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Effingham’s Sword

The regimental sword which Effingham refused to draw upon his brothers in blood in the United States of America, bearing a gilt plate ascribed with the legend of its story, was given to Mr Preston Davie of New York by Gordon Howard 5th Earl of Effingham, second creation in the late 1930s.   Mr Davie placed the sword on loan to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and it was still in their possession in 1991.

The sword has the following inscription on a plate, which is attached to what remains of the scabbard

The Regimental Sword of Thomas Howard, Earl of Effingham, who refused to draw it in the Attempt of his Country to subjugate America in the year 1776”

The sword is described as 38 ½ inches long with a stamped copper grip and brass hilt.  The blade iron/steel, with fullers extending 9 ¾  inches toward the tip of the blade.


Effingham’s Portraits

The whereabouts of the portraits described below is unknown.

A portrait painted by Thomas Hudson in 1777  shows the 3rd Earl dressed in the full dress uniform of the Guards resplendent in scarlet and gold

A further portrait of Thomas Hudson shows the 3rd Earl displayed in all the gorgeous panoply of a warrior and chieftain of Albania and armed with one of the long rifles of the Levant.






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Thomas Howard 3rd Earl of Effingham

Earl of Effingham















































































































































Thomas Howard 3rd Earl of Effingham 1746-1791 was the elder son of Thomas Howard 2nd Earl of Effingham (1714–1763) and Elizabeth Beckford, whose family home was at Great Bookham, Surrey.

Effingham completed his education at Eton at the age 15 and in the family tradition entered the army.  He obtained a commission as Ensign in the Coldstream Guards in 1762.  The following year, on the death of his father,  he acceded to the title 3rd Earl of Effingham.

In 1765 Effingham eloped to Scotland, with Catharine Proctor of Thorp Hall Nr Leeds.  The following year the couple remarried in a formal ceremony at Rotherham Parish Church. The couple set up home at Holmes Hall, Rotherham which was inherited by the 3rd Earl’s grandfather, Francis Howard..

Effingham soon gained promotion to Captain of the 68th Regiment of Foot. However, his commission history reports that in the same month as his marriage “Effingham exchanged onto half pay”.

Desperate to gain recognition in his military service  Effingham decided to join the Russian army as a mercenary and he fought briefly for a time in Russia in the service of the Tsarina in the. Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774

During this time, Lady Effingham visited the Court of Tsarina Catherine the Great.  She also visited some of the industrial areas of Moscow.

I have spent my time very agreeably tho I am now very dull as you may imagine having lost my dear Lord; I should not like living in England during his absence therefore having met with so gracious a reception from the Empress, I propose staying a couple of months longer and then going to Moscow to indulge my eyes in their manafactorys which are all further up in the country. The magnificence of this Court is not to be gues’d at and the Empress the most extraordinary Princess I ever saw. Gracious to a degree and Eligant in her person with a most superior understanding.


On his return from Russia, Effingham exchanged from half pay with Thos Buck and became Captain of 22nd Foot Regiment.

Unsuccessful in his promotion through the ranks however, Effingham wrote a memorial on the subject to King George III, dated 1 June 1774.  


May it please your Majesty

I beg Leave humbly to represent to your Majesty the peculiar Disappointment I have met with in my Applications to obtain Promotion in the Army.

In 1766 I was inform’d by the Secretary of War that your Majesty had been graciously pleased to Appoint me a Captain in the 68th Regt of Foot; but that it was expected that I should exchange with a Captain on half pay. On my arrival in Town I found both the Commissions made out, and that it was too late for me to hope for the Promotion unannex'd to this humiliating condition. Though I have since learn’d that even this was represented to your Majesty, as what I had desired.

Unwilling to importune your Majesty, I went by your Majesty’s Permission for some Years into foreign parts with a view to improve myself in the study of my profession. After my return in 1771 I humbly requested your Majesty’s leave to exchange with Lt Col Ackland, in answer to which I was inform’d by Lord Barrington that your Majesty wou’d not permit Officers to obtain Preferment from the Half Pay. Notwithstanding there were many Precedents for it.

By your Majesty’s Approbation, signified by Lord Barrington I purchased a Company in the 22nd Regt with the hopes that your Majesty wou’d then allow me to carry my former agreement with Lt Col Ackland into Execution. For this I had no Opportunity of Addressing myself to your Majesty, as the Regiment was Orderd for immediate Service and I set out to Join them. I soon after heard that Lt Col Ackland had been told that he must sell to Major Caldwell.

Thus after twelve years, I am in a lucrative view, in worse circumstances, than the first day I enter’d your Majesty’s service and in Point of Rank, a Captain of Foot.

All my Ancestors have been in the Service of their Country in a military capacity and it is my utmost Ambition to follow their Example; for the Consideration of all which Circumstances.

