Willem van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle

Lieutenant-General Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle KG KB PC (5 June 1702 – 22 December 1754) was a British diplomat and courtier.[1]

Willem van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle
William Anne Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, by Charles Philips


Willem or William was born on 5 June 1702 at Whitehall Palace, London, the son of the 1st Earl of Albemarle and was baptised on 16 June 1702 in St Martin-in-the-Fields with Queen Anne as one of his godparents.[2]

On 21 February 1722, he married Lady Anne Lennox (24 June 1703 – 20 October 1789), a daughter of the 1st Duke of Richmond (and a granddaughter of King Charles II through an illegitimate line), at Caversham, Oxfordshire (now Berkshire) and they had six children:

William fought in the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, was Colonel of the 29th Regiment of Foot 1731–1733 and Coldstream Guards from 1744 and 1754, fighting in the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 and the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Albemarle saw plenty of "North Britain" in his army career, which he cordially disliked, describing Scotland in almost every letter he penned as "this cursed country". In June 1746 when it was first proposed that he succeed the Duke of Cumberland as, effectively, the military ruler of Scotland he wrote to the then Secretary of State for the Southern Department, the Duke of Newcastle: "I know the country and that my predecessors have split against a sharp rock".

In 1902, Charles Sanford Terry edited and published for the University of Aberdeen a two-volume work entitled "The Albemarle Papers: being the correspondence of William Anne, Second Earl of Albemarle, Commander-in-Chief in Scotland...1746-1748". The documents reproduced in these two volumes are well known to scholars and have long been held by the National Archives in Kew (the former Public Record Office). But in the Keppel family archive housed in the Suffolk County Record Office, in Ipswich, there is a further collection of the second Earl of Albemarle's papers dating from 1746 and 1747 that appear to have remained completely unknown until they were discovered in April 2018 by Charles Villiers, a great-grandson of the ninth Earl of Albemarle. The documents in Ipswich shed new light on the life and character of Albemarle and, in particular, on the role he played in the events leading up to Charles Edward Stuart's escape from Scotland and return to France in the autumn of 1746.

The Jacobite Rising of 1745, commonly known as the "Forty Five", was the last attempt by the Jacobites, as the supporters of the Royal House of Stuart were known, to regain the British throne. Lieutenant-General William Anne Keppel, second Earl of Albemarle, who was already (as mentioned above) a veteran of the Battles of Dettingen and Fontenoy in the War of the Austrian Succession, and his eldest son George, Viscount Bury, later third Earl of Albemarle (1724–72), of subsequent Havana fame, both fought on 16 April 1746 at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, at which the largely Catholic Jacobite forces led by the grandson of King James II (VII of Scotland), Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, widely known to this day as Bonnie Prince Charlie, were decisively defeated by the largely Protestant Hanoverian forces and thus brought the Rising to an end. At this battle the Hanoverian forces were commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the third and youngest son of King George II, who had also fought at Dettingen and Fontenoy, with Lord Albemarle commanding the first line of Cumberland's army, with the Duke being Commander-in-Chief of HM Forces in North Britain (i.e. Scotland). After Culloden, Albemarle succeeded Cumberland as Commander in Chief in North Britain and, thereby, became the effective military governor of Britain north of the Border.

Young Lord Bury brought the news of the victory of the Hanoverians back to the King in London. Included in the booty awarded to these two fighting Keppels were a thousand guineas in gold and the silver-gilt travelling canteen of Bonnie Prince Charlie, decorated with the Prince of Wales's badge of three ostrich feathers and the collar and badge of the Order of the Thistle, which was sold by Derek, Lord Bury (the son of the ninth earl of Albemarle) in 1963, and is now on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

One of the documents in Ipswich, discovered in April 2018 by Charles Villiers, is a Warrant & Authority dated 17 July 1746 empowering Albemarle "to hold or appoint Courts Martial" and "cause the sentences of the same to be executed". This document on thickly laid paper is as pristine as the day it was signed "William" by the Duke of Cumberland and sealed by him with a large seal of crimson wax impressed with the royal arms differenced with a mullet (five-pointed star) denoting him as a third son. This event took place at the erstwhile Government stronghold of Fort Augustus at the southwest end of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, that had been reoccupied by the Hanoverians after its capture and burning by the Jacobites just before Culloden. Also present was Sir Everard Fawkener (1694-1758), Cumberland's personal secretary, who drafted, made the fair copy and countersigned in his own handwriting the Warrant & Authority. Cumberland's choice of the well-travelled and urbane Sir Everard as his secretary suggests that "Butcher Cumberland", or "Butcher Billy" as he was sometimes known was not the uncultured brute he is frequently made out to have been.

