Black Dick - Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe, K.G. 1794
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52cm (20.5in) x 44cm (17.5in)
Mezzotint. Half length in looking forward, wearing 1787 pattern admiral’s undress uniform, jacket fastened by one button over centre of his chest, arms at his sides. Engraved by Richard Dunkarton after John Singleton Copley. Published by Copley. Under verre eglomise. Framed.
Admiral of the Fleet 1st Earl Howe (1726-1799) joined the Royal Navy at the age of 13 and fought in the Pacific, during the war of Austrian Succession, the Jacobite Rebellion, the Seven Years War and the American Revolution. He became a Lord of the Admiralty, but resigned following political disagreements, was Treasurer of the Navy for a period and returned to active service to lead the Channel Fleet in 1782. In that role he set about relieving the two-year siege of the vital fortress of Gibraltar and when the hostilities ended he rose to First Lord of the Admiralty. Howe, whose dark complexion earned him the nickname Black Dick, is credited with perfecting the Royal Navy's signalling system. In 1794 he won the battle of the Glorious First of June. When he retired in 1797 he had risen to Admiral of the Fleet. Howe's last major contribution to British naval history came that same year. In May he was called on to pacify Spithead mutineers: he spent twelve hours being rowed round the fleet and speaking to the men following which peace was restored. For this he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Garter on 2 June 1797. His brother was William, Viscount Howe, who commanded the British army during the War of American Independence.