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Sartorius, Sir George Rose (1790–1885), naval officer, born on 9 August 1790, was the eldest son of Colonel John Conrad Sartorius (d. 1801) of Württemberg, an officer of the East India Company's engineers, and his wife, Annabella, daughter of George Rose and granddaughter of Admiral Harvey. He entered the navy on the books of the yacht Mary in June 1801. In October 1804 he joined the Tonnant (Captain Charles Tyler) and was present at Trafalgar. He was then sent to the Bahama, one of the Spanish prizes, and in June 1806 to the frigate Daphne, in which he was present at the operations in the Rio de la Plata. On 5 March 1808 he was promoted lieutenant of the Success, which, after a season in protection of the Greenland fishery, went to the Mediterranean, where she took part in the capture of Ischia and Procida and the defence of Sicily against Joachim Murat's threat of invasion. Sartorius, on different occasions, commanded the boats in bringing out merchant vessels from under heavy fire on shore. The Success was afterwards employed in the defence of Cadiz, and on 1 February 1812 Sartorius was promoted commander. In August he was appointed to the gun-brig Snap (12 guns) on the home station. He was moved to the brig-sloop Avon (18 guns) in July 1813 and was posted from her on 6 June 1814. On 14 December he was appointed to the Slaney (20 guns) in the Bay of Biscay, which was in company with the Bellerophon when Napoleon surrendered himself on her. She was paid off in August 1815.

In 1831 Sartorius was engaged by Dom Pedro to command, with the rank of admiral, the Portuguese regency fleet against Dom Miguel, and he gained some marked successes over the usurper's forces. His difficulties were, however, very great: there was factious opposition from the Portuguese leaders; and promised supplies were not forthcoming, and his men were consequently mutinous or deserted at the earliest opportunity. He spent much of his own money keeping them together, and he threatened to carry off the fleet as a pledge for repayment. Dom Pedro sent two British officers on board the flagship with authority, one to arrest Sartorius and bring him on shore, the other to take command of the squadron. Sartorius captured both of them as soon as they appeared on board and temporarily conciliated his men. Such a situation, however, could not last; and without regret, in June 1833, Sartorius handed over his disagreeable command to Captain Charles Napier, who, warned by his predecessor's experience, refused to stir until the money payment was secured. Sartorius gained only the grand cross of the Tower and Sword, together with the grand cross of St Bento d'Avis and the empty title of viscount of Piedade for life. His name had, meantime, been struck off the list of the British navy, but was restored in 1836. He married, in 1839, Sophia, a daughter of John Lamb. They had three sons, all of whom served in the army.

On 21 August 1841 Sartorius was knighted and at the same time appointed to the Malabar (72 guns), which he commanded in the Mediterranean for the next three years. In 1842 he was thanked by the president and congress of the United States for his efforts to save the American frigate Missouri, burnt in Gibraltar Bay. In July 1843 off Cadiz he received on his ship the regent of Spain, Baldomero Espartero, driven out of the country by the revolutionary party. The Malabar was paid off towards the end of 1844, and Sartorius had no further service afloat, though he offered to serve in the Crimean War. He received further Portuguese titles of nobility: viscount of Mindello on 8 July 1845, and count of Penhafirme on 19 August 1853, both for life, but never used them.

Sartorius continued for the rest of his long life to take great interest in naval matters. As early as 1855, he claimed, he had proposed to the Admiralty to revive the ancient practice of ramming an enemy ship; and though the idea probably occurred to others about the same time, he was one of the earliest to bring it forward, and was generally acknowledged as the pioneer. In the 1850s and 1860s he repeatedly advocated, in letters to the Admiralty and to The Times and elsewhere, the construction of steam rams (warships designed primarily to ram). He published pamphlets on defence and naval topics. His 1839 pamphlet on naval manning warned of possible invasion. His controversial lengthy pamphlet Coast Defences and Naval Warfare (1862), partly responding to the 1859 royal commission on the defences of the United Kingdom proposals for fortification, advocated anti-invasion defence by mobile land artillery, riflemen, steam rams, and armed merchantmen; asserted that steam rams were the most effective warships; and criticized the Warrior as inferior to the Gloire and ‘a beautiful ship … an admirable work of art, but for the purposes of war … an utter failure’.

Sartorius became a rear-admiral on 9 May 1849, vice-admiral on 31 January 1856, and admiral on 11 February 1861. He was made a KCB on 28 March 1865, became vice-admiral of the United Kingdom in 1869, was promoted admiral of the fleet on 3 July 1869, and was made a GCB on 23 April 1880. He died at his house, East Grove, Lymington, Hampshire, on 13 April 1885, preserving to the last his faculties, and to a remarkable extent his physical energy and a relatively young appearance. Two of his sons, and , won the Victoria Cross. A third son, , also entered the army, serving in Egypt and Upper Burma [see under ].

J. K. Laughton, rev. Andrew Lambert


Devon RO, Somerset MSS [incl. biographical memoranda] · N. Macaulay, Dom Pedro, 1798–1834 (1986) · O'Byrne, Naval biog. dict. · The Times (14 April 1885) · Army and Navy Gazette (18–25 April 1885) · P. Mackesy, The war in the Mediterranean, 1803–1810 (1957) · J. J. Colledge, Ships of the Royal Navy: an historical index, 1 (1969) · Kelly, Handbk · Burke, Peerage · R. Gardiner and A. Lambert, eds., Steam, steel and shellfire: the steam warship, 1815–1905 (1992) · Annual Register (1885)


Bedford estate office, London, Russell MSS · Devon RO, Somerset MSS · Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, letters to Lord George William Russell


portrait, repro. in ILN, 86 (1885), 431 · portrait, repro. in The Graphic, 19 (1879), 216

Wealth at death  

£3866 15s. 3d.: probate, 5 June 1885, CGPLA Eng. & Wales