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Harvey, Sir Eliab (1758–1830), naval officer and politician, was born on 5 December 1758 at Chigwell, Essex, the fourth but second surviving son of William Harvey (1714–1763), MP for Essex, and his wife, Emma (b. c.1729), daughter of Stephen and Emma Skynner of Walthamstow. William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, was his great-great-uncle. Eliab was educated at Westminster School (1768–9) and at Harrow School for most of the period 1770–74; meanwhile on his fourteenth birthday his name was sagaciously entered on the books of the yacht Mary. He spent the summer of 1773 in the Orpheus (32 guns) and from May 1774 served in the sloop Lynx for two years in the West Indies. In September 1776 he returned to North America in the Mermaid (28 guns), before transferring to Lord Howe's flagship, the Eagle (64 guns), in the following July. In December 1777 he was lent to the Liverpool (28 guns), in which he was wrecked in heavy surf off Long Island in February 1778. He rejoined the Eagle, returned home in her in October, and was then ashore for three years.

On 25 February 1779 Harvey was promoted lieutenant of the Resolution, which he did not join. In April, on the death of his elder brother, William, he succeeded to the family's very handsome property. He wasted no time in making his mark as a man about town and a reckless plunger. Soon after his twenty-first birthday he lost £100,000 at hazard to
an Irish gamester, Mr O'Byrne, who said ‘you can never pay me’. ‘I can’, answered Harvey; ‘my estate will sell for the debt.’ ‘No’, said O'Byrne, ‘I will win £10,000; you shall throw for the odd ninety.’ They did, and Harvey won. (Walpole, Corr., 25.12)
He was, however, still £10,000 short.

In May 1780 Harvey was elected MP for Maldon, Essex, a seat he held until 1784, though he returned to sea in September 1781 for four months as lieutenant of the Dolphin (44 guns) in the Downs. After promotion to commander on 21 March 1782 he commanded the sloop Otter until his speedy advancement to captain (20 January 1783). He was then unemployed until 1790. On 15 May 1784 he married Louisa (d. 1841), younger daughter and coheir of Robert, first Earl Nugent. They had six daughters and two sons; the elder son was killed at the siege of Burgos in 1812.

From May 1790 Harvey commanded the Hussar (28 guns) for six months in the Spanish armament. When war broke out in 1793 he was appointed to the Santa Margarita (38 guns), serving under Vice-Admiral John Jervis (later earl of St Vincent), and took part in the capture of Martinique and Guadeloupe in March and April 1794. After returning to England in May the Santa Margarita joined the Channel Fleet and on 23 August was one of the squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren which drove a French frigate and two corvettes ashore in Brittany. In August 1795 Harvey took command of the Valiant (74 guns) and went to the West Indies with Sir Hyde Parker's squadron.

In February 1797 ill health obliged him to return home and in the following year he commanded the sea fencibles in Essex. In 1800 he was appointed to the Triumph (74 guns), serving in the channel and off Brest until the peace of Amiens. He was elected MP for Essex in June 1802, and represented the county until 1812; in November 1803 he commissioned the Temeraire (98 guns).

After fifteen months off Brest and the Bay of Biscay the Temeraire formed part of Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar. As second ship of the weather column, closely astern of the Victory, she was soon in action and, as Harvey was to write to his wife (23 October 1805), for ‘more than three hours two of the enemy's line of battleships were lashed to her, one on each side’ (Jackson, 2.223). Although herself much damaged, the Temeraire forced both French ships to strike to her deadly broadsides. ‘Nothing could be finer’, wrote Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood of the Temeraire's part; ‘I have not words in which I can sufficiently express my admiration of it’ (TNA: PRO, ADM 1/5396, Collingwood to Harvey, 28 Oct 1805). Unfortunately Harvey's subsequent bragging irritated his fellow captains. Joseph Turner's painting of The Fighting Temeraire hangs in the National Gallery.

On 9 November 1805 Harvey was promoted rear-admiral of the blue, and in March 1806 he hoisted his flag in the Tonnant (80 guns) in the channel and off Finisterre under St Vincent; later he hoisted it under Admiral James Gambier.

In April 1809 Harvey returned from two months' leave to rejoin his commander-in-chief, Lord Gambier, off Basque Roads where preparations were in hand for an attack on the French fleet by fireships. Harvey was so angry that the Admiralty had appointed Captain Lord Cochrane and not him to command the fireships that he went to the flagship, marched into Gambier's cabin, and ‘used vehement and insulting language to Gambier … showed great disrespect to him … and treated him in a contemptuous manner’ (TNA: PRO, ADM 1/5396, minutes of court martial, 22, 23 May 1809). He then spoke disparagingly of Gambier in public on the flagship's quarterdeck. For this he was court martialled and dismissed the service. His behaviour was evidently in line with his reputation: ‘His intemperate manner is such’, wrote Lord Gardner to Joseph Farington (26 May 1809), ‘that, had I been told the circumstance without a name being given, I should have supposed it to be Admiral Harvey’ (Farington Diary, ed. Greig, 5.173).

On 21 March 1810 Harvey was, in consideration of his long and meritorious service, reinstated in his rank and seniority, but he was never employed again. He was promoted vice-admiral on 31 July 1810, created KCB in January 1815, and advanced to admiral on 12 August 1819 and GCB in 1825. In 1820 he was again elected MP for Essex, and he held the seat until his death on 20 February 1830 at his home, Rolls Park, Chigwell, Essex. He was buried on 27 February in the family mausoleum at Hempstead church.

J. K. Laughton, rev. C. H. H. Owen


minutes of court martial, TNA: PRO, ADM 1/5396, 22, 23 May 1809 · admiralty documents, TNA: PRO, ADM 9/1, 36, 37, 51, 52, 107/7 · GM, 1st ser., 100/1 (1830), 365–6 · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 1/1 (1823), 273–6 · J. Ralfe, The naval biography of Great Britain, 2 (1828), 432–4 · T. S. Jackson, ed., Logs of the great sea fights, 1794–1805, 2, Navy RS, 18 (1900), 223 · M. M. Drummond, ‘Harvey, Eliab’, HoP, Commons, 1754–90 · W. Stokes and R. G. Thorne, ‘Harvey, Eliab’, HoP, Commons, 1790–1820 · Walpole, Corr. · The Farington diary, ed. J. Greig, 8 vols. (1922–8)


Essex RO, Chelmsford, family corresp. and papers |  BL, letters to second Earl Spencer · NL Wales, letters to Louisa Lloyd; letters to William Lloyd


L. F. Abbott, oils, c.1806, NMM · Hudson?, oils, City University of New York, Queen's College

Wealth at death  

£120,000: TNA: PRO, death duty registers, IR 26/1227, no. 75