The sitter is presumably a younger son of the Earl of Lothian. On 13th September 1688 he was appointed Second Lieutenant of the ‘Pendennis’, 70 guns, and in May 1680 to command the ‘Deptford’, 50 guns, in the rank of captain. In November 1691, in company with the ‘Chester’, he captured a large French privateer in the Channel, and in October and November 1692 two more. In 1693 he commanded the ‘Lennox’, and the ‘Burlington’ and while commanding the latter he took the decision not to attack some French ships and their prizes off Dunkirk to avoid taking his ships over some shoals, which his pilot refused to do. He was reported by his fellow officer Captain Stephens of the ‘Solebay’, but acquitted at his court martial. In 1702 he was a member of the Board for the court martial of John Munden. While commanding the ‘Revenge’ in 1703 he went to the Mediterranean with Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and on 26th November survived being blown over the Galloper Sand during the ‘Great Storm’.
In 1706 he was appointed to the ‘Rupert’ and made Commodore of a squadron to relieve Admiral Whetstone in the West Indies. Following two abortive expeditions against Cartagena and Hispaniola (Cuba) the squadron was made unfit by a virulent attack of the plague. In 1708 he was relieved by Commodore Wager and sent with a convoy to England where complaints about his involvement in the contraband trade awaited, and he was dismissed as a result of an address from the House of Lords to the Queen.
Kerr is depicted in a brown silk robe and open necked shirt, ‘in dishabille’, a drape of a different brown over his right arm and lower part of his body, and wearing his own hair. His left hand rests on a rock on which are a telescope and a ring dial. The left background is a rock with a palm tree, and in the right background is the ‘Rupert’, starboard-quarter view, wearing an early form of broad pendant.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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