John Norris (Royal Navy officer)

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Sir John Norris
John Norris.jpg
John Norris by Godfrey Kneller in 1711
Nickname(s) Foul-weather Jack
Born 1670 or 1671
Died 13 June 1749
Hemsted Park, Benenden, Kent
Buried at St George's Church, Benenden, Kent
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1680–1734
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Pelican
HMS Spy
HMS Sheerness
HMS Royal Oak
HMS Sussex
HMS Russell
HMS Carlisle
HMS Content
HMS Winchester
HMS Orford
HMS Britannia
Battles/wars Nine Years' War
Williamite War in Ireland
War of the Spanish Succession
Great Northern War
War of Jenkins' Ear

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Norris (1670 or 1671 – 13 June 1749) was a Royal Navy officer. After serving as a junior officer during the Nine Years' War and the Williamite War in Ireland, he was given command of a squadron sent to North America to protect British settlements on the banks of Hudson Bay in 1697. Although he developed a plan to recapture some territories in Newfoundland and Labrador taken by French forces the previous winter, he was prevented from implementing that plan when the local council overruled him.

Norris served under Admiral Sir George Rooke at the Battle of Cádiz at an early stage of the War of the Spanish Succession. He went on to command the vanguard at the Battle of Malaga in August 1704 and then served under Admiral the Earl of Peterborough at the capture of Barcelona in October 1705.

As a flag officer, Norris was sent with a fleet to the Baltic Sea to support a coalition of naval forces from Russia, Denmark and Hanover taking in the Great Northern War. Tsar Peter took personal command of the coalition fleet and appointed Norris as his deputy in 1716: together they protected British and other allied merchant vessels from attack by warships of the Swedish Empire. In November 1718, following the death of Charles XII of Sweden, Britain switched sides and Norris returned to the region to protect British merchant shipping from attack by Russian raiders. Norris also acted as a commissioner in the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Nystad which ended the War in September 1721.

Norris went on to be commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet at the outset of the War of Jenkins' Ear in 1739. In 1744 he was asked to defend Britain from an imminent French Invasion: he was preparing for battle against the French fleet, when storms intervened scattering the invasion transports, with heavy loss of life, thereby ending the immediate threat of invasion.

Early career[edit]

The Battle of Barfleur at which Norris saw action in command of a fire ship during the Nine Years' War

Born of uncertain Irish parentage, Norris joined the Royal Navy as a captain’s servant in 1680.[1] Promoted to lieutenant in August 1689, he joined the third-rate HMS Edgar commanded by Cloudesley Shovell during the Nine Years' War.[2] He transferred to the third-rate HMS Monck early in 1690 and served off the Coast of Ireland during the Williamite War in Ireland.[2] Promoted to commander on 8 July 1690, he was given command of the fire ship HMS Pelican and took part in the Battle of Beachy Head in July 1690 in another action of the Nine Years' War.[2] He transferred to the command of the fire ship HMS Spy in December 1691 and saw action again at the Battles of Barfleur and La Hogue in May 1692.[2]

Promoted to captain on 13 January 1693, Norris was given command of the fifth-rate HMS Sheerness and fought at the Battle of Lagos in June 1693.[2] He transferred to the command of the third-rate HMS Royal Oak, then to the command of the third-rate HMS Sussex and then to the command of the second-rate HMS Russell and was deployed to the Mediterranean early in 1694.[2] He transferred to the command of the fourth-rate HMS Carlisle and then to the command of the third-rate HMS Content in Spring 1695.[2]

Norris was given command of a squadron sent to North America to protect British settlements on the banks of Hudson Bay in 1697.[3] Although he developed a plan to recapture some territories in Newfoundland and Labrador taken by French forces the previous winter, he was prevented from implementing that plan when the local council overruled him and he received some criticism when he returned to England for his inaction.[1] However he was defended by the Earl of Orford from potential dismissal,[4] his successful career continued and he was given command of the fourth-rate HMS Winchester later in 1697.[3] Investigations were restarted into his conduct in Newfoundland in early 1699 he was suspended from the navy in April 1699.[4]

Norris was given command of the third-rate HMS Orford early in 1702 and served under Admiral Sir George Rooke at the Battle of Cádiz in August 1702 at an early stage of the War of the Spanish Succession.[3] He went on to command the vanguard at the Battle of Malaga in August 1704.[3] He was given command of the first-rate HMS Britannia, flagship of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, in 1703 and then served under Admiral the Earl of Peterborough at the capture of Barcelona in October 1705.[3] Following his return to England he was knighted on 5 November 1705.[3]

