Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord Collingwood
Cuthbert Collingwood, detail of the painting by Henry Howard at Greenwich Hospital.
Born(1748-09-26)26 September 1748
Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England
Died7 March 1810(1810-03-07) (aged 61)
HMS Ville de Paris, off Port Mahon, Mediterranean Sea
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Years of service1761–1810
RankVice-Admiral of the Red[1]
Commands heldMediterranean Fleet
Collingwood's Squadron
HMS Triumph
HMS Barfleur
HMS Excellent
HMS Prince
HMS Mediator
HMS Sampson
HMS Pelican
HMS Hinchinbrook
HMS Badger
Sarah Blackett
(m. 1791)

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood (26 September 1748 – 7 March 1810) was an admiral of the Royal Navy, notable as a partner with Lord Nelson in several of the British victories of the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently as Nelson's successor in commands.[2]

Early years[edit]

Collingwood was born in Newcastle upon Tyne. His early education was at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle. At the age of 12, he went to sea as a volunteer on board the sixth-rate HMS Shannon under the command of his cousin Captain Richard Brathwaite (or Braithwaite), who took charge of his nautical education. After several years of service under Brathwaite and a short period attached to HMS Lenox, a guardship at Portsmouth commanded by Captain Robert Roddam, Collingwood sailed to Boston in 1774 with Admiral Samuel Graves on board HMS Preston, where he fought in the British naval brigade at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, and was afterwards commissioned as a lieutenant on 17 June.

In 1777, Collingwood met Horatio Nelson when both served on the frigate HMS Lowestoffe. Two years later, Collingwood succeeded Nelson as commander of the brig HMS Badger on 20 June 1779, and on 22 March 1780 he again succeeded Nelson, this time as post-captain of HMS Hinchinbrook, a small frigate. Nelson had been the leader of a failed expedition to cross Central America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean by navigating boats along the San Juan River, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Leon. Nelson was debilitated by disease and had to recover before being promoted to a larger vessel, and Collingwood succeeded him in command of Hinchinbrook and brought the remainder of the expedition back to Jamaica.

Major command[edit]

After commanding another small frigate, HMS Pelican, in which he was shipwrecked by a hurricane in 1781, Collingwood was transferred to the 64-gun ship of the line HMS Sampson, and in 1783 he was appointed to HMS Mediator and posted to the West Indies. In 1784 he and Nelson were in Antigua where they both fell for the unobtainable American-born Mary Moutray. He and Nelson sketched each other and Collingwood kept the sketch.[3] Collingwood remained in the West Indies until the end of 1786, again, together with Nelson and this time his brother, Commander Wilfred Collingwood, preventing American ships from trading with the West Indies.

In 1786, Collingwood returned to England, where, with the exception of a voyage to the West Indies, he remained until 1793. In that year, he was appointed captain of HMS Prince, the flagship of Rear Admiral George Bowyer in the Channel Fleet.[4] On 16 June 1791, Collingwood married Sarah Blackett, daughter of the Newcastle merchant and politician John Erasmus Blackett.

As captain of HMS Barfleur, Collingwood was present at the Glorious First of June. On board HMS Excellent he participated in the victory of the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797, establishing a good reputation in the fleet for his conduct during the battle. After blockading Cadiz, he returned for a few weeks to Portsmouth to repair. At the beginning of 1799 Collingwood was raised to the rank of rear-admiral (of the White 14 February 1799; of the Red 1 January 1801) and, hoisting his flag in HMS Triumph, joined the Channel Fleet and sailed to the Mediterranean where the principal naval forces of France and Spain were assembled. Collingwood continued to be actively employed in blockading the enemy until the Peace of Amiens allowed him to return to England.[5]

With the resumption of hostilities with France in the spring of 1803 he left home, never to return. First he blockaded the French fleet off Brest. In 1804 he was promoted to vice-admiral (of the Blue 23 April 1804; of the Red 9 November 1805). Nearly two years were spent off Brest in anticipation for Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom. When the French fleet sailed from Toulon, Admiral Collingwood was appointed to command a squadron, with orders to pursue them. The combined fleets of France and Spain, after sailing to the West Indies, returned to Cadiz. On their way they encountered Collingwood's small squadron off Cadiz. He had only three ships with him; but he succeeded in avoiding their pursuit, although chased by 16 ships of the line. Before half of the enemy's force had entered the harbour he resumed the blockade, using false signals to disguise the small size of his squadron.[5] He was soon joined by Nelson who hoped to lure the combined fleet into a major engagement.

