Sir John Doyle, 1st Baronet

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General Sir John Doyle, Bt
Born 1756
Dublin, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Died 8 August 1834 (aged 77–78)
Allegiance United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1771–1820s
Rank General
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War - Brooklyn, Harlem Heights, Springfield, Brandywine, Germantown (wounded), Monmouth Courthouse, Siege of Charleston
French Revolutionary Wars - Holland, France, Gibraltar and Egypt

General Sir John Doyle, 1st Baronet GCB, KCH (1756 – 8 August 1834) was an officer in the British Army, which he joined in March 1771. He served with distinction in the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary Wars.[1][2]

He was elected Member of Parliament for Mullingar in the Irish House of Commons in 1783, and went on to serve as Secretary of War in the Irish administration of Dublin Castle.[1]

Doyle raised his own regiment, the 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot, for the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793 and served in Holland, Gibraltar and Egypt.[1]

His efforts were greatly appreciated by King George III, who took the trouble to write to the Earl Marshall, "... so that his [Doyle's] zeal and exertions in our service may be known to posterity".[2]

The latter part of his career included his appointment as Private Secretary to George IV the Prince of Wales. He was also appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey in 1803 where he served until 1813. He was also active in Guernsey as Deputy Grand Master of the Freemasons.[3]

He was appointed Knight Bachelor in 1813 and General in 1819.[1][2] On 29 October 1825 he was created a baronet,[4] but the baronetcy became extinct upon his death.

Personal life[edit]

John Doyle was born in Dublin in 1756, the fourth son of Charles and Elizabeth Doyle of Bramblestown, County Kilkenny. He entered Trinity College Dublin in July 1768 to study law, but when his father died in March 1771 he joined the army in March 1771.[5] Doyle was the uncle of women's political rights campaigner Anna Wheeler, previously Doyle, who in 1812 took her daughters to stay with him and his family in Guernsey, having walked out on her husband in County Limerick.[6]

Military career[edit]

Doyle started his military career in March 1771 when he joined the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant in 1773.[1]

American War of Independence[edit]

Doyle served with distinction in the American War of Independence (1775–1783) with the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot. He was involved in the Battle of Long Island, where he recovered the body of his commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Grant, under enemy fire. He then fought at the Battle of Harlem Heights, Battle of Springfield, Battle of Brandywine, and Battle of Germantown (where he was wounded).

His wound changed the course of his American campaign because he was appointed to assist Lord Rawdon (Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings) to raise the Volunteers of Ireland regiments (aka 2nd American Regiment and the 105th Regiment of Foot), and wherein he was promoted to Captain. This unit then fought at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse in 1778, and the Siege of Charleston in 1780.[1]

After the war Doyle returned to Ireland, entered politics in 1783 and was elected MP.[1]

French Revolutionary Wars[edit]

In September 1793 Doyle raised his own regiment, the 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot, to fight in the French Revolutionary Wars; they were also known as The Prince of Wales Irish Heroes.[1]

As Lieutenant-Colonel he led the unit under the Duke of York in the Flanders Campaign 1793-1795. He served at the siege of Valenciennes 13 June-28 July 1793 and distinguished himself at Alost during Moira’s retreat 1794. Appointrd Colonel of the 87th Foot on 3 May 1796, he was Irish Secretary at War from 1796 to 1799. Appointed a Brigadier-General commanding the 4th brigade, he served under Abercromby & Hutchinson in Egypt in 1801, and saw action at Manresa, Alexandria, Marabout, and Ramanieh 9 May.

On 17 May 1801, in the Libyan Desert he led his Brigade of the 12th Light Dragoons to capture the French Dromedary Corps. He distinguished himself during the operations leading to promotion to Major-General on 29 April 1802.[1][2]

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

He was Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey 1803-1816, during which time he oversaw the draining of land, using the proceeds of the sale to pay for the construction of roads and organised the defence in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. He was made a Baronet in 1805, Lieutenant-General on 24th Apr 1808, a Knight of the Bath in 1812 and Full General in 1819.

Public administration and diplomacy[edit]

After the American Revolutionary War Doyle returned to Ireland on half pay, so that he could be recalled to the army. He was a founding member of the Irish Whig Club and was an early advocate for the emancipation of Catholics.[5] In 1783 he was elected MP for Mullingar in the Irish House of Commons and progressed to serve as Secretary of War in Irish politics.[1]

Doyle was appointed as Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey from 1803 to 1813.[1][2] He was elected MP for Newport, IoW in the UK Parliament in 1806, sitting until 1807. He was appointed Private Secretary to George IV the Prince of Wales and Governor of Charlemont Castle from 1818 until his death.[7]

Death and commemoration[edit]

King George III wrote to the Earl Marshall, Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk: ... so that his (Doyle’s) zeal and exertions in our service may be known to posterity.[2]

Doyle was 'Deputy Grand Master' of the 'Orange Lodge 116' of the Freemasons. In 1806 he was presented with the 'Doyle Cup' which has been the property of the Masonic Library and Museum since 1938. The cup shows Doyle’s freemasonry and military career in the French Revolutionary Wars. The lid bears the arms of the Masonic Ancients Grand Lodge and a Royal Crown. The spout bears the Prince of Wales's feathers – signifying that Doyle was Colonel of the Prince of Wales Royal Irish Regiment, that he had been initiated in Prince of Wales Lodge and the Prince of Wales was Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of which he was also a member.[3]

A second Masonic cup follows the general design of the first, but shows scenes from the American War of Independence. It was presented by the Mariners Lodge and remains in Guernsey.[3]

Guernsey has commemorated Doyle in several ways: the Doyle Monument at Jerbourg Point; Doyle Road; Fort Doyle; Doyle Street; Doyle Lane; Doyle Close; and The Doyle - (previously the site of Doyle Barracks).[1]


Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Hew Dalrymple
Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey
Succeeded by
Henry Bayly