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Sometimes called Jonathan, John Cope was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Cope. He attended Westminster School and in 1707 began his army career as a cornet in the Royal Regiment of Dragoons. He fought in Spain, and soon came under the patronage of Major