Matthew Aylmer, 1st Baron Aylmer : biography
Matthew Aylmer, 1st Baron Aylmer (ca. 1650 – 18 August 1720) was an Irish Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy.
Aylmer was the second son of Sir Christopher Aylmer of Balrath County Meath. In 1678 he entered the Royal Navy as a Lieutenant under the protection of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Early 1679 he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and he appears to have served almost constantly during the next ten years on the coast of Algiers and in the Mediterranean.
In October 1688 he was appointed captain of HMS Swallow in the Thames, but at once gave in his allegiance to the cause of the Revolution. In 1690 he commanded the Royal Katherine, and, in the Battle of Beachy Head, was one of the seconds to Sir Ralph Delaval who commanded the blue squadron. In 1692, still in the Royal Katherine, he was one of the seconds of the Commander-in-Chief at the Battle of Barfleur. He was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in February 1693 and to Vice Admiral in 1694, when he accompanied Admiral Russell to the Mediterranean. He was also appointed a Lord of the Admiralty at this time. In 1698, after the Treaty of Ryswick he was sent, as Commander-in-Chief, again into the Mediterranean, principally to confirm the treaties with the regencies of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers. He returned home towards the end of the following year.
In November 1699, possibly being dissatisfied at the appointment of Admiral Churchill to the Admiralty, he retired from active service, though he continued to act as one of the Commissioners of the Navy till July 1702. He took no part whatever in naval affairs beyond sitting in Parliament as Baron or Member for Dover, till after the death of Prince George, and the retirement of Churchill in November 1709, when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the fleet. In July 1710, whilst cruising in the Soundings, he met with a French squadron and convoy. However, he was aonly able to capture one merchantman and the 56-gun Superbe. The escape of the rest of the conviy was attributed to the haziness of the weather. The new ministry used this failure as an excuse to remove him, which they did in January 1711.
He held no further command till the Accession of George I, when he was again appointed Commander-in-Chief, Ranger of Greenwich Park, and the second Governor of Greenwich Hospital; offices he held until his death. During this time he established the hospital school for the sons of seamen. In April 1717 he became one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, but he resigned the appointment early the next year, when he was promoted to Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom, and at the same time raised to the peerage of Ireland as Lord Aylmer of Balrath. He had been elected Whig M.P. for Portsmouth in 1695, and for Dover in 1697, 1713, and 1715.
A portrait, half-length, presented by his descendant, the fifth Lord Aylmer, is in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
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