William Anne Keppel was born on 5 June 1702 at Whitehall, London the only son of Arnold Joost van Keppel, first earl, and his wife Geertruid Johanna Quirina van der Duyn. He was named after his godmother, Queen Anne. He was sent to Holland for his education, where he also in the service of the United Provinces. Upon his return to England at sixteen, Albermarle was delegated captain with rank of lieutenant- colonel in first regiment of the grenadier company of the Coldstream Guards on 25 August 1718. Less than a year later, Albermarle’s father died, which left his to inherit his title and estate.
|William Anne Keppel by|
In October 1722, Albermarle began another long career as a Gentleman of the Bed Chamber for Prince George, a position he would retain once the Prince ascended to King George II, until 1751. While his reputation and responsibilities grew, Albermarle’s personal life also grew more interesting with his marriage to Lady Anne Lennox, second daughter of Charles, first Duke of Richmond, on 21 February 1723. She would serve as a Lady of the Bed Chamber for the Queen and become a favorite of the king. The couple had seven sons and eight daughters, which included George Keppel, third earl; Admiral Augustus Keppel; Viscount Keppel; and Frederick Keppel, bishop of Exeter. Lady Anne, however, was not the only woman in the earl’s life. His mistress, Louis Gaucher was considered an “accomplished girl” and a beauty. Nevertheless, there are some, such as Horace Walpole, who accused her of selling information to the French during Albermale’s time in Paris as ambassador in 1748.
The titles continued to accumulate for the young man. On 18 May 1725, he became a Knight of the Bath, which he resigned in 1749 when he was made Knight of the Garter. His relationship with George II must have been one of mutual trust for in 1724 he was made an aide-de-camp to the king, which he would hold for ten years. On 22 November 1731, he became colonel of the 29th regiment of Foot, stationed in Gibraltar, but he left his position upon his promotion to Captain and Colonel of the third troop of Horse Guards in May 1737.
One of Ablermale’s biggest responsibilities came on 26 September 1737 when he became governor of Virginia. While Sir Robert Walpole was prime minister (1722-1740), the colony of Virginia was left in the hands of the Duke of Newcastle and the colony experienced a period of “salutary neglect” up until the Seven Years’ War. Nevertheless, the British merchants found ways to promote their friends onto the Virginia Council. Albermarle was the absentee governor of Virginia, replacing George Hamilton, first earl of Orkney and during this time, he repeatedly came into conflict with lieutenant- governor, William Gooch. Virginians, especially Gooch, were unhappy with Abermarle’s right to appointment naval officers. Gooch thought Abermarle was intruding on his political territory and worried the governor would elect those who did not possess the proper technical knowledge or ability. Eventually, an agreement was made, which gave Gooch the right to elect officers as long as he got approval from the executive council. Nevertheless, should a vacancy occur, the governor retained the right to appoint whomever he saw fit. Toward the end of Gooch’s term in 1746, he wrote in a letter to his brother that since Albermarle’s appointment, almost every office in the Colony had been “given away in England.” Albermarle would serve as the absentee governor of Virginia until his death in 1754.
Other big promotions in Albermale’s career occurred on 2 July 1739, where he was appointed brigadier- general, and 20 February 1741/2, which marked his promotion to major- general. He transferred to Flanders in 1742, where he became leader of the Household Calvary. In his lifetime of military service, the earl participated in at least two battles, Dettingen (June 1743) and Fontenoy (1745) during the War of Austrian Succession. In Dettingen, a victory for the allies that ended with the death of around 5,000 French, Albermale had his horse “killed under him, but suffered no other hurt.” Before the battle of Fountenoy, Albermarle made his way back to his old regiment of the Coldstream Guards where he was promoted to lieutenant- general on 26 February 1745. Fontenoy was an unequivocal defeat of the allies, during which Albermarle received a deep bruise in the chest after a French horse ran him over in a cavalry charge.
