Blakeney, Sir William (1672?–1761), Baron Blakeney , soldier and MP, was born at Mount Blakeney, Co. Limerick, eldest of five sons of William Blakeney of Thomastown, Co. Limerick, country gentleman and MP for Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, and Elizabeth Blakeney (née Bowerman) of Cooliney, Co. Cork. In 1690 he organised his father's tenants to defend the family estate against local Jacobites. He joined William III's (qv) army in Flanders as a volunteer, fought at Namur, and was commissioned ensign in the Royal Regiment of Foot in September 1695. He served throughout the war of the Spanish succession (1701–13), was wounded at Blenheim (1704) and Malplaquet (1709), and rose to become lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Foot Guards (1712). He was MP for Kilmallock 1725–56, but was mostly absent on active service. Although an officer of some ability, particularly in training troops, he lacked influential patrons and had to wait till 1737 for promotion to colonel (27th Inniskilling Foot). Eventually he attracted the attention of the duke of Richmond who, after war was declared on Spain (1739), had Blakeney appointed adjutant-general of an expeditionary force to attack Spanish colonies in the West Indies. In April 1740 he went to New York to train a regiment of 3,000 American levies for service in the West Indies, and fought in engagements at Cartagena, on the Columbian coast, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1741.
He returned to England in autumn 1742, and Richmond secured his promotion to major-general and the lieutenant-governorship of Stirling castle in 1744. During the rebellion of 1745–6 Blakeney inflicted a crushing defeat on highlanders who had besieged the castle. He was rewarded in 1747 when George II made him a lieutenant-general and lieutenant-governor of Minorca. Since the governor, Lord Tyrawley (qv), was an absentee, Blakeney effectively governed the island for ten years. On the outbreak of war in 1756 a large French force attacked Minorca, which was resolutely defended by Blakeney, then in his eighties, a defence made considerably more difficult by the withdrawal of naval support by Admiral John Byng (1704–57). Although Blakeney was obliged to surrender after a siege of seventy days, his gallant conduct as the ‘defender of Minorca’ was much admired in Britain, and contrasted with Byng's lack of daring. Blakeney's evidence at Byng's court martial in January 1757 contributed to his being sentenced to death for failing to assist the garrison.
George II made Blakeney a knight of the Bath (27 November 1756) and granted him an Irish peerage: he became the first (and only) Baron Blakeney of Mount Blakeney (18 December 1756). Very popular with his troops, he was a down-to-earth officer, who lived frugally and shared his soldiers' hardships. A brass statue of him by John Van Nost was commissioned by the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, an anti-duelling society, and unveiled in Sackville Street, Dublin, on 17 March 1759; it was removed in 1808 to make way for Nelson's pillar. He died unmarried 20 September 1761 and was buried in Westminster abbey.