Skip to main content

Richard Kempenfelt

In the chapel of St Michael in Westminster Abbey is a white marble column in memory of Admiral Richard Kempenfelt. In the upper portion is a relief of the Admiral's body ascending towards clouds in which is an angel with a crown of immortality and a palm branch. On the base is a relief of the sunken ship, HMS Royal George, with her masts above water. The sculptor was John Bacon junior. The inscription reads:

In memory of Richard Kempenfelt Esqr. Rear Admiral of the Blue who was lost in His Majesty's ship Royal George which overset and sunk at Spithead on the 29th of August 1782; by which fatal event about nine hundred persons were launched into eternity: and his King and country deprived of the services of a great and meritorious officer in the 64th year of his age. This monument was erected pursuant to the will of his brother, Gustavus Adolphus Kempenfelt Esqr, who died at his seat, Lady Place, Hurley, Berkshire, on the 14th March 1808 aged 87; of whose philantrophy and humanity his liberal subscriptions and bequests to most of the charitable institutions in this country will be lasting records

The unpainted coat of arms shows the quarterly arms of Kempenfelt.

Richard was a son of Colonel Magnus Kempenfelt, who came from Sweden, and his wife Anne (Hunt). Magnus was Lieutenant Governor of the island of Jersey. Richard was born on 23rd November 1715 and baptised a few weeks later at St Margaret's Westminster, as was his brother Marmaduke in 1714 and sisters Anna 1711 and Mary 1713. Richard served in the navy in the West Indies at the taking of Portobello. He served in various vessels and went to the East Indies as a commodore, later taking part in the capture of Pondicherry. He was also an author and in 1777 published Original hymns and poems. In 1780 he was appointed a rear admiral and fought against the French. He took command of the Royal George early in 1782. While heeled over slightly in harbour in order to repair a leak some men started transferring casks through the lowered gun ports and the extra weight caused water to rush in and capsize the vessel and many of the crew and visitors who were aboard drowned.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Born

23rd November 1715

Died

29th August 1782

Field

Sailor

Location

St Michael's Chapel

Memorial Type

Tablet

Material Type

Marble

Richard Kempenfelt
Richard Kempenfelt

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard Kempenfelt
Admiral Kempenfelt memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Related Commemorations

Philip de Sausmarez

Philip de Sausmarez

1710-1747
Sailor
John Storr

John Storr

1709-1783
Sailor
Sir George Pocock

Sir George Pocock

1706-1792
Sailor
James Cook

James Cook

b.1728
Sailor
William Bayne

William Bayne

1730-1782
Sailor
Arthur Phillip

Arthur Phillip

1738-1814
Sailor

You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

spacer

Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

Twitter logo Tweet this