John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland

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John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland, by Julia Goodman, c. 1855 (Royal Academy of Music)

General John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland GCB GCH PC (2 February 1784 – 16 October 1859), styled Lord Burghersh until 1841, was a British soldier, politician, diplomat and musician.


Styled Lord Burghersh from birth, he was born at Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London, the son of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, by his wife Sarah Child, daughter and heiress of the wealthy banker Sir Robert Child, builder of Osterley Park. His sister was the well known social hostess Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey, and his uncle was William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, a Tory magnate from northern England. He was educated at Cheam School and then at Harrow from 1797 to 1799.[1] Burghersh was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge on 28 January 1802 and received an M.A. in 1808.[2]

He succeeded his father in the earldom in 1841.[3]

Military career[edit]

On 9 May 1803, Burghersh was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Northamptonshire,[4] and after the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Northamptonshire Militia on 30 June 1803.[2] He entered the regular army as an ensign in the 11th Foot, without purchase, on 24 December 1803.[5] On 5 January 1804 he transferred to the 7th Foot as a lieutenant and on 3 May 1805 he transferred to the 23rd Foot as a captain. He exchanged on 1 November to the 3rd Dragoon Guards, and served as aide-de-camp to Sir George Don when the latter led reinforcements to Hanover.[2]

As early as 1802, his uncle Lord Lonsdale had contemplated putting Burghersh into Parliament for Londsdale's pocket borough of Cockermouth when Burghersh came of age; in fact, his uncle Thomas stepped down and Burghersh was returned for the Fane constituency of Lyme Regis at the ensuing by-election on 16 March 1806. Three days later he joined Brooks's Club, traditionally a resort of Whigs and particularly Foxite, but on 30 April 1806 voted with the Pitt administration (in which his father was Lord Privy Seal) against the repeal of the Additional Forces Act. Shortly thereafter, he was sent abroad, serving as assistant adjutant general to the forces in Sicily and Egypt from 1806 to 1807. He was with Admiral Duckworth's fleet during the Dardanelles Operation[2] and then took part in the Alexandria expedition of 1807.

Burghersh was a supporter of the second Portland Ministry, in which his father was again Lord Privy Seal, but without particular activity in Parliament, appearing once in debate on the price of wheat on 3 June 1808. He joined the army in Portugal led by Sir Arthur Wellesley in that year, and fought at Roliça and Vimiero in August.[2]

On 6 May 1809, he was gazetted major in the 2nd West India Regiment in place of Thomas McMahon, sent to Lord Beresford's staff in Portugal,[6] and lieutenant colonel on 9 May when he was himself sent to Portugal,[7] This exceedingly rapid promotion, over the heads of many senior officers, drew the attention of William Shipley, member for Flint and recently retired as a lieutenant colonel. He moved that Burghersh's promotion was in violation of Army regulations, and the resolution was carried by the House of Commons. Lord Westmorland was compelled to ask the King not to sign Burghersh's commissions,[1] and they were accordingly cancelled.[8] In July, Burghersh was actively engaged at the Battle of Talavera. He soon after replied to a letter of his father's on his abortive promotion in May, telling him that "the military is a profession which I most sincerely love," but expressing his frustration at not occupying a situation more equal to his education and qualities.[1] He served with the 3rd Dragoon Guards in their campaign in Portugal in 1810.

On 16 February 1811, he purchased a majority in the 83rd Foot,[9] then transferred to the half-pay of the 91st Foot on 21 March. On 10 December 1811 he exchanged back into the 7th Foot[10] and later the same year purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 63rd Foot.[11] On 4 June 1814, he was appointed an extra aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent and promoted to colonel in the Army.[12] He was an extra aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington (his wife's uncle) and fought at Talavera and Busaco during the Peninsular War.[3]

On 4 June 1815, Burghersh was appointed a CB.[13] He was promoted major general on 27 May 1825.[14] Made a KCB on 25 February 1838,[15] he was promoted lieutenant general on 28 June 1838[16] and general in 1854 and was appointed Colonel of the 56th Foot in 1842.

Political and diplomatic career[edit]

Lord Westmorland sat as Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis between 1806 and 1816.[17] He served as Minister to Tuscany between 1814 and 1830, as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Prussia between 1841 and 1851 and as Ambassador to the Austrian Empire between 1851 and 1855. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1815, a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order (KCH) in 1817, a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1838 and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in 1846 and was sworn of the Privy Council in 1822.[3]


Lord Westmorland was also a composer and a founder of the Royal Academy of Music. He was a great music lover who devoted most of his leisure hours to the study of music, was a good violinist and a prolific composer.


Lord Westmorland married Priscilla Pole-Wellesley, daughter of the Honourable William Wellesley-Pole, later first Baron Maryborough and third Earl of Mornington, on 26 June 1811.[18] They had six children:

  • Lady Rose Sophia Mary Fane (d. 4 February 1921), married Henry Weigall and had issue, including Gerry Weigall and Archibald Weigall
  • Hon. John Arthur Fane (12 February 1816 – 29 August 1816)
  • George Augustus Frederick John Fane, Lord Burghersh (18 June 1819 – 29 April 1848)
  • Ernest Fitzroy Neville Fane, Lord Burghersh (7 January 1824 – 22 June 1851)
  • Francis Fane, 12th Earl of Westmorland (1825–1891)
  • Hon. Julian Henry Charles Fane (10 October 1827 – 19 April 1870)

He died in October 1859, aged 75, and was succeeded in the earldom by his fourth but eldest surviving son, Francis. Lord Westmorland's fifth and youngest son Julian Fane was a poet and diplomat. The Countess of Westmorland died in February 1879.[3]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hon. Thomas Fane
Henry Fane
Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis
With: Henry Fane
Succeeded by
Henry Fane
John Thomas Fane
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Hon. William Wyndham
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Tuscany
Succeeded by
Sir George Seymour
(as Resident)
Preceded by
Lord George Russell
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Prussia
Succeeded by
The Lord Bloomfield
Preceded by
The Viscount Ponsonby
Ambassador to the Austria Empire
Succeeded by
Sir George Hamilton Seymour
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Hudson Lowe
Colonel of the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
John Home Home
Peerage of England
Preceded by
John Fane
Earl of Westmorland
Succeeded by
Francis Fane