Sir Robert Thomas Wilson

In the north aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey is a brass covering the grave of Sir Robert Thomas Wilson and his wife. The stone is grey Cornish marble with brass made by Hardmans of Birmingham. The main figures are in the style of a medieval knight and his lady under a canopy, with a lion at his feet and a dog at hers. Below are shown their seven sons and six daughters, again in medieval dress. In the canopy is a coat of arms: "a wolf rampant, in chief three stars of six points, on a canton an eagle displayed with two heads", with a demi wolf holding a crescent as his crest. The inscription in the surround reads:

Here resteth Sir Robert Thomas Wilson, Knight, Born 17 August 1777. Died 9 May 1849. Also Dame Jemima his wife, daughter and co-heiress of Colonel Belford of Harbledown in Kent. Born 21 June 1777. Died 12 August 1823 in Christ.

On a rectangular plate below the figures is:

A General in the British Army, Colonel of the 15th [The King's] Regiment of [Light] Dragoons, Governor and Commander in Chief of the fortress of Gibraltar 14 years representative in Parliament of the borough of Southwark. He won on the fields of battle the titles of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle of Prussia and of the Military Order of St Anne of Russia, Commander of the Imperial Military Order of Maria Theresa of Austria, Baron of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight Commander of the Imperial Russian Order of St George, of the Royal Portuguese Military Order of the Tower and Sword, of the Turkish Crescent and of the Order of Merit of Saxony

He did not hold a British knighthood but by royal licence was permitted to be called Sir Robert.

His life

He was a son of the eminent painter Benjamin Wilson (1721-1788) and his wife Jane (Hetherington) and was educated at Westminster School. As his orders show, he served in the army in many parts of Europe as well as Egypt, South Africa and Russia. In 1797 he married Jemima, daughter of Colonel William Belford and granddaughter of General William Belford, at Gretna Green, under Scots law, and the following year they married again in London according to the Anglican church rite. He was a Major General in 1813 but was removed from service in 1821 but later restored and was made a General in 1841. In 1842 he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar. His works include The History of the British Expedition to Egypt, published in 1802.

Several children died as infants. Son Henry died while in the army in 1827 and had been an equerry to Queen Caroline. The children surviving at the time of Sir Robert's death were Bosville John Wilson, in the Royal Navy, Sir Belford Hinton Wilson (1804-1858), a consul general in Lima and aide-de-camp to Simon Bolivar, William Frederick Platoff Wilson (who attended Westminster School), Rosabella Stanhope (wife of Reverend Herbert Randolph), and Jemima Mary Gwyn Wilson. 

Sir Robert died suddenly at Marshall Thompson's hotel in Oxford Street, London.

Further reading

"A very slippery fellow: the life of Sir Robert Wilson" by M. Glover, 1978

"An astonishing fellow: the life of General Sir Robert Wilson..." by I.Samuel, 1985

Many of his papers are at the British Library.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

History of Parliament online


17th August 1777


9th May 1849


Soldier; writer



Memorial Type


Material Type


Sir Robert Thomas Wilson
Sir Robert and Jemima figures

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Sir Robert Thomas Wilson
Sir Robert Thomas Wilson brass

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster