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Sir  Edward Codrington (1770–1851), by Charles Turner, pubd 1830 (after Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1826)Sir Edward Codrington (1770–1851), by Charles Turner, pubd 1830 (after Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1826)
Codrington, Sir Edward (1770–1851), naval officer, of the old family of Codrington of Dodington in Gloucestershire, third son of Edward Codrington (1732–1775) of London and his wife, Anne, née Sturgeon, and grandson of Sir Edward Codrington, first baronet, was born on 27 April 1770. He entered the navy in July 1783; after serving continuously on the Halifax, Mediterranean, and home stations, he was confirmed lieutenant on 28 May 1793 and, by Lord Howe's desire, appointed to the frigate Pegasus. He was afterwards transferred to the Queen Charlotte, Howe's flagship, on board which he acted as signal officer during the anxious days preceding 1 June 1794. In the battle of that day he had command of the foremost lower-deck guns and, on the arrival of the fleet and prizes off the Isle of Wight, was sent up to London with Howe's dispatches. He was promoted on 7 October 1794 to be commander of the fireship Comet from which, on 6 April 1795, he was posted captain of the frigate Babet (22 guns). In her he was present in the action off Lorient on 23 June 1795; in July 1796 he was moved to the Druid (32 guns) on the Lisbon station, which ship he brought home and paid off early in 1797.

In May 1805 Codrington commissioned the Orion (74 guns). In August he joined the fleet off Cadiz, and on 21 October took part in the battle of Trafalgar; he afterwards continued in command of the Orion, attached to the fleet under Lord Collingwood until December 1806. In November 1808 he was appointed to the Blake (74 guns), which was employed during the next summer in the North Sea under Sir Richard Strachan, bore Lord Gardner's flag in the Walcheren expedition, and was hotly engaged in forcing the passage of the Scheldt on 14 August. In the early summer of 1810 Codrington, still in the Blake, was sent to co-operate with the Spaniards at Cadiz, and in August was charged with the difficult duty of convoying to Minorca four old Spanish line-of-battle ships, crowded with refugees, a task which was safely accomplished after a passage of thirty-eight days. During 1811 and 1812 he commanded a detached squadron on the east coast of Spain, co-operating with the Spaniards wherever opportunity offered and waging a harassing war against the French invaders. Early in 1813 he returned to England, and at the beginning of 1814 was sent out to the North American station with a broad pennant in the frigate Forth. On 4 June 1814 he was advanced to flag rank and appointed captain of the fleet to Sir Alexander Cochrane, under whom he conducted operations in the Chesapeake, and afterwards at New Orleans, with his flag in the Havannah (36 guns). On 2 January 1815 he was made a KCB, and in 1825 he became a vice-admiral.

In December 1826 Codrington was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, and sailed for his station on 1 February 1827, with his flag in the Asia (84 guns). After some months at Malta he was induced by the great proliferation of piracy and the urgent appeals of Stratford Canning, the ambassador at Constantinople, to attempt to reduce the horrors of the war of Greek independence. He left Malta on 19 June and arrived on the coast of Greece in the early days of July. There the position was one of extreme difficulty, for, while a large section of the British public was enthusiastic in the cause of the Greeks, the British government was suspicious of the aims of the Russians. George Canning, the prime minister, was anxious that any interference with the war should be made in concert; and in July he succeeded in concluding a treaty between Britain, France, and Russia, by which it was provided that each of the three powers should instruct its admiral in the Mediterranean to ‘obtain the immediate effect of the desired armistice, by preventing, as far as should be in his power, all collision between the contending parties’. Codrington was further ordered to receive directions from Stratford Canning, who on 19 August interpreted the instructions of the British government to mean that the allies intended ‘to enforce, by cannon-shot if necessary, the armistice which was the object of the treaty; the object being to interpose the allied forces and to keep the peace by the speaking-trumpet if possible, but in case of necessity by force’. This interpretation he repeated in even stronger language on 1 September, and it must be held as a sufficient warrant to Codrington to employ force if he should deem it necessary. Codrington himself favoured the Greeks and maintained friendly relations with the British officers in the Greek service—Thomas Cochrane, Frank Hastings, and Sir Richard Church—and unofficially permitted and even encouraged them to continue the war though this was forbidden by the treaty.

On 25 September, Codrington and the French admiral, De Rigny, had an interview at Navarino with Ibrahim Pasha, the commander-in-chief of the Turkish sea and land forces; they explained to him their instructions, and, through the interpreter, obtained from him a verbal assent to the proposed armistice. But a few days later, on receiving news of the attack on the Turkish ships and batteries in Salona Bay made on 29 September by Frank Hastings acting with the Greek forces, Ibrahim Pasha considered himself absolved from his engagement and sent a strong squadron from Navarino with orders to attack Hastings in the Gulf of Corinth. On 3 October this squadron was met off the mouth of the gulf by Codrington, and, yielding to his protests, returned to Navarino. Ibrahim, however, then landed in force in the Morea and devastated the country, committing various atrocities. Codrington gathered his whole available force, together with the French and Russian squadrons, numbering in all eleven ships of the line, eight large frigates, and eight smaller vessels; on 14 October they arrived off Navarino, where the Turkish fleet was still anchored. It consisted of three ships of the line, fifteen large frigates, and many smaller vessels, bringing up the total to eighty-nine—a force strong in number, but in its composition far inferior to that of the combined fleet of which Codrington was the commander-in-chief. As the Turks had shown that they intended to leave Navarino, and hostilities had already resumed, the allied admirals were of the opinion that the blockade of the bay was a necessary precaution. A very few days were sufficient to convince Codrington of the difficulty and danger of blockading Navarino so late in the autumn; he therefore determined to go inside and anchor. The dangers of doing so in the middle of the bay, exposed to the fire of the entire Turkish fleet, led him to order the ships under his command to anchor close in and alongside of the Turks.

