Research Subjects: Biographies

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 -- Lieutenant William Royds 52nd Foot

By Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan


William Royds was born in 1789.[1]  In 1808, he was commissioned as an ensign without purchase in the 52nd Foot with a date of rank of 16 February 1808.[2] Ensign Royds would deploy with the 1st Battalion 52nd Foot first to the Baltic and then to the Peninsula in August 1808.  He was left behind in Lisbon when the regiment moved into Spain in November.  In February 1809, he was attached to the 1st Battalion of Detachments.  He was also promoted to lieutenant without purchase with a date of rank of 15 February 1809.[3]  While with the 1st Battalion of Detachments, he would fight in the Douro Campaign, but miss the Talavera Campaign.  He would stay with the Detachments until they were disbanded in September 1809, when he returned to England , where he joined the 2nd Battalion 52nd Foot, at Lewes in East Sussex. He would stay there for about 14 months.  On 26 January 1811, the 2nd Battalion boarded transports at Portsmouth, headed to war again.  It landed in Lisbon on 6 March.  The battalion would take a short rest to recover from the sea voyage and then began a 175 mile march to the Portuguese – Spanish Border.[4]  Four weeks later, after a brief rest in Celerico, they arrived in Sabugal.  On 3 April, it would be involved in the fierce fighting at there and in May at Fuentes d’Orono.[5]  Lieutenant Royds would transfer to the 1st Battalion in August and would serve with it throughout the rest of the war.  He fought with them  at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, San Munos, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Vera, Bidassoa, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, Tarbes, and Toulouse. He was slightly wounded at Badajoz.[6]  

Lieutenant Royds purchased his captaincy on 9 June 1814.[7] On 25 February 1817, he would go on half-pay in the 52nd Foot.[8] William Royds was brought back from half-pay in the 52nd Foot to full pay in the 33rd Foot 21 July 1854.  At the same time, he would receive a promotion to brevet major backdated to 10 January 1837 and brevet lieutenant colonel, backdated to 11 November 1851. Both brevets were antedated to reflect when he would have received brevet promotion in the army had he been on full pay during that time. This was to place him with his proper seniority in the army, so that he could sell his commission in accordance with the new regulations.[9]  On 4 August 1854, he sold his commission and retired.[10]  William Royds died 20 December 1858 at the age of 69[11] in his home of 6 Sandford Place, Cheltenham.[12]

William Royds married Georgiana Peel of Ardwick in December 1825.[13]  Their son, Frederick Charles Alten Royds was born on 21 January 1827.[14] In the 1850s, they lived in Upton House in Tetbury.  Living with them, was their daughter Adelaide Georgiana, who eventually married and move to New Zealand .[15]  The house still stands today and can be seen at Historic Upton House.[16] Georgiana would outlive William by six years, dying on 17 May 1864, at the age of 73.[17]

William Royds received the General Service Medal (Silver Medal) with clasps for Fuentes d’Orono, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse.[18]

[1] Annual: 1859; pp. 457

[2] Hart’s: 1853; London Gazette: 23 February 1808

[3] Hart’s: 1853; London Gazette: 21 February 1809

[4] Eliot; pp. 286, 290

[5] Moorsom; p 135

[6] Moorsom; p. 169

[7] Hart’s: 1853; London Gazette: 5 July 1814

[8] Hart’s: 1853

[9] London Gazette: 21 July 1854:

[10] London Gazette: 4 August 1854

[11] Annual: 1859; pp. 456 - 457

[12] Illustrated

[13] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle: July – December 1825; p. 640

[14] Cheltenham: p. 65

[15] Lee: pp. xxi. 54 – 55; Howard: p. 61

[16] “Tetbury”

[17] Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review: January – June 1864; p. 814

[18] Mullen; p. 359

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2009

Not One in Ten Thousand Know Your Name: the Officers of the British 1st Battalion of Detachments in 1809 ]

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