Another Ipswich document drafted, copied and countersigned by Sir Everard is a second sealed Warrant & Authority addressed to one "Anthony Sawyer Esq'r, Deputy Pay Master General of His Majesty's Forces in North Britain" commanding him to accept any and all of Albemarle's "warrants for money on account". This was also issued in July 1746 in the dilapidated surroundings of Fort Augustus. On this document blood-red droplets of sealing wax have spilled across part of the page, and William's signature has needed blotting.

Within a month of taking over from Cumberland (an appointment Albemarle had initially resisted, complaining to the Duke of Newcastle that he would thereby be kept in "the worst country existing"), Albemarle had left Fort Augustus and relocated his headquarters in Edinburgh. Meanwhile, the Young Pretender had become a fugitive, with the enormous price of thirty thousand pounds on his head, payable "to any person who shall seize and secure the eldest son of the [Old] Pretender...in any of His Majesty's Dominions", and was forced to wander about the Highlands under various disguises. But although many people knew where he was, nobody was found to betray him. The best known of the people who offered Charles asylum was Flora Macdonald, with whom he sailed in a small boat to Skye rather inadequately and ridiculously disguised as her maid under the name of Betty Burke.

Many Scots, even today, consider that Albemarle who arrested Flora Macdonald in October 1746 and had her imprisoned in the Tower of London, treated her too harshly. They maintain that what a German (Cumberland) began, a Dutchman (Albemarle) finished. Strictly speaking, this was not true since both Cumberland and Albemarle were born and bred in England, but in any case the Ipswich documents give a picture of a much less abrasive character. For example, a letter dated 10 September 1746 sent to Albemarle in Edinburgh by a clergyman named A. Bannatyne, who was the minister of Dores, a parish on the south shore of Loch Ness, states that he has "had the Honour to be witness of several acts of Justice, Goodness, and Clemency done by your Lordship for the miserable Common People who had been dragg'd out with much violence and oppression to the wicked and unnatural Rebellion". Another letter to Albemarle, dated 15 November 1746, from the banker and Liveryman of the Goldsmiths' Company, Sir Richard Hoare, who was Lord Mayor of London in that year, concerns the charitable allocation of warm clothes to Scotland "for the use of the soldiers intended to reside there this Winter, giving the preference to the most infirm". Whatever his weaknesses, Albemarle was evidently a considerate commander, who showed concern for the welfare of his men.

It is not clear why or when these revealing letters and other significant documents relating to Albemarle's governorship of Scotland in 1746-47, including some personally signed by his predecessor, Cumberland, became detached from the bulk of the Albemarle papers dating from this period and were removed to Quidenham Hall in Norfolk, which only became a Keppel property when it was bought by the third Earl in 1768, and remained there until they were removed in the 1950s and deposited in the Suffolk County Record Office by the ninth Earl of Albemarle, who lived for the last years of his life in Woodbridge in Suffolk.

It is even less clear why, in addition to the original documents and letters, Ipswich also now holds six contemporary handwritten copies of the intelligence reports that were sent to Albemarle in the weeks immediately preceding 20 September 1746 and were also at some point extracted from the main body of his State Papers pertaining to Scotland. They certainly imply that Albemarle, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief in North Britain, was directly involved in the hunt for the Young Pretender, whose escape to France took place on his watch, a subject that has been only superficially treated by historians. However, now that attention is being drawn to the existence of these six reports and the rest of this cache of newly discovered Albemarle documents held at the Suffolk County Record Office, it may be possible to draw new and more definitive conclusions about Charles's movements in the period immediately prior to his escape to France, and Albemarle's failure to apprehend him.

