Galfridus Walpole

Galfridus Walpole

Charles Jervas portrait of Galfridus Walpole
whose right arm was lost at Vado Bay in 1711
Born 1683
Died 7 August 1726
Buried at St Martin Churchyard
Houghton, Norfolk
United Kingdom
Allegiance United Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch Royal Navy
Other work

Galfridus Walpole (1683 – 7 August 1726) was a naval officer and politician of the Kingdom of Great Britain (and later United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland). He lost his right arm after a naval battle against the French in Vado Bay, Italy, in 1711. He commanded ships for another nine years, was elected a member of parliament and was appointed joint postmaster general, a position he held until his death.

Life and career

Galfridus was born in 1683, the son of Robert Walpole and Mary Burwell of Houghton, Norfolk, and the younger brother of Sir Robert Walpole. In 1709 he married Cornelia Hays but they did not have any children.[1]

In 1706 he was commander of HMS Solebay, a sixth rate 24-gun frigate,[2][3] followed by the HMS Feversham and between 1707–1709 he commanded HMS Poole, a fifth rate frigate. From 1710–1714 Galfridus was in charge of HMS Lion, a 60-gun fourth rate ship of the line. The last commission was on the HMS Peregrine Galley from 1716–1720, a ship that later became a royal yacht.[4]

While commanding HMS Lion, on 22 March 1711,a Walpole's ship was in Vado Bay in the Mediterranean as lookout cruisers when they sighted four French enemy ships. Amongst those who gave chase and engaged the enemy for about two hours was HMS Lion who lost forty men. Walpole was so badly injured that his right arm was amputated by the ship's surgeon John Atkins who sat up for two nights with Walpole who gave the surgeon no thanks for the attention.[5][6]

He became a member of parliament for Lostwithiel, Cornwall in 1715, a position he held until 21 March 1721.[1]

Greenwich Hospital by Canaletto in 1752

Walpole was the treasurer of Greenwich Hospital, London[3] during the same period he was a member of parliament. On 8 April 1721 he was appointed joint postmaster general,[7] vacated his seat in parliament, and remained in that office until his death on 7 August 1726.[1] A year before his death he took out a lease on Westcombe Park, the site of Westcombe Manor owned by Sir Gregory Page, 2nd Baronet.[8]

Lord Nelson's sword

According to legend, Walpole's sword, used on HMS Lion, was given to a young Horatio Nelson who was apparently wielding it when he too lost his right arm in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 15 July 1797.[3][9] The Walpole sword which has a silver-hilted hanger was made by Nixon Cutlers of London, has 1752 London silver hallmarks and a 60 cm curved blade. Due to its provenance, the sword is known as the Galfridus Walpole — Suckling Sword, having been given to Walpole's godson and great nephew Maurice Suckling whose sister Catherine Suckling was Nelson's mother. William Suckling, Maurice's bother, gave the sword to Nelson who wore his uncle's valued gift in his early career. The sword appears to have been returned to the Suckling family.[10]

The sword was sold at auction by Sotheby's in late 2003 for GBP 36,000, described as "believed to be that carried by Captain (later Admiral Lord) Horatio Nelson" and with extensive notes relating to the provenance and origins of the story that it was with Nelson at the time of his death.[11] Some, however, have doubted the truth of the legend and W.J. Andrew in Notes and Queries in 1922 argued that Nelson would be most unlikely to have used an outdated century old sword in battle.[12]

See also


a.^ Clewes uses the date as 22 March 1711 but other published accounts, such as Sotheby's and Lady Nevill, state 26 March as the date of the battle.


  1. 1 2 3 R. Sedgwick, ed. (1970). "WALPOLE, Galfridus (1683-1726), of Westcomb House, Blackheath, Kent". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 9780118800983. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  2. Winfield, Rif (2010). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1603-1714: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing. p. 249. ISBN 9781848320406.
  3. 1 2 3 The Naval Chronicle for 1805, Volume 14. London: I. Gold. 1805. pp. 92–93.
  4. "Galfridus Walpole (d. 1726)". Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  5. Clowes, William Laird (1898). The Royal Navy, a history from the earliest times to the present. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company. p. 531.
  6.  Moore, Norman (1885). "Atkins, John". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 2. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 5944. p. 1. 08-04-1721. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  8. "Westcombe Woodlands: History: The Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century". Westcombe Woodlands. 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  9. Nevill, Lady Corothy (1894). Mannington and the Walpoles (PDF). London: Fine Art Society. pp. 13–14.
  10. "Sword Carried by Nelson Offered at Sotheby's" (PDF). Press release. Sotheby's. 30 October 2003. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  11. "The Galfridus Walpole and Maurice Suckling silver-hilted hanger believed to be that carried by Captain (later Admiral Lord) Horatio Nelson, by Nixon, Strand, London". Auction lot description. Sotheby's. 4 December 2003. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  12. Andrew, W.J. (23 September 1922). "The Fighting Sword of Lord Nelson" (PDF). Notes & Queries. Oxford: Oxford University Press. s12-XI (232): 241–242. ISSN 0029-3970. Retrieved 22 September 2014.

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Clarges
Erasmus Lewis
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
With: Thomas Liddell
Succeeded by
Galfridus Walpole
Edward Eliot
Preceded by
Galfridus Walpole
Thomas Liddell
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
With: Edward Eliot
Succeeded by
Galfridus Walpole
John Newsham
Preceded by
Galfridus Walpole
Edward Eliot
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
With: John Newsham
Succeeded by
Marquess of Hartington
John Newsham
Political offices
Preceded by
James Craggs the Elder
Charles Cornwallis
Postmaster General of the United Kingdom
With: Edward Carteret
Succeeded by
Edward Harrison
Edward Carteret
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