The Lord Heathfield
1787 portrait by
Sir Joshua Reynolds
|Governor of Londonderry|
|Governor of Gibraltar|
|Born||25 December 1717|
Wells House, nr Stobs, Roxburghshire, Scotland
|Died||6 July 1790 (aged 72)|
Schloss Kalkofen, Aachen, Germany
|Resting place||St Andrew's Church, Buckland Monachorum, Devon|
Anne Pollexfen Drake (1726-1772) (m. 1748–1772)
|Parents||Sir Gilbert Eliott, 3rd Baronet, of Stobs and Eleanor Elliot|
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Great Britain|
George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron Heathfield, PC, KB (25 December 1717 - 6 July 1790) was a British Army officer who served in three major wars during the eighteenth century. He rose to distinction during the Seven Years' War when he fought in Germany and participated in the British attacks on Belle Île (France) and Cuba. Eliott is most notable for his command of the Gibraltar garrison during the Great Siege of Gibraltar, which lasted from 1779 and 1783, during the American War of Independence. He was celebrated for his successful defence of the fortress.
Eliott was born at Wells House, near Stobs Castle, Roxburghshire, the 10th (and 8th surviving) son of Sir Gilbert Eliott, 3rd Baronet, of Stobs, by his distant cousin Eleanor Elliot of Brugh and Wells in Roxburghshire. Eleanor's brother was the soldier and courtier William Elliot of Wells. One of his Eleanor's sisters, Charlotte, had married Roger Elliott, another Governor of Gibraltar.
Eliott was educated at the University of Leiden in the Dutch Republic and studied artillery and other military subjects at the école militaire of La Fère in France. He served with the Prussian Army between 1735 and 1736.
In 1741 he transferred to the Engineers and joined the 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards, of which his maternal uncle, William Elliot of Wells, was then Lieutenant-Colonel, and of which Eliott was afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel. He served throughout the War of Austrian Succession between 1742 and 1748, fighting at the Battle of Dettingen, where he was wounded, and again at the Battle of Fontenoy. He became an Engineer Extraordinary in 1744 and Engineer Ordinary in 1747 when he was stationed at Sheerness. Eliott resigned from the Engineers in 1757.:384
Eliott served as ADC to King George II between 1756 and 1759 during which time he was raised to Colonel. Appointed Brigadier for the 1758 expedition to France, where he was placed in command of the Brigade of Light Cavalry, He was tasked to raise and was appointed colonel of the 1st Light Horse (later 15th Light Dragoons, then 15th Hussars). Eliott distinguished himself in the German campaign, particularly during the Battle of Minden in 1759 when he was promoted to Major-General and the 1760 Battle of Emsdorf.:385
He took part in the Capture of Belle Île in 1761. He was 2nd-in-charge at the capture of Havana during the 1762 British expedition against Cuba for which he received a significant amount of prize money. He was promoted Lieutenant-General in 1765. On 6 March 1775 he was made a Privy Counsellor and temporarily appointed commander of Forces in Ireland.
In July 1779, Gibraltar was besieged by the French and Spanish. Eliott using his engineering skills to good effect in improving the fortifications. By August, it was very apparent that the Spanish intended to starve the garrison. The Great Siege of Gibraltar would eventually last from 1779 to 1783. A notable letter from Eliott to the Misses Fuller survives, dated 21 September 1779 and delivered on 4 October, it said simply "Nothing new. G.A.E." Eliott was an abstemious man, his diet comprising vegetables, biscuit and water. He also rarely slept for more than four hours at a time.:385
On 13 September 1782, the French and Spanish initiated a grand attack, involving 100,000 men, 48 ships and 450 cannon. Under great duress, the Garrison held its position and, by 1783, the siege was finishing. On 8 January 1783, the British Parliament sent their official thanks to Eliott and he was nominated a Knight of the Bath. By 6 February 1783, the siege was over. Eliott was invested with his honour at Gibraltar on 23 April.
Eliott returned to England in 1787. He was created Lord Heathfield, Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar on 6 July 1787 and in addition many statues, portraits and coins were produced in his honour.
A will exists dated 27 February 1788. On 19 May 1788 Eliott was formally installed as Knight of the Bath, and, in June 1788, a portrait "The Installation Supper" was painted by James Gillray and resides in the National Portrait Gallery.
About this time, Eliott was making his way overland back to Gibraltar where he was still Governor. However, he became ill and stayed in the Aachen area to recuperate. During 1790, he stayed at: Grossen Hotel, Dubigk; Karlsbad (bei Herr Brammertz); Kaiserbad, Aachen (bei Herr Mohren). In June 1790 he rented the Schloss Kalkofen, Aachen (nowadays Talbotstrasse, Aachen, Germany), moved in his furniture but did not live long to enjoy the facilities.
On 6 July 1790, Eliott died at the Schloss Kalkofen, Aachen, of palsy / stroke, allegedly brought on by drinking too much of the local mineral water, and was initially buried in the grounds of the Schloss. His personal estate was probated by 27 July and his furniture sold off by his heirs. In 1790, his body was disinterred and reburied at Heathfield, East Sussex. Later still, his body was again disinterred and reburied at St Andrew's Church, Buckland Monachorum, Devon in the church associated with his wife's Drake ancestry.
In August and September 1787, George's portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and now resides in the National Gallery. A painting entitled The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 1782 by John Singleton Copley survive from 1787 in the Guildhall Art Gallery, and another Copley painting this time a head portrait is (link), currently in the National Portrait Gallery. Another American artist John Trumbull created the well known portrait The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar which resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His portrait was also painted by Mather Brown in 1788.
His marble monument and statue exist in the south transept of St Paul's Cathedral, London. A bust of Elliot created in 1858 stands in the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. A bronze medal "George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron Heathfield" was created by Jean-Pierre Droz.
He is mentioned in Robert Burns's cantata The Jolly Beggars as an inspiring figure. The old soldier singing the air "I Am a Son of Mars" says: "Yet let my country need me, with Elliot [sic] to head me, / I'd clatter on my stumps at the sound of a drum."
| Colonel of 15th (The King's)
Regiment of (Light) Dragoons
| Commander-in-Chief, Ireland
Sir John Irwin
Sir Robert Rich
| Governor of Londonderry|
| Governor of Gibraltar
|Peerage of Great Britain|
|New creation|| Baron Heathfield
Francis Augustus Eliott