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He was born in the parish of Mary-le-bone in London, on the 14th of August, 1779; and was the fourth and youngest> but only surviving son of Lieutenant-Colonel George Hastings, of the third Guards, and seventh in descent from Francis the second Earl of Huntingdon, and K.G. who died in 1560His mother was Sarah, daughter of Colonel Thomas Hodges, by a daughter of Sir Thomas Fowler, Bart. It was remark– able that, although up to a certain period there were much nearer male heirs to the Earldom in the branch of Hastings, of Woodlands, the branch of which the Earl now deceased was a member had been especially cherished by the heads of the family. Colonel George Hastings was even designed for the husband of Lady Selina, who prematurely died in 1763.
When about eight years of age, Francis Earl of Huntingdon, his predecessor, placed the subject of our memoir at Repton school. He had remained there nearly three years, when the Earl died; and it was found that whilst his Baronies and the bulk of his estates had devolved on his sister, the Countess of Moira, and he had amply provided for an illegitimate son, the Colonel and his elder brother, the Reverend Theophilus (who then in fact became Earl of Huntingdon), were dismissed with but trifling legacies. Earl Moira, to whom the subject of our memoir, then eleven years of age, was now taught to look for patronage, soon after removed him to Bettesworth Academy at Chelsea, in order to fit him for the naval profession.
Having completed the usual preparatory course of study, he was placed, early in 1793, under the protection of Sir J. B. Warren, who at that time commanded the Flora, 36, fitting at Deptford. Sir John sailed soon after from Spithead, together with the Inconstant, Captain Montgomery, as convoy to the Lisbon and Oporto fleets; and during a cruise taken in the interval between the arrival and departure of the convoy, chased a frigate into l'Orient, and captured l'Affamée privateer. The Flora, in company with the Endymion frigate and Fury sloop, afterwards proceeded to escort the two merchant fleets,
consisting of ninety-seven sail, and arrived safely with them in the Downs, about the middle of October. In November of the same year, Sir John received orders to hoist the flag of Rear-Admiral M*Bride, who commanded a squadron of several frigates, then ordered to escort, to the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, the British troops under the Earl of Moira, destined to succour the Royalist army in France; when Lord Moira and several officers of high rank embarked in the Flora. After the disembarkation of four thousand men at Guernsey, and their subsequent removal to the Isle of Wight, Admiral M*Bride shifted his flag, and sent Sir John, with the Crescent, la Nymphe, Druid, and Fury sloop, under his command, to cruise off the coast of France, where he captured la Vipere, a national corvette brig of 18 guns and 110 men, off Havre de Grace, and drove two other cruisers of the enemy on shore. In March 1794, after several months spent off Cherbourg, Havre, and St. Maloes, with Admiral M*Bride's force, Sir John was by that officer despatched as Commodore in the Flora, with the Arethusa, Sir E. Pellew; Concorde, Sir R. Strachan; la Nymphe, Captain Murray; and Melampus, Captain Wills, under his orders, to watch a squadron composed of the best frigates the French navy then possessed, which generally rendezvoused at Cherbourg or Cancale. They were found in Cancale bay, April 23. 1794, lying in wait for the trading fleet from Cork; and, after a contest of three hours, the British squadron succeeded in capturing la Pomone 44, l'Engageant 34, and le Babet 22. The subject of our memoir was at this period Aid-de-camp to Sir John Warren, and continued so, till removed from under his command in 1799. This was the first general action in which Lord Huntingdon was present. During the whole of the contest he kept his station on deck, firm and collected: though so rough a taste of his profession might be supposed to produce other sensations in a mind not long released from school, more especially as the only man lost in the Flora was killed by a cannon ball so close to him, that the brains bespattered his face
and clothes all over. Sir J. B. Warren was soon after created a Knight of the Bath. After some time spent in refitting at Portsmouth, the Flora, together with the Arethusa and Melampus, were again detached from Admiral M*Bride's squadron, on a separate service, cruising off the western coast of Brittany and la Vendée. At one time, owing to a peculiar combination of chances, they had no alternative but to steer directly through a part of the great convoy bound from America to France, laden with provisions and corn for the latter, then afflicted by her extremest distress. In this critical predicament they were pursued by three of the enemy's seventy-fours and three frigates, for several hours; and, though Sir John passed within sail, and spoke some of the rear of the convoy, he at length escaped from so unequal a force by superior nautical skill. At the commencement of 1795, Sir John received orders to hoist his broad pendant on board la Pomone 44, (the largest of the frigates captured in the late