PROBY, William Allen, Lord Proby (1779-1804).
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Family and Education
Lt. RN 1796, cdr. 1796, capt. 1798.
Proby’s naval career was enlivened in March 1800 by a mutiny on board the frigate under his command, which was put into Brest by the crew. He was taken prisoner by the French, but released later in the year. Early in 1801 he unsuccessfully contested a vacancy for Wicklow, where his father, abroad as envoy to Berlin, had a subordinate interest. Later in the year Lord Carysfort became ‘very uneasy’ at Proby’s situation, fearing that he might be ‘still some time without a ship, and is too inexperienced not to get into scrapes if he remains without control on shore’. Proby’s uncle, Thomas Grenville*, ascribed Carysfort’s anxieties more specifically to the fact that ‘in the ardour of Lord Proby’s matrimonial pursuits, he seems to have done less of his father’s business than of his own’ and concurred in ‘wishing that Lord St. Vincent may terminate this embarrassment by giving him a tight frigate, instead of leaving him to provide himself with a pretty wife’. At the 1802 general election Carysfort solicited government support for Proby in Wicklow, but Addington was lukewarm, owing to Carysfort’s connexion with Lord Grenville, and Proby declined to stand. He was provided with a seat by his uncle, Lord Buckingham, for his pocket borough of Buckingham.1
Proby, who took his seat on the opposition benches with the rest of the Grenvillites, condemned as ‘unjust and unwise’ recent dismissals of dockyard employees, 2 Dec. 1802, but moderated his criticism, 18 Dec., and emphasized that ‘it had never been his intention to impute any underhand practices’ to St. Vincent. After spending the winter of 1803 on active service in command of the frigate Amelia, he participated in the general attack on Addington’s ministry in March and April 1804 and spoke against the Irish militia offer bill, 13 Apr.
Shortly afterwards he was ordered to West Indian waters, and he died of yellow fever at Surinam on 6 Aug. 1804. Buckingham was convinced that his transfer from the North Sea to the tropics, ‘where it was morally certain that he must perish’, was an act of ‘vindictive and diabolical revenge taken by the late Admiralty’ for Proby’s vote for Pitt’s motion for an inquiry into naval strength, 15 Mar. 1804. Proby’s cousin, Charles Williams Wynn*, wrote of him:
He had all the warmth of feeling of his father and his manners were peculiarly amiable and pleasing. He had worn off a little of that spirit of the martinet ... which his education under Lord St. Vincent had taught him and he bid fair to have done credit to his family and to his country.2