Maj.-Gen. William Douglas-Maclean-Clephane

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Maj.-Gen. William Douglas-Maclean-Clephane was born 20 Apr. 1759, the eldest son of George Clephane of Carslogie (died 1790) and his second wife, Anne Jean Douglas, daughter and heiress of Rev. Robert Douglas, minister of Portmoak, Kinross.  He took the additional name of MacLean 6 Nov. 1790.

 He served in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards: Captain & Lieutenant-Colonel 16 May 1792; brevet Colonel 3 May 1796; Major-General 1 January 1801; 2nd Major 22 April 1802

In 1788 Clephane was a liferenter in Kinross-shire in the right of his mother’s inheritance. On the death of the former Member George Graham in December 1801, he was on active service at Port Mahon(1), but his family put him forward by prearrangement as champion of the ‘independent interest of the county’ under the aegis of William Adam. Although an opposition was at first threatened by Graham’s heir, Clephane, who arrived home in time for the election, was chosen unanimously. He was listed a supporter of Addington’s ministry and independent of Henry Dundas. Some of his friends had wished for him to be George Graham’s successor as lord lieutenant, but he was prepared to cede it to William Adam.

Nevertheless, his success was reported to have gone to his head. On 4 Mar. 1803 he voted in the minority for the inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, ‘paying his adorations to the rising sun’, as Andrew Clephane put it. The latter added, ‘Conceive our General refusing the station of Ceylon as comdr. in chief. What does he expect? To be made peer of the blood, I suppose.’ Andrew also professed to be astonished ‘after the speech he made at Kinross’, that Clephane should be ‘so long silent’ in the House: but no speech by him is reported.

On 27 Apr. 1803 Clephane informed Adam that he had accepted the place of commissioner at Trinidad, which vacated his seat. On 19 May, however, Lord Hobart recommended him to the King as lieutenant governor of Grenada, where he proceeded. As he hoped, his brother David succeeded as county Member.

He died at Grenada, 4 Nov. 1803, ‘a bad subject for a warm climate’. His funeral was ‘the most sumptuous one ever seen on that island’.4 Sir Walter Scott was his children’s guardian.

He married 14 Sept. 1790 Marianne Maclean, 3rd daughter of Lachlan Maclean, 7th of Torloisk and Margaret Smith. They had three daughters:
1. Margaret Douglas-Maclean-Clephane (d. 2 Apr 1830) married Charles Douglas-Compton, 3rd Marquess of Northampton.
2. Anna Jane, a lady of superior accomplishments, and endowed with high natural attainments.
3. Wilmina Marianne, married in 1831 to Willhelm Baron de Normann, then in the diplomatic service of Prussia, who died in 1832: Issue, Wilhelm Frederic Carl Helmuth Theodore, now Baron de Normann. The baroness is lady of honour to the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburgh Strelitz, and resides at the court of that princess.

1.  Menorca was captured in 1708 by a joint British-Dutch force on behalf of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, during the War of the Spanish Succession. The British saw the island's potential as a naval base and sought to take full control. Its status as a British possession was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During the island's years as a British dependency, the capital was moved from Ciutadella de Menorca to Mahon, which then served as residence for the governor, the most famous being General Richard Kane. During this period the natural harbour leading to the town and surrounding settlements were sometimes collectively known as "Port Mahon".

The island was lost to the French in 1756 following the naval Battle of Menorca and the final Siege of Fort St Philip, which took place several miles from the town. After their defeat in the Seven Years' War, France returned the island to the British in 1763. In a joint Franco-Spanish effort and following a long five month invasion, the British surrendered the island again in 1782; It was transferred to Spain in 1783 as part of the Peace of Paris. The British recaptured the island in 1798, during the French Revolutionary Wars. The British and the French tried (and failed) to end hostilities between themselves with the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Both nations agreed to cede or withdraw from certain territories, with the island of Menorca passing to the Spanish, with whom it has remained since. Maj.-Gen. William Douglas-Maclean-Clephane played a significant part in the handover to the Spanish. He was praised by Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez, commanding his Britannic Majesty’s squadron in the port of Mahon for the alacrity with which he had cleared the harbours of the island of men and stores.



Sources for this article include:

• The History of Parliament Trust
• Exit Britannia, By Janet Sloss
• The Encyclopædia Britannica Volume 15
• An historical and genealogical account of the Clan Maclean, from its first settlement at Castle Duar

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024