Some years ago, when I wrote my thesis on the Victorian and Edwardian Navy, I wrote a chapter concerning nomination and patronage. On a web site like this, which is concerned with hitherto unpublished memoirs and articles about Victorian Naval officers, readers may find a part of the chapter a useful introduction to the sociological and genealogical background of Victorian officers. It also serves as an introduction to the Nomination Database which is available at the end of the article.

Nomination and Patronage

Before an aspiring Cadet join the Royal Navy, he had to obtain a nomination. In order to obtain a nomination he had to establish himself as a 'gentleman'. A nomination was a guarantee of gentlemanly status.

The process of nomination in the Old Navy was, generally speaking, that regulated and standardised by Admiralty in 1857. Every Flag Officer, on appointment, might make two nominations of Cadets of his choice, every Captain on commissioning a ship might make one. No nominations were to be allowed on commissioning the Excellent, Victorian and Albert, Steam Guard Ships,Training Ships or Coastguard Ships. Commodores of the First Class, when not Commanders in Chief, were to be allowed one nomination. Throughout the Old Navy Admiralty were continually trying to obtain control of entry themselves and to regulate numbers. To this end , by the time of the New Navy, Admiralty had managed to curtail some of the freedom given to senior officers in the matter of nomination. By 1898 all nominations of candidates were made by the First Lord with the exception of 'a limited number' which were 'at the disposal of individual members of the Board '. A Captain was only permitted to nominate a candidate once during the time he held the rank of Captain. Limited examination competition was also introduced in 1870 in an effort to control quality of entrants and numbers. Nominations were made three times a year after the examination results were made known by the Civil Service Comissioners. Six Cadetships were given annually to sons of gentlemen in the Colonies on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Seven Service Cadetships were also given annually. Recipients of these were selected by the Board of Admiralty from 'sons of officers of the Army,Navy or Marines who have been killed in action , or lost at sea on active service , or killed on duty , or who have died of wounds received in action or injuries received on duty within six months of the date of such action or injury' . Of the seven service Cadetships, three were to be offered to sons whose fathers had given distinguished naval service or who had been on the Active list not lower than the rank of Commander. One 'young gentleman 'was appointed annually from the training ships Conway and Worcester ,so long as the nominee passed the preliminary entrance examination. and in addition the Naval School at New Cross had four annual nominations and Christ's Hospital appears to have had at least one.

The patronage system of the nineteenth century paid scant attention to the qualifications of prospective candidates until the turn of the century. Patronage or ?interest? was vested essentially in the hands of Admiralty/Government via the First Lord who held about two thirds of the nominations. It was the political and social system in operation at the height of the Old Navy and which Admiral Ryder so inveighed against in 1871, that 'vicious system of nomination by my Lords', that 'political patronage which it unavoidably became ' and which he hoped the Royal Navy would soon' sweep away.' However, even with the advent of the New Navy, and the move to Admiralty nomination by examination and interview, my Lords showed a reluctance to sweep away a system which they found to their own advantage. Even after the Selborne reforms, they kept their own power to 'recommend' a candidate to the interviewing committee.Entrance was still to be by 'nomination and a limited competitive examination.'.... 'All nominations of Candidates for Naval Cadetships are made by the First Lord, with the exception of a limited number which are at the disposal of individual members of the Board, and of the Secretaries to the Board of Admiralty? In the New Navy, officers themselves had lost their powers of
Nomination.

A study of the Patronage Books of First Lords Somerset, Corry,Goschen, Hunt and Smith gives us an interesting insight into this process of nomination. An overview, would seem to indicate that the process of nomination, fairly simple in 1860, became more complicated during the late sixties and almost frenzied by the late seventies and early eighties. This is indicated by the increasing number of applications and patrons in the later books and the increasing number of apparent refusals. Almost every one of the 153 applicants in Somerset's book (1859-1867) appears to receive a nomination although only 81 candidates appear to have ended up as Cadets. This would seem to indicate an ease of nomination in the middle sixties that would perhaps bear out this time as a low point in naval recruiting. Poor promotion prospects and insufficient employment no doubt discouraged prospective entrants. But as the Old Navy increased in popularity and prestige, so did demand. By the late seventies, the involvement of the Royal Princes in the Service upgraded the social desirability of a naval career. As William King Hall said, when in 1869 the Prince took his young sons to Warspite ,dressed as naval Cadets, 'Your Royal Highness is lifting us up. We have been too long in the mud.' By the early eighties as Keyes said ,'In those days (1885) a nomination for a Cadetship in the RN ... was not too easy ..', Lord George Hamilton, who was First Lord at the time, was a friend of my uncle, General Sir Henry Norman, and he gave me my nomination...' By the end of the century it became easier as the New Navy, with its greater demand for officers came into being and the quality of the candidate himself became more important.