Battle of Trafalgar[edit]

The combined fleet sailed from Cadiz in October 1805. The Battle of Trafalgar immediately followed. Villeneuve, the French admiral, drew up his fleet in the form of a crescent. The British fleet bore down in two separate lines, the one led by Nelson in HMS Victory, and the other by Collingwood in HMS Royal Sovereign. Royal Sovereign was the swifter sailer, mainly because its hull had been given a new layer of copper which lacked the friction of old, well used copper and thus was much faster. Having drawn considerably ahead of the rest of the fleet, she was the first engaged. "See", said Nelson, pointing to Royal Sovereign as she penetrated the centre of the enemy's line, "see how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action!" Probably it was at the same moment that Collingwood, as if in response to the observation of his great commander, remarked to his captain, "What would Nelson give to be here?"[5]

Royal Sovereign closed with the Spanish admiral's ship and fired her broadsides with such rapidity and precision at Santa Ana that the Spanish ship was on the verge of sinking almost before another British ship had fired a gun.[6] Several other vessels came to Santa Ana's assistance and hemmed in Royal Sovereign on all sides; the latter, after being severely damaged, was relieved by the arrival of the rest of the British squadron, but was left unable to manoeuvre. Not long afterwards Santa Ana struck her colours.[5]

On the death of Nelson, Collingwood assumed his position as commander-in-chief, transferring his flag to the frigate HMS Euryalus. Knowing that a severe storm was in the offing, Nelson had intended that the fleet should anchor after the battle, but Collingwood chose not to issue such an order: many of the British ships and prizes were so damaged that they were unable to anchor, and Collingwood concentrated efforts on taking damaged vessels in tow. In the ensuing gale, many of the prizes were wrecked on the rocky shore and others were destroyed to prevent their recapture, though no British ship was lost.

On 9 November 1805, Collingwood was raised to the peerage as Baron Collingwood, of Caldburne and Hethpool in the County of Northumberland.[7] He also received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and was awarded a pension of £2000 per annum. Together with all Trafalgar captains and admirals, he also received a Naval Gold Medal, his third, after those for the Glorious First of June and Cape St Vincent.[8]

Only Nelson and Sir Edward Berry share the distinction of three gold medals for service during the wars against France.[9]

When not at sea he resided at Collingwood House in the town of Morpeth which lies some 15 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne and Chirton Hall in Chirton, now a western suburb of North Shields. He is known to have remarked, "whenever I think how I am to be happy again, my thoughts carry me back to Morpeth."

Later career[edit]

From Trafalgar until his death, no great naval action was fought. Although several small French fleets would attempt to run the blockade and one successfully landed troops in the Caribbean two months after Trafalgar, the majority were hunted down and overwhelmed in battle. Collingwood was occupied in important political and diplomatic transactions in the Mediterranean, in which he displayed tact and judgement. He requested to be relieved of his command of the fleet so that he might return home, however the government urgently required an admiral with the experience and skill of Collingwood to remain, on the grounds that his country could not dispense with his services in the face of the still potent threat that the French and their allies could pose. His health began to decline alarmingly in 1809 and he was forced to again request the Admiralty to allow him to return home, which was finally granted. Collingwood died as a result of cancer on board HMS Ville de Paris, off Port Mahon as he sailed for England, on 7 March 1810.[10] He was laid to rest beside Nelson in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.[11]


Silhouette of Collingwood drawn by Horatio Nelson when both were serving in the West Indies

Collingwood's merits as a naval officer were in many respects of the first order. His political judgement was remarkable and he was consulted on questions of general policy, of regulation, and even of trade. He was opposed to impressment and to flogging and was considered so kind and generous that he was called "father" by the common sailors. Nelson and Collingwood enjoyed a close friendship, from their first acquaintance in early life until Nelson's death at Trafalgar; and they are both entombed in St Paul's Cathedral.[5] As Collingwood died without male issue, his barony became extinct at his death.

