Biography of Charles Henry Knowles
Sir Charles Henry Knowles, naval officer during the American War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, was born in Jamaica in 1754, the only surviving son of the Governor of Jamaica, Admiral Sir Charles Knowles.
Educated at Eton, Knowles went on to study at Glasgow and Edinburgh. He matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1768, the same year he enlisted in the Royal Navy.
Knowles was stationed at a series of ports in Britain, and in New York, for the first ten years of his career. After ascending to the baronetcy upon his father's death in 1777, he was sent to the West Indies aboard the ship 'Ceres' as Captain. The Ceres took part in a skirmish with a French squadron near St Lucia, after which Knowles and his fellow crew were captured. Here, his title came in handy, and Sir Charles was exchanged for a wealthy French prisoner.
Knowles was given his own flagship, the 'Prince of Wales', and captained it in a battle off the coast of Grenada in July 1779, at which he was lightly wounded. His able conduct earned him appointments at Gibraltar. For the next two years he led patrols in the Mediterranean, frequently engaging and defeating French and Spanish privateers.
He briefly commanded the 'Daedalus' frigate off the North American coast in 1793-4, but subsequently returned to the Mediterranean. It was then that he earned his greatest achievement, in contributing to Horatio Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Cape St Vincent in 1797. Like his fellow captains, Knowles was congratulated by Parliament and received a gold medal.
Shortly after this battle, Knowles' ill-health forced the end of his active service, but in recognition of his contribution to naval successes, he subsequently earned a string of honorary promotions: Rear-Admiral in 1799, Vice-Admiral in 1804, and Admiral in 1810. He was also made Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) in 1820.
Knowles died in November 1831.