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Blakeney, William Blakeney

BLAKENEY, WILLIAM BLAKENEY, Baron (1672-1761), British soldier, was born at Mount Blakeney in Limerick in 1672. Destined by his father for politics, he soon showed a decided preference for a military career, and at the age of eighteen headed the tenants in defending the Blakeney estate against the Rapparees. As a volunteer he went to the war in Flanders, and at the siege of Venlo in 1702 won his commission. He served as a subaltern throughout Marlborough's campaigns, and is said to have been the first to drill troops by signal of drum or colour. For many years after the peace of Utrecht he served unnoticed, and was sixty-five years of age before he became a colonel. This neglect, which was said to be due to the hostility of Lord Verney, ceased when the duke of Richmond was appointed colonel of Blakeney's regiment, and thenceforward his advance was rapid. Brigadier-general in the Cartagena expedition of 1741, and major-general a little later, he distinguished himself by his gallant and successful defence of Stirling Castle against the Highlanders in 1745. Two years later George II. made him lieutenant-general and lieutenant-governor of Minorca. The governor of that island never set foot in it, and Blakeney was left in command for ten years.

In 1756 the Seven Years' War was preluded by a swift descent of the French on Minorca. Fifteen thousand troops under marshal the duc de Richelieu, escorted by a strong squadron under the marquis de la Gallisonnière, landed on the island on the 18th of April, and at once began the siege of Fort St Philip, where Blakeney commanded at most some 5000 soldiers and workmen. The defence, in spite of crumbling walls and rotted gun platforms, had already lasted a month when a British fleet under vice-admiral the Hon. John Byng appeared. La Gallisonnière and Byng fought, on the 20th of May, an indecisive battle, after which the relieving squadron sailed away and Blakeney was left to his fate. A second expedition subsequently appeared off Minorca, but it was then too late, for after a heroic resistance of seventy-one days the old general had been compelled to surrender the fort to Richelieu (April 18-June 28, 1756). Only the ruined fortifications were the prize of the victors. Blakeney and his little garrison were transported to Gibraltar with absolute liberty to serve again. Byng was tried and executed; Blakeney, on his return to England, found himself the hero of the nation. Rewards came freely to the veteran. He was made colonel of the Enniskillen regiment of infantry, knight of the Bath, and Baron Blakeney of Mount Blakeney in the Irish peerage. A little later Van Most's statue of him was erected in Dublin, and his popularity continued unabated for the short remainder of his life. He died on the 20th of September 1761, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

See Memoirs of General William Blakeney (1757).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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