During the 1745 Jacobite rising, Albermarle was assigned as General George Wade’s second in command at Newcastle. Early the following year he joined Cumberland’s staff in Scotland. In March, he traveled to Stathbogie with two regiments of horses and two infantry brigades in order to clear a trail for the rest of the army. In the battle of Culloden, the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, he led the front line even though he “was beginning to think himself too old for this sort of thing” (Prebble, 28). In mid- July Cumberland decided to leave command of Scotland to Albermale who, upon hearing this news, “prayed that he might be anywhere else but in North Britain” (Prebble, 230). In his letters, Albermarle was unafraid to express in contempt of the barbarous and “cursed country” (Prebble, 303). He was officially appointed on 23 August 1746 but soon became “irritable and overworked,” partially due to his strong dislike of Scotland (Prebble, 308). Cumberland’s original plan for Scotland included pacification through road building and new fortifications, which Albermarle continued and he soon moved to Edinburgh after assuming command. The network of espionage he attempted to create from these headquarters failed to capture the Prince, Charles Edward Stuart, who escaped to France in September of 1746. Albermarle was eventually released from command in January of 1747 and sent back to Flanders. It is possible to imagine the pleasure the earl felt upon relinquishing his command in Scotland, although his military training and tact probably prohibited showing such emotions plainly on his face. Not long after leaving his position in Scotland, Albermale was sent to Paris (1748) as an ambassador- extraordinary and minister- plenipotentiary. It was during this time that rumors flew about his mistress selling information to the French.
Two years after becoming Knight of the Garter (22 June 1749), Albermarle became a groom of the stole for the king and a privy councillor on 12 July 1751 and then became a lord justice during the king’s absence in Germany in 1752. His final appointment before his sudden death occurred in 1754 when he was sent back to Paris to negotiate the freedom of several British subjects being detained in America by France.
On this diplomatic mission in Paris, the earl of Albermarle passed away on 22 December 1754 unexpectedly “in his coach… after supper.” (Peerage, 94) His remains, after they were brought back to England, were buried in the South Audley Street chapel in London. He was remembered by some, such as the French historian Jean- Francois Marmontel, as “an honest man, noble, sensible, generous, full of loyalty, frankness, politeness, and goodness,” yet Albermale also had a reputation as a spendthrift, which earned him the nickname of "Spendthrift Earl." In a letter written to Sir Horace Mann, Horace Walpole exclaimed,
“Lord Albemarle keeps an immense table there, with sixteen people in his kitchen; his aid-de-camps invite everybody, but he seldom graces the banquet himself, living retired out of the town with his old Columbine (Louis Gauchet). What an extraordinary man! with no fortune at all, and with slight parts, he has 17,000l. a-year from the government, which he squanders away, though he has great debts, and four or five numerous broods of children of one sort or other”
When he married, Albermarle’s fortune totaled around £90,000, to which his wife brought £25,000. Unfortunately, his lavish spending left only £14,000 after his death, which was only enough to cover his debts. King George II, who was rather attached to Lady Anne, secured Albermarle’s widow a yearly pension of £1,200. According to Marmontel, his mistress was secured £250 a year upon his death.
Gibbs, Vicary and H. Arthur Doubleday. The scomplete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom extant extinct or dormant. London: St. Catherine’s Press, 1910. https://archive.org/stream/completepeerageo01coka#page/94/mode/2up
MacKinnon, Daniel. Origin and Services of the Coldstream Guards, Volume 1. London: Richard Bentley, 1833. http://books.google.com/books?id=sB9EAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
Marmontel, Jean-François. Memoirs of Marmontel: Written by Himself. London: Hunt and Clark, 1827. https://archive.org/stream/memoirsmarmonte01marmgoog#page/n8/mode/2up
Morton, Richard. Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1960.
Prebble, John. Culloden. London: Secker and Warburg, 1961.
Spain, Jonathan. “Keppel, William Anne, second earl of Albemarle (1702–1754).” Jonathan Spain In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15443 (accessed February 10, 2015).
Walpole, Horace and Baron George Agar Ellis Dover. Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann, British Envoy at the Court of Tuscany: 1744-1750. London: R Bentley, 1833. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=yFcKAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en