Carnegie, William, Earl of Northesk 1758-1831, admiral, was the third son of George, sixth Earl of Northesk, admiral of the white, who died in 1792. He entered the navy in 1771 on board the Albion, with Captain Barrington, served afterwards with Captains Macbride in the Southampton and Stair Douglas in the Squirrel, and on 7 Dec. 1777 was made lieutenant into the Apollo. He was afterwards with Sir John Lockhart Ross in the Royal George, and in the Sandwich with Sir George Rodney, by whom he was made commander after the battle of 17 April 1780, though the commission was not confirmed till 10 Sept. He continued in the West Indies, commanding in succession the Blast fireship and the St. Eustatius, hired ship, till on 7 April 1782 he was advanced to post rank. He afterwards had command of the Enterprise frigate, which he brought home and paid off at the peace. By the death of his elder brothers, in 1788 he became Lord Rosehill. In 1790 he commanded the Heroine for a few months, in the Spanish armament, and in 1792 succeeded to the earldom on the death of his father. In 1793 he commanded the Beaulieu frigate, and afterwards the Andromeda, but only for a short time. In 1796 he was appointed to the Monmouth of 64 guns, in the North Sea fleet, one of the ships engaged in the following year in the mutiny at the Nore. Northesk was for some time detained on board, a prisoner in his cabin; he was afterwards brought before the committee of delegates on board the Sandwich, and employed by them to lay their demands before the king, receiving from their president a commission in the following terms: You are hereby authorised and ordered to wait upon the king, wherever he may be, with the resolutions of the committee of delegates, and are directed to return back with an answer within fifty-four hours from the date hereof. 6 June, 3 p.m.
Northesk accordingly carried the propositions of the mutineers to the admiralty, and was taken by Lord Spencer to the king. The demands were rejected, and a message to that effect was sent down to the revolted seamen; but Northesk did not return, and shortly after the mutiny had been quelled he resigned the command of the Monmouth. In 1800 he was appointed to the Prince of 98 guns, in the Channel fleet, and commanded her till the peace. On the renewal of the war he was appointed to the Britannia of 100 guns, in the fleet off Brest under Admiral Cornwallis, and continued in her, on the same station, after his promotion to flag rank, 23 April 1804. In August 1805 he was detached under Sir Robert Calder to reinforce the fleet off Cadiz, and on 21 Oct. commanded in the third post in the battle of Trafalgar. The Britannia was the fourth ship in the weather-line led by Nelson, and was thus early in the action, continuing closely engaged till the end, and sustaining a loss of fifty-two killed and wounded. Northesk's services on this occasion were acknowledged by his being nominated a knight of the Bath, the investiture taking place on 5 June 1806. He became vice-admiral 28 April 1808, and admiral 4 June 1814, but had no further service during the war. In 1821 he was constituted rear-admiral of Great Britain; from 1827-1830 was commander-in-chief at Plymouth; and died, after a short illness, on 28 May 1831. On 8 June he was buried in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral, where a plain slab marks his grave near Nelson's and Collingwood's. He sat in four parliaments as a representative peer of Scotland (1796, 1802, 1806, 1830). He married, 9 Dec. 1788, Mary, daughter of William Henry Ricketts, and niece of Lord St. Vincent, and had by her a very numerous family. The eldest son, then Lord Rosehill, was lost in the Blenheim with Sir Thomas Troubridge in February 1807.
Naval Chronicle, xv. 441, with a portrait
Ralfe's Nav. Biog. ii. 400
Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. i. 198
Gent. Mag. (1831) vol. ci. pt. ii. p. 79.
Contributor: J. K. L. [John Knox Laughton]