One of my 4th great grandfathers was a British naval officer, Rowland Mainwaring (1782 – 1862). I have written about the early years of his career in my post Midshipman Rowland Mainwaring.

At the Battle of the Nile, Rowland Mainwaring was a midshipman on HMS Majestic, a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line, George Blagdon Westcott, captain. Westcott was killed, and Mainwaring moved to the Thalia, a 36-gun frigate.

In about 1799 Mainwaring moved to the Defence, a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line, commanded by Lord Henry Paulet. Mainwaring completed his time as midshipman under Paulet.

The Defence served off Lisbon and Cadiz, and in the Mediterranean. During 1800 the boats of the Defence were active in inshore operations, capturing the Nochette and several gunboats at St. Croix on 11 June, and assisting in the capture and destruction of boats in Bourgneuf Bay on 1 July. Head-money (a reward paid per head of captured enemy personnel) was distributed 25 years later to those involved in the action of 1 July and for capturing the ship La Thérèse of 20 guns, a lugger of 12, a cutter, and two schooners of 6 guns each.

Mainwaring was present on the Defence at the Battle of Copenhagen of 2 April 1801. The Defence was in the reserve and did not see action.

Nelson Forcing the Passage of the Sound, 30 March 1801, prior to the Battle of Copenhagen painting by Robert Dodd in the collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich.
The leading British ship, the ‘Monarch‘, 74 guns, is in the right foreground. She is followed to the right by the ‘Elephant‘, 74 guns, with Nelson flying his flag as Vice-Admiral of the Blue. These leading ships and several others following to the left have passed the batteries of Kronborg Castle. Although the Defence is not pictured it was also a 74 gun ship.

Mainwaring was made lieutenant on 7 December 1801 and was appointed to the Harpy sloop. His later appointments were:

  • 4 August 1802 to the Leda, Captain Robert Honeyman, 38 guns
  • 8 November 1804 to the Terrible, a 74-gun third rate ship of the line, serving again under Lord Henry Paulet
  • 7 October 1806 as first lieutenant to the Narcissus, a 32-gun fifth-rate frigate

On the Leda, Mainwaring was entrusted with the command of a boat fitted with what was called an ‘explosion-machine’ in an attack upon the Boulogne flotilla.

The attack on Boulogne Oct 1804: ‘A S. E. View of the Town and Harbour of Boulogne with the Encampments on the Heights. Shewing also the situation of the French and English Squadrons as taken at anchor by E. D. Lewis H.M.S. Tartarus off Boulogne’. The flagship, centre bottom is identified as the ‘Monarch‘, 74, Admiral Lord Keith, then in charge of the anti-invasion blockade. The Leda is the second in from the bottom left-hand corner.
Drawing held in the collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

In August 1806 the Terrible was caught in a hurricane and dismasted. The Terrible was at the time in pursuit, in the West Indies, of a French squadron under the command of Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon.

An account of the dismasting of the Terrible from The Annual Biography and Obituary, Volume 17 (1833) retrieved through Google Books.

In later life Mainwaring commissioned seven marine paintings. These are mentioned in his will. Two have been mislaid; five are at Whitmore Hall. One is of the extant paintings is ‘The Battle of the Nile’ (mentioned in an earlier post). Another appears to be of a dismasted ship, perhaps the Terrible.

One of the marine paintings at Whitmore Hall

Mainwaring had been on continuous service from 1795 to the end of 1810. In December 1810, he took leave to marry Sophia Duff. This was followed by eight months of half-pay. On 16 August 1811 he was appointed to the Menelaus, a 38-gun fifth rate frigate.

His service on the Menelaus included the following:

  • the capturing, without loss, of the St. Josef, a French brig, pierced for 16 guns, lying within pistol-shot of one battery, flanked by another, and also by musketry from the shore, near the Bay of Fréjus in the south of France. The account was gazetted on 25 April 1812.
  • in 1812, Menelaus was part of the blockade of Toulon in the Mediterranean and operated against coastal harbours, shipping and privateers off the southern coast of France with some success. Mainwaring was noticed for the following:
    • the attention and assistance he afforded on the occasion of the Menelaus (together with the Havannah and Furieuse frigates and Pelorus brig) being chased by the French Toulon fleet
    • by his admirable gallantry and good conduct when the Menelaus, having pursued the French 40-gun frigate Pauline and 16-gun brig Ecureuil under the batteries in the vicinity of Toulon, once more effected a masterly retreat from the fleet that had come out to their protection, by passing through its line ahead of one 74, and astern of another
    • by the manner in which, under circumstances peculiarly honourable to him, he boarded and brought out the French xebec or zebec La Paix, mounting 2 long 6-pounders, with a complement of 30 men, from within pistol-shot of the towers of Terracina, under a galling fire
    • by his highly creditable behaviour in cutting out, under a heavy fire from the batteries in the river Mignone, near Civita Vecchia, the French letter-of-marque St. Esprit, pierced for 12 guns, but with only 2 6-pounders mounted
    • by his conspicuous gallantry in burning the enemy’s vessels in the port of Mejan (Méjean), Marseilles, in September 1812.
Watercolour Painting by Nicholas Pocock of the British ship, HMS Menelaus. HMS Eclair is on the left, Menelaus, right of centre in in starboard bow view. To the far right is a Mediterranean setee. Pocock served as a lieutenant in the Adriatic from 1811 to 1814. From the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, UK.

