Hargood, Sir William (17621839), naval officer, youngest son of Hezekiah Hargood, a purser in the navy, was born on 6 May 1762. In 1773 he was entered on the books of the Triumph, flagship in the Medway, but had his first experience of sea life in March 1775, on the Romney, going to Newfoundland as flagship of Rear-Admiral Robert Duff. On her return to England in the winter, Hargood was appointed to the Bristol, carrying the broad pennant of Sir Peter Parker, an old family friend, under whose care he went to North America, and was present in the attack on Sullivan's Island on 28 June 1776. In the following September he followed Parker to the Chatham, and then, in December 1777, back to the Bristol, which was shortly afterwards sent to Jamaica. Hargood continued in her, under the direct patronage of Parker, until January 1780, when he was promoted lieutenant of the sloop Port Royal, in which he was actively engaged in the unsuccessful defence of Pensacola, captured by the Spaniards in May 1781. By the terms of the surrender, he and the rest of the prisoners were sent to New York, from where he returned to England. He was immediately appointed to the Magnificent (74 guns), which sailed from Spithead in February 1782, and joined Rodney in the West Indies in time to take part in the actions to leeward of Dominica on 9 and 12 April; he was then with Hood in the Mona passage on 19 April, when he assisted in the capture of a scattered detachment of French ships.
On the peace of 1783 the Magnificent returned home, and in May 1784 Hargood was appointed to the frigate Hebe with Captain Edward Thornbrough, in which ship, in 1785, Prince William Henry (later William IV) served as a junior lieutenant. In 1786, when the prince was appointed to the command of the Pegasus, Hargood, at his request, was appointed one of his lieutenants; in the same way, in 1788, he was appointed first lieutenant of the Andromeda, which the prince paid off in April 1789. Two months afterwards Hargood was promoted commander, and in the following December was appointed to the sloop Swallow from which, after a year on the coast of Ireland, he was advanced to post rank on 22 November 1790. In April 1792 he commissioned the frigate Hyaena (24 guns) for service in the West Indies, where she was captured off Cape Tiberon on 27 May 1793 by the Concorde, a powerful French frigate of 44 heavy guns. Hargood and the other officers were landed on their parole at Cape François, Haiti; but on 20 June, on the outbreak of the insurrection there, they escaped for their lives on board the Concorde, where the commanding officer declined to receive them as prisoners, but allowed them to take a passage for Jamaica. There was some disposition to blame Hargood for surrendering to the Concorde without sufficient resistance; but as the Hyaena was partially dismasted, and under the guns of a frigate of at least four times her force, supported by a couple of 74-gun ships and three other frigates in the offing, she could offer no effective defence, and Hargood was honourably acquitted by the court martial held at Plymouth on 11 October 1793.
In April 1794 Hargood was appointed to the frigate Iris, and employed in convoy service in the North Sea, to the coast of Africa, and to North America, until, in August 1796, he was transferred to the Leopard (50 guns), one of the ships involved in the mutiny of the following year. On 31 May Hargood was put on shore at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, by the mutineers; but ten days later those of his officers who had been kept on board succeeded in regaining possession of the ship and taking her into the River Thames under heavy fire from the mutinied ships. Hargood did not resume the command, and on 12 July was appointed to the Nassau (64 guns), which during the next two months formed part of the North Sea Fleet under Duncan; but having received serious damage in a gale, it was sent to Sheerness to refit in the early days of October. In February 1798 Hargood was appointed to the Intrepid (64 guns), and on 30 April he sailed for China in charge of a convoy, afterwards joining the flag of Vice-Admiral Peter Rainier, then commander-in-chief in the East Indies.
Hargood returned to England in the spring of 1803, and in the following November was appointed to the Belleisle (80 guns), then off Toulon, under the command of Nelson. Hargood joined her in March 1804, and continued under Nelson's orders during that year and the next, taking part in the watch off Toulon through 1804, and in the pursuit of the allied fleet to the West Indies and back, from April to August 1805. On joining the Brest fleet under Cornwallis, the Belleisle was ordered to Plymouth to refit, which was done only just in time to enable her to join the fleet off Cadiz on 10 October and take part in the battle of Trafalgar; following in the wake of the Royal Sovereign, she was one of the ships earliest in action. She lost thirty-three men killed and ninety-four wounded, besides being totally dismasted and having her hull much damaged. She was sent home the following January to be refitted. In February she was again commissioned by Hargood, and in May joined the squadron sent to the West Indies under Sir Richard John Strachan. On 18 and 19 August the squadron was scattered by a hurricane south of Bermuda. Hargood sailed northward, and being joined on 5 September by the Bellona and the frigate Melampus, continued cruising off the mouth of the Chesapeake, where on 14 September he fell in with the French ship Impétueux, jury-rigged, having been dismasted in the storm which had scattered the French squadron as well as the British. The Impétueux, in no condition to resist or escape, ran herself ashore. She was captured and burnt, her officers and crew being sent on board the British ships. This action was a breach of neutrality; but it seems to have passed unnoticed by the United States government, and was approved by the Admiralty. In November 1806 the Belleisle returned to England, and, after being docked and refitted, was again sent out to the West Indies, where Sir Alexander Cochrane hoisted his flag on board her, Hargood changing into the Northumberland (74 guns) and taking home a large convoy. After this he joined the fleet at Lisbon under the command of Sir Charles Cotton, and was employed in the blockade during the summer of 1808, under the immediate orders of Rear-Admiral Purvis, until, after the sudden change of alliances in July, the Northumberland joined the flag of Lord Collingwood, who sent her into the Adriatic, to co-operate with the Austrians. In October 1809 Hargood again joined the admiral, and in the following summer returned to England. Shortly afterwards, in 1811, he married Maria, daughter of T. S. Cocks, banker; they had no children.
On 7 August 1810 Hargood was promoted rear-admiral, and hoisted his flag at Portsmouth as second in command, which post he held until 13 March, when he took command of the squadron at the Channel Islands. He was promoted vice-admiral on 4 June 1814, and admiral on 22 July 1831. In January 1815 he was made a KCB, and in September 1831 a GCB. He had previously (22 March 1831) been specially made a GCH by the king, who had kept up a personal correspondence with Hargood throughout his career. From March 1833 to April 1836 he was commander-in-chief at Plymouth. He died at Bath on 11 September 1839. Admiral William Hargood, who died in 1888, was his nephew.
J. K. Laughton, rev. Roger Morriss
J. Allen, ed., Memoir of the life and services of Admiral Sir William Hargood, GCB, GCH (1841) · O'Byrne, Naval biog. dict. · commission and warrant books, TNA: PRO · W. James, The naval history of Great Britain, from the declaration of war by France in 1793, to the accession of George IV [4th edn], 6 vols. (1847) · P. Mackesy, The war in the Mediterranean, 18031810 (1957) · R. Muir, Britain and the defeat of Napoleon, 18071815 (1996)
F. R. Say, oils, c.1835, NMM · J. Thomson, stipple, NPG · engraving (after F. R. Say), repro. in Allen, ed., Memoir