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Charles Watson

In the west aisle of the north transept of Westminster Abbey is a memorial to Vice-Admiral Charles Watson. This was designed by James Stuart and executed by sculptor Peter Scheemakers. The inscription reads:

To the memory of Charles Watson Vice Admiral of the White Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Naval Forces in the East Indies, who dyed at Calcutta the XVI of August MDCCLVII in the XLIV year of his age. The East India Company as a grateful testimony of the signal advantages which they obtained by his valour and prudent conduct caused this monument to be erected.

There are three life size marble figures: in the centre stands the Admiral in a toga holding the palm branch of Victory in his hand, beside him is a kneeling woman, the Genius of Calcutta, and on the other side is a seated naked chained man, representing a native of Ghereah. Originally the architectural arcades in which these stand were overlaid with marble to represent palm trees but this was removed in the 1950's. Beneath the figures are military trophies and circular tablets reading:

Calcutta freed January II MDCCLVII
Ghereah taken February XIII MDCCLVI

Originally there was a third tablet reading:

Chandernagore taken March XXIII MDCCLVII

Charles was a son of Dr John Watson, prebendary of Westminster from 1715 until his death in 1724, and Eleanor (Parker). He entered the navy in 1728 as a volunteer and was in due course promoted Captain in 1738. He was a nephew of the first Lord of the Admiralty Sir Charles Wager (whose monument is near Watson's in the north transept). In 1741 he married Rebecca (Buller) and had two daughters and a son Charles. Watson served on the North American station and was Commander in Chief in the East Indies. He transported Robert Clive and his troops to Calcutta and had a share in the victory at Plassey. In broken health he died on 16th August 1757 and was buried in Calcutta.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"British Sculpture and the Company Raj" by Barbara Groseclose, 1995.


16th August 1757




North Transept

Memorial Type


Material Type


Charles Watson
Admiral Charles Watson memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Charles Watson
Admiral Charles Watson memorial before alteration

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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Pamela - Rector's Secretary

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