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Elphinstone, Admiral George Keith, Admiral, 1st Viscount Keith (1746-1823)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 KEI
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Elphinstone, Admiral George Keith, Admiral, 1st Viscount Keith (1746-1823)
Date(s): [1772-1815]
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 124ft; 3,780cm
Name of creator(s): Elphinstone | George Keith | 1746-1823 | 1st Viscount Keith | Admiral


Administrative/Biographical history:

Elphinstone entered the Navy in 1761, became a lieutenant in 1770 and in 1772, having been promoted to commander, went to the Mediterranean in the SCORPION, where he remained until 1775. As a captain he then went to North America and commanded, in succession, the ROMNEY, 1775 to 1776, the PERSEUS, 1776 to 1780, and the WARWICK, 1780 to 1782, being present at the reduction of Charleston in 1780. Between 1782 and 1793 Elphinstone was unemployed until he took command of the ROBUST during the occupation and evacuation of Toulon. He was promoted to rear-admiral in 1794 and served in the Channel Fleet until, in 1795, he was appointed to command the expedition against the Cape of Good Hope. After the successful capture of the Cape he returned home, to encounter a French invasion force in Bantry Bay. He also received a peerage as Baron Keith, 1797. His next task was to assist in suppressing the mutinies at the Nore and Plymouth. In 1799 he was second-in-command to Earl St. Vincent, Mediterranean Fleet, succeeding to the command in the same year and holding it until 1802. When war broke out again, in 1803, Lord Keith became Commander-in-Chief of the North Sea Station where, until 1807, his prime concern was the protection of the English coasts against invasion. From 1812 to 1814 he commanded the Channel Fleet and again took this office during the Hundred Days. Finally, he was responsible for organizing the safe passage of Napoleon to St Helena He was made Viscount Keith in 1814 The only biography is by Alexander Allardyce, Admiral Lord Keith (London, 1882). The Navy Records Society published 'The Keith Papers' in 1926 (ed W.G. Perrin), 1950 and 1955 (ed C C Lloyd).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Adml George Keith Elphinstone, consisting of 168 volumes and 350 boxes of loose papers all of which include letters, orders and memoranda received between 1772 and 1815. Keith's active career, before he commanded a station, is well covered by correspondence From 1796, however, the papers become very extensive. There is considerable material on the reduction of the Cape of Good Hope and on other matters during the Cape command (15 vols, 7 boxes). As Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, he received letters from Lords Nelson, Minto and Elgin (1766-1841), Sir Sidney Smith and a number of Turkish potentates (80 vols, 100 boxes). The papers covering his North Sea Command illustrate strategic and day-to-day problems and there are a large number of letters from Admiral Sir Bartholomew Rowley (d 1811) at the Nore, Admiral Holloway (d.1826) in the Downs, Commodore Edward Owen in Boulogne and others (55 vols, 185 boxes). No less comprehensive are the records for the final Channel command with correspondence from Sir Home Popham (1762-1820), the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) and some letters relating to Napoleon's surrender (25 vols, 50 boxes). Keith's private papers form only a very small part of the collection hut as a flag-officer he kept the most routine of letters: for each major command, particularly that of the Mediterranean, there are numerous accounts and returns which provide a detailed picture of victualling and the other general problems of an overseas fleet. There are also complete lists of ships' dispositions for all his major commands.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

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Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were presented by Lord Lansdowne in 1930.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Jun 2011.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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