William Anne Keppel; 1702-1754; 2nd Earl Albemarle, soldier

Identity area

Type of entity


Authorized form of name

William Anne Keppel; 1702-1754; 2nd Earl Albemarle, soldier

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence



Keppel, William Anne, second earl of Albemarle (1702-1754), army officer, was born at Whitehall, London, on 5 June 1702, the only son of Arnold Joost van Keppel, first earl (1669/70-1718), and his wife, Geertruid Johanna Quirina van der Duyn (d. 1741). He was baptized at the Chapel Royal, and Queen Anne, after whom he was named, was his godmother. During his father's lifetime he was styled Viscount Bury. At an early age he travelled to the Netherlands with his father where he was educated. On his return to England he was appointed (25 August 1717) captain and lieutenant-colonel of the grenadier company of the Coldstream Guards; and in 1718 he succeeded to his father's title and estates.
In March 1720 Albemarle accompanied his colonel, William, first Baron Cadogan, upon his diplomatic mission to Berlin and Vienna to negotiate Spain's incorporation in the Quadruple Alliance, at that time including Britain, France, Austria, and Prussia. In 1722, at his family seat in Gelderland, Albemarle entertained the bishop of Munster. He was made lord of the bedchamber to the prince of Wales in October 1722, a position he retained when the prince became George II, and held until 1751. On 21 February 1723 he married, at Caversham, Oxfordshire, Lady Anne Lennox (1703-1789), second daughter of Charles, first duke of Richmond. Albemarle was made a knight of the Bath on 18 May 1725, upon the revival of that order, and in 1727 he was appointed aide-de-camp to the king. On 22 November 1731 he was made colonel of the 29th regiment of foot (later the Worcestershire regiment), then at Gibraltar, which he held until 7 May 1733 when he transferred to the colonelcy of the 3rd troop of Horse Guards.
On 26 September 1737 Albemarle replaced George Hamilton, first earl of Orkney, as governor of Virginia, a post he held until his death though he never visited the colony. As the absentee governor he was vigilant in the exercise of his powers of appointment and patronage, which brought him into conflict with William Gooch, lieutenant-governor of the colony from 1727 to 1749. When Albemarle asserted his right to appoint naval officers of the colony in the late 1730s this drew forth a strong rebuke from Gooch. Gooch was not only angry at this interference in an area he considered his prerogative, but feared the appointment of incompetent placemen to technical positions. On this occasion a compromise was achieved in which the lieutenant-governor nominated officers with the agreement of the executive council but Albemarle reserved a right to fill vacancies when they occurred. In the long run this was a one-sided battle. At the end of his term of office Gooch lamented that since Albemarle's appointment nearly every office in the colony had been 'given away in England' (Morton, 2.507).
Albemarle was promoted brigadier-general on 2 July 1739 and major-general on 18 February 1742. He went to Flanders with John Dalrymple, second earl of Stair, in 1742, where he was put in command of the Household Cavalry. In 1743 he was on the staff at the battle of Dettingen, where he led his troop of 'the Blues' against the French household cavalry and had his horse shot from under him. He was transferred to the colonelcy of the Coldstream Guards, his old regiment, in 1744 and was promoted lieutenant-general on 26 February 1745. At Fontenoy he commanded the brigade of guards in the English front line. He was ridden over when facing a French cavalry charge, suffering a severe contusion on the chest. The duke of Cumberland mentioned his conduct in his official dispatch.
In November 1745, following the Jacobite rising, Albemarle joined General George Wade as his second in command at Newcastle, with reinforcements from Flanders. After the fruitless marching of that autumn he was appointed to Cumberland's staff in Scotland in early 1746. On 22 March he was ordered to take command of the advance party of the government army, consisting of two regiments of horse and two brigades of infantry, sent forward to Strathbogie to clear the way for the main army. At Culloden he commanded the first line of the royal army. His appointment to succeed Cumberland as commander-in-chief in Scotland, dated 23 August 1746, was accepted with reluctance. Prebble writes: 'On the whole he behaved with tact and judgement but his views on what should be done to suppress the rebellious spirit of the Scots were conventional and matched his general disapproval of the country' (Prebble, 304). He carried forward Cumberland's plan of pacification with new fortifications and road building. Most of the Culloden battalions were returned to Flanders and the policing of the highlands became a matter for small detachments of mounted troops under the command of junior officers. Albemarle quickly moved his headquarters to Edinburgh, where he set up an espionage network of doubtful quality, which failed to prevent Charles Edward Stuart's eventual escape to France. With the onset of winter and the weak condition of his garrison forces, Albemarle feared a new rising. However, by dint of insistent and repeated petitioning he was released from his command and ordered to join the staff in Flanders in late January 1747. He commanded the British infantry at the battle of Val or Laffeldt later that year and afterwards was appointed commander-in-chief of the British forces in the Low Countries. At the peace of 1748 he was sent as ambassador-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary to Paris. During his tenure of office it was believed by Horace Walpole among others that his mistress, Louise Gaucher (d. 1765), sold government instructions to the French court.
On 22 June 1749 Albemarle was made a knight of the Garter. On 12 July 1751 he was appointed groom of the stole and a privy councillor, and in 1752 he was one of the lords justices during the king's absence in Hanover. In 1754 he was sent back to Paris to demand the liberation of some British subjects detained by the French in America, where he died suddenly on 22 December 1754. His remains were brought to England and buried in the chapel in South Audley Street, Grosvenor Square, London, on 21 February 1755.
Albemarle was survived by his wife, Anne, who was lady to the bedchamber to Queen Caroline and a favourite of the king. When in January 1750 she was robbed by nine men in Great Russell Street, London, the king gave her a gold watch and chain the next day. She died on 20 October 1789 at New Street, Spring Gardens, Middlesex. The couple had had eight sons and seven daughters, including George Keppel, third earl; the admiral Augustus Keppel, Viscount Keppel; and Frederick Keppel, bishop of Exeter.
Albemarle left his wife and numerous children nothing on his death. His deserved reputation as the Spendthrift Earl has been established for posterity by the pen of Horace Walpole, who wrote to Sir Horace Mann on 19 May 1750 that at the embassy in Paris he kept an immense table there, with sixteen people in his kitchen; his aides-de-camps invite everybody, but he seldom graces the banquet himself, living retired out of town with his old Columbine-what an extraordinary man! With no fortune at all, and with slight parts, he has £17,000 a year from the government, which he squanders away, though he has great debts, and four or five numerous broods of children of one sort or other! (Walpole, Corr., 20.156).
Upon Albemarle's death Walpole noted that when he married he had £90,000 in the funds, to which his wife brought £25,000 more, most of which he squandered, leaving only £14,000 which was sufficient to cover his debts. George II granted his widow, Anne, a pension of £1200 a year.


London; Edinburgh; Flanders, Belgium

Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities


Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Relationships area

Access points area


Control area

Authority record identifier


Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used



Level of detail


Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created on: 27/07/2007 by Droek




Maintenance notes

  • Clipboard

  • Export

  • EAC