Accordingly, on 20 October, with a fair wind, they stood into the bay, the guns loaded and the men at quarters. The Turks were equally prepared. It is impossible to suppose that Codrington had any real expectation of peace being preserved between two fleets so situated. The frigate Dartmouth found herself anchored dead to leeward of a Turkish fireship, and sent a boat to move her, or order her to move; and the Turk, assuming that the boat was coming on a hostile mission, fired a volley of musketry into it. The Dartmouth replied, other ships took it up, and within a few minutes the action became general. Although the real disparity of force was very great, the battle lasted nearly four hours; the Turks' loss in killed and wounded, never accurately known, was said to amount to 4000, while that of the allies was 650. The victory assured Greece's survival.

The news of the bloody battle and the destruction of the Turkish fleet was variously received in England. At the urgent request of the duke of Clarence, then lord high admiral, rewards were bestowed with unprecedented liberality; Codrington received the GCB, as well as the grand cross of St Louis from France, the second class of the order of St George from Russia, and, later, the gold cross of the Redeemer of Greece. As a matter of policy, however, the battle was very differently considered. Canning, the prime minister, had died the previous August, and his successors were as aware of the danger of Russian aggression as of the advantage of Greek liberation. On the opening of parliament on 29 January 1828, the king accordingly lamented the conflict as an ‘untoward event’, an expression which conflicted with the strong philhellenic feeling in Britain, leading the ministry to state that ‘they did not make the slightest charge, nor cast the least imputation upon the gallant officer who commanded at Navarino’. Nevertheless controversy ensued, the difficulty of resolving which contributed to Codrington's somewhat summary recall, the news of which reached him at Corfu on 21 June 1828. He arrived in England on 7 October and spent the winter in London, endeavouring in vain to arrive at some understanding of his recall. The duke of Wellington in a personal interview assured him of his esteem, but would give no explicit statement or explanation. Codrington consequently drew up and printed for private circulation a narrative of his proceedings in the Mediterranean, which was later published in the Memoir of his life.

In June 1831 Codrington was appointed to the command of the channel squadron for the summer experimental cruise, and hoisted his flag in the Caledonia until the end of the season, on 24 October. He was made GCMG in April 1827, and was Liberal MP for Devonport from 1832 to 1839. On 10 January 1837 he became admiral of the blue, and on 22 November 1839 commander-in-chief at Portsmouth. His active career ended with the termination of that command on 31 December 1842. He died at 110 Eaton Square, London, on 28 April 1851, after a few months' illness, and was buried on 2 May in the family vault at St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, London, where a tablet was erected to his memory.

On 27 December 1802 Codrington married Jane (d. 22 Jan 1837), daughter of Jasper Hall of Kingston, Jamaica; they had three sons and two daughters. One of the sons died young, drowned in a boating accident; the other two, and , both had distinguished careers. The eldest daughter, Jane Barbara, married Captain Sir Thomas Bourchier (who died superintendent of Chatham Dockyard in 1849) and in 1873 published a two-volume biography of her father.

J. K. Laughton, rev. Roger Morriss

Sources  

Memoir of the life of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington: with selections from his public and private correspondence, ed. J. B. Bourchier, 2 vols. (1873) · The dispatches and letters of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, ed. N. H. Nicolas, 7 vols. (1844–6), vol. 7 · G. Finlay, History of the Greek revolution, 2 (1861) · D. Dakin, The unification of Greece, 1770–1923 (1972) · A. D. Lambert, The last sailing battlefleet: maintaining naval mastery, 1815–1850 (1991) · GM, 2nd ser., 36 (1851), 194–5 · Boase, Mod. Eng. biog. · W. St Clair, That Greece might still be free: the philhellenes in the war of independence (1972)

Archives  

NMM, corresp. and papers · TNA: PRO, papers relating to his conduct of naval affairs in Mediterranean, PRO 30/12 |  Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Sir Charles Doyle and Sir John Doyle · Inst. CE, corresp. and papers relating to Thames Tunnel · NMM, corresp. with Sir Benjamin Carew · NMM, corresp. with Parker · TNA: PRO, corresp. with Stratford Canning, FO 352 · TNA: PRO, letters and dispatches to Granville, PRO 30/29 · W. Sussex RO, letters to duke of Richmond


Likenesses  

F. Chantrey, drawing, 1819, NPG · C. Turner, mezzotint, pubd 1830 (after T. Lawrence, 1826), BM, NPG [see illus.] · H. Patterson, oils, exh. RA 1840, Town Hall, Devonport, Devon · H. P. Briggs, oils, 1843, NPG · F. Chantrey, plaster bust, AM Oxf. · J. Doyle, drawings, BM · G. Hayter, group portrait, oils (The House of Commons, 1833), NPG · B. Holl, stipple (after G. Hayter), BM, NPG · mezzotints (after T. Lawrence), BM, NPG · portraits, repro. in Bourchier, ed., Memoir of the life of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington