As a young man, he entered the Navy, where his promotion was rapid. He distinguished himself in several encounters with the French, and was of great assistance to Admiral Hawke in 1759, although he had returned to England before the Battle of Quiberon Bay in November 1759. Having served with distinction in the West Indies under Rodney, his active life at sea ceased when the Peace of Paris was concluded in February 1763.
He was, however, nominally Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet in this year, and was made Vice Admiral of the Blue in January 1778.
He was known as the English Casanova, due to his colourful personal life. He often took part in debates in Parliament, and was a frequent contributor to periodical literature.