LIGONIER, Sir John Louis (1680-1770), of Cobham Place, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 17 Oct. 1680, 2nd s. of Louis de Ligonier, of Monteuquet, France by Louise, da. of Louis de Poncet. unm. K.B. 12 July 1743; cr. Visct. Ligonier [I] 31 Dec. 1757; Lord Ligonier [GB] 27 Apr. 1763; Earl Ligonier [GB] 10 Sept. 1766.
Capt. 10 Ft. 1703; brevet maj. 1706; brevet col. 1711; lt.-col. 12 Ft. 1712; lt. gov. Minorca 1713-16; lt.-col. 4 Horse 1716; col. 8 Horse 1720-49; brig.-gen. 1735; ranger of Phoenix Park 1735-51; maj.-gen. 1739; gov. Kinsale 1739-40; lt.-gen. 1743; gen. 1746; P.C. 1 Feb. 1749; lt.-gen. of Ordnance 1749-57; col. 2 Drag. Gds. 1749-53; gov. Guernsey 1750-2, of Plymouth 1752-9; col. R. Horse Gds. 1753-7, 1 Ft. Gds. 1757- d.; f.m. 1757; c.-in-c. 1757-66; master gen. of Ordnance 1759-63.
In 1748 Ligonier, a naturalized Huguenot refugee, succeeded Field Marshal Wade as lieutenant-general of the Ordnance and Member for Bath. ‘He had all the gallant gaiety of his nation’, wrote Horace Walpole, ‘and was universally beloved and respected.’1 He became a great favourite with George II, and when the Duke of Cumberland resigned his military appointments in 1757 Ligonier, though nearly 77, was appointed field marshal and commander-in-chief, with a seat in the Cabinet and an Irish peerage. Pitt considered that he should have been raised to the Lords, so as to ‘exempt him from the drudgery of a House of Commons’.2
As commander-in-chief Ligonier was little more than a figurehead. One of his colleagues wrote of the Canadian operations in 1760 that Pitt was ‘Admiral, General etc.—so much that my Lord Ligonier does not even know the number of troops there’. In the Cabinet Newcastle found that it was useless to expect support from Ligonier against Pitt even on projects of which he had beforehand expressed disapproval. ‘His absolute disuse to the business of Parliament and his natural turn for silence and douceur’ unfitted him for playing any part in the House of Commons. But there was no obvious alternative to him; and when in his eightieth year Ligonier recovered from a dangerous illness, Hardwicke reflected: ‘It is odd, but it is true, that his Lordship would have been a great loss.’3
In the new reign Ligonier survived most of the old ministers by siding with Bute and Newcastle against Pitt on war with Spain, and with Bute against Newcastle on the renewal of the Prussian subsidy. Under Bute he had no more share than before in the conduct of the war and less in military appointments, which tended to be settled direct by Bute with the King. On the reconstruction of the Government consequent on Bute’s resignation, Ligonier was turned out of the Ordnance to make way for Granby, receiving as compensation an English peerage and a pension of £3,000 a year. He remained commander-in-chief until 1766, when he was superseded by Granby on grounds of age and health, despite his protests that he felt himself fully equal to the discharge of his duties.4 This time he was compensated with an earldom and a reversion of £1,500 of his pension to his nephew. He died 28 Apr. 1770.