Robert Thomas Wilson

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Sir Robert Wilson
Portret k stat'e <<Vil'son, Robert-Tomas>>. Voennaia entsiklopediia Sytina (Sankt-Peterburg, 1911-1915).jpg
Sir Robert Wilson
Born(1777-08-17)17 August 1777
London, United Kingdom
Died9 May 1849(1849-05-09) (aged 71)
Allegiance Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Rank General
Awards Knight Bachelor

General Sir Robert Thomas Wilson (17 August 1777 – 9 May 1849) was a British general and politician who served in Flanders, Egypt, Iberian Peninsula, Prussia, and was seconded to the Imperial Russian Army in 1812. He sat as the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Southwark from 1818 to 1831. He served as the Governor of Gibraltar from 1842 until his death in 1849.

General is the highest rank currently achievable by serving officers of the British Army. The rank can also be held by Royal Marines officers in tri-service posts, for example, General Sir Gordon Messenger the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. It ranks above lieutenant-general and, in the Army, is subordinate to the rank of field marshal, which is now only awarded as an honorary rank. The rank of general has a NATO-code of OF-9, and is a four-star rank. It is equivalent to a full admiral in the Royal Navy or an air chief marshal in the Royal Air Force.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.


Early career

Born in London, he was the grandson of a Leeds wool merchant, and the fourth child of painter and portraitist Benjamin Wilson. Orphaned at the age of twelve he was raised and educated by his uncle and guardian, William Bosville, later attending Westminster School.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Benjamin Wilson (painter) English painter and scientist

Benjamin Wilson was a British painter, printmaker and scientist.

Westminster School School in Westminster, United Kingdom

Westminster School is a public school in London, England, located within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. Westminster's origins can be traced to a charity school established by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey. Its continuous existence is certain from the early fourteenth century. Boys are admitted to the Under School at the age of seven and to the senior school at the age of thirteen; girls are admitted at the age of sixteen into the Sixth Form. The school has around 750 pupils; around a quarter are boarders, most of whom go home at weekends, after Saturday morning school. The school motto, Dat Deus Incrementum, is taken from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians 3:6.

He eloped in his twenties with Jemima, the daughter of Colonel William Belford. She bore him thirteen children in the following 15 years.

Military life

He had a distinguished career in the Army and the diplomatic service. In 1794, as an ensign in the 15th Light Dragoons, Wilson fought in the celebrated Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies where a handful of cavalry smashed a much larger French force. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1801. [1] In 1804 he became a lieutenant-colonel in the 19th Light Dragoons. He was expelled from Russia as a spy after the Treaty of Tilsit. During the Peninsular War he organized Portuguese soldiers into the Loyal Lusitanian Legion. [2] During the British retreat from the Iberian peninsula in January 1809, Wilson refused to comply with the withdrawal and instead decided to oppose the incoming 9,000-man corps commanded by the French General Pierre Belon Lapisse. He installed half of his 1,200 Lusitanian Legion in the fortress of Almeida and arranged the rest in a thin screen. He then harried the opposition with such remorseless energy that Lapisse, convinced he was confronted by a far more numerous enemy, switched entirely to the defensive. [3] In summer 1809, Wilson's Legion again formed an important part of the Anglo-Portuguese network of advance posts and was placed on the Spanish frontier to provide early warning of French moves while the British commander Wellington advanced on Oporto. [4] In Wellington's advance on Talavera in spring 1809, Wilson's Lusitanians again formed a valuable flank guard. In the aftermath of the Battle of Talavera, when the French General Victor and his corps threatened to cut Wellington's forces off from the south, Wilson's small flank column of 1,500 men surprised Victor's 19,600 men from the north. In the face of this unclear threat, Victor panicked and precipitously withdrew to Madrid. [5] On 12 August 1809, Wilson with 4,000 men, including two battalions of the Legion, was defeated by French forces under Marshal Michel Ney at the Battle of Puerto de Baños. Facing treble the number of French, Wilson nevertheless managed to maintain his position for nine hours. [6] He lost nearly 400 men while inflicting 185 casualties on the French. [7] Wilson returned to Russia in 1812 as a liaison officer. He was a sharp observer during the events of Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow and was present at the Battle of Krasnoye. He also assisted in the November 1815 escape of the Bonapartist Lavalette from Paris. [8]

Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank acquired the name. This rank has generally been replaced in army ranks by second lieutenant. Ensigns were generally the lowest ranking commissioned officer, except where the rank of subaltern existed. In contrast, the Arab rank of ensign, لواء, liwa', derives from the command of units with an ensign, not the carrier of such a unit's ensign, and is today the equivalent of a major general.

