Bladen Capel Memorial 1776 - 1853
LIFE OF ADMIRAL BLADEN CAPEL
Bladen Capel became one of Nelson's proteges in 1798 when he made signal lieutenant on HMS Vanguard, Nelson's flagship
at the Battle of the Nile (1798). Capel was given the honour of taking a copy of the Nile dispatches to London. The original
dispatches were captured by the French and so it was Capel who brought the official news of the victory to the Admiralty.
This ensured that the Admiralty would approve Nelson's promotion of Capel to commander and in his remarks to their Lordships
Nelson stated that Capel was 'a most excellent officer'.
The youngest son of William, fourth Earl of Essex, Capel was born on 25 August 1776 in Hanover
Square, London. In order to gain sea time Capel 'officially' entered the Royal Navy on the books of HMS Phaeton in 1782 though
he actually joined in 1792. After serving as a midshipman in a number of ships he saw his first major fleet action when Lord
Bridport's fleet took three French men-of-war off L'Orient 1795. In 1796 he was made acting lieutenant. After delivering the
Nile despatches, Capel was confirmed as commander and given post rank as captain of HM Sloop Alecto. For the next 8 years
he distinguished himself in operations with Spanish irregular forces off the coast of Spain. In 1803 he was appointed to the
frigate HMS Phoebe and served with Nelson throughout the Mediterranean campaign.
When Nelson left the Mediterranean in May 1805 to pursue Villeneuve to the West Indies and back,
he left Bladen Capel in the Mediterranean in command of a small squadron of five frigates and two bomb vessels with orders
to cover Sardinia, Sicily and the approaches to Egypt. During the Battle of Trafalgar, as a frigate, the Phoebe's task was
to repeat signals and to stand to assist in any way and took no part in the fighting. During the gale that followed the battle,
the Phoebe helped save the French prize Swiftsure from destruction.
Following the Trafalgar campaign Bladen Capel was made captain of the man-of-war La Hogue in
1811 and commanded a small squadron of ships blockading US frigates off the coast of New London during the war of 1812. At
the end of the war Bladen Capel commanded one of the royal yachts, became Rear-Admiral in 1825 and hoisted his flag as commander
in chief of the East Indies station from 1834-37. He was made KCB in 1832 and GCB in 1852. Towards the end of his life he
sat on the committee that organised the issue of the Naval General Service Medal which included a clasp for Trafalgar.
Source: Extracted from The Trafalgar Captains - Colin White and The 1805 Club.
The Admiral's great-niece, Lady Adela Caroline Harriet Capel (1828-1860)
kept a diary for one year in 1841-42 in which she refers to the Admiral and his wife as "Uncle and Aunt Bladen". Lady Adela
was the daughter of the 6th Earl of Essex and lived at Cassiobury House (the Capel seat in Hertfordshire) and the Admiral
seems to live on the estate at "Little Cassiobury" - this was obviously his country residence as Rutland Gate was his home
in town. Extracts from the diary: (Adela is just 13 yrs old) ...
Sunday May 2, 1841 ...... Rose at 7. After breakfast went to church.
In the afternoon lessons until half past three; heard two claps of thunder, took a walk about the garden and picked some radishes
for tea, they were good. In the evening Uncle Bladen showed me how to arrange my microscope ....
Sunday May 23, 1841..... Rose at 8. After breakfast went to church,
heard a very good sermon ... after which we all walked with papa, Uncle Bladen, Colonel Paget and Miss Armstrong accompanying
the latter in the pony chair ....
Monday May 24, 1841..... Rose at 6. Went to my gardens and hoed them.
After breakfast went to plant a geranium in my flower garden and to pick some spinage for Uncle Bladen.
Wednesday November 10, 1841.... Rose at half past 7. After breakfast
walked to Little Cassiobury and received from Aunt Bladen some piano exercises and a letter from grandmama.
Wednesday December 29, 1841 .... Rose at half past 8. After breakfast I could not go out
because it rained. In the evening went to a party at Aunt Bladen's. We had famous fun, leaping, dancing and playing at various
games. We arrived home a little after 12 o'clock.
Hertfordshire Record Publications. The Diary of Lady Adela Capel of Cassiobury 1841-1842.
From a"List of Admirals who have hoisted flags on HMS Victory" - Nelson's
20 December 1848 - 19 December 1851 - Admiral Thomas Bladen Capel
GRAVE OF ADMIRAL THOMAS BLADEN CAPEL
Buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, London. There are 3 plots: one unidentified
Capel plot 10750, then the Admiral plot number 10680 and then Lady Capel plot no. 7112. According to cemetery records his
address at death was 22 Rutland Gate, Hyde Park, London. The family plot is for up to 6 coffins. Sir Thomas Capel dies in
1853, then the Hon Dame H. Capel dies in 1866. Purchaser (the Honourable Dame Harriet Capel paid £15 guinneas. Lady
Caroline Capel (grave to the right in the picture) is the Admiral's sister-in-law.
The 1805 Club (a charity dedicated to preserving the memorials of the Trafalgar Captains) have
pencilled this grave in for restoration but the estimate for repair is £7000, they are currently trying to raise funds for
this project, after which time they will rededicate the grave.
He married Harriet Catherine Smythe on 10 May 1816, no children.
Source for grave inscription: The Trafalgar Captains - their lives and memorials by Colin
White and the 1805 Club. Although we visited the grave on 5 July 2008, it was in poor condition, covered in
ripped tarpaulin and the writing was very faded. We were, however, able to read the inscription around the outer edge:
Blessed be the man that feareth the Lord; unto the upright; there ariseth the light; in the darkness.
IN MEMORY OF ADMIRAL THE HONOURABLE SIR THOMAS BLADEN CAPEL WHO DEPARTED THIS
LIFE ON MARCH 4TH 1853 THUS CLOSING A LONG AND DISTINGUISHED CAREER OF SERVICE RENDERED TO HIS COUNTRY DURING WHICH TIME HE
SERVED ACTIVELY FOR THIRTY ONE YEARS FROM HIS ENTRY INTO THE ROYAL NAVY UNTIL HIS DEATH:
|In memory of the Admiral Sir Thomas Bladen Capel
|1776 - 1853