The Patronage books give us an interesting insight into this process of nomination.
The patronage book of First Lord Somerset (1859-1868) simply listed the candidate, the date at which he would reach the age of fourteen and his nominees or patrons.. Until 1861 each candidate had one nominee, thereafter one or more. There is no indication of interest in the parental occupation of the candidate, where he comes from or his education. Sometimes, for applicants with a service background, claims of service were adduced, little else. The implication here, is that the patronage was all. One or two patrons acceptable to the First Lord provided the candidate with his nomination. They certified parental acceptability and disregarded any concern for the candidate himself.

In First Lord Corry's patronage book (1867-1868) there was a move to greater information. The age at which the candidate would reach fourteen was still given, but now the father's professional/occupational status was recorded, the candidate's address was given and often his school was stated. The number and quality of his nominees or patrons were registered and his claims to be considered for nomination were set out.

In First Lord Goschen's patronage book ( 1871-1876) the date at which the candidate would reach thirteen and a half was given, his name and address, sometimes his school, and there was more information presented to back up claims. There was also the introduction of specifically political claimants, e.g .Members of Parliament.

Until First Lord Hunt's patronage books,(1875-78 and 1879-81) there were only two columns for information : name of candidate and name of applicant. But in Hunt's books, the need for claims was recognised and the second column was headed 'Applicant and Claims'. Under this column, such claims as there were had to be fitted. It was difficult to get all the information into the column as patrons and claims increased. There was also an additional column to record whether the candidate was nominated and by whom. It should be mentioned that although there might be the name of a certain First Lord on the cover of the Patronage Book , if there was a change of First Lord, the new incumbent might take over the previous patronage book, if he was of the same political party. By the time of Smith's book in 1881, there was a wide column provided for claims to be written , and considerable detail, political, social and service, was now evidenced in application. Significantly, the claims column in Smith's book was always headed by the candidate's father's occupation. Parental background was becoming even more important and the nuances of acceptable social status more graduated.

Although the degree of information remains fairly standard in the later books of Goschen, Hunt and Smith, the way it is recorded is not. Patrons were added at various intervals and names, with comments, are often scrawled in margins or squashed into the small space available, making them difficult to read! Eleven patrons to one candidate would appear to be the record. Admiral Hall, Major Dickson, Mr. W. Gordon, Mr S. Leighton, Marquis of Headford, Mr. S .Starkie, Mr. T. Salt, Mr. Sclater Booth, Mr R. Kempe,Sir A. Slade and Major Waterhouse, all backed the application of C. G. C. Taylor, whose father was in the army. He was accepted . Where fathers in commerce or industry were concerned, as in the later books, an increasing number of MPs were roped in to give political strength to the application. The same names crop up e.g. Mr Sclater Booth, Conservative member for Hampshire: Sir M Hicks Beach, Conservative member for Gloucestershire; Hon R Bourke, Conservative member for Kings Lynn. May we assume that some were well known for their expertise in this field of patronage, although they had no obvious connection to Admiralty to my knowledge?

Indications of nominations given or refused were not standard. Sometimes the eventual nomination or refusal was recorded with comments, such as the tantalising, 'see Capt Tryon's remarks on Mrs Messum'. S Messum was at New Cross school and was accepted. But often there was no indication of acceptance or otherwise in the patronage books themselves, and recourse must be had to the lists at Dartmouth to establish, at least , which candidates successfully passed the entrance examination.

The addresses from which prospective naval Cadets came, yields few surprises . Most were from the South East and South West of England , Scotland and Ireland featured prominently and there were a few from Cornwall, Jersey and the Isle of Wight. There is some evidence in the patronage books of patterns of attachment amongst men who came from similar regions , (e.g. patrons who came from the same area) and no doubt we would expect to see that within the officer corps itself, particularly those from Ireland and Scotland , but there is little evidence of that in the average officer's career path. Patterns of consanguinity, also noticeable in these pages, such as the Seymour, Hawkins, Guiness connection, would have counted for more. E. E. Bennett's claim was that 'mother's relations are Hawkins and Seymours' .A. S. E. Guiness claimed that he was 'a cousin of the Culme Seymours' . The Royal Yacht connection was also important..

There was a marked interest in the schooling of candidates from 1873. This reflects the general interest in education at the time and also shows the growing interest in the candidate himself which culminated in the interview procedures of the New Navy. The scholastic background of candidates bears out the popularity and success of the crammers. Apart from mention of the school, mention of the aspiring Cadet's qualifications are few. There was A. E. De Normann , the boy who knew, ' modern Greek, French, Italian and German' and J. G. Sampson , the boy who ' won the only prize in each naval class at Forsters' but these were only exceptions which proved the rule. Neither boy seems to have been successful in obtaining a cadetship. De Normann appeared in Goschen's book, but he came from Corfu, his father was a telegraph engineer and he only had Captain Brandreth as a single patron. Sampson appeared in Hunt's book and despite an impressive array of patrons including two MPs, failed to secure a Cadetship. He must have failed the entrance examination or had a patron displeasing to Hunt. But that seems unlikely, with the Countess of Dalkeith and Mr T Brassey to support him . It is possible, given his name, that Sampson was Jewish. It is not my impression that there were many Jews, if any, in the Royal Navy at this time.

