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John Burgoyne. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-GW-616).

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Burgoyne, John (24 February 1723–04 August 1792), British soldier and dramatist, was born in London, England, the son of Captain John Burgoyne, a soldier, and Anna Maria Burneston. The popular belief that he was the natural son of Robert Benson, Lord Bingley, may have been true, but legally he was the son of Burgoyne. Educated at Westminster School, he entered the army at the age of fifteen, joining the Third Regiment of Horse Guards. Three years later he became a cornet in the Thirteenth Regiment of Light Dragoons and was promoted to lieutenant in 1741. In 1743 Burgoyne eloped with fifteen-year-old Lady Charlotte Stanley, daughter of Edward Stanley, earl of Derby; they had one child, who died at the age of ten. Lord Derby disapproved of the marriage; he gave his daughter only a small dowry and refused to see her or her husband. With Lady Charlotte’s money, Burgoyne purchased a captaincy in the Thirteenth Dragoons, and for three years the couple lived in London. After that time gambling debts forced Burgoyne to sell his commission. He and his wife retired to a quiet life in the French countryside near Chanteloup, where they lived for seven years on Lady Charlotte’s money and the proceeds from the sale of Burgoyne’s captaincy....