Henry Keppel

Henry Keppel bigraphy, stories - Royal Navy admiral

Henry Keppel : biography

14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral, son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle and of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lord de Clifford.



Keppel married twice: firstly Katherine Louisa Crosbie, daughter of General Sir John Crosbie on 25 February 1839 and secondly Jane Elizabeth West, daughter of Martin John West on 31 October 1861. By his second wife, he had one son, Colin Richard Keppel, and one daughter, Maria Walpole Keppel, who married Admiral Sir Frederick Tower Hamilton. Keppel Harbour in Singapore is named after him. He lived at Grove Lodge at Winkfield Row in Berkshire and is buried in the parish church at Winkfield.

Keppel’s relationship with Lady Eliza Lucy Grey was discovered by her husband Sir George Grey in 1860, and this, together with accusations of infidelity against Sir George Grey, led to the breakdown of their marriage.


  • The Expedition to Borneo of HMS. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy (1846)
  • A Visit to the Indian Archipelago in HMS Meander (1853)
  • A Sailors Life under four Sovereigns (autobiography) (1899)

Naval career

He entered the navy from the old naval academy of Portsmouth in 1822. He became lieutenant in 1829 and commander in 1833. His first command was largely passed on the coast of Spain, which was then in the midst of the convulsions of the Carlist War. Captain Keppel had already made himself known as a good seaman. He was engaged with the squadron stationed on the west coast of Africa to suppress the slave trade.

In 1837 he was promoted post captain, and appointed in 1841 to the service in China and against the Malay pirates, a service which he repeated in 1847, when in command of HMS Maeander.The story of his two commands was told by himself in two publications, The Expedition to Borneo of HMS. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy (with extracts from the journal of James Brooke) (1846), and in A Visit to the Indian Archipelago in HMS Meander (1853). The substance of these books was afterwards incorporated into his autobiography, which was published in 1899 under the title A Sailors Life under four Sovereigns.

In May 1853 he was appointed to the command of the new steam line-of-battle ship HMS St Jean d’Acre. When the Crimean War broke out on 1854, the St Jean d’Acre formed part of the Baltic Fleet. Keppel witnessed the fall of Bomarsund. In 1855, St Jean d’Acre was sent to the Black Sea. On 21 July 1855, Keppel swapped commands with the captain of the sailing line-of-battle ship Rodney, whose crew was all ashore. Keppel served as commander of the Naval Brigade which was besieging Sebastopol.A Sailors Life under four Sovereigns

After the Crimean War he was again sent out to China, this time in command of the Raleigh, as commodore to serve under Sir Michael Seymour. The Raleigh was lost on an uncharted rock near Hong Kong, but three small vessels were named to act as her tenders, and Commodore Keppel commanded in them, and with the crew of the Raleigh, in the action with Chinese pirates at the Battle of Fatshan Creek (1 June 1857). He was honorably acquitted for the loss of the Raleigh, and was given command of HMS Alligator, which be held until his promotion to rear-admiral. For his share in the action at the Battle of Fatshan Creek he was made KCB.

The prevalence of peace gave Sir Henry Keppel no further chance of active service, but he became Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station in 1860, Commander-in-Chief, China Station in 1867 and Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in 1872.

He retired from the active list in 1879, two years after he attained the rank of admiral of the fleet.