The various claims adduced by applicants for their candidates provide a fascinating insight into the background of aspiring Cadets. Apart from the obvious claims of army and naval relatives of varying distinction, there were claims ranging from wealth to poverty , heroism to victimisation, outstanding family naval service to 'uncle in the Crimean [war]'. Claims could also include being 'well known in the literary world' or 'writing the History of England.'( Froude). They could include close friendship with a First Lord to meeting him fortuitously at an Academy dinner as did 'Millais '. Reginald Bacon's single claim was that his father had 'passed a week with Mr.Hunt at Coombe'. Political considerations were a strong subtext: 'Captain Turner,M.P,has not troubled his party much and is greatly interested.'

Where a candidate had very important political or social patronage, claims mattered little and often were not introduced at all. Otherwise they were produced in varying detail to bolster the application. Where influential social or political patronage was available, the reference to family members as having served in the Army, Indian Army or Navy was usually considered enough. Where influential social or political patronage was not forthcoming there was more emphasis on the quality of family service or social relations . Action in the Crimea or the Indian Mutiny was adduced , heroism at Waterloo was remembered : H. J. L. Clarke's father had commanded the Scots Greys and had had three horses shot from under him and his leg smashed at Waterloo; H. H. Brown's uncle, Sir W. Bellairs had 2 horses killed under him and Robert D'Arcy's grandfather had been 'shot in three places '. Nor was it only the Crimea and Waterloo that was remembered. C. E. Greenway's grandfather had been 'severely wounded by a 14lb shot in the American War,1812 and the shot was still in possession of the family....' (!) Other forms of heroism were referred to: George Ballard's father 'was 8 times mentioned in Despatches', Henry De La Fosse 's father was one of three heroic survivors of Cawnpore, J. E. P. Grenfell's father 'lost his life in defending mails and large quantity of gold against Bush rangers', Keppel Wade was a nephew of a Lieutenant killed leading a raid against the pirates of Borneo. No doubt these claimants hoped to avail themselves of the few service cadetships on offer. But the sort of thing that was considered 'a good service case ' was 'father's survey of Indian Gulf exhibited at Exhibition of 1862'

There were also the claims of debt. Claimants who felt something was owing to them by the Navy, as a result of their suffering in the cause of the service. E. S. Alexander claimed that his father died of cold contracted in command of Hector, M. A. Cockroft claimed his father had been paralysed from long service on the West Coast of Africa. C. L. Hamilton's father had been killed in New Zealand in 1864 and his mother 'went mad on hearing of father's death'. George Patterson claimed his father had never recovered from imprisonment by pirates. Thomas Segrave, simply stated that his father 'died from hard work' Many claimed the deleterious effect that the service had had on their father's health and therefore wealth.

Poverty ,as well as affluence , was adduced as a claim. Poverty was connected to the number of children in a family. D. S. Vale's father 'left seven children with small means' , H. B. Barton was one of 12 children, R. Richardson and H.W. R. Boothby had widowed mothers with eight children. Henry Savile was a curate with 8 children .
R.Huddleston had '8 sons and no assistance beyond a fair start'. E Bowden Smith, C. H. Onslow and G.A .Brownrigg were all one of nine sons, W. Hickley were one of ten, and S. W. Hunt, of thirteen. It is not that these were exceptionally large families which is significant, but that aspirants saw fit to plead the poverty and difficulties which families of more than eight children produced. On the whole their Lordships seem not to have been much moved by this sort of claim , F. J. P. Currie,the eldest of nine has 'no promise whatever' underlined on his entry. Even had they been sympathetic, there seems to be more evidence of wealth being a suitable claim . No doubt the First Lord was aware that a Cadet's life needed a certain amount of financial underwriting. 'Boy very anxious, mother very poor' is less likely to elicit a nomination than 'boy will have £2,500 a year when he comes of age'(W. G. Cowant) or 'boy will have £5000' (T. S. G.Newbold). Also, no doubt the Navy thought that wealth , rather than poverty, was appropriate to the officer corps, - a more gentlemanly attribute, making for a less dependant or corruptible officer. It is worth noting that many of the poorer applicants applied for the £40 scale of fees, which denoted a 'scholarship boy' . These requests only appear in Hunt's book and again show the growing interest in the candidate himself , presumably it indicated some aptitude on the part of the candidate. 13 applicants asked for £40 scale, 10 were successful. This seems to be a high proportion and would indicate a growing value attached to scholastic prowess. Some candidates were fortunate in having relatives who offered to stand surety for fees.

