COCKBURN, Sir George (1772-1853), of High Beach, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1818 - 1820
1820 - May 1828
7 June 1828 - 1832
27 Sept. 1841 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 22 Apr. 1772, 2nd s. of Sir James Cockburn, 8th Bt., of Langton, Berwick by 2nd w. Augusta Anne, da. of Very Rev. Francis Ayscough, dean of Bristol. educ. Marylebone, Mdx.; by Rev. Wells, Margate; Roy’s navigation sch., Old Burlington Street, Mdx. m. 23 Nov. 1809, his cos. Mary, da. and event. coh. of Thomas Cockburn of Jamaica, 1da. KCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCB 20 Feb. 1818; suc. bro. Sir James as 10th Bt. 26 Feb. 1852.

Offices Held

On navy books 1781, entered service 1786, lt. 1792, cdr. 1793, capt. 1794; capt. Port of St. Pierre 1809; col. marines 1811-12; commr. to Spanish America Oct. 1811-Aug. 1812; r.-adm. 1812; c.-in-c. St. Helena 1815-16, ld. of Admiralty Apr. 1818-May 1827, Sept. 1828-Nov. 1830; v.-adm. 1819; maj.-gen. marines 1821-d.; member of High Admiral’s council May 1827-Sept. 1828; PC 30 Apr. 1827; c.-in-c. N. America and W.I. 1832; first naval ld. Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835, Sept. 1841-July 1846; adm. 1837, adm. of fleet 1851-d.


The financial ruin of Cockburn’s father was offset by the professional success of himself and his brothers, two of whom were in the army, one in the Church and one a diplomat. He had an eventful naval career, on the strength of which he sought a baronetcy in 1810.1 He had brought the Marquess Wellesley home from India in 1805 and was by him appointed to the unsuccessful commission to mediate between Spain and her American colonies in 1811.2 He took a leading part in planning and carrying out the attack on Washington during the Anglo-American war. Robert Peel wrote of him, 7 Oct. 1814:

Admiral Cockburn is brother to my brother-in-law William Cockburn, and is a very fine fellow. He is thought to be a severe disciplinarian, differs with Sir S. Romilly upon the effects of flogging, and with Sir John [Borlase] Warren* upon the best mode of carrying on the warfare against America.3

In 1815 Cockburn escorted Buonaparte to St. Helena and treated him roughly.4 On being relieved in July 1816 he returned home without employ. He is not to be confused with General Sir George Cockburn, whose politics were quite the opposite of his.5

Cockburn, on his appointment to the Admiralty board, was their candidate at Portsmouth in 1818, though Southampton had been considered for him. He ousted John Markham, one of the opposition Members, without a contest. In 1820 Adm. Markham defeated him, but he was found another seat. He first spoke on Admiralty business, 4 Feb. 1819. On 18 Mar. he denied that he had applied patronage at Portsmouth for electioneering purposes and opposed Ridley’s motion for the reduction of the junior lords of Admiralty. On 2 Apr. he defended General Gourgaud, arrested as an alien, having known him on St. Helena. He was in the minority on the Marriage Act amendment bill, 26 Apr. He opposed an aggrieved sailor’s petition, 11 May. He defended the navy estimates, 2 June. He was in the government majorities of 29 Mar., 18 May and 10 June. He opposed, as impracticable, Joseph Hume’s motion for information on the comparative costs of shipbuilding and outfitting since 1791, 8 Dec. 1819. He was described in 1824 as ‘an ungovernable man and his head turned by the dominion he holds at the Admiralty’.6 He died 19 Aug. 1853.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: P. A. Symonds / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. DNB ; Add. 37291, f. 240; Ralfe, Naval Biog. iii. 257.
  • 2. Iris Butler, The Eldest Brother, 359, 454.
  • 3. Add. 40287, f. 158.
  • 4. Broughton, Recollections, i. 324, 343.
  • 5. DNB.
  • 6. Buckingham, Court of Geo. IV, ii. 43.