In the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, fought on 24 April 1794, a small Anglo-Austrian cavalry force routed a vastly more numerous French division during the Flanders Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars. Villers-en-Cauchies is 15 km south of Valenciennes.

The dignity of Knight Bachelor is the basic and lowest rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system. Knights Bachelor are the most ancient sort of British knight, but Knights Bachelor rank below knights of chivalric orders.


In 1817, near the start of the Great Game, he published the anti-Russian "A Sketch of the Military and Political Power of Russia". [9]

In 1818, Wilson became an MP for Southwark. [10] In 1821, now a Radical MP he attended the funeral of Queen Caroline (the wife of George IV), a very controversial figure whose treatment by her husband had led her to be celebrated by the 'loud' section of the general populace. Her supporters, considering that they were not being allowed by the authorities to celebrate this occasion as they wished, became unruly. Soldiers escorting the cortege but also on duty because of the Establishment's fear of the mob, upon being stoned, fired over the heads of the crowd. Wilson strode up and stated that, "It is quite disgraceful to continue firing in this manner, for the people are unarmed. Remember you are soldiers of Waterloo; do not lose your honours gained on that occasion. You have had cannon shot at your head, never mind a few stones." The firing ceased as the officer in charge recognised Wilson, and the troops, although maintaining their cohesion 'retired'. [11] A few weeks later Wilson was dismissed from the Army by the Duke of York. [12] He was, however, to serve his country again.

Southwark (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1950-1974

Southwark was a constituency centred on the Southwark district of South London. It returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons of the English Parliament from 1295 to 1707, to the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800, and to the UK Parliament until its first abolition for the 1885 general election. A seat of the same name, covering a smaller area than the last form of the earlier seat in the west of the original and beyond its boundaries to the southwest, was created in 1950 and abolished in 1974.

Caroline of Brunswick Queen consort of the United Kingdom

Caroline of Brunswick was Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George IV from 29 January 1820 until her death in 1821. She was the Princess of Wales from 1795 to 1820.

George IV of the United Kingdom King of the United Kingdom and Hanover

George IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover following the death of his father, King George III, on 29 January 1820, until his own death ten years later. From 1811 until his accession, he served as regent during his father's final mental illness.

Later career

Wilson was reinstated in the Army and promoted to lieutenant-general in 1830. [13] He reached the rank of full general in 1841 and was appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1842. He wrote a great deal about history and politics. [2]

Governor of Gibraltar representative of the British monarch in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

The Governor of Gibraltar is the representative of the British monarch in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. The governor is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the British Government. The role of the governor is to act as the de facto head of state, and he is responsible for formally appointing the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, along with other members of the Government of Gibraltar after a general election. The governor serves as commander-in-chief of Gibraltar's military forces and has sole responsibility for defence and security.


Wilson died suddenly on 9 May 1849 at Marshall Thompson's Hotel in Cavendish Square, London. He is buried along with his wife in Westminster Abbey. [14]

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  1. Royal Kalendar and Court & City Register 1847
  2. 1 2 Chandler, p 490
  3. Gates, p 149
  4. Robertson, p 78
  5. Gates, p 186
  6. Southey, p 48
  7. Smith, p 331
  8. "The Late General Sir Robert Thomas Wilson KC" . The Daily News (UK) . 10 May 1849. Retrieved 13 December 2015 via British Newspaper Archive.
  9. Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, 1994, Chapter 4
  10. "Historical list of MPs: constituencies beginning with "S", part 4". Leigh Rayment's House of Commons pages. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  11. Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston, Panther Books, 1972
  12. "No. 17747". The London Gazette . 18 September 1821. p. 1882.
  13. "No. 18709". The London Gazette. 23 July 1830. p. 1534.
  14. "Sir Robert Thomas Wilson". Westminster Abbey . Retrieved 13 December 2015.
Some of his own works
Secondary sources

Further reading


Edited works:

Online sources

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Calvert
Charles Barclay
Member of Parliament for Southwark
With: Charles Calvert to 1830
John Rawlinson Harris 1830
Charles Calvert from 1830
Succeeded by
Charles Calvert
William Brougham
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Alexander Woodford
Governor of Gibraltar
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Gardiner