Where relatives were sufficiently superior in social standing , the matter of claims was considerably less important. Suitable relations were of the essence and great ingenuity was shown by aspiring applicants who had to scrabble around to find them : Oswald Sanderson had 'a sort of connection with the Earl of Cadogan'.On the other hand the fact that M. R .St John's applicant, Admiral Sir R. Munday, was 'a connection' was significantly underlined! . For those who did not have to search for acceptable relations, the path to naval entry was considerably eased. John Clarke's great uncle, Lord Exmouth , was enough to secure him a nomination under Goschen. Exmouth was an offspring of the renowned Pellew. Where the first applicant was a Lord, or a Sir, the candidate was almost invariably given a nomination.

It is interesting to look at the place of women in these pages. One gets a picture of a benevolent social circle of female concern. Upper class ladies interceded for doctor's sons or other aspirants thought to be worthy. Lady Herbert applied for an orphan boy. Lady Augusta Hervey described W Macarthy as 'one of the most accomplished members of juvenile society I have ever seen' .First Lord's wives expressed a concern for other needy boys, whose fathers were often dead or had other mitigating circumstances. Mrs. Latrobe applied to Mrs. Smith for a boy whose father was paralysed, but the father was only a coffee planter and the applications was not recorded as successful.. Of Mrs. Goschen's four applications, three are recorded as successful.

An examination of the party political aspect of the patronage books shows clearly the importance of political influence. In 395 applications for nomination , one or more Members of Parliament were invoked. E. Jervoise's father, 'always proposes Mr. B. for the county . Mr. B. very much interested. ' Capt. Turner 'has not troubled the party much and is very interested...'W. S. Macarthy 'gave great service as agent for Mr. Paull', Conservative member for St. Ives. And applying to Goschen, F. Locke's 'father is a liberal.' Of the ninety MPs applying to Hunt, only 6 were liberal and of the 38 applying to Goschen, only 8 were conservative. Political patterns were similar for other First Lords, although it is possible to conclude from the evidence available , (of Somerset's 43 recorded applications, there were only 3 M.Ps mentioned and they were 2 liberals with one conservative) that a more laissez faire attitude towards party existed in the sixties and became tighter during the eighties as more political weight was introduced.

First Lords varied in their attititude to applicants. Lord Goschen tried to be discreet, He assured Lord Dalhousie that he wanted to nominate 'but feared there would be very few nominations at his disposal' , or again, 'Mr. Goschen would be glad to have it within his power to nominate but it is contrary to the practice of the administration to promise' On the other hand, he was 'personally interested in H. G .Cotterill' (There are no other details to this application, other than the name of the father - the boy was successful. He became a Major in the Royal Marines ) and 'particularly interested in D. Guthrie', again no further details and this time no record of acceptance. Was this support of obscure candidates a result of Mr. Goschen's own rise from the middle classes or an aspect of his 'liberality and fairness' in ensuring an advance in pay for those who worked in naval dockyards. Mr Smith was more forthcoming and promised Michael Culme Seymour a nomination at Malta , 'if he was still in office' , he declared himself 'exceedingly glad' if he could nominate Hon. C. Denston for Captain Fairfax and that 'Sir B. Henniker need not apprehend his boy being overlooked if he remained in office' . Mr. Hunt was perhaps more devious. He informed Lady Manners privately that he would nominate and told Hon.. R. Bourke and Mr. Connolly, M.P. that he could not promise a nomination, but the Duchess of Roxborough's request received 'promised' with a double underlining . Lafone, whose father was a member of the London School Board and a local merchant , was also told ' Hunt promises now' , presumably since one of his applicants was the Mayor of London! In fact Hunt is the most 'promising' of all the First Lords in this matter of patronage. Was this why Sir H Briggs described him as 'unusually popular amongst the country members?'

Whatever deductions made be made from these Patronage books, however accurate or inaccurate, there is no mistaking the significance and interest of the Patronage books in a study of the background of Victorian Royal Navy Officers.

The Nomination Database

For those who may be interested I have appended a summary of the database I made from the Patronage Books. It is necessarily unpolished, (requires a sympathetic imagination in places! ) since it consists of shorthand notes made at the time, but it may still be of use to those interested in the naval, genealogical and sociological implications of the data. I have provided a key which I hope will be enough to clarify the data and make it usable. My thanks go to Paul Hunt for his hard work in dealing with the complications of the data base and putting it on the web site. I must also put on record my gratitude for the courtesy of Britannia Royal Naval College in allowing me access to the Patronage Books.

Mary Jones asserts her copyright to this database.

So far you can search by surname, region, school and year.

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