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Richard Chaloner Cobbe (a descendant of the Earls of Godolphin), Rector of Great Marlow, and son of the Rev. R. C. Cobbe, nephew and chaplain to Dr. Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin, and Vicar of St. Ann's and of Finglass, and treasurer of St. Patrick's. By this lady, who died in 1820, the Earl had four sons and four daughters, who shall be more particularly noticed hereafter.
Early in the morning following his marriage, Lieutenant Hastings was obliged to part from his bride to join his sloop at Plymouth, in consequence of peremptory orders to that effect. On his arrival, he found l'Aigle just getting under weigh for a cruise, to intercept French merchantmen then coming from the West Indies; and he was fortunate in making some very valuable captures before his return to stand his trial at the Summer Assizes at Dorchester. At the necessary time, he and his brother officers gave themselves up to the law, and were all honourably acquitted.
Lieutenant Hastings was next removed by his friend Lord Nelson to the Diamond 38, Captain Elphinstone, where he remained till the death, in 1804, of his uncle the old Leicestershire clergyman (then in right Earl of Huntingdon), on which event he procured leave of absence from the Admiralty to investigate his claim to the dormant earldom. Unhappily, however, he was prevented from prosecuting his right at that time by peculiar and discouraging circumstances; and after some enquiry respecting legal expenses, which only served to deter him, he turned once more to the tardy honours of his profession in lieu of the hereditary dignities which seemed lost to him. In the latter end of the same year he was appointed second lieutenant in the Audacious, Captain Lewford, in which ship he served in the Channel fleet till 1805. Another change then made him flag lieutenant to Admiral Douglas, in the Hibernia, where he continued until the Admiral struck his flag.
At this period his Lordship, perhaps weary of such frequent changes with but little advancement, repaired to London, and waited on Lord Moira, expecting, in view of his long and various services, and through the recommendation of that nobleman, the rank of Commander; but was told that Lord Barham had so completely shut the door of promotion, that his only chance was to go out to the West Indies, and wait a death vacancy. This proposal of his noble relation he indignantly rejected, as both his elder brothers, sent out to the same quarter by Lord Moira's interest, had fallen victims to the inhospitable climate. After this refusal, Lord Moira had him appointed Acting Ordnance Barrack-master in the Isle of Wight; and, in 1808, Ordnance Store-keeper in Enniskillen. In this humble situation, on a salary of 150l. his Lordship lived for more than nine years in domestic retirement, the honours of his ancestors and the rights of his birth almost forgotten. Among a warm-hearted and hospitable people, his benevolent and generous nature, and the conciliating affability of his manners, at once effaced all distinctions of country, and made him beloved and respected by all classes of society. In every scheme of charity or public benefit he took a ready interest and a leading part; and the private relief administered to the poor in seasons of sickness or distress by his family, is written on many a grateful memory, and will long be recollected with blessings. It was towards the close of the above-mentioned period that an accidental conversation, in a social hour, between the Earl and Mr. Henry Nugent Bell, a gentleman in the profession of the law, with whom, and with whose family, His Lordship had long been on terms of intimate friendship, led to the revival, and ultimately to the establishment, of his hereditary claim to the Earldom of Huntingdon. Mr. Bell's most interesting narrative of his singular and even romantic adventures in the pursuit of this object was published in 1820 *; and not only is in all probability the most entertaining of any genealogical works extant, but exhibits a noble spectacle of determined perseverance in what was felt to be the cause of justice and right. To that narra
tive we must refer for a detail of Mr. Bell's extraordinary and indefatigable exertions. The claim having been at length submitted by the Crown to the Attorney-General (Sir Samuel Shepherd) for his consideration, in the comparatively short space of nine months Mr. Bell was successful in proving to that learned gentleman the justice of his noble client's pretensions. The Attorney-General made an official report accordingly; and, without the usual course of reference to a committee of privileges, his Majesty's writ of summons, under the Great Seal, was issued, requiring the attendance, in the House of Peers, of Hans Francis Earl of Huntingdon. His Lordship, in consequence, took the oaths and his seat, on the 14th of January, 1819, at the opening of a new session of parliament. Early in the following March, Lord Huntingdon, accompanied by Mr. Bell and two other friends, went down to Leicestershire for the purpose of making certain legal entries preparatory to an attempt to recover various estates which were considered to be vested in him as Earl of Huntingdon. When they reached Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the inhabitants, as soon as the object of their