Admiral Matthew Aylmer

Mathew (<1670-1720) runs Fenton close for his distinguished military service, and exceeds him as a politician and dynastic founder.

Born ‘before 1670’, he took his Royal Navy commission in 1678, and became a captain in 1679. He had some part in the removal of James II in 1688, which cannot have harmed his career, rising to rear admiral in 1692 and vice admiral in 1694, although battle honours at Beachy Head (1690) and Barfleur (1692) demonstrated skill.

He was no simple sailor though; a near-contemporary source praised him as “very zealous for the liberties of the People”, showed by spells as a Whig MP (the vaguely progressive party of the time) for the great ports of Portsmouth (1695-6, losing his seat over the technicality of ‘inhabitants’ having wrongly been granted the right to vote!) and Dover (1697-1713 and 1715-20).

As commander in chief of the Mediterranean fleet in 1698, Matthew confirmed earlier treaties with Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers. After a break from active service in 1699, he became Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet between 1708 and 1720, save for a three-year gap following a rare defeat to the French in 1711, an hiatus ended by William III on his accession. There is a record of a group of Mohawks being entertained by him in 1710, on his flagship HMS Royal Sovereign at Southampton. It was said they tarry’d on board till the evening, and at their departure received the usual honours of the ship.”

The King created him 1st Lord Aylmer, Baron of Balrath, co. Meath [Ireland] in 1718. His successors in the baronage are listed in the Aylmers of Ireland page.

Matthew died at Greenwich Palace in 1720, having recently been appointed to the offices of Keeper of Greenwich Castle and Ranger of Greenwich Park; earlier, in 1715, he had arranged for visitor entrance fees to Greenwich to fund the education of the sons of poor seamen.