In the course of the career of Dewey Lambdin’s character Alan Lewrie he has contact with several notable personages of his time. This is not unreasonable as the Royal Navy was a relatively small and decidedly insular institution in an age where junior officers could expect to make the acquaintance of very senior officers or government ministers. As an aside, in the US Army from its inception until the vast expansion with the peacetime draft in 1940 it was expected that Regular Army officers passing through Washington, DC would make courtesy calls on the Secretary of War and the President, though this in practice usually meant the officer left a calling card.
Some of these personages become his patron, such as Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. Richard Howe, 1st Lord Howe is one of these real persons who helps the career of young Lieutenant Alan Lewrie along.
Howe is something of how we’d picture a stereotypical English nobleman of the period, though his accomplishments are anything but stereotypical.
He was the second son of Viscount Howe, the eldest son naturally went into the Army, and entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman at age 14. He was made lieutenant at the age of 18 and post-captain at age 20 thereby ensuring he would become an admiral while fairly young. He hoisted his flag as rear admiral in 1770 at age 42. Though his family connections obviously had a great deal to do with his rapid advancement there is no doubt that he was a skillful sailor and a gifted naval commander.
Howe was in command of the North American station during the American Revolution while his younger brother, Sir William Howe, commanded British land forces in North America. Both were embittered by their experience in that war. Howe served as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1783-1788 and again in 1795-1799, in which role our hero meets him. His signal achievement in command was the victory of the Glorious First of June (we have an interesting anecdote on this battle here) though his most valuable service to his country and his service was probably his role as negotiator during the Spithead Mutiny.