Senior command[edit]

John Norris by George Knapton circa 1735

Promoted to rear admiral on 10 March 1707, Norris became second-in-command of the Mediterranean Fleet, with his flag in the third rate HMS Torbay.[3] After taking part in the British defeat at the Battle of Toulon in July 1707 and, while sailing aboard his flagship HMS Torbay, Norris was present during the great naval disaster off the Isles of Scilly in October 1707 when Shovell and four of his ships were lost, claiming the lives of nearly 2,000 sailors.[5] Promoted to vice admiral on 26 January 1708, Norris transferred his flag to the third-rate HMS Ranelagh and became Member of Parliament for Rye later in the year.[6] While still serving as second-in-command of the Mediterranean Fleet, he took personal charge a squadron deployed to the Baltic Sea to prevent Swedish grain arriving in France in 1709.[3] Promoted to full admiral on 21 December 1709, he became Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet early in 1710.[3]

In 1715 Norris was sent with a fleet to the Baltic Sea to support a coalition of naval forces from Russia, Denmark and Hanover taking in the Great Northern War.[3] Tsar Peter took personal command of the coalition fleet and appointed Norris as his deputy in 1716: together they protected British and other allied merchant vessels from attack by warships of the Swedish Empire.[3] Norris became a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty board led by the Earl of Berkeley in March 1818.[7] In November 1718, following the death of Charles XII of Sweden, Britain switched sides and Norris returned to the region to protect British merchant shipping from attack by Russian raiders.[8] Norris also acted as a commissioner in the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Nystad which ended the War in September 1721.[8] He became Member of Parliament for Portsmouth in March 1722[9] but stood down as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty when the Walpole–Townshend Ministry fell in May 1730.[7]

Norris's home, Hemsted Park in Kent (now occupied by Benenden School)

Norris was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 20 February 1734 and, with his flag in HMS Britannia, he became commander-in-chief of a fleet sent to the Iberian Peninsula to protect Portugal from Spanish attack.[8] He became Member of Parliament for Rye again in April 1734,[10] was appointed Vice-Admiral of Great Britain in April 1739[11] and went on to be Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet at the outset of the War of Jenkins' Ear in Autumn 1739.[8]

In 1744 Norris was asked to defend Britain from an imminent French Invasion: he was preparing for battle against the French fleet, when storms intervened scattering the invasion transports, with heavy loss of life, thereby ending the immediate threat of invasion.[8] Norris retired from the navy later in the year.[8]

Norris died at his country home, Hemsted Park in Kent, on 13 June 1749 and was buried at St George's Church in Benenden.[6]

Family[edit]

In May 1699 Norris married Elizabeth Aylmer, daughter of Admiral Matthew Aylmer;[6] they had five children (including Vice Admiral Henry Norris[12] and Captain Richard Norris).[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "John Norris". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Heathcote, p. 195
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Heathcote, p. 196
  4. ^ a b Aldridge, p. 47
  5. ^ Sobel, p. 6
  6. ^ a b c "John Norris". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Sainty, JC, Lord High Admiral and Commissioners of the Admiralty 1660-1870', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 4: Admiralty Officials 1660-1870 (1975), pp. 18-31.". Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Heathcote, p. 197
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 6045. p. 3. 24 March 1722. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 7292. p. 3. 31 March 1739. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 7793. p. 1. 31 March 1739. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  12. ^ Burke, p. 180

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Edward Southwell
Phillips Gybbon
Member of Parliament for Rye
17081722
With: Phillips Gybbon
Succeeded by
Phillips Gybbon
The Lord Aylmer
Preceded by
Sir Edward Ernle, Bt
Sir Charles Wager
Member of Parliament for Portsmouth
17221734
With: Sir Charles Wager
Succeeded by
Thomas Lewis
Philip Cavendish
Preceded by
Phillips Gybbon
Matthew Norris
Member of Parliament for Rye
1734–1749
With: Phillips Gybbon
Succeeded by
Phillips Gybbon
Thomas Pelham
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir George Byng
Admiral of the Fleet
1734–1749
Succeeded by
Sir Chaloner Ogle
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Unknown
Vice-Admiral of Great Britain
1739–1749
Succeeded by
The Lord Anson