On 13 August 1812 Mainwaring was awarded a second promotal commission to the rank of commander for gallantry and valor.  He later served in these vessels:

  • Edinburgh, a 74-gun third rate ship of the line
  • Gorgon, a hospital-ship at Malta
  • Undaunted, a Lively-class fifth-rate 38-gun frigate
  • Euryalus, a 36-gun Apollo-class frigate
  • Caledonia, a 120-gun first-rate ship of the line; she was Admiral Pellew’s flagship in the Mediterranean.
  • Kite, a 16-gun brig-sloop
  • Paulina, a 16-gun brig-sloop of the Seagull class

Rowland Mainwaring kept a diary all his life. He published several books based on his diary. One of these was ‘The First Five Years of My Married Life‘ (1853), a record of Mainwaring’s activities afloat and of his domestic life. The book includes a detailed account of 1815, his last year of active service.

In 1815 Mainwaring was engaged in operations against American privateers operating in the Mediterranean against English shipping as a consequence of the ongoing Anglo-American war of 1812. Although the war officially ended in December 1814, Mainwaring received communication only on 26 April of the ratification on 17 February of the treaty of peace with America, and thus all hostilities in the Mediterranean ceased 40 days after that date, that is by 29 March.

In February 1815 on the Paulina Mainwaring was directed to proceed from Palermo to Corfu with dispatches and from there to Zante (Zakynthos, Greece), with the transport (chartered vessel) Enterprise, and embark the Phygalian Marbles, later known as the Elgin Marbles or Parthenon Marbles, for conveyance to Malta; they were then to be transported England. Mainwaring was annoyed by the orders for he had hoped to collect bounty from capturing privateers instead. He estimated his loss as £2,000 (between £150,000 and £1.5 million in today’s money).

There was a flurry of activity after Napoleon escaped from Elba in late February 1815. The Paulina was first involved in escorting a convoy of transports from Bona, present-day Annaba in Algeria, and Cagliari in Italy. The Paulina then proceeded to Naples and Gaeta in charge of a convoy with arms and ammunition for the Austrian forces. On arrival there was news of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo and Gaeta surrendered.

He proceeded to Genoa and Marseille and at Marseille attended a grand civic ball. In September he was back in Valetta and reunited with his wife and her third child who had been born on 14 August. This son was named in honour of Edward Pellew, Lord Exmouth, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean, and who had consented to be the child’s godfather. The Paulina was then ordered to proceed to Plymouth. He sailed on 30 September with his “family, goods and chattels, a milch goat, and various little comforts and luxuries for the voyage home.”

Map showing the Mediterranean ports mentioned by Mainwaring in 1815

Mainwaring was paid off in November 1815 and did not serve afloat again.

On the accession of William IV, Rowland Mainwaring was one of the old war-officers selected by Lord Melville as deserving of promotion. He was posted by commission–made captain–on 22 July 1830, one of 18 commanders elevated to the rank at that time.

On 29 September 1855 he was promoted to Rear-Admiral. He was one of 11 Captains on the Retired List promoted to be Retired Rear Admiral without increase of pay, on terms proposed in the London Gazette of September 1, 1846. Of the 11 captains promoted on 29 September 1855, 9 had been promoted to captain at the same time as Mainwaring.

Portrait of Captain Rowland Mainwaring painted by Mr. John Phillip, afterwards R.A., at Whitmore in May 1841


  • O’Byrne, William R. A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant, Inclusive. 1849. Page 711. Retrieved through
  • Marshall, John. Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes … with Copious Addenda: Captains. Commanders. 1832. Pages 126 – 130. Retrieved through Google Books.
  • Mainwaring, Rowland. The First Five Years of My Married Life. 1853. Retrieved through Google Books.
  • Cavenagh-Mainwaring, James Gordon. The Mainwarings of Whitmore and Biddulph in the County of Stafford; an account of the family, and its connections by marriage and descent, with special reference to the manor of Whitmore, with appendices, pedigrees and illustrations. 1934. Pages 104115Retrieved through
  • Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Christine and Britton, Heather, (editor.) Whitmore Hall : from 1066 to Waltzing Matilda. Adelaide Peacock Publications, 2013. Pages 82 – 92.

Related posts

Wikitree: Rowland Mainwaring (1782 – 1862)