Admiral Sir Alexander Milne (1808-1896)
A three-quarter length standing portrait of Alexander Milne, wearing admiral's full dress uniform, the ribbon and star of the GCB, the star of the KCB (civil) and the neck decoration of a baronet. He holds his hat in his left hand and his right rests on his belt as he faces the viewer. The second son of naval officer Sir David Milne, he had a long and successful career in the post Napoleonic and Victorian navies. He was not involved in any great drama with the possible exception of the loss of the revolutionary masted turret ship 'Captain', which was launched in 1869, during his command of the combined Channel fleet and Mediterranean fleet exercises in 1870. When asked to comment on the 'Captain's' performance he expressed his dissatisfaction to the designer, about the way the sea washed freely over the lee side of the upper deck. However he did not appreciate the potential danger of this design flaw which led to a low freeboard. Consequently he did not issue any orders restricting the amount of canvas she carried and that year she capsized with the loss of nearly 500 lives. It was subsequently established that the ship had indeed been fundamentally unstable. Late in 1872 Milne returned to the Admiralty board as senior naval lord, where he served until 1876, under both Gladstone and Disraeli. After leaving office, on 1 November 1876, Milne was created a baronet. In 1879 he served as chairman of Lord Carnarvon's royal commission on the defence of British possessions and commerce abroad. The portrait dates from this time. Milne's importance lay in his ability to work with the ideas of others, to improve upon them, and to integrate all their best features into his own systems. The portrait is signed and dated 'W W Ouless 1879'.
Walter William Ouless
- Image reference: BHC2863
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
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