All at sea

The constituency of Reigate lost two MPs to the oceans. In 1808 Viscount Royston "was lost on board the Agatha, merchant ship, near Memel, on the 7th April".

In 1831 Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke (who had also represented St Germans and Sandwich), a veteran of the American war of independence and the Napoleonic wars, perished when returning from Spithead on the yacht of Captain Bradley. Leigh Rayment reports the story that Yorke's wife saw an apparition of her husband at the theatre the same night.

Richard Boyle-Walsingham, MP for Knaresborough (1768-81) was commanding the Thunderer when it went down in a hurricane in the West Indies. Major General John Stanwix, MP for Appleby (1761-7) was returning from Ireland aboard the Eagle when it sank with all hands.

Ramsay Macdonald was the only (ex)-prime minister to perish at sea. In November 1937 he had been sent on a cruise for his health but died aboard the Reina de Pacifico as it sailed to Bermuda.

This article first appeared in the 28 February 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Toppling the tyrants