Meux [formerly Lambton], Sir Hedworth
- V. W. Baddeley
- , revised by Roger T. Stearn
Meux [formerly Lambton], Sir Hedworth (1856–1929), naval officer, was born in London on 5 July 1856, the third son of George Frederick D'Arcy Lambton, second earl of Durham (1828–1879), and his wife, Lady Beatrix Frances (d. 21 Jan 1871), the second daughter of James Hamilton, first duke of Abercorn. He was educated at Cheam School and entered the Britannia as a cadet in 1870. He went to sea in December 1871 in the frigate Endymion, of the channel squadron, and in August 1874 was transferred to the flagship Agincourt, under Sir Beauchamp Seymour. From the beginning of 1875, until promoted sub-lieutenant at the end of that year, he was with the flagship Undaunted in the East Indies. From the end of 1876 to March 1879 he served in the flagship Alexandra, in the Mediterranean under Sir Geoffrey Hornby. After being promoted lieutenant in February 1879, in 1880 he returned to the Alexandra as flag lieutenant to his old chief Sir Beauchamp Seymour, under whom he was present at the bombardment of Alexandria (11 July 1882) and took part in the ensuing operations on the coast of Egypt. Admiral Seymour (created Lord Alcester for his services), on leaving his command to join the Board of Admiralty in March 1883, secured a ‘haul-down’ promotion for his flag lieutenant. Following his return home, Lambton went to Dublin as aide-de-camp to the lord lieutenant, the fifth Earl Spencer. In July 1886 he returned to the Mediterranean in command of the sloop Dolphin, and in February 1888 he was appointed to command the royal yacht Osborne, a post he held until he was promoted captain in 1889. He was a friend of the prince of Wales (later Edward VII). From 1890 to 1892 he was flag captain to Charles Hotham in the Warspite on the Pacific station.
In July 1894 Earl Spencer, then first lord of the Admiralty, appointed Lambton his naval private secretary, a post he retained under Spencer's successor, Viscount Goschen, until 1897. In this important office both ministers placed great reliance on Lambton's judgement on senior officers' appointments; more than once Lambton advised his chief to make appointments to which the naval lords objected. He was not popular with the officers with whom he dealt through the lack of consideration which he showed them, although he was far junior to most of them in rank and to all of them in age.
In 1897 Lambton went to the China station in command of the large protected cruiser Powerful—with her sister ship, the Terrible, the largest warship of her day—and on his voyage home in her in October 1899 he was sent to Durban, at a critical time early in the South African War. On his way he called at Mauritius, and on his own initiative embarked the 2nd battalion, South Yorkshire regiment. Sir George White, commanding at Ladysmith, had been sending urgent messages for more powerful guns. Captain Percy Scott, in the Terrible, which had arrived at the Cape on its way to replace the Powerful on the China station, improvised field-carriages for naval guns, and with four long 12-pounders and two 4.7 inch guns Lambton landed with a naval brigade and arrived at Ladysmith on 30 October, just in time to prevent its surrender to the besieging Boers. The naval guns, though short of ammunition, countered the Boer artillery throughout the siege. The naval brigade gained much press coverage and praise: G. W. Steevens of the Daily Mail wrote that 'this handful of sailors have been the saving of Ladysmith' (Steevens, 141). Lambton was, in White's words, 'the life of the garrison' until its relief (28 February). Lambton was created CB, and on the arrival of the Powerful in England was welcomed with great popular enthusiasm.
At the end of 1900 Lambton was persuaded by Lord Rosebery and by his brother, Lord Durham, to stand at the general election as a Liberal candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne, but he was unsuccessful. In April 1901 he was appointed to command the royal yacht Victoria and Albert, and three months later was made commodore in charge of the king's yachts; he retained this command until April 1903, having been promoted rear-admiral in October 1902. From June 1903 he had a year's service afloat as second in command to Lord Charles Beresford in the Channel Fleet, and from November 1904 to December 1906 he commanded the cruiser division of the Mediterranean Fleet. In 1902–3 he criticized Fisher's Selborne scheme of officer training. In the subsequent polarization of naval officers into rival groups, Fisher's 'fishpond' and Beresford's 'syndicate of discontent', Lambton (formerly friendly with Fisher) was from 1906 a leader of the latter group. In January 1908 he was appointed vice-admiral and commander-in-chief in China.