visit became generally known, pressed round in hundreds to get a glimpse of His Lordship, and to express their simple, but honest and hearty congratulations. Several poor old men fell on their knees and blessed him as he alighted from his carriage. These testimonies of attachment and respect His Lordship received and returned with the most affable condescension; and, after he entered the inn, he went forward and showed himself at the window, saluting the assembled and eager multitude, who spoke their spontaneous welcome by reiterated cheers. Two days after, the party proceeded to the ruins of Ashby-de-la-Zouch castle, to make entry on that spot, so memorable in English history. When they had reached it, the pressure of the crowd became so great, that it was impossible to make the entry in the sight and hearing of the appointed witnesses, unless the people would give place. Under these circumstances, His Lordship jocularly called out: – “Gentlemen, make a ring, and let me
have fair play !” This kind of milling appeal, although His Lordship was by no means connected with the fancy, had the desired effect. The ceremony was then proceeded with and finished amidst general acclamations. Every part of the old castle ruins, on which it was possible to perch, or to which it was possible to cling, was literally alive with spectators, whose cheers must have been heard at a considerable distance. The noble Lord having intimated his intention to speak to the people, silence was obtained, and he then addressed them with the animation naturally excited by such a scene. “I come not here,” said His Lordship, “to deprive any man of his property, but merely to seek the recovery of that which I am advised, and which I believe, is my hereditary right. The present ceremony is nothing more than a mere form of law, for the execution of which I am aware I leave myself open to an action of trespass; but it is a necessary step on my part, in order to anticipate certain statutes within the operation of which the lapse of time has nearly brought me. That the land on which I stand is mine, I will not presume to say; but I believe it to be my lawful inheritance, and as such I make entry on it. If I should prove successful in the further prosecution of my rights, I beg you to believe that my intentions and feelings towards you as friends and tenantry will be suitable to so interesting a connection, and such as a well-disposed landlord may cherish and avow. My predecessors, whose remains lie in yonder cemetery (pointing to the contiguous chapel of St. Helen's, where many of the Earls of Huntingdon are buried), have been your lords for centuries past, and have always carried with them to their graves the prayers and regrets of their people. It will be my highest ambition to imitate their example. My maxim will be “Live, and let live;’ for nothing ought to give a landlord greater gratification than to see a happy and flourishing tenantry around him. As for the boys here, if it please God that I recover these possessions, I promise to keep a pack of the best dogs in the country for their amusement; and as for the girls, they shall all have husbands without hunting for them. Now, my friends, I entreat you to
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return to your several homes, and take with you my warmest thanks for this early manifestation of your good disposition towards me, and my best wishes for your prosperity and happiness. God bless you all.” His Lordship concluded under evident emotions, honourable to his heart, and amidst the applause and blessings of the multitude. The people afterwards insisted on drawing his carriage through the streets of Ashbyde-la-Zouch; which they did, amidst the often and enthusiastically repeated cry of “Long live the Plantagenet ! the Hastings | Long live the race of King Edward | " At Belton (where His Lordship visited the tomb of his fathers), at Melbourne, at Castle-Donnington, and at Loughborough, his reception was equally flattering; and at Leicester the Mayor and Corporation waited on His Lordship with their congratulations, and remained with him a considerable time. In his subsequent endeavours, however, to recover for the Earl the estates which had formerly supported the title, Mr. Bell did not meet with the success which had attended his efforts to establish the claim to the title itself. The difficulty was increased by the circumstance of the Marquis of Hastings having sold many of those estates. The Earl being, therefore, still dependent on his profession, in March, 1821, ob
tained the rank of Commander, and was appointed to com-'
mand the Chanticleer, in which he proceeded to the Mediterranean. During his absence, on December 13. he was appointed Governor of Dominica, and he was sworn into that post at a Privy Council held at Carlton-house, March 28. following. He held the government several years; but then, in consequence of misunderstandings with other authorities in the island, resigned, and returned home. On the 24th of May, 1824, his Lordship was promoted to the rank of PostCaptain: and on the 14th of August following, was appointed to command the Valorous, in which he again proceeded to the West Indies. From repeated illness, (arising from the climate, which, as before stated, had been fatal to his two elder brothers,) His Lordship was compelled to relinquish the com