Lord Keith, a Scottish admiral who rose to prominence serving His Majesty from 1761 to 1815, ended his career by overseeing Napoleon’s surrender in 1815. Born George Keith Elphinstone, Keith at one time or another held nearly every important command in the British navy, and his story illustrates the navy’s history during the Age of Fighting Sail.
McCranie’s book is the first modern biography of Keith, who learned the art of commanding single ships and small squadrons during the American Revolution. Keith eventually commanded four major fleets—the Eastern Seas, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and the Channel. Though he never led a fleet into battle, Keith supported joint operations with the British army and its allies while simultaneously maintaining command of the sea and ensuring the free passage of commerce.
A skilled administrator, who at times controlled more than 200 ships over thousands of square miles of ocean, Keith successfully navigated the political and social waters as well. Drawing on more than 100,000 private and public records, McCranie documents Keith’s dealings with the British government, the Royal Family, the Admiralty, the French government, the French navy, the British army, and Britain’s allies.
Citing letters Keith wrote to his wife, his sister, his oldest daughter, and his father, to whom he described his first impressions of the navy, the author offers a personal portrait and narrative of a career-conscious officer who worried about what others thought of him. This book will appeal tohistorians of the Royal Navy, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic era, as well as enthusiasts of the Age of Fighting Sail.
Kevin McCranie, assistant professor of history at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia, is also adjunct professor of strategy and policy at the United States Naval War College in Jacksonville, Florida.