WARREN, Sir John Borlase, 1st Bt. (1753-1822), of Stapleford, Notts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1774 - 1784
11 Nov. 1797 - 1806
23 Mar. 1807 - 1807

Family and Education

b. 2 Sept. 1753, 1st s. of John Borlase Warren of Stapleford by Bridget, da. of Gervase Rosell of Radcliffe-on-Trent. educ. by Rev. John Prinsep, Bicester; Winchester; Emmanuel, Camb. 1796; continental tour. m. 13 Dec. 1780, Caroline, da. of Lt.-Gen. Sir John Clavering, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1763; cr. Bt. 1 June 1775; KB 30 May 1794; GCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCH 1819.

Offices Held

Midshipman RN 1777, lt. 1778, cdr. 1779, capt. 1781, half-pay 1783; groom of bedchamber to Duke of Clarence 1787-d.; r.-adm 1799; PC 8 Sept. 1802; ambassador to Russia Sept. 1802-Nov. 1804; v.-adm. 1805; c.-in-c. N. American station 1807-14; adm. 1810.


As Member for Great Marlow on his own interest from 1774, Warren had deserted government because they did not advance him in his profession. From 1781, when he sold his Marlow estate, he sulked, and did not seek re-election in 1784. As late as 1795 there was talk at Marlow of inviting him back, but nothing came of it.1 Meanwhile he had resumed active service. In 1794 he captured three French frigates and was honoured for it. He destroyed French coastal traders and in the following year led the unsuccessful expedition to Quiberon Bay. In 1797 he was chosen unopposed at Nottingham, on the vacancy created by Pitt’s friend Lord Carrington. One of his family had been Member for the borough in 1722.

Warren’s parliamentary attendance was minimized by his naval service. In July 1798 he wrote that he hoped to attend the House in the winter. In October he repelled the French expedition to Ireland and was thanked by both Houses. His ambition was still not satisfied and in 1799 he thought of volunteering for the Russian service. In 1800 he made £12,000 in prizes and in July applied for leave to look after his interests in his constituency. Lord St. Vincent questioned this, thinking him unable to tolerate long confinement at sea ‘which, looking back to the course of his services and manner of life when ashore, is easily accounted for’; he was ‘a good fellow in the presence of an enemy, but runs a little wild when detached’.2 In 1801 he served in the Mediterranean. He was in the House on 31 Mar. 1802 when he voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s financial claims.

No sooner had Warren been re-elected in 1802 than he was appointed ambassador to Russia, the Tsar having requested a naval officer. His election was confirmed after a petition against the return; otherwise, he wrote from St. Petersburg on 18 Mar. 1803, ‘I shall not think it worth while, being on this side of the water, if I were even rich enough to spend another £1,000 to represent that terrible place, having already supported the public cause to the utmost of my power’. (He believed he had preserved Malta for Britain.) He repeatedly applied for a salary increase, maintaining that he was the worst paid ambassador to the Russian court. He obtained only his naval half-pay, hardly enough to meet his gambling losses. On the renewal of war with Buonaparte, he wished to resume active service, but was retained at St. Petersburg, threatening to resign in the spring of 1804 if his salary were not increased. His pretentious wife, who had sailed home, asked the King to bestow a peerage on him, 5 Sept. 1803; his ‘kinsman’ Sir George Warren* had previously asked for the reversion of his own peerage, if he obtained one, for him.3

In May 1804 Pitt decided to recall Warren from the mission for which ‘he never was fit’. His successor Lord Granville Leveson Gower claimed that he returned a disappointed man: ‘He flattered himself that a convention must be the fruit of his diplomatic labour, and a peerage the reward of concluding a convention’. To Pitt he applied, 26 Dec. 1804, for assurance of a diplomatic pension. Meanwhile there was doubt about his political loyalty: he was listed ‘Addington’ in May 1804, and first ‘Pitt’, then ‘doubtful Addington’ in September. In April 1805 Sir Charles Middleton, on taking over the Admiralty, sounded him as to his willingness to take a seat on the board. He replied that if it was ‘a place of confinement ... he should not like it’. ‘With this kind of disposition’, commented Middleton, ‘we had better have his chair than his company.’ On 6 May he applied to the King for a peerage, referring to the loss of his only son at Aboukir in 1801.4

Warren presented the naval orphans’ asylum petition for a parliamentary grant, 28 May 1805, and on the same day ‘in a very low tone of voice’ supported the prize agency bill. He was listed ‘Pitt’ in July. On 26 Aug. 1805 he again asked Pitt for his pension and sought an interview on the pretext that he wished to resign his seat. In the spring of 1806 he captured some French East Indiamen, but was suspected to prefer ‘prize money to the public good at all times’. His conduct in returning abruptly from the Chesapeake in November 1806 was thought ‘indefensible’: he was judged ‘good for nothing but fine weather and easy sailing’ and received ‘very coldly’ at the Admiralty.5 He did not seek re-election at Nottingham, but came in on the Marquess of Buckingham’s interest in March 1807. He voted against the eclipse of the Grenville ministry, 9 Apr. 1807. He was appointed to the North American station and did not seek re-election to Parliament.

In 1812 Warren applied to Lord Liverpool for his ambassador’s pension, which Grenville and Perceval had refused. He eventually obtained it, backdated to 1805.6 In May 1820 he applied for a peerage: ‘the world must deem it extraordinary that I should again be passed by at a creation of peers’, he complained. On 25 June 1821, pointing out that he was the only ambassador to Russia not to have been ennobled, he applied unsuccessfully for a coronation peerage.7 He died 27 Feb. 1822.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. A. Symonds


W. V. Anson, Life of Admiral Warren; DNB; J. Ralfe, Naval Biog. ii. 302; Naval Chron. iii. 333; xxvi. 89.

  • 1. Bucks. RO, Lee mss D3/73.
  • 2. Add. 37878, ff. 6, 139; Spencer Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. lix), 6, 8, 13, 14.
  • 3. The Times, 17, 24 July 1802; W. Suff. RO, Hervey mss, Warren to Hervey, 18 Mar. 1803; Add. 38238, ff. 110, 187; 38239, f. 70; 38285, f. 44; Leveson Gower, i. 460, 493; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2791; PRO 30/8/187, f. 57.
  • 4. Rose Diaries, ii. 141; Leveson Gower, i. 485, 490; PRO 30/8/187, f. 69; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 6/56; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3090.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/187, f. 71; Markham Corresp. (Navy Recs. Soc. xxviii), 60; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 92-4.
  • 6. Add. 38328, f. 28; Annual Biog. (1823), 144.
  • 7. Add. 38284, f. 336; 38285, f. 44; 38289, f. 245; 38575, f. 16.