfordshire, England
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Great Britain|
|Years of service||1712-1762|
|Commands||Admiral of the Fleet|
|Battles/wars||War of the Austrian Succession
War of Jenkins' Ear
Seven Years' War
Admiral of the Fleet George Anson, 1st Baron Anson PC, FRS, RN (23 April 1697 – 6 June 1762) was a British admiral and a wealthy aristocrat, noted for his circumnavigation of the globe and his role overseeing the Royal Navy during the Seven Years' War. During his time in office Anson instituted a series of reforms to the Royal Navy.
Family and early career
George's father was William Anson of Shugborough in Staffordshire and his mother was Isabella Carrier, who was the sister-in-law of Thomas Parker, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, the Lord Chancellor, a relationship that proved very useful to the future admiral.
George Anson entered the navy in February 1712, as a volunteer aboard Ruby and then Monmouth. By 1716 he was promoted to acting lieutenant aboard HMS Hampshire, in service as part of a Baltic Sea fleet commanded by Admiral John Norris. His commission was confirmed upon the fleet's return to England later that year. In 1717 Anson transferred to the ageing Montagu under Admiral George Byng, and saw active service against Spain in the Battle of Cape Passaro in 1718.
On 19 June 1722 he received his first independent command, having been promoted to Commander of the small 8-gun sloop HMS Weazel. Anson's orders were to suppress smuggling between Britain and Holland, a task he swiftly and effectively performed. In recognition of his efforts he was promoted in 1724 to the rank of post-captain aboard the 32-gun HMS Scarborough with orders to escort British merchant convoys from the Carolinas. In this position he served on the Carolinas station until 1730 aboard Scarborough and from 1733 to 1735 aboard her sister ship HMS Squirrel. In 1737 he gained the command of the 60-gun ship of the line, Centurion. In 1740, on the eve of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), he became commander (with the rank of commodore) of the squadron sent to attack Spanish possessions in South America in the War of Jenkins' Ear.
Voyage around the world
The expedition failed to carry out its original ambitious scheme. Anson's ill-equipped squadron sailed later than intended, with only six warships: HMS Centurion (flagship), Gloucester, Severn, Pearl, Wager, and the sloop Tryal, plus the two store ships Anna and Industry.
Successive disasters eventually reduced his force to just Centurion. Two of his vessels, Pearl and Severn, failed to round the Horn and returned home. HMS Wager was wrecked off the coast of Chile, where the crew subsequently mutinied (see the Wager Mutiny). The lateness of the season forced him to round Cape Horn in very stormy weather, and the navigating instruments of the time did not allow for exact observations. By the time Anson reached the island of Juan Fernández in June 1741, only three of his six ships remained, while the strength of his crews had fallen from 961 to 335. In the absence of any effective Spanish force on the coast, he was able to harass the enemy and to sack the small port city of Paita in Peru (13 – 15 November 1741). The steady decrease of his crew by scurvy, and the worn-out state of his remaining consorts, compelled him to collect all the remaining survivors in Centurion. He rested at the island of Tinian, and then made his way to Macau in November 1742.
After considerable difficulties with the Chinese, he sailed again with his one remaining vessel to cruise in search of one of the richly laden Manila galleons that conducted the trade between Mexico and the Philippines. The indomitable perseverance he had shown during one of the most arduous voyages in the history of sea adventure gained the reward of the capture of an immensely rich prize, Nuestra Señora de Covadonga, possessing 1,313,843 pieces of eight, which he encountered off Cape Espiritu Santo on 20 June 1743. Anson took his prize back to Macau, sold her cargo to the Chinese, and sailed for England, which he reached via the Cape of Good Hope on 15 June 1744. The prize money earned by the capture of the galleon had made him a rich man for life, and it enabled his heirs to rebuild Shugborough Hall, the family estate.
Anson's chaplain, Richard Walter, recorded the circumnavigation, which he included in A Voyage Round the World published in 1748. It is, "written in brief, perspicuous terms", wrote Thomas Carlyle in his History of Friedrich II, "a real poem in its kind, or romance all fact; one of the pleasantest little books in the world's library at this time".
Battle of Cape Finisterre
In May 1747, he commanded the fleet that defeated the French Admiral de la Jonquière at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre, capturing four ships of the line, two frigates and seven merchantmen. In consequence, Anson became very popular, and was promoted to Vice Admiral and elevated to the peerage as Lord Anson, Baron of Soberton, in the County of Southampton.
