Nugent, Sir George (1757–1849), army general, was born 10 June 1757 at Gosfield, Essex, England, illegitimate son of Edmund Nugent, lieutenant-colonel in the 1st Foot Guards. His younger brother, Sir Charles Edmund Nugent (c.1759–1844), became a distinguished admiral in the Royal Navy. Educated at Charterhouse, George entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, receiving commissions as lieutenant (1775), captain (1778), and lieutenant-colonel (1787). Benefiting from the patronage of his uncle, George Grenville (qv), 1st marquess of Buckingham, he came to Ireland as his ADC (1787–9) during Buckingham's second spell as lord lieutenant. Returning to England (1790) Nugent entered parliament as MP for Buckingham, a constituency he represented for two lengthy periods (1790–1802, 1818–32).
His ambitions for military advancement were regularly thwarted by George III who hated Buckingham and enjoyed rejecting his requests. Nevertheless Nugent served in Europe in 1794 before returning to Ireland the following year, when he was appointed to the Irish staff. Gazetted major-general (1796), he had a command in the south of Ireland, but was transferred to Ulster shortly before the outbreak of the 1798 rebellion. On 7 June 1798 he received news of conflict in Antrim, and marched immediately to meet the threat, after making sure that Belfast was secure. Although a relatively humane general, he was committed to quelling the rebellion as quickly as possible, and did so with a potent combination of finesse and brutality. He divided his troops and led the attack on rebel forces in Antrim, quickly defeating them, while another force marched on Downpatrick to the south; it was observed that his war train was two miles long. The battle of Ballynahinch on 12–13 June was one of the most decisive of the campaign, and resulted in a spectacular victory for Nugent; he claimed to have lost only three men in the engagement. He then moved to Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, to block any movement by a French invasion army into Ulster. On 23 July he issued a proclamation offering fifty guineas for the capture of leading rebels. Nugent's greatest asset was his ability to control the violence of the loyalists as much as the rebels, and this enabled him to restore peace in Ulster. His measured approach won approval from the new lord lieutenant, Cornwallis (qv), who later revealed that ‘his wise and steady conduct has gained him such universal respect’ (Cornwallis correspondence, iii, 115) and that without it there might be a return to violence.
After the collapse of the rebellion the government turned its attention to bringing in a legislative union. Many generals were enlisted to enter the Irish house of commons and support the measure, including Nugent. He entered parliament (3 March 1800) as MP for Charleville, Co. Cork, and voted for the union during the final twelve weeks of debates. He left Ireland in April 1801 when he was appointed governor general of Jamaica, where he served for three years. Created a baronet in 1806, he was MP for Aylesbury (1806–12), and in 1811 supported the catholic relief petitions of Henry Grattan (qv). Appointed commander-in-chief of India (1811–13), he was made KB (1813), and later GCB (1815). In July 1819 he applied to Lord Liverpool's government for the command of Ireland but was refused; disillusioned, he retired from active politics disappointed that the government had done nothing ‘to save my character from undeserved obloquy’ (Thorne, 680). It was little consolation when he was made a field-marshal in 1846. He died 11 March 1849 at his home at Waddesdon House, Berkshire.
He married (15 November 1797) Maria, daughter of Cortlandt Skinner, attorney general of New Jersey; they had two sons and two daughters.