Thackeray held that there was no better example of a virtuous Christian Knight than Collingwood.[12] Dudley Pope relates an aspect of Collingwood at the beginning of chapter three of his Life in Nelson's Navy: "Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson's second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce. He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow. Some of the oaks he planted are probably still growing more than a century and a half later ready to be cut to build ships of the line at a time when nuclear submarines are patrolling the seas, because Collingwood's purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country's safety depended." Collingwood once wrote to his wife that he'd rather his body be added to Britain's sea defences rather than given the pomp of a ceremonial burial.[13]

Sailor Robert Hay who served with Collingwood wrote that: "He and his dog Bounce were known to every member of the crew. How attentive he was to the health and comfort and happiness of his crew! A man who could not be happy under him, could have been happy nowhere; a look of displeasure from him was as bad as a dozen at the gangway from another man". and that: "a better seaman, a better friend to seamen - a more zealous defender of the country's rights and honour, never trod the quarterdeck."[13][14]



Letitia Elizabeth Landon celebrates the Admiral in her poetical illustration Admiral Lord Collingwood in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1833.[15] This is to an engraving of a variation on the painting by Henry Howard, apparently by his son Frank Howard.

Collingwood is fictionalized as "Admiral Sir John Thornton" in Patrick O'Brian's "The Ionian Mission."

Collingwood appears in Hornblower and the Atropos when Hornblower's ship joins the Mediterranean fleet a few months after Trafalgar.


The Collingwood Monument at Tynemouth
Memorial to Collingwood, St Paul's Cathedral, by Richard Westmacott[16]

The Maritime Warfare School of the Royal Navy is commissioned as HMS Collingwood, home to training for warfare, weapon engineering and communications disciplines.

The town of Collingwood, Ontario, on Georgian Bay in Canada, the suburb of Collingwood in the Australian city of Melbourne, the town of Collingwood, New Zealand and the Collingwood Channel (an entrance of Howe Sound near Vancouver, British Columbia), are named in his honour.

A large monument, The Collingwood Monument, stands in his honour and overlooks the River Tyne at Tynemouth. His Grade II listed statue was sculpted by John Graham Lough and stands atop a pedestal designed by John Dobson.[17] The four cannon on the walls flanking the steps at its base came from his flagship, Royal Sovereign.[18]

A battalion of the Royal Naval Division (1914 to 1919) was named after Collingwood. It took part in the Antwerp Campaign (October 1914) and at Gallipoli. The Collingwood Battalion received so many casualties at the 3rd battle of Krithia, Gallipoli, on 4 June 1915 that it never reformed.

One of the four houses at Collingwood's old school the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, is named after him. One of the five houses of British public school Churcher's College is named after him, as is one of the eleven houses at The Royal Hospital School. One of the three secondary Schools within Excelsior Academy in Newcastle was named after Collingwood in 2013.

March 2010 saw the 200th anniversary of Collingwood's death and a number of major events were organised by 'Collingwood 2010' on Tyneside, in Morpeth and the island of Menorca.

