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Admiral George Keith Elphinstone


(Admiral Lord Keith; 1st Viscount Keith)

1746 - 1823

Naval commander. Born in Elphinstone Tower (Falkirk), the fifth son of Charles, the 10th Lord Elphinstone, Keith joined the Royal Navy in 1761. He was quickly promoted reaching the rank of Captain by 1775. During the American Revolution, he made his name during the capture of Charleston (South Carolina) in 1780. He returned to Scotland and entered Parliament representing first Dunbartonshire, and later Stirlingshire.

Keith resumed active service ten years later and helped capture Toulon from the French (1793). He was promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1794 and sent to occupy the Dutch colonies in South Africa and India (1795). The following year he assisted in taking Ceylon, also from the Dutch.

In 1799, Keith was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He was involved in the siege of Genoa (1800) and in landing troops at Aboukir Bay in Egypt (1801). He then commanded British naval forces in the North Sea (1803-07) and the English Channel (1812-14), organising measures to prevent a French invasion. He received Napoleon at Plymouth following his recapture by Captain Frederick Maitland (1777 - 1839) and supervised the deposed Emperor's final exile to St. Helena.

He was raised to the peerage as Lord Keith in 1797 and created a Viscount in 1814. Having amassed a considerable fortune through a trading venture in the East Indies early in his career, together with accumulated naval prize money, Keith was able to build Tulliallan Castle, near Kincardine, where he spent his retirement with his second wife.

In 1817, much to Keith's disappointment, his daughter Margaret married Auguste Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahaut de La Billarderie, a Frenchman who had served as Aide-de-Camp to Napoleon, who had been Keith's sworn enemy for much of his career.

Keith died at Tulliallan and was buried in the parish churchyard.


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