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Latest revision as of 06:16, 9 December 2018

SIR Robert Spencer Robinson, K.C.B., F.R.S. (6 January, 1809 – 27 July, 1889) was an officer of the Royal Navy who served as Controller from 1861 to 1871.

Life & Career

Robinson entered the Royal Navy on 6 December, 1821. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 27 September, 1830, and Commander on 28 June, 1838. Robinson was specially promoted to the rank of Captain on 5 November, 1840, for his service in the Hydra off the coast of Syria.[1]

Robinson was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 9 June, 1860. On 6 February, 1861, he was appointed Controller of the Navy. On 7 February, 1866, he was reappointed for a term of five years. He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 2 April, 1866.[2]

On 7 December, 1868, he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Civil Division of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B).[3] A few days later he was appointed a Lord Commissioner on the Board of Admiralty, becoming Third Lord and Controller.[4]

He was placed on the Retired List on 2 June, 1870, under the provisions of the Order in Council of 22 February, 1870, ten years having elapsed since his last service. In his service record it is stated "but name to be retained on Active List as supplementary". The London Gazette confirmed this, stating: "The name of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Spencer Robinson, K.C.B., F.R.S., will be retained on the Active List of Flag Officers, according to his seniority, but supplementary to the established numbers of the List, under the provisions of the before-mentioned Order in Council."[5]

Robinson raged against his compulsory retirement, writing to the Secretary of the Admiralty, Vernon Lushington:

In February 1860 the Duke of Somerset, as a proof of the satisfaction he had experienced at the way I had carried out the duties with which he had entrusted me, re-appointed me to the office of Controller of the Navy for five years.
By custom and by precedent this office took nothing away from my position, or the advantages I derived from being a naval officer, and future active commands were among those advantages to which, by, my service at sea, I was entitled.
At the time of this appointment being made and accepted, the Duke of Somerset's Government, wishing to effect some reforms, and not choosing to leave this matter dependent on custom or tradition, was actually providing, by an Order in Council, that my services under the Admiralty should be considered as valuable as if I had been in command at sea, and promulgated that Order in the following month, after obtaining a majority in its favour in the House of Commons.
I engaged to undertake the laborious task of Controller of the Navy for five years on the distinct understanding, confirmed by these public acts, that I should not be subjected to compulsory retirement for non-service at sea. This immunity was as much part of the equivalent for the services I was to render as the salary paid to me, or the prospect of civil pension secured to me on retirement from office.[6]

In February, 1871, he was superseded as Third Lord and Controller by Captain Robert Hall. N. A. M. Rodger has claimed Robinson was "personally dismissed by Gladstone", the Premier.[7] This is a distortion of the evidence. According to Gladstone, writing to Robinson at the end of January, 1871, Childers and Robinson had met the previous month, and that "it was then finally arranged that you should at the expiration of your term—which I believe is on 7th of February—quit the office in which you have earned so much distinction as a public servant".[8] Robinson disagreed, claiming that he was waiting for a committee of inquiry on his department to report, and that as a Lord of the Admiralty he served "during good behaviour". Gladstone disposed of both claims by stating the committee was not likely to report for months, and that Robinson served as a Lord Commissioner "at pleasure" and not "during good behaviour".[9] Rather than dismissing Robinson, Gladstone was merely reminding him of the reality of his position.

On 14 July he was advanced to Admiral on the Retired List, with his name retained on the Active List as before.[10] Andrew Lambert has claimed that Robinson "stood as an independent Liberal critic of Gladstone's naval policy at the Hull by-election of 1873, although without success".[11] This is completely untrue. The final candidates for the by-election were Colonel Pease for the Conservatives and Robinson's friend E. J. Reed for the Liberals, nominated on 18 October, 1873. Reed was reported to have attempted to install Robinson as the Liberal candidate but took the nomination himself.[12]

In retirement he became a prolific letter writer to The Times.

See Also


Naval Appointments
Preceded by
George H. Seymour
as Third Sea Lord
Third Lord and Controller
18 Dec, 1868[13] – 14 Feb, 1871[14]
Succeeded by
Robert Hall
as Third Lord and Controller of the Navy

Footnotes

  1. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary, 994.
  2. Robinson service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/37/735.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 23448. p. 6527. 7 December, 1868.
  4. Robinson service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/37/735.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 23622. p. 2879. 7 December, 1868.
  6. Letter of 6 June, 1870. Quoted in Copy "of any Correspondence between Flag Officers and the Admiralty relating to the late Scheme of Retirement", 16.
  7. Rodger, "The Dark Ages of the Admiralty", 340.
  8. "The Admiralty", The Times, 16 February, 1871, 10.
  9. Ibid.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 23757. p. 3262. 21 July, 1871.
  11. Lambert, "Robinson, Sir Robert Spencer (1809-1889)", The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  12. "Representation of Hull", The Hull Packet and East Riding Times, 24 October, 1873, 5.
  13. A List of Lords Hugh Admiral and Commissioners for executing that Office, which have been from time to time appointed, since the year 1660. p. 37.
  14. A List of Lords Hugh Admiral and Commissioners for executing that Office, which have been from time to time appointed, since the year 1660. p. 38.

Bibliography

  • Copy "of any Correspondence between Flag Officers and the Admiralty relating to the late Scheme of Retirement". H.C. 175 (1871).
  • Lambert, A., "Robinson, Sir Robert Spencer (1809-1889), naval administrator", The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • O'Byrne, William R. (1849). A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty's Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant.. London: John Murray.
  • Rodger, N. A. M. (1975). "The Dark Ages of the Admiralty, 1869-1885. Part I: 'Business Methods', 1869-1874", The Mariner's Mirror, 61:4, 331-344.