Lambton returned home in April 1910, and on 18 April married Mildred Cecilia Harriet (27 Feb 1869 – 17 Sept 1942), the third daughter of Henry Gerard Sturt, first Baron Alington (1825–1904), and the widow of Viscount Chelsea (d. 1908), the second son of the fifth Earl Cadogan. In the following December he came into a large fortune under the will of Valerie Susie Meux [see under Meux family], the widow of Sir Henry Brent Meux, third baronet, a brewer, of Theobald's Park, Waltham Cross. During the South African War Lady Meux, hearing of the landing of the naval guns for the defence of Ladysmith, had ordered six naval 12-pounders on travelling carriages to be made at Elswick and sent to Lord Roberts in South Africa. They were known as the Elswick battery. On his return to England later that year, Lambton had called on Lady Meux, described the work of his guns at Ladysmith, and praised her patriotic action in sending similar guns to the front. Touched by this tribute, Lady Meux, after making many wills, decided to make Lambton her heir on the sole condition that he changed his name to Meux. This he did by royal licence in September 1911.
Meux was promoted admiral in March 1911, and later that year was considered as the next first sea lord (to replace Sir Arthur Wilson). His friend George V initially favoured his appointment. However, the Fisherite Sir Francis Bridgeman was selected, and Meux remained on half pay until July 1912, when he was appointed (as George V wanted, but to Fisher's anger) commander-in-chief at Portsmouth. He retained this office until February 1916, having been selected for the rank of admiral of the fleet in March 1915.
On the outbreak of war in 1914 Meux's principal duty was to defend the transports taking the British expeditionary force to France and the army's main line of communication from Southampton to Le Havre. This was achieved with complete success; moreover, on his own initiative, Meux organized a life-saving patrol service of yachts and other small craft, sailing under the blue ensign with a red cross at the main. On giving up his command he was persuaded to enter parliament as Unionist MP for Portsmouth, being unopposed at the by-election consequent on Lord Charles Beresford's elevation to the peerage. He was popular in the House of Commons and several times spoke vigorously on naval subjects; but he was not really interested in parliamentary work, and retired at the 1918 general election.
Meux was now free to devote himself to the turf, since boyhood his greatest interest outside the navy. He had started breeding bloodstock in 1882, and had had some good horses trained by Tom Green at Stapleton Park, Pontefract. He won the Grand Military gold cup with Ruy Lopez in 1895, and was elected to the Jockey Club in 1906. On inheriting Theobald's Park, where Lady Meux had a racing stable, he bred his own horses there, and with them won the Hardwicke stakes at Ascot three times, the Manchester November handicap (top weight), the Liverpool cup, the Chester Cup, and many other races. He was a shrewd judge of racing, breeding, and all turf matters, and would have been an even more successful owner had he not been too fond of his horses to sell them.
For Meux, an aristocrat and court favourite and so an atypical naval officer, the service was apparently an interest rather than a profession. According to Arthur J. Marder, he was 'a very able sea-officer with no great administrative talent … but lazy and rather spoiled' (Marder, 1.257, 407). He was made CVO (1901), KCVO (1906), KCB (1908), and GCB (1913). He died on 20 September 1929 at Danebury, an estate which he had bought near Stockbridge, Hampshire. His will was proved at £910,465 gross, with net personalty £734,265. He had no children, and he left his fortune, subject to his widow's interest, to her grandson Sir Ian Hedworth John Little Gilmour, third baronet (1926–2007), later a Conservative MP and cabinet minister.
- official naval records, TNA: PRO
- private information (1937)
- R. Gardiner and A. Lambert, eds., Steam, steel and shellfire: the steam warship, 1815–1905 (1992)
- T. Pakenham, The Boer War (1979)
- R. F. Mackay, Fisher of Kilverstone (1973)
- P. Scott, Fifty years in the Royal Navy (1919)
- Fear God and dread nought: the correspondence of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, ed. A. J. Marder, 2 (1956)
- A. J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: the Royal Navy in the Fisher era, 1904–1919, 5 vols. (1961–70), vol. 1
- R. Hough, First sea lord: an authorized biography of Admiral Lord Fisher (1977)
- G. W. Steevens, From Capetown to Ladysmith (1900)
- WWW, 1929–40
- M. Wilson and L. Thompson, eds., The Oxford history of South Africa, 2 vols. (1971), vol. 2
- Lambton Park, Chester-le-Street, Durham, corresp. and papers
- P. de Laszlo, portrait; formerly in possession of his widow, 1937
- A. McEvoy, portrait; formerly in possession of his widow, 1937
- Spy [L. Ward], cartoon, chromolithograph caricature, NPG; repro. in VF (28 June 1900)
Wealth at Death
£910,465 16s. 0d.: probate, 19 Nov 1929, CGPLA Eng. & Wales