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LIVES OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE
The E.J. Boys Archive

IN PROGRESS — NOT FOR PUBLICATION

Captain Godfrey Charles MORGAN (later 1st Viscount Tredegar) - 17th Lancers

SOME ILLUSTRIOUS ANCESTORS

General Mundy

General Mundy, his grandfather, served in Ireland during the Rebellion of 1798, and was in command of the 3rd Light Dragoons at Walcheren in 1809 and also in the Peninsula in 1811. Arthur Shakspear of that regiment wrote of him both on the voyage out and during the latter campaign: "Colonel Mundy was sick, and sick also at the prospect of a campaign. He was no soldier, and very soon resigned the command to Major Clowes" [Father of George Gooch Clowes of the 8th Hussars].

Cartoon of Tredegar as a man with few talents
"I have made the discovery that the Morgans were never remarkable for very great talent" ["Wit & Wisdom of Lord Tredegar", 1911].

Throughout his life, Godfrey Morgan spoke humorously and in a self-deprecating way about his, and his family's, achievements:

Henry Morgan

However, in a revealing (and unusually vehement) passage Godfrey Morgan spoke proudly about his ancestral connection with Sir Henry Morgan, the "pirate" who, he argues, was in fact a dutiful servant of the emerging British Empire.

Was Henry Morgan a pirate?

Cartoon of 'Buccaneer Morgan'
"I talk of Buccaneer Morgan."

"Sir Henry Morgan played an important part in the stirring drama of Empire-building. His name has become a household word, and his daring exploits on the Spanish Main in the 17th century rival in song and story the heroic adventures of Drake, Frobisher, and Hawkins. It is mainly to him that we own the island of Jamaica, the most wealthy of our West Indian possessions.

He was not a plaster saint, it is true; but it is incorrect to call him a pirate, for there is no gainsaying the fact that all his actions were justified by instructions he received from time to time from his Monarch, Charles II, who countenanced every movement of his, and even empowered him to commission whatever persons he thought fit, to be partakers with him and his Majesty in his various expeditions and enterprises.

He was cruel in the ordinary sense of cruelty exercised in warfare, no doubt, but only when in arms against the blood-thirsty Spaniards. As a leader of men he was never surpassed by any captain of the seas, and in his glorious conquest of Panama - which the great Sir Francis Drake in 1569 had failed to take with 4,000 men when the city was but poorly fortified - Sir Henry ransacked it in 1670 when it had become doubly fortified, having with him only 1,200 men, and without the aid of any pikemen or horsemen.

The charges of cruelty and rapacity levelled against him are beneath contempt and criticism. The Spaniards tortured and murdered wholesale, and who can wonder that the heroic Welshman made just reprisals, and carried out the Biblical adjuration "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," when punishing the apostles of the Inquisition and assassination.

It is due to one John Esquemeling, the author of the first account of buccaneers, "The History of the Buccaneers of America," first published in 1684, that Sir Henry was designated a "pirate". Esquemeling had served under Morgan, and, being dissatisfied with the share of prize money allotted to him after the expedition at Panama, nursed his revenge until his return to Holland some years after. Sir Henry took action against him, and claimed to obtain substantial damages from Esquemeling for his malicious and misleading statement."

[Source: "Wit & Wisdom of Lord Tredegar", 1911.]



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