Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

#186--Thomas Cochrane--A Legend in his Own Time

Thomas Cochrane, Lord Dundonald

If you have seen the movie Master and Commander, or read of the any of the novels featuring Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubry, you have read about my ancestor, Thomas Alexander Cochrane.  His navel exploits were legendary.  Family lore was that he was one of my grandmother’s uncles.  As with many family stories, it contained a kernel of truth—Thomas Alexander Cochrane was her cousin. 

Ship Speedy
Thomas Cochrane was born at Annsfield, near Hamilton in Scotland, the son of Archibald Cochrane, 9th Earl of Dundonald and Anne Gilchrist. He spent his childhood in Annsfield .  At the age of 18, Thomas joined the British Navy.  He served on several ships, before becoming the captain of RN sloop, HMS Speedy. Within a year Cochrane had captured fifty ships, 122 guns and 534 prisoners. However, he was not finished; appointed Post-Captain he cruised along the French and Spanish coasts capturing so many ships that Napoleon called him “le loup des mers” or the Sea Wolf.  For his exploits, he was made an Knight of the Order of the Bath. 
Lord Cochrane

Cochrane’s career was not without controversy.  He was elected to the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament in 1806 and used his position to rally against the naval corruption, the war with France and several well established individuals.  Further controversy involved his marrying Kitty Barnes, who was 20 years younger than he was.  If all that was not enough, he was engaged in the Great Stock Exchange Fraud along with his uncle, Andrew Cochrane-Johnstone in which they announced that Napoleon was dead.  That sent the market crashing. Cochrane was tried, sentenced to a year in prison and fined of 1000 pounds, ejected from the Navy and stripped of his knighthood.  However, he was immediately re-elected to parliament. 

In 1817, Cochrane with his family moved to South America where he commanded in order, the Chilean, Brazilian navies in their fight for independence and then moved to Greece to command their Navy.  

After being pardoned for his role in the Great Stock Market Fraud, Thomas returned to the Royal Navy as a Rear Admiral.  Queen Victoria restored his knighthood.  In 1847 he became Commander-in-Chief of the North American and West Indies Station.  In 1854 he was given the honorary rank of Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom. 

Cochrane died in 1860, and is buried in the center aisle in Westminster Abbey in London. His epitaph reads:

'Here rests in his 85th year Thomas Cochrane Tenth Earl of Dundonald of Paisley and of Ochiltree in the Peerage of Scotland Marquess of Marenham in the Empire of Brazil GCB and Admiral of the Fleet who by his confidence and genius his science and extraordinary daring inspired by his heroic exertion in the cause of freedom and his splended services alike to his own country, Greece, Brazil, Chile and Peru achieved a name illustrious throughout the world for courage, patriotism and chivalry. Born Dec 14 1775. Died Oct 31 1860'

Each year the Chilean Navy places a wreath on his grave.  

Grave --Westminister Abbey

No comments:

Post a Comment