One of these six reports was sent to Albemarle by Kenneth Mackenzie, Lord Fortrose, Chief of Clan Mackenzie, one by Colin Mackenzie, described as a "Captain of an Independent Company", two by John Campbell, fourth Earl of Loudoun, one by a Mr Campbell, who rejoiced in the sonorous title of Deputy Chamberlain to the Duke of Argyll (presumably the third Duke, Archibald Campbell), and one, the longest, by an unnamed "Informer", writing from "the Hills". They reveal that the Government had been alerted to Charles's whereabouts in several places as early as 6 September 1746, a full two weeks before he escaped to France, and that it was known that two frigates from France had earlier arrived on the west coast of Scotland to take him and his followers away. The full French names of the ships are spelt out, the exact location of their anchorages provided, their burthen and armaments detailed, their captains named, and the nationalities of the crews given; "the Informer" is even invited on board! Considering that the award of thirty thousand pounds on Charles's head had remained unclaimed for fourteen months, it seems extraordinary that this comprehensive intelligence was not acted upon as soon it was received, but appears to have been deliberately squandered while Albemarle was in charge of the hunt for him, so that Charles, with several of his followers, was able to escape from Loch nan Uamh on 20 September aboard one of the French frigates. The fact that Albemarle apparently attracted no official censure after Charles's escape, but was promoted to higher offices instead, suggests that, despite the energy and ferocity expended on the hunt for him, it suited the British Government that Charles should not be caught.The Government probably feared that, if Charles had been captured and if any harm had come to him as a result, this might have offended Louis XV, who, without going as far as his predecessor, Louis XIV, who had formally recognized Charles's father, the Old Pretender, as King James VIII and III of England, Scotland and Ireland, had supported the Jacobite cause and might, therefore, have engaged in reprisals rather than agree to any future peace treaty with Britain. So, in summary, whilst Albemarle has generally been castigated in most history books for poor generalship after Culloden in 1746, by delaying his pursuit and failing to apprehend the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland, it is conceivable - even likely - that Albemarle acted upon secret orders of the British Government to allow Charles to escape to the Continent so as to avoid risking the displeasure of Louis XV and an irretrievable destruction of any prospect of a future peace treaty to end the War of the Austrian Succession.

In February 1747 Albemarle was granted permission to leave Scotland. His letter of thanks to the Duke of Newcastle declares that "my joy at leaving this country is inexpressible". After rejoining Cumberland in Flanders for a time he was sent as ambassador to Paris after the signing in 1748 of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which concluded the War of the Austrian Succession between France and Britain and their allies, and in the following year he was made a Knight of the Garter, and appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1751.

Between 1722 and 1751 Albemarle was a Lord of the Bedchamber to George I and George II, and Groom of the Stole 1751–1754. In 1725 he was made a Knight of the Bath (KB) but resigned that honour in 1750 when he became a Knight of the Garter. At its creation in 1739, he was a founding Governor of the Foundling Hospital in London.

He died suddenly on 22 December 1754, aged 52 in Paris in his coach on his way home after a pre-Christmas supper. He was buried on 21 February 1755 in Grosvenor Chapel on South Audley Street, London. He was notoriously extravagant, and is said to have died penniless and totally reliant on his wife's money from her estates in Ireland.

Nancy Mitford remarks that given his love of all things French, it was a blessing that he died before the Seven Years' War broke out.[3] The French in return admired his love of life- " Albemarle aimait son plaisir "- and his wit- when a rapacious mistress admired the beauty of the stars he replied that unfortunately he was unable to buy them for her.[4]


Albemarle County, Virginia in the United States is named after the second Earl as, in 1737, Albemarle was appointed titular Governor of the Colony of Virginia, even though he never set foot in North America.


  1. ^ Gunter, Donald R. "William Anne Keppel, second earl of Albemarle (1702–1754)". Encyclopedia Virginia/Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  2. ^ Person Page 1680, thePeerage. Accessed 8 October 2008.
  3. ^ Mitford, Nancy Madame de Pompadour Hamish Hamilton 1954
  4. ^ Mitford Madame de Pompadour

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Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Orkney
Crown Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
The Earl of Loudoun
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
None due to the
War of the Austrian Succession
British Ambassador to France
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None due to the
Seven Years' War
Military offices
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Henry Disney
Colonel of The Earl of Albemarle's Regiment of Foot
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George Reade
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The Earl of Cholmondeley
Captain and Colonel of the
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The Lord Tyrawley
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The Duke of Marlborough
Colonel of the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards
Court offices
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The Earl of Pembroke
Groom of the Stole
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The Earl of Rochford
Peerage of England
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Arnold Joost van Keppel
Earl of Albemarle
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George Keppel
Albertha Spencer-Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

Albertha Frances Anne Spencer-Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, VA (29 July 1847 – 7 January 1932) was an English aristocrat.

