SHERBROOKE John Coape - Autograph Letter Signed 1808
John Coape SHERBROOKE (1764-1830)
Autograph Letter Signed (“J.C. Sherbrooke”) to Lt. Gen. Sir John Stuart, giving news of a meeting with Lord Collingwood, an exchange of prisoners, the situation in Naples and Rome, and many further details relating to the situation in the Mediterranean.
4 pages folio, Cheltenham, 1 August 1808.
“I hope you received a letter which I did myself the Honor of addressing to you from Gibraltar per Packet. . . on the 20th Ulto. . . . we were kept in quarantine for upwards of eight and forty hours . . . I was on board the Ocean [Collingwood’s flagship] for near three Hours at Anchor off Cadiz. Lord Collingwood received me very kindly . . . His Lordship expressed himself much pleased at the exertions I had made to get the Ships Company of the Delight and the other seamen who had been prisoners with the French in Calabria exchanged. . . he had got favourable answers . . . to have pensions granted to those seamen . . . wounded in bringing away the troops from Scylla . . . Lord Castlereagh was not in town when I arrived there. Your letters to His Lordship . . . I left . . . at the Office in Downing Street. . . . Lord Castlereagh among other questions asked whether in my opinion the people in Italy were likely to follow the example of the Spaniards. I told him that I thought the people ripe for revolt against the French both in the Kingdom of Naples and in the Roman States, but that I could not help entertaining some doubts whether the inhabitants of the former would if they did rise declare in favor of King Ferdinand. . . [I told him] how necessary I thought it that a larger proportion of Transports should be kept up in the Mediterranean.
The Commander in Chief [the Duke of York] was also out of Town but I have since been honoured with an Audience of H.R.H. . . I also gave . . . for H.R. Highness’s perusal Major Williams’s report of the capture of the French Privateer off Scylla . . .”
Sir John Coape Sherbrooke served in the Peninsula under Wellington until his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia in 1811. The information he conveyed from his correspondent, Sir John Stuart, commander of the land forces in the Mediterranean, was particularly important.
In the summer of 1808, Joachim Murat became King of Naples. One of his first acts was an attempt to re-take the island of Capri, which had fallen to British forces under Admiral Sidney Smith two years earlier. Two months after this letter, in October 1808, Stuart received an urgent call for assistance from Sir Hudson Lowe, the commandant at Capri. Although he immediately sent a convoy, it arrived too late. Lowe had surrendered.
The exiled King Ferdinand had taken refuge in Sicily, protected by British troops. Stuart remained wary of Murat’s intentions towards Sicily, with good reason, after the capitulation of Capri. In 1810, Stuart resigned from what he saw as an impossible position given the forces available.
The following year was to see the arrival in Sicily of Lord William Bentinck as British representative, who would impose a more liberal, or British-based, constitution on the island, to the great benefit of Sicily. His reforms were unfortunately reversed when the British left and Ferdinand was restored in 1815.
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