That your majesty may be graciously pleased to think me worthy of promotion is the humble Request of Your Majesty’s most dutiful subject and servant



The year 1775 witnessed the outbreak of hostilities with the American Colonies, and public opinion in Great Britain was very seriously divided. As an officer bearing His Majesty’s commission, Effingham entertained a sincere desire to serve his sovereign and his country in the field, but he could not reconcile his conscience to drawing his sword upon his follow countrymen, nor could be believe that his duty as a soldier could supersede his duty as a citizen.

When the moment finally came for the 22nd Regiment of Foot to be ordered to America on active service, Effingham resigned his commission rather than lend himself to what he honestly believed to be no less than the commission of a crime. On 12 April 1775, the following letter was written by his Lordship to Lord Barrington, Secretary at War:

Adelphi Buildings 12th April 1775.

Lord Barrington, Secretary at War

My Lord
I beg the favour of your Lordship to lay before his Majesty the peculiar embarrassment of my present function.
Your Lordship is no stranger to the conduct which I have observed in the unhappy disputes with our American colonies.
The King is too just and too generous not to believe that the votes I have given in Parliament have been given according to the dictates of my conscience. Whether I have erred or not, the course of future events must determine.
In the meantime, if I were capable of such duplicity as to be in any way concerned in enforcing those measures of which I have so publicly and solemnly expressed my disapprobation, I should ill deserve what I am most ambitious of obtaining, the esteem and favourable opinion of my Sovereign.
My request therefore to your Lordship is this, that after having laid those circumstances before the King, you will assure his Majesty that he has not a subject who is more ready than I am with the utmost cheerfulness to sacrifice his life and fortune in support of the safety, honour and dignity of his Majesty’s crown. But the very same principles which have inspired me with these unalterable sentiments of duty and affection to his Majesty, will not suffer me to be instrumental in depriving any part of his people of those liberties which form the best security for their fidelity and obedience to his government. As I cannot, without reproach from my conscience, consent to bear arms against my fellow subjects in America in what, to my weak discernment, is not a clear cause; and as it seems now to be finally resolved that the 22nd Regiment is to go upon American service, I desire your Lordship to lay me in the most dutiful manner at his Majesty’s feet and humbly beg that I may be permitted to retire.
Your Lordship will also be so obliging to entreat that as I waive what the custom of the service would entitle me to, the right of selling what I bought, I may be allowed to retain my rank in the Army, that whenever the envy or ambition of foreign powers should require it, I may be enabled to serve his Majesty and my country in that way in which alone I can expect to serve them with any degree of effect.

Your Lordship will easily conceive the regret and mortification I feel at being necessitated to quit the military profession, which has been that of my ancestors for many generations, to which I have been bred almost from my infancy, to which I have devoted the study of my life, and to perfect myself in which I have sought instruction and service in whatever part of the world they were to be found.

I have delayed this to the last moment, lest any wrong construction should be given to a conduct which is influenced only by the purest motives. I complain of nothing; I love my profession and course of life, in which I might be useful to the public, so long as my constitutional principles and my notions of honour permitted me to continue in it.

I have the honour to be, with great respect.

 Your Lordship’s most obedient.

 And most humble servant,



Effingham had but little influence in the State or the country at that time, but in his place in the house of Peers, although unpractised in public speaking made a speech of considerable eloquence and great energy, which made a powerful impression on those present.

It was this intense and fellow feeling for the Colonists of the American province which coincided with the erection, very early in the course of the war of independence, of the memorial destined by Effingham to commemorate the events which deprived England of one of its most important possessions and established the independence of America and on which Effingham bestowed the name Boston Castle.

By some called a shooting lodge and by others a rural retreat, Boston Castle was the scene of many parties hosted by  Effingham and his Countess. Their guests were plenteously regaled with wine and punch, but “tea – the obnoxious beverage tea!” – was here anathematized and forbidden.

In 1777 Effingham was appointed Deputy Earl Marshall, in common with his father before him.

Effingham ever proved himself to be an ardent supporter of his friend and near neighbour, the statesman Charles Watson Wentworth, 2nd Marquis of Rockingham.  He accompanied his friend Rockingham to the Humber when the pirate Paul Jones with a fleet of only three sail appeared off the Humber, and threw the great sea port of Hull into terrible panic

That same year, Effingham, Rockingham and other members of the aristocracy flocked to Portsmouth for the trial of Admiral Keppel.


When in 1782 the Marquis of Rockingham assumed office for the second time he appointed Lord Effingham to the office of Treasurer of the Household.  The same year Effingham was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Privy Counsellor.  During this year Effingham wrote An Essay on the Nature of a Loan and in 1783 Effingham had published a Collection of Letters on Parliamentary Reform.

Two years later in 1784 Effingham was appointed Master of the Mint by William Pitt.

Following a request in 1784 from Prince Hall, who was founder of the African American Freemasons, as acting Grand Master, of the Masonic movement in England, Effingham was instrumental in granting a charter to the first African American Lodge no 459.

In 1785 John Adams became first American Ambassador to England and on his arrival at London for presentation to King George III, he, together with his wife  Abigail Adams, were warmly welcomed by Lord and Lady Effingham.

Later in that year Abigail Adams writes of a visit from the Countess of Effingham:

I have received a very friendly and polite visit from the Countess of Effingham. She called, and not finding me at home, left a card. I returned her visit ; but was obliged to do it by leaving my card too, as she was gone out of town ; but, when her Ladyship returned, she sent her compliments and word, that if agreeable she would take a dish of tea with me, and named her day. She accordingly came, and appeared a very polite, sensible woman. She is about forty, a good person, though a little masculine, elegant in her appearance, very easy and social. The Earl of Effingham is too well remembered by America to need any particular recital of his character. His mother is first lady to the Queen. When her Ladyship took leave, she desired I would let her know the day I would favor her with a visit, as she should be loth to be absent. She resides, in summer, a little distance from town. The Earl is a member of Parliament, which obliges him now to be in town, and she usually comes with him, and resides at a hotel a little distance from this.

In 1787, during his office as Master of the Mint Effingham published on Pitt’s scheme for a national sinking fund


In 1789, Pitt appointed Effingham Governor and Vice-Admiral of Jamaica
Neither Lord nor Lady Effingham were enjoying good health at the time of their arduous journey to Jamaica. Indeed, it has been suggested that Effingham accepted the position to take advantage of the warmer climate

Although short in duration, Effingham’s tenure as Governor on Jamaica coincided with potentially one of the most tumultuous and dangerous periods in the island’s history. 

On his arrival on the Island, because of the possibility of war with Spain, Effingham had received ‘secret’ instructions from Lord Grenville, then Home Secretary in Pitt’s first administration, authorising him to strengthen the defences of Jamaica by among other things purchasing as many slaves as necessary on public account.

Following talks with Spain, however, the possibility of war with that country had receded and Effingham was ordered to stop all military preparation.

Early in September 1791, news reached Kingston that in the northern plain of Saint Domingue, upwards of 100,000 slaves were in rebellion.    It soon became clear that the uprising would not easily be quashed and the Assembly called for more troops.  

When the Assembly met in October 1791, Effingham suggested, with both tact and discretion that something might be done for those “who do not wilfully reject the happiness that you offer them”.  The Council concurred, no less discretely and the Assembly replied with magnanimity it would continue to make “more secure and easy” the lives of “the most defenceless part of the community”

Effingham’s words of restraint, may well have added weight to the final outcome of this potentially catastrophic turning point in the island’s history and unlike its neighbour, Haiti, Jamaica took a different path and avoided being plunged into full insurrection,.

The tropical climate of the West Indies, so fatal to the European races, was to prove itself a deadly foe to Effingham and his beloved wife. Far from well from the earlier days of her arrival in Jamaica, Lady Effingham, after a residence for over a year and half on the Island was, at length, obliged for the benefit of her precarious health to embark in the late summer on a sea voyage on board HMS Diana bound for New York. Unfortunately the hopes entertained of her recovery proved to be in vain, and her Ladyship died at sea off New York Harbour on 15 October 1791.

The fatal tidings reached Effingham on the arrival of the “Diana” at Port Royal, a week after Lady Effingham’s demise, and bearing her remains on board. Effingham only survived her for the space of one month and he died on 15 November 1791 at  King’s House,  St Jago De La Vega.

Bryan Edwards, FRS (1743 -1800)  English politician, historian and a leading  member of the colonial assembly of Jamaica, was responsible for Effingham’s epitaph

To the Memory of
Thomas, Earl of Effingham, Baron Howard,
Captain-General and Chief Governor of this Island,
In the years 1790-1791;
And of Katherine, his Wife.
The latter departed this life on the 13th day of October 1791

In a voyage undertaken for the benefit of her health,
In His Majesty’s ship Diana;
The former, on the 19th of the following month
The third week after the melancholy return of the Diana
With the remains of his beloved Consort,
Whom he seemed unwilling to survive,
And with whom he was deposited in the same grave
Thus, united in their lives
By the most tender and exalted ties,
He – the fond and indulgent Husband
She- the cheerful and obedient Wife,
In their deaths they were not divided!

A monument in statuary marble with a group of figures surrounding an urn, the work of John Bacon R.A., was raised over their joint tomb in the Cathedral of Spanish Town, paid for by the islanders at a cost of £8,000

To perpetuate the remembrance
Of so illustrious a pattern of conjugal affection;
To manifest the public sense
Of the many public and private virtues of their respected Governor
And to record, for the benefit of posterity
The clearness of that sagacity
The extent of that knowledge
And the purity of firmness of that integrity
Which rendered his administration
The boast and security of a grateful people

Having caused the remains of this noble and Lamented Pair to be interred with funeral honours At the public expense, the whole House
Attending each procession as Mourners as a farther testimony of merited esteem inscribed this Monument.

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