Aylmer, Matthew, Lord Aylmer d. 1720, admiral and commander-in-chief, was the second son of Sir Christopher Aylmer of Balrath, county Meath, and entered the navy under the protection of the Duke of Buckingham, as a lieutenant, in 1678. Early in the following year he was advanced to the rank of captain; and he appears to have served almost constantly, during the next ten years, on the coast of Algiers and in the Mediterranean. In October 1688 he was appointed captain of the Swallow in the Thames, but at once gave in his allegiance to the cause of the Revolution. In 1690 he commanded the Royal Katherine, and, in the battle off Beachy Head, was one of the seconds to Sir Ralph Delavall who commanded the blue squadron; and in 1692, still in the Royal Katherine, was one of the seconds of the commander-in-chief at Barfleur. In February 1693 he was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral, and to that of vice-admiral in 1694, when he accompanied Admiral Russell to the Mediterranean, and was also appointed a lord of the admiralty. After the peace of Ryswick he was sent, in 1698, as commander-in-chief, again into the Mediterranean, principally to confirm the treaties with the regencies of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers; which he happily accomplished, and returned home towards the end of the next year. In Nov. 1699, being, it is said, dissatisfied at the appointment of Admiral Churchill to the admiralty, he retired from active service, though he continued to act as one of the commissioners of the navy till July 1702. He took no part whatever in naval affairs beyond sitting in parliament as baron or member for Dover, till after the death of Prince George, and the retirement of Churchill in Nov. 1709, when he was appointed commander-in-chief of the fleet. In the following July, whilst cruising in the Soundings, he fell in with a French squadron and convoy, of which only one merchantman and the Superbe, of 56 guns, were captured; the rest escaped, owing, it was alleged, to the haziness of the weather. The want of success served the new ministry as an excuse to supersede him, which they did in January 1711. He held no further command till the accession of George I, when he was again appointed commander-in-chief, ranger of Greenwich Park, and governor of Greenwich Hospital. This office he held till his death; and during that time succeeded in establishing the hospital school for the sons of seamen, which gradually developed into a magnificent institution. In April 1717 he became one of the lords commissioners of the admiralty, but he resigned the appointment early the next year, when he was advanced to be rear-admiral of the United Kingdom, and at the same time raised to the peerage of Ireland as Lord Aylmer of Balrath. He had been elected whig M.P. for Portsmouth in 1695, and for Dover in 1697, 1713, and 1715. He was captain of Deal Castle. He died 18 Aug. 1720
A portrait, half-length, presented by his descendant, the fifth Lord Aylmer, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.
Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 35
Brit. Mus. MSS. Add. 28122-4
Official Papers in the Public Record Office.
Contributor: J. K. L. [John Knox Laughton]