Sir Edward Codrington

Sir Edward Codrington, Vice Admiral

G. C. R. ETC.

 (27th April, 1770 – 28th April, 1851)

IN our last Part we offered an excuse for the non-publication of this Portrait, as advertised ; and we should, perhaps, have done the same again, in consequence of the continued delay of particular and exclusive documents on which we relied to construct our Memoir, had we not felt it our higher duty to keep faith, to the best of our ability, with that public which so largely patronizes our work.

This we also beg to offer as a farther apology for the following sketch not being what we could have wished, considering the great interest which has been excited by the distinguished officer to whom it relates.

ADMIRAL CODRINGTON traces his descent from a long line of distinguished ancestors ; for John Codrington was standard-bearer to the heroic Henry V. The Codrington Library of All Souls, Oxford, was founded by Christopher, the son of another Christopher, and both Governors of Barbadoes in the reigns of Charles H. and William III. The family acquired the rank of Baronetcy in the time of George I., and its head is now Sir Christopher Bethel Codrington, of Doddington, Somersetshire, the elder brother of our gallant Admiral.

Edward, being destined for the Navy, commenced his career previous to the breaking out of the French revolutionary war ; and rose, by the usual gradations, through a life of constant and active service, till, in 1802, the command of the Orion, of 74 guns, was confided to him as a Post Captain. In the same year he married a daughter of — Hall, Esq., of Old Windsor.

The Orion and its brave commander shone in the glorious battle of Trafalgar; after which, Captain Codrington was promoted to the Blake, the flag-ship of Admiral Gardner at the bombardment of Flushing, in 1809. The Blake was so much exposed to the batteries in this service, that she was repeatedly set on fire by their hot shot ; but maintained her station to the last, and won an ample share of the honors of the day.

In 1814 Captain Codrington hoisted his flag as a Rear Admiral ; and, on the extension of the Order of the Bath in the following year, his brilliant exploits were rewarded by his Sovereign creating him a Knight Commander. Still continuing to advance in his profession, and to serve the best interests of his country by his zeal, intrepidity, and talent, he was raised to be a Vice-Admiral in 1825, and was at the same time appointed to the very important command of the Mediterranean fleet.

The Asia received his flag; and the crisis which had been gradually approaching_ in the affairs of Turkey, rendered its floating in these seas an omen of infinite consequence, not only to the future fate of that empire, but to the destinies of the other powers of Europe, all more or less involved in the result. We soon saw the extraordinary spectacle of the fleets of England, France, and Russia, combined for one object, under the orders of a British admiral ; and the memorable battle of Navarino ensued.

Provoked by the continued cruelties of Ibrahim Pacha, in direct disregard of his own engagements, and tired of blockading the Turks in the harbour, the allied fleets entered, with the avowed purpose of enforcing the fulfilment of the stipulations which had been agreed to. They found the adversary fully prepared for battle—which one of those collisions, so likely to ensue, where so many armed, ardent, and hostile men were frowning defiance at each other, speedily brought on. The leading ships, the Asia, Genoa, and Albion, passed the batteries on shore unmolested, and anchored ; but on the Dartmouth's sending a boat towards a fire-ship, it was fired upon, and the action, after a few attempts at explanation, became general. The Turks fought with the bravery of optimists and predestinarians ; and their resistance would have reflected fame upon the natives of any country, standing however high in the scale of naval skill and superiority. But their individual courage and unquenchable devotedness were vain against the force they opposed ; and, rivalling each other in valour and seamanship, the allies finally overpowered them with immense slaughter.

Among the most prominent for coolness and resolution, was the English Admiral ; who stood, during the whole of the murderous engagement, upon the poop of his vessel, encouraging the daring fellows under his immediate command, and directing the movements of the combined fleet. Thus exposed to the hottest of the enemy's fire, his escape from wounds or death seems almost miraculous ; for his captain of marines, several other officers, and many of his finest men, fell by his side. Among the wounded was one of his own sons, a midshipman in the Asia.

The effect of this battle upon the war, maintained on land by the Turks against the Russians and the Greeks, has been of the utmost consequence. On the one side, crippled of his fleet, the Ottoman was defeated, and compelled to accept of peace. On the other, Greece, for the first time, was enabled truly to erect her independence, and to reassume her rank, after the lapse of many centuries as a nation among the nations of the earth.

With every patriotic mind warmed by the prospect of this auspicious event, the news of the victory of the 20th of October was received with bursts of enthusiasm in England. Political considerations, however, induced His Majesty's government to throw a damp over the popular sentiment and rejoicings ; and Ministers spoke of the battle of Navarino, so full of naval and national glory, as " untoward," and calculated to injure our most ancient ally.

So striking a contradiction of conduct to what had hitherto been the sure recompense of our ocean heroes, gave rise to many debates in Parliament, and virtually led to the remarkable trial of Captain Dickenson by a court-martial at Ports-mouth. These matters are too recent to require repetition, and it is not, probably, in the present generation, that the real springs which produced them, can be investigated and unfolded. Suffice it to say, that they evidently proceeded more from the state of parties, and from politics, than from any fair appreciation of the service performed, of the gallantry displayed, or of the gratifying results.

Sir Edward Codrington's merits, however, were not overlooked. Beside the Grand Cross of the Bath of his native country, he wears on his breast the sparkling honors of Russia and France. The following is a copy of the letter which accompanied the former of these, written by the Emperor Nicolas :—

" Your name, from this time forward, belongs to posterity, By praise I should but weaken the glory which surrounds it. But I must offer you a brilliant mark of the gratitude and esteem you have inspired in Russia. With this view, I send to you herewith the military order of St. George. The Russian navy is proud of having obtained your commendation at Navarin and, on my own part, I feel the most lively pleasure in thus assuring you of the sentiments of consideration Which I entertain towards you.

Since this period, Sir Edward Codrington has travelled to Saint Petersburg, where he was received by the Emperor in the most honorable manner, and distinguished by the Monarch and the Court in every way which could delight a noble ambition.

Sir Edward has also visited Paris, where indeed he now is, and met with a reception equally flattering ; so that, though he may have felt 'partial disappointment in a portion of his own country, he may well reconcile his mind to it, in enjoying the admiration of a vast majority at home, and the unmingled applause of whole nations abroad.