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Herbert, Arthur

Herbert, Arthur (1647–1716). Created earl of Torrington by William III in June 1689, following an indecisive action with French transports in Bantry Bay, south-west Ireland, Herbert is a controversial if not disreputable figure in English naval history. A member of the Pembroke family, he early saw service in the third Dutch War and then the Mediterranean, where from 1680 he served as a flag officer, having lost an eye in action with Algerine corsairs. He was vigorously attacked for the extensiveness of his illicit trading at Tangier 1680–3, but back home in 1685 James II appointed him master of the robes. In March 1687 he refused to support James II's suspending of the Test Act, and so became ranked with the king's opponents, in June 1688 personally carrying to Holland the invitation to William to intervene in the nation's affairs. He commanded the Dutch invasion fleet, and became 1st lord of the Admiralty in February 1689. In June 1690 Torrington commanded an outnumbered Anglo-Dutch fleet off Beachy Head in an engagement with the French, which saw the Dutch badly mauled. His court-martial for a tactical withdrawal of his fleet to the Gunfleet Sand off Essex led to his acquittal, but he never served again.

David Denis Aldridge

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