William Gosset

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HMS Queen Charlotte during the bombardment of Algiers

Sir William Gosset 1782-1848 Major General


William Gosset was born in St Saviour, the son of Matthieu Gosset and Marguerite Durell, daughter of Thomas Le Vavasseur dit Durell. He was the half-brother (not step-brother, as shown in George Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey) of the Viscount, Matthew Gosset, Seigneur of Bagot.

He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers at the age of 15 and was to rise to the rank of Major General, as subsequently did his nephews William Driscoll Gosset and James William Gosset. A cousin, Henry Gosset attained the rank of Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy.

Martinus Schouman's painting of the bombardment of Algiers in 1816

Military service

Shortly after joining the army William Gosset saw active service in Holland in 1799 and then in the Kandyan War in the jungle in Ceylon. He was Secretary to the Legation sent in 1815 to arrange terms with the Barbary States and secretly surveyed the defences of Algiers, leading to him accompanying Lord Exmouth's expedition to attack the stronghold. He was on board the flagship HMS Queen Charlotte when the fleet came under fire from a frigate inshore. He persuaded Admiral Exmouth to let him attack the frigate in the Queen Charlotte's barge and he and his men boarded the enemy vessel and set it on fire within ten minutes. Major Gosset was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and a Commander of the Neapolitan Order of St Ferdinand for this bravery.

Political career

Back in England, William Gosset became involved in politics and at the 1820 General Election he was returned as MP for Truro. In an early speech to the Commons he defended the Jersey Militia against accusations of inefficiency.

In 1828 he became Secretary to Lord Beresford, Master General of the Ordnance, and then to Lord Anglesey, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1830 he was knighted and appointed Under Secretary of State for Ireland. This was a difficult assignment, with Ireland seething with revolt. Gosset was not disappointed to leave in 1835 and take up a post as Serjeant-at-Arms to the Speaker of the House of Commons. He became involved in a dispute over allegations of libel in Hansard and under orders from the House took several of those involved prisoner in the Clock Tower.

Gosset was sued for illegal arrest and ordered by the Queen's Bench to pay £200 damages, which outraged the Speaker and government, which successfully sued for a writ of error.

William Gosset married Gertrude Marth Daniell, daughter of Ralph Allen Daniell, MP, and had a son, Ralph, who also became Serjeant-at-Arms, and three daughters. He died at his home near Woolwich on 27 March 1848.

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