action,) as Commodore of the expedition then planned against the French coast, as an effort to assist the French loyalists. During the gallant and perilous, but unsuccessful operations at Quiberon Bay, Lord Huntingdon, being engaged in the boats commanded by Lieutenant Burke, in the desperate service of bringing out a British vessel which had run on shore, received a severe wound in the left leg. After the failure of the enterprise at Quiberon, Sir John proceeded to the mouth of the Loire, where the Isle Dieu was for three months occupied by the British forces; and after its evacuation, towards the close of 1795, he was employed in continual and successful cruises off the coast of France, under the immediate orders of the Admiralty. By the vigilance of his squadron, and that under Sir E. Pellew, the convoys to the French fleet at Brest were continually intercepted. At one time, on occasion of his having captured l'Etoile sloop of war and four merchantmen, the Committee of Merchantseamen, for the encouragement of the capture of the enemy's
privateers, presented him with a sword of 100 guineas value, in consideration of the protection which the commerce of Great Britain had derived from his squadron; the list of its services then amounting to no less than 23 neutrals detained; 87 merchantmen captured, and 54 destroyed; 25 ships and vessels of war captured, and 12 destroyed; besides 19 vessels re-captured, making a total of 220 sail. Soon after this the squadron was attached to the Channel fleet, and afterwards dispersed on other points of service. In 1797, Sir John Warren was appointed to the Canada 74, stationed off Brest to watch the enemy's fleet; and in October of the following year, when it at last succeeded in escaping, he was, by Sir Alan Gardner, despatched in pursuit. After struggling with very unfavourable weather, he arrived off the coast of Ireland without meeting a single vessel of war; but at length, on the 12th of October, he fell in with and engaged La Hoche 80, eight frigates, a schooner, and a brig, which were bearing succour to the Irish rebels. The ship of the line and three frigates were taken, as in the subsequent pursuit were three others of those which were put to flight. After this brilliant affair Sir John Warren received the thanks of the Parliaments both of England and of Ireland, and was honoured with the freedom of the cities of London and Londonderry. Lord Huntingdon having accompanied his friend and patron through six years of arduous service, being present in every action without receiving any very serious injury, had thus honourably gone through the professional ordeal of a midshipman, and now passed his examination for a lieutenancy. He was thereupon appointed acting-lieutenant in the Sylph brig, commanded by Captain J. Chambers White, and in that vessel cruised for two months off the Western Islands, and was present at the capture of two Spanish merchantmen. On his return to Plymouth with the prizes, he received the commission of second lieutenant of his Majesty's sloop Racoon, Captain Lloyd, of Sheerness, and continuing on the Downs station for the protection of trade, captured several row-boat privateers, and re-took the Benjamin and Elizabeth of London, belonging to Alderman Lushington. Early in 1800, he was appointed first lieutenant of the Thisbe, Captain Morrison, in which ship he accompanied the expedition to Egypt, and served the whole of that naval campaign. He returned late in 1801, and, on the subsequent short peace of Amiens, retired into Leicestershire, where he settled with his uncle the Rev. Theophilus Hastings, at Leke, Colonel Hastings, his father, having died shortly before. This interval of repose, however, as that of the country, was only of short duration. Through the interest of the immortal Nelson, he was appointed second lieutenant of l’Aigle, Captain Wolfe; and afterwards, on the breaking out of the new war in 1803, was sent from Portsmouth to Weymouth Roads to impress seamen for his Majesty's service. Whilst performing this unpopular duty in the island of Portland, the party under his command were furiously attacked by a tumultuous assemblage, and a conflict ensued, in which seventeen of his men were wounded, and three of the assailants unfortunately lost their lives. Captain Wolfe immediately despatched him to London to lay a proper account of this unpleasant affair before Government; but on his landing at Weymouth, he was recognised by the mob from Portland, who seized him, and by their threats compelled the Mayor to commit him to Dorchester gaol for the alleged murder. Lieutenant Hastings humanely complied, and even advised the Mayor to acquiesce in the wishes of the populace for his detention. He was allowed to remain in confinement for six weeks, and then having been removed by Habeas Corpus to Westminster, was there bailed by Lord Moira. Immediately on his liberation, with a rapidity of movement which characterises the elasticity of youthful spirits, as well as the vicissitudes of the naval profession, he posted off to Ipswich, carried to London the lady afterwards his first Countess, to whom he had previously paid his addresses, and married her at St. Ann’s, Soho, May 12. 1803. This lady was Frances, third daughter of the Rev.