First Lord of the Admiralty
Anson subsequently continued his naval career with distinction as an administrator, joining the Admiralty Board in December 1744, then becoming First Lord of the Admiralty from June 1751 to November 1756, and again from June 1757 until his death. Among his reforms were the transfer of the Marines from Army to Navy authority, uniforms for commissioned officers, devising a way to effectively get superannuated Captains and Admirals to retire on half-pay and submitting a revision of the Articles of War to Parliament which tightened discipline throughout the Navy. During Anson's period at the Admiralty they maintained a much larger peacetime fleet than had previously been allowed, largely due to the likelihood of imminent war
Seven Years War
Loss of Minorca
He oversaw the Navy for much of the Seven Years War, and established a permanent squadron at Devonport which could patrol the western approaches to both Britain and France. He was particularly concerned at the prospect of a French invasion of the British Isles which led him to keep a large force in the English Channel. In 1756 he was criticised for not sending enough ships with Admiral Byng to relieve Minorca because he wanted to protect Britain from a threatened invasion, only to see Byng fail to save Minorca while no invasion attempt materialised. This led to him briefly leaving the Admiralty, but he returned to the post within a few months following the creation of the Second Newcastle Ministry. Anson instituted a massive expansion of the Royal Navy, resulting in record numbers of ships and of men.
French Invasion plans
Anson oversaw Britain's naval response to a more serious French invasion attempt in 1759. He instituted a close blockade of the French coast, which proved crippling to the French economy and ensured no invasion fleet could slip out undetected. The British victories at the Battle of Lagos and the Battle of Quiberon Bay destroyed any realistic hope of a major invasion of the British Isles, although a small force landed on the Irish coast.
As well as securing home defence, Anson co-ordinated with Pitt a series of British attacks on French colonies around the globe. By 1760 the British had captured Canada, Senegal and Guadeloupe from the French, and followed it up by capturing Belle Île and Dominica in 1761. In 1762 the entry of Spain into the war offered further chances for British expeditions. Anson was the architect of a plan to capture Havana and seize Manila in the Philippines. Anson had been concerned that the combined strength of the French and Spanish navies would overpower Britain, but he still threw himself into the task of directing these expeditions. The British also captured Martinique and Grenada in the French West Indies.
In June 1761 he was advanced to the post of Admiral of the Fleet. By this stage, Anson had grown very ill. He retired to Bath where he died. He is buried at St Michael and All Angels Church in Colwich, a short distance from Shugborough Hall, where he is also commemorated by a wall tablet next to the altar.
Seven British warships have borne the name HMS Anson in his honour, as well as the Avro Anson aircraft of the RAF. Anson, Maine; Anson County, North Carolina, and the Ansonborough neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina are named in Anson's honour, as well as a school house named at The Royal Hospital School.
- Anson's circumnavigation of the globe is the subject of the novels The Golden Ocean and The Unknown Shore by Patrick O'Brian.
- Anson's accomplishments and "wasted opportunities" discussed by fictional characters Capt. Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin late in the novel "Post Captain" by Patrick O'Brian.
- He is also mentioned in Thomas Pynchon's novel, Mason and Dixon.
- An incident on the round the world voyage is the subject of William Cowper's famed poem The Castaway.
- A full-length novel by F. Van Wyck Mason, Manila Galleon, (1961) recounts the entire voyage of George Anson's expedition, including his flotilla's harrowing efforts to round the Horn, and the eventual success of Centurion in capturing the Manila Galleon.
- Record for Admiral George Anson, 1st and last Lord Anson on thepeerage.com
- "Anson, George (1697-1762)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- G. E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H. A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 173.
- Anson 1912, p. 1
- Anson 1912, pp. 2-3
- The London Gazette: . 9 June 1747.
- Lambert p.149
- Lambert p.143-45
- Anderson p.381-83
- Corbett p.209-27
- Corbett p.297-98
- Anson 1912, p. 3
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
- Anson, Walter Vernon. The Life of Admiral Lord Anson, the father of the British Navy 1697-1762. London, John Murray, 1912.
- Corbett, Julian Stafford. England in the Seven Years War: A study in combined operations, Volume II. London, 1907.
- Knight, Frank. Captain Anson and the Treasure of Spain. MacMillan, 1959.
- Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. Faber and Faber, 2001
- Lambert, Andrew. Admirals: The Naval Commander Who Made Britain Great. Faber and Faber, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Anson.|
- Anson's Voyage Round the World, by Richard Walter, 1901, from Project Gutenberg
- Portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1755
- Archival material relating to George Anson, 1st Baron Anson listed at the UK National Archives
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Earl of Mountrath
|Member of Parliament for Hedon
1744 – 1747
With: George Berkeley 1742–46
Samuel Gumley 1746 – Feb 47
Luke Robinson from Feb 1747
Sir John Savile
The Earl of Sandwich
|First Lord of the Admiralty
The Earl Temple
The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
|First Lord of the Admiralty
The Earl of Halifax
Sir George Clinton
|Admiral of the Fleet
Sir William Rowley
Sir John Norris
|Vice-Admiral of Great Britain
|Peerage of Great Britain|
|New creation||Baron Anson