Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere
|Field Marshal The Right Honourable
The Viscount Combermere
GCB, GCH, KSI, PC
|Governor of Barbados|
|Preceded by||Sir James Leith|
|Succeeded by||Sir Henry Warde|
|Born||14 November 1773
|Died||21 February 1865 (aged 91)|
|Alma mater||Westminster School|
|Commands||3rd The King's Own Hussars
1st Regiment of Life Guards
|Battles/wars||French Revolutionary Wars
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
|Awards||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order
Knight Companion of the Order of the Star of India
Field Marshal Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere GCB, GCH, KSI, PC (14 November 1773 – 21 February 1865), was a British military leader, diplomat and politician. He was a colonel of the 1st Life Guards, Commander-in-Chief, Ireland and served with distinction under Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War.
He was the second son of Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton, 5th Baronet of Combermere Abbey, Shropshire, and was born on 14 November 1773, at Lleweni Hall in Denbighshire. He was educated at Westminster School, and when only sixteen obtained a second lieutenancy in the 23rd Regiment of Foot. A few years afterwards (1793) he became by purchase a captain in the 6th Dragoon Guards, and he served in this regiment during the campaigns of the Duke of York in Flanders. While yet in his twentieth year, he joined the 25th Light Dragoons (subsequently 22nd) as lieutenant colonel, and, while in attendance with his regiment on George III at Weymouth, he was noticed by the king. In 1796 he went with his regiment to India, taking part en route in the operations in Cape Colony (July–August 1796), and in 1799 served in the war with Tippoo Sahib, and at the storming of Seringapatam (Srirangapatna). Soon after this, having become heir to the family baronetcy, he was, at his father's desire, exchanged into a regiment at home, the 16th Light Dragoons. He was stationed in Ireland during Robert Emmet's insurrection, became colonel in 1800, and major general five years later.
From 1806 to 1814 he was M.P. for Newark. In 1808 he was sent to the seat of war in Portugal, where he shortly rose to the position of commander of Wellington's cavalry, and it was here that he most displayed that courage and judgment which won for him his fame as a cavalry officer. He was nicknamed the "Lion d' Or" during his Peninsular War years, because of his fearlessness and the ostentatious splendour of his uniforms and equipment. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1807, but continued his military career. His share in the Battle of Salamanca (22 July 1812) was especially marked, causing Wellington to say to him, "By God, Cotton, I never saw anything so beautiful in my life; the day is yours." Afterwards he received the personal thanks of Wellington. The day after he was wounded in an accident. A painting depicting his acceptance of the French defeat is displayed in the library of Combermere Abbey. He displayed coolness under fire at the Battle of Venta del Pozo on 23 October 1812, where he led the army's rearguard. He was now a lieutenant general in the British army and a K.B., and on the conclusion of peace (1814) was raised to the peerage under the style of Baron Combermere.
Lord Combermere was not present at Waterloo, the command, which he expected, and bitterly regretted not receiving, having been given to Lord Uxbridge. When the latter was wounded Combermere was sent for to take over his command, and he remained in France until the reduction of the allied army of occupation. In 1817 he was appointed governor of Barbados and commander of the West Indian forces. Lord Combermere is mentioned in unverified stories of the Chase Vault as being a witness to its allegedly "moving coffins" while serving as Governor of Barbados. Between 1814 and 1820, Combermere undertook an extensive remodelling of his home, Combermere Abbey, including Gothic ornamentation of the Abbot's House and the construction of Wellington's Wing (now demolished) to mark Wellington's visit to the house in 1820.
From 1822 to 1825 Combermere was Commander-in-Chief, Ireland. His career of active service was concluded in India (1826), where he besieged and took Bharatpur—a fort which twenty-two years previously had defied the genius of Lake and was deemed impregnable. For this service he was created Viscount Combermere. A long period of peace and honour still remained to him at home. In 1834 he was sworn a privy councillor, and in 1852 he succeeded Wellington as Constable of the Tower and Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets. In 1855 he was made a field marshal and G.C.B. He died at Clifton on 21 February 1865.
Despite Combermere's distinguished service, much of it under Wellington's command, the Duke is reported to have referred to Combermere as "a damned fool", but at the same time recommending him for command in the East. An equestrian statue in bronze, the work of Carlo, Baron Marochetti, was raised in his honour at Chester by the inhabitants of Cheshire. An obelisk was also erected in his memory on the edge of Combermere Park in 1890, under the terms of his widow's will. Combermere was succeeded by his only son, Wellington Henry (1818–1891), and the viscountcy is still held by his descendants.
Lord Combermere had such an influence on the Duke Of Wellington that a house has been named after him at Wellington College, a school created due to the wonderful work which the Duke did for his country
On 1 January 1801, Combermere married Lady Anna Maria Clinton (d. 31 May 1807), daughter of Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne. They had three children:
- Robert Henry Stapleton Cotton (18 January 1802 – 1821)
- two sons, died young.
- Wellington Henry Stapleton-Cotton, 2nd Viscount Combermere (1818–1891)
- Lady Caroline Stapleton-Cotton (b. 1815), married in 1837 Arthur Hill, 4th Marquess of Downshire
- Lady Meliora Emily Anna Maria Cotton, married on 18 June 1853 John Charles Frederick Hunter
In 1838, Combermere married Mary Woolley (née Gibbings), by whom he had no issue.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Viscount Combermere
- Archival material relating to Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere listed at the UK National Archives