Anne Lennox, Duchess of Richmond

Anne Lennox, Duchess of Richmond (1671 – 9 December 1722), formerly Anne Brudenell, was the wife of two English noblement: first, Henry Belasyse, 2nd Baron Belasyse of Worlaby, and second, Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond. She was the mother of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond.

She was the daughter of Francis Brudenell, Baron Brudenell, and his wife, the former Lady Frances Savile. Her paternal grandfather was Robert Brudenell, 2nd Earl of Cardigan; her father would have inherited the earldom had he not predeceased his father.

Her first husband was Henry Belasyse, whom she married in about 1689; Belasyse died in August 1691. The couple had no children.

On 8 January 1692 Anne married the duke, who was an illegitimate son of King Charles II of England.

Their children were:

Lady Louisa Lennox (1694-1716), who married James Berkeley, 3rd Earl of Berkeley

Charles Lennox, Earl of March, later 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, who married Lady Sarah Cadogan and had children

Lady Anne Lennox, who married Willem van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle, and had children.The duke also had an illegitimate daughter by his mistress, Jacqueline de Mézières.

The duchess died in 1722, aged about 51. She was buried on 16 December 1722 in the Brudenell family vault at St Peter's Church, Deene, Northamptonshire, where her marble memorial, designed by Giovanni Battista Guelfi and erected in 1734, can still be seen. Her husband died the following year.

Frederick Keppel

Frederick Keppel (19 January 1728 – 27 December 1777) was a Church of England clergyman, Bishop of Exeter.

Geoffrey FitzClarence, 5th Earl of Munster

Geoffrey William Richard Hugh FitzClarence, 5th Earl of Munster, KBE, PC (17 February 1906 – 26 August 1975) was a British peer and Conservative politician.

George Keppel, 3rd Earl of Albemarle

General George Keppel, 3rd Earl of Albemarle KG PC (London, 8 April 1724 – 13 October 1772), styled Viscount Bury until 1754, was a British soldier and nobleman. He is best known for his capture of Havana in 1762 during the Seven Years' War.

James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn

James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn (24 August 1838 – 3 January 1913), styled Viscount Hamilton until 1868 and Marquess of Hamilton from 1868 to 1885, was a British nobleman, groom of the stool and diplomat. He was the son of James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn, and Lady Louisa Jane Russell.

John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford

John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (6 July 1766 – 20 October 1839), known as Lord John Russell until 1802, was a British Whig politician who notably served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the Ministry of All the Talents. He was the father of Prime Minister John Russell, 1st Earl Russell.

List of colonial governors in 1747

This is a list of the governors of colonies, protectorates, or other dependencies in 1747. Where applicable, native rulers are also listed.

List of peers 1720–1729

This page lists all peers who held extant titles between the years 1720 and 1729.

List of peers 1730–1739

This page lists all peers who held extant titles between the years 1730 and 1739.

List of peers 1740–1749

This page lists all peers who held extant titles between the years 1740 and 1749.

List of peers 1750–1759

This page lists all peers who held extant titles between the years 1750 and 1759.

Lord Charles Russell

Lord Charles James Fox Russell (10 February 1807 – 29 June 1894), was a British soldier and Whig politician.

Lord Claud Hamilton (1843–1925)

Lord Claud John Hamilton (20 February 1843 – 26 January 1925) was a British Member of Parliament (MP) during the Victorian era.

Lord Edward Russell

Admiral Lord Edward Russell CB MP (24 April 1805 – 21 May 1887) was a British naval officer and Whig politician.

Louisa Hamilton, Duchess of Abercorn

Louisa Jane Hamilton, Duchess of Abercorn, VA (née Lady Louisa Jane Russell) (8 July 1812 – 31 March 1905) was a member of the British aristocracy. She was the sister of Prime Minister John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, and among her descendants are two British princesses (Diana and Sarah) and Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

William Keppel

William Keppel may refer to:

Willem van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle (1702–1754)

William Keppel (British Army officer, born 1727) (1727–1787), British general, son of the 2nd Earl of Albemarle

William Keppel (British Army officer, died 1834), British general and colonial administrator

William Keppel, 4th Earl of Albemarle (1772–1849)

William Keppel, 7th Earl of Albemarle (1832–1894)

William Keppel (British Army officer, born 1727)

Lieutenant-General William Keppel (5 November 1727 – March 1782) was a British Army officer and Member of Parliament.

Colony of Virginia
Colony of Virginia
Commonwealth of Virginia

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