William Carr Beresford

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William Carr Beresford - Governor of Jersey 1820-1854

Beresford was the last person to hold the office of Governor of Jersey. Since he left office the only appointments have been of Lieut-Governors. Beresford Street in St Helier was named after him. He had little or no personal involvement in Island affairs, nominating a succession of Lieut-Governors to represent him.

He was a British soldier and politician, illegitimate son of George de la Poer Beresford, 1st Marquess of Waterford. He was a general in the British Army and a marshal in the Portuguese army, and fought with the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War and in 1828 held the office of master-general of the ordnance in Wellington's first ministry.

Beresford surrenders to Santiago de Liniers during the British invasions of the River Plate

Early campaign experience

He entered the British Army in 1785 as an ensign in the 6th Regiment of Foot and the next year he was blinded in one eye in an accident with a rifle. He was promoted to captain by 1791 with the 69th Regiment of Foot. He distinguished himself at Toulon (1793), in Egypt (1799-1803) and in South Africa (1805). From there he crossed the South Atlantic to South America to invade the River Plate region (now Argentina), with a small British force of 1,500 men, departing on 14 April 1806. Following his move to Cape Town Beresford, spurred on by Sir Home Popham, decided to attack Buenos Aires in Spanish South America. No attempt was made to gain authorization from the Crown for this undertaking. In the invasion of the River Plate, Buenos Aires was occupied for 46 days. However, the British force could not maintain itself in the face of local opposition and an uprising. After a relentless two-day fight with the Buenos Aires and Montevideo militias between 10 and 12 August 1806, the British were defeated and forced to capitulate. Beresford had to surrender, remaining prisoner for six months; eventually he managed to escape and arrived in England in 1807.

Peninsular War

He was sent to Madeira, which he occupied in name of the King of Portugal, remaining there for six months as Governor and Commander in Chief. The exiled Portuguese Government in Rio de Janeiro realised the necessity of appointing a commander-in-chief capable of disciplining the Portuguese Army organized by general Miguel Pereira Forjaz, whom Wellington called "the ablest man in the Peninsula". The government asked Britain to appoint Arthur Wellesley to this role, and he indicated Beresford. He was appointed Marshal and Commander in Chief of the Army by Decree of 7 March 1809 and took the command on the 15th of the same month. Beresford quickly improved the discipline and organization of the forces placed under his command.

Marshal Beresford.jpg

On 22 April Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, disembarked in Lisbon, and took over the command of all the Anglo-Portuguese troops and he was nominated Marshall General of the Portuguese Army. The allied armies marched to the North. Wellington moved from Coimbra directly to Porto, which he entered on 12 May, and Beresford marched through the Province of Beira, arriving that same day at the banks of the Douro river, in the area of Lamego. Wellington's troops made a forced crossing of the Douro and defeated the French, Soult was obliged to withdraw from Oporto. The positioning of Beresford's forces compelled the French to leave Portugal by the poor roads through Montalegre, crossing the border only after sacrificing their artillery and baggage.

Later career

After peace was declared he went to England on leave and came back again to Lisbon to reassume the command of the Portuguese Army. He didn't limit himself, however, to that role, and intended to intervene in the general politics of the country, from this he came into conflict with the Regency. He then determined to go to the Court in Rio de Janeiro. He departed to there in August 1815 and returned in September 1816, invested with wider powers than the ones which he had previously enjoyed.

WilliamCarrBeresford.jpg

He briefly returned to Portugal in 1827 at request of the Regent, Infanta Isabel Maria of Braganza, but gave up his ambitions due to the resistance he found among the Portuguese Army and returned to Britain.

As a reward for his services in the fight against the French he was created Viscount Beresford by the British Crown in 1823. He was the last titular Governor of Jersey. Beside many national and foreign decorations he had the Grand Cross of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword. Some authors infer that he also had the title of 1st Duke of Elvas; but no document recording the granting this title is extant.

Parliament

Beresford was Member of Parliament for County Waterford from 1811 to 1814.

Family

He married without issue his first cousin Louisa de la Poer Beresford, widow of Henry Thomas Hope and daughter of William Beresford, 1st Baron Decies and wife Elizabeth Fitzgibbon.

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