Collingwood's residence in Es Castell close to Mahon, Menorca is now a hotel and home to a collection of heirlooms relating to his time on the island.[19]

From 1978 until 1992, British Rail locomotive 50005 was named Collingwood.[20] In November 2005, English, Welsh & Scottish named locomotive 90020 Collingwood at Newcastle station.[21]


  1. ^ a b c "Cuthbert Collingwood". The National Archives - Trafalgar Ancestors. 10 September 2004. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  2. ^ Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood Archived 17 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, HMS Collingwood Officers' Association.
  3. ^ "Horatio Nelson drawn by Cuthbert Collingwood when both were serving in the West Indies | Royal Museums Greenwich". Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  4. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 690.
  5. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911, p. 691.
  6. ^ A feat that owed much to Collingwood's frequent drilling of his gunnery crew: he believed that if a ship could release 3 well aimed broadsides in five minutes, "no enemy could resist them". See Trafalgar (1959) by Oliver Warner
  7. ^ "No. 15859". The London Gazette. 5 November 1805. p. 1376.
  8. ^ Collingwood was not one of the captains specifically mentioned in Lord Howe’s report after the Glorious First of June and he was therefore not awarded the Naval Gold Medal. He was deeply hurt. After the Battle of St Vincent, Gold medals were to be awarded to all flag officers and captains. Collingwood refused to accept his "while that for the 1st June was withheld. To receive such a distinction now would be to acknowledge the propriety of that injustice." In due course both medals were sent to him by Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty who wrote "the former medal would have been transmitted to you some months ago if a proper and safe conveyance had been found for it". Article on Collingwood at Volume 12, page 671, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
  9. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Cuthbert Collingwood: Volume 12. pp. 673. Published Oxford University Press, 2004.
  10. ^ Adkins, Roy. (2004) Trafalgar, The Biography of a Battle, Abacus (page 238).
  11. ^ "Memorials of St Paul's Cathedral" Sinclair, W. p. 453: London; Chapman & Hall, Ltd; 1909.
  12. ^ The collected works of William Makepeace Thackeray Now public domain: "Another true knight of those days was Cuthbert Collingwood; and I think, since heaven made gentlemen, there is no record of a better one than that. Of brighter deeds, I grant you, we may read performed by others; but where of a nobler, kinder, more beautiful life of duty, of a gentler, truer heart? Beyond dazzle of success and blaze of genius, I fancy shining a hundred and a hundred times higher, the sublime purity of Collingwood's gentle glory. His heroism stirs British hearts when we recall it. His love, and goodness, and piety make one thrill with happy emotion. As one reads of him and his great comrade going into the victory with which their names are immortally connected, how the old English word comes up, and that old English feeling of what I should like to call Christian honour!"
  13. ^ a b See Chapter 6 of Book 3, A Warriors Life (2013), Roger Gard's translation of Servitude et grandeur militaires by Alfred de Vigny along with Gard's notes.
  14. ^ "ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD". BBC. 28 February 2005. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  15. ^ Landon, Letitia Elizabeth (1832). "picture". Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1833. Fisher, Son & Co.Landon, Letitia Elizabeth (1832). "poetical illustration". Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1833. Fisher, Son & Co.
  16. ^ "War Memorials Register: Admiral Lord Collingwood". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  17. ^ "SINE Project, Structure Details for Collingwood Monument". Archived from the original on 26 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Collingwood Monument - North Tyneside". Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  19. ^ Hotel Admirante-Collingwood House Archived 30 January 2020 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 21 September 2015
  20. ^ Namings Rail issue 527 23 November 2005 page 51
  21. ^ "EWS names 90 after Trafalgar admiral" Rail issue 527 23 November 2005 page 21

Further reading[edit]

  • Mackesy, Piers. "Collingwood in the Mediterranean." History Today (March 1960), Vol. 10 Issue 3, p202-210.
  • Adams, Max. Admiral Collingwood - Nelson's Own Hero, Phoenix, London, 2005, ISBN 0-304-36729-X.
  • The Trafalgar Captains, Colin White and the 1805 Club, Chatham Publishing, London, 2005, ISBN 1-86176-247-X.
  • The Naval Chronicle Volume 15, 1806. J. Gold, London (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-108-01854-8).
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Article on Collingwood at Volume 12, pages 670–5. Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0198613873
  • A Fine Old English Gentleman exemplified in the Life and Character of Lord Collingwood, a Biographical Study, by William Davies (London, 1875).
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Collingwood, Cuthbert Collingwood, Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 690–691.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet
Succeeded by