“A classic biography of an important Royal Navy admiral of the Age of Sail.”—William H. Flayhart, III, Delaware State University
“[This] superbly researched biography of Admiral Lord Keith . . . is likely to be the last word on the subject. . . . An important contribution to our understanding of the history of the Royal Navy in the Age of Fighting Sail and also of the British conduct of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.”—David Syrett, Queens College, CUNY
Lord Keith, a Scottish admiral who rose to prominence serving His Majesty from 1761 to 1815, ended his career by overseeing Napoleon’s surrender in 1815. Born George Keith Elphinstone, Keith at one time or another held nearly every important command in the British navy, and his story illustrates the navy’s history during the Age of Fighting Sail.
McCranie’s book is the first modern biography of Keith, who learned the art of commanding single ships and small squadrons during the American Revolution. Keith eventually commanded four major fleets—the Eastern Seas, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and the Channel. Though he never led a fleet into battle, Keith supported joint operations with the British army and its allies while simultaneously maintaining command of the sea and ensuring the free passage of commerce.
A skilled administrator, who at times controlled more than 200 ships over thousands of square miles of ocean, Keith successfully navigated the political and social waters as well. Drawing on more than 100,000 private and public records, McCranie documents Keith’s dealings with the British government, the Royal Family, the Admiralty, the French government, the French navy, the British army, and Britain’s allies.
Citing letters Keith wrote to his wife, his sister, his oldest daughter, and his father, to whom he described his first impressions of the navy, the author offers a personal portrait and narrative of a career-conscious officer who worried about what others thought of him. This book will appeal to historians of the Royal Navy, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic era, as well as enthusiasts of the Age of Fighting Sail.