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Captain of H.M.S. Victory at the Battle of St. Vincent - A Silver Spill Dish, 1795
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Captain of H.M.S. Victory at the Battle of St. Vincent - A Silver Spill Dish, 1795

Measurements: Length: 25cm (9.8in)

£825

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Silver. Of ovoid form with reeded border and handles at each end. Engraved to the centre with the arms of Grey impaling Whitbread for Admiral Sir George Grey and his wife Mary, daughter of the brewer Samuel Whitbread. Maker’s mark of ‘R.M.’ for Robert Makepeace of Lincolns Inn Fields. Hallmarked London 1795.

Hon. George Grey (1767-1828) was Captain of H.M.S. Victory, the flagship of Nelson’s patron Admiral Sir John Jervis, from November 1796 to August 1797. He was accordingly present aboard Victory at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent on 14 February 1797, and presumably close to his admiral when a marine was shot dead at his feet. Grey first went to sea at an early age, and passed for lieutenant at fourteen. During the American War of Independene, he was present in H.M.S. Resolution at Admiral Rodney’s victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782. In October 1793 he gave up the command of the bomb vessel Vesuvius, to serve as Jervis’s Flag Captain in H.M.S. Boyne (98-guns).

In 1794 he took part in the combined operations led by Jervis and his own father, General Charles Grey, who was both a friend and political ally of the admiral, to capture the the French colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Lucia. George Grey was often employed on shore with his sailors hauling heavy guns, ammunition and supplies for the troops, and carrying defences at the point of the bayonet. It was widely suspected disputes over prize money prevented Grey senior and Jervis receiving peerages. On the return of Jervis and Grey junior to British waters in 1795, H.M.S Boyne was accidentally destroyed by fire. George Grey, as captain, was court-martialled but acquitted, as he had not been on board at the time. In August 1797, Captain Grey was given the command of H.M.S. Ville de Paris, and the following year succeeded Robert Calder as his admiral’s chief of staff. He afterwards assisted Jervis or Earl St. Vincent, as he had become after his great victory of 1797, in quelling the mutinous spirit of the crews of the Channel Fleet.

At the beginning of the short peace in March 1801, Grey was appointed captain of one of George III’s royal yachts at Weymouth. From 1804 to 1806, Captain Grey was Commissioner of Sheerness Dockyard. During his time there, on 23 December 1805 his official yacht, the Chatham, was used to transfer Nelson’s coffin with his flag flown at half mast, from H.M.S. Victory to Greenwich Hospital, where it lay in state before being taken by state barge to Whitehall and the Admiralty for the state funeral.

From 1806 he was Commissioner at Portsmouth Dockyard and played an important administrative role overseeing in the post war the changes instigated by the Lord of the Admiralty, Earl St Vincent. He was also a willing supporter of the good works of his wife, Mary Whitbread, in looking after the dockyard workers' families, sick seamen and seafarer's orphans. Grey was created 1st Baronet of Falloden on 29 July 1814 following the visit of the Allied Sovereigns to Portsmouth.

 

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