Hastings, Francis Rawdon (1754–1826), 2nd earl of Moira , 1st marquess of Hastings , soldier, whig politician, and viceroy of India, was born 7 December 1754 in Dublin, eldest son of John Rawdon (qv), 1st earl of Moira (1723/4–1793), and his third wife, Elizabeth (qv) (1731–1808), daughter of Theophilus Hastings, 9th earl of Huntingdon. Rawdon was educated at Harrow and then matriculated at Oxford (University College) 23 October 1771, although he did not graduate but embarked on a grand tour of Austria, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Poland.
On his return from the Continent he was commissioned lieutenant in the British army 20 October 1773 and served in the war against American colonists. He was a stern martinet and desertion was almost unknown in his regiment. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel 15 June 1778 and in the same year adjutant-general to the forces in America. He fought at Bunker Hill (where two bullets penetrated his cap), Brooklyn, and White Plains, and in the attacks on Forts Washington and Clinton. At Philadelphia he raised the much lauded corps, the Volunteers of Ireland, drawn from loyalist Irish settlers in America. It was around this time that Lord Edward Fitzgerald (qv) became Rawdon's aide-de-camp. As their leader, Rawdon took part in the retreat from Philadelphia to New York, the battle of Monmouth, and the siege of Charleston. He then maintained the peace in South Carolina until the arrival of Lord Cornwallis (qv) before commanding the left division of the British forces at the battle of Camden (16 August 1780). A particularly famous engagement at Hobkirk's Hill (25 April 1781) saw him and his c.900 men defeat a much larger contingent of American soldiers, in a victory described by Cornwallis as ‘by far the most splendid of this war’ (Ross, 99). However, worn out by his eight years of constant military exertions, he was compelled to leave America in the summer of 1781. But this was not the end of his military career as in 1793, as a major-general, he commanded an expeditionary force to aid the insurrection of the royalists in Brittany and in 1794–5 served with the duke of York in the Netherlands. His account detailing this period was published as A journal kept in the British army (1796).
Shortly after arriving back in Britain he was returned as MP for Randalstown, Co. Antrim (1781–3), in the Irish parliament. He entered the British house of lords (5 March 1783) as Baron Rawdon of Rawdon, Co. York; in the lords, he was acknowledged as a staunch supporter of Irish rights. A year after this he was appointed ADC to the king, a position he held until 1793 as he was an intimate of several members of the royal family. In 1789 he acted as the duke of York's second in a duel, and on 29 December 1789 moved the amendment on the regency question in favour of the prince of Wales. At the time of writing, a portrait of him by John Hoppner (c.1793) hangs in the east gallery at Buckingham Palace. After his quarrel with Pitt in 1787 he became known as an opposition peer who supported catholic relief (in 1792 he entertained the delegates of the catholic committee in London and arranged for them to meet the king). In May 1792, following rumours that Rawdon would be the replacement for the earl of Westmorland (qv) as lord lieutenant of Ireland, Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv) approached Rawdon in hopes of being appointed his private secretary. Although this request was unsuccessful, the two appear to have become close friends for a period. Tone called his fourth child Francis Rawdon Tone and named Rawdon his godfather. He also persuaded him to be an advocate for the United Irishmen in England, in particular by attempting to discredit the then lord chancellor, John Fitzgibbon (qv). In August 1793, shortly after Rawdon's accession to the earldom of Moira (20 June 1793), Tone handed him a memorandum of the chancellor's misdeeds. Rawdon read the memorandum to Lord Loughborough, the go-between for Pitt and the whigs, who showed scant interest and then to the prince of Wales, who supported the effort but had little influence. There the matter came to an end. After this there seems to have been a decline in contact between Rawdon and Tone.
Nevertheless in March 1797, Rawdon was involved in an abortive scheme to replace Pitt's ministry. Later that year he made in the house of lords (22 November) his most famous speech in relation to Ireland, published later as On the present alarming and dreadful state of Ireland (1797), which brought the military outrages to public attention. His protest was continued on 19 February 1798. Though his pronouncements failed to influence government policy, they produced a flurry of pamphlets and debate: Fitzgibbon's reply lasted over three hours. It is therefore ironic that in June 1798 Rawdon's Co. Down estate, Montalto, was the scene of the battle of Ballynahinch after the United Irish leader in Co. Down, Henry Monro (qv), set up his main camp on Ednavady Hill. Moira opposed the act of union and voted against it in the Irish house of lords but withdrew his opposition to it in the English house in the belief that catholic relief would follow. When it did not, he opposed the Irish martial law and habeas corpus suspension bills in 1801 (passed as 41 Geo. III, cc 14, 15) and made a speech in 1808 calling for the necessity of universal toleration.
He was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland (1801), general (1803), and master of the ordnance (1806). He took an active part on behalf of the prince of Wales in investigating the conduct of Princess Caroline, and in the debates concerning the king's illness he was again a staunch supporter of the prince. Therefore in 1812, when he expressed himself strongly in favour of catholic emancipation, his was a voice that carried authority and in the same year he attempted, in collaboration with Lord Wellesley (qv), to form a ministry in favour of catholic claims. However, Lords Grey and Granville refused to cooperate and Lord Liverpool was appointed premier in their stead.
On 18 November 1812 he was appointed governor-general of Bengal (1812–23); he was also commander-in-chief of the forces in India for this period, and was created Viscount Loudoun, earl of Rawdon, and marquess of Hastings (13 February 1817). He had taken the name of Hastings after his maternal uncle, Francis, 10th earl of Huntingdon, whose estates and minor titles he inherited in 1808 on the death of his mother. He was then appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Malta, in which capacity he died on board HMS Revenge in Baia Bay off Naples 28 November 1826. He left instructions that on his death his right hand should be cut off and preserved until the death of his wife, Lady Flora Mure Campbell (1780–1840), countess of Loudoun in her own right and only child of James, 5th earl of Loudoun, when it was to be placed in her coffin. She died at Kelburne Castle 8 January 1840. They had married 12 July 1804 and had two sons and four daughters. Francis George Augustus (1808–44) succeeded his father as 2nd marquess of Hastings, and Flora Elizabeth (1806–39), lady of the bedchamber to the duchess of Kent, and later the victim of an infamous scandal surrounding her supposed pregnancy, which proved to be abdominal cancer. A complete list of Hastings's works is in the BL catalogue.