HONYMAN, Robert I (c.1765-1848).

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



Family and Education

b. c.1765, 1st s. of Patrick Honyman of Graemsay, Orkney by 2nd w. Margaret, da. of Patrick Sinclair of Durwin. m. bef. 1808,1 Margaret Henrietta, gdda. of Adm. Sir John Knight, 1s. 1da.

Offices Held

Entered RN 1782, midshipman 1783, lt. 1790, cdr. 1796, capt. 1798, r.-adm. 1825, v.-adm. 1837, adm. 1847.


Honyman entered the navy as a captain’s servant and saw action in the Mediterranean on the outbreak of war with France. He was returned for Orkney in 1796 on the interest of his half-brother William, later Lord Armadale, SCJ. Although he had the support of local Whig elements, Henry Dundas approved his candidature.

On 15 Apr. 1806 Armadale, in a masterpiece of understatement, told Lord Grenville that his brother was ‘occasionally absent’ from the House.2 He was in fact on active service during almost all his time as a Member and not a single vote or speech is recorded in his name. Armadale quarrelled with Dundas in 1801,3 and in 1802 Honyman, who retained his seat without opposition, was listed by Charles Innes among those who were ‘either independent altogether or in direct opposition to Mr Dundas’, while the Melvillites labelled him ‘opposition at heart’. Yet on 22 Apr. 1804 the Addington ministry authorized St. Vincent to give him leave of absence to attend Parliament for the following day’s debate on the national defences, stating that his presence, as an officer involved in the blockade of Boulogne, was ‘very desirable’.4 He was listed as a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry in September 1804 and July 1805, but on 22 Apr. 1805 he wrote to John McMahon from his frigate off Boulogne:

I beg you will assure ... the Prince of Wales that it is my resolution to concur with his friends in the House of Commons in opposition to administration, and when you are pleased to signify to me ... your wish for my attendance, if I can consistently with my duty ... attend in my place for the above purpose, I will, and vote with you.5

On the formation of the Grenville ministry, William Adam placed Honyman with the ‘Dundas etc. interest’ and reckoned that he had ‘voted with Pitt’. Armadale pledged his support to Grenville in April 1806,6 and in a list of Scottish Members in the Spencer papers Honyman was numbered among those ‘attached to his lordship and not likely to lose their seats at a general election’. In the event, he made way for his nephew.

Honyman, described in 1805 by John Graham of Fintry as ‘the most warm hearted worthy man I ever saw’, died in Paris, 31 July 1848.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. His wife gave birth to a son 11 Oct. 1808 (Gent. Mag. ii. 951).
  • 2. Fortescue mss.
  • 3. SRO GD51/9/237; Blair Adam mss, ‘Statement for Mr Laing’, 5 Nov. 1806.
  • 4. St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 237-8.
  • 5. Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2034, 2037.
  • 6. Fortescue mss, Armadale to Grenville, 15 Apr. 1806; Add. 51469, ff. 35, 38.
  • 7. HMC Graham of Fintry, 67; Gent. Mag. (1848), ii. 423; Foster, MPs for Scotland, 183.