Reply To: Collingwood’s sinecure

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    In Max Adams’ interesting biography Admiral Collingwood: Nelson’s Own Hero (London 2005), Collingwood’s appointment as Major-General of Marines is stated to bring a stipend of £1200 – £1400 a year (page 261). Adams gives no reference for this, but the Annual Register for the year will list salaries for such state sinecures.
    It seems from this that officers serving in an arm could also receive pay for other duties elsewhere – or at least, other appointments, although as Frank has shown, it would be put against an officer’s half-pay on retirement.
    Compare Collingwood’s honorarium for doing nothing to John Wilson Croker’s income as a successful barrister-at-law in Dublin in the same period, of about £400 a year.
    When Croker was appointed First Secretary to the Board of Admiralty – effectively, the Minister for the Navy – in October 1809, his income went up tenfold. The salary was £3000 a year (£4000 in wartime), the equivalent today perhaps of £60-80,000, not far off the current rate.
    In research for my forthcoming history of the Admiralty I have acquired a copy of The Croker Papers (1884, revised edition Bernard Pool, London 1967), in which it seems that in his first month in office Croker discovered that the Paymaster of Marines had been “fiddling the accounts” (by enlarging the monthly pay bill, signed off by the Admiralty Secretary) for his personal benefit to the immense tune of £260,000.
    The first time the Marines’ paybill was presented to him, Croker checked it against the Naval Estimate giving the numbers of men borne in the Marines’ muster, and refused to sign it as being incorrect. The Paymaster was a personal friend of George III and at first this was hushed up, until Croker offered his resignation. To his credit, the King refused it and the Paymaster was removed from office, a broken man.
    I wonder what Collingwood would have made of that if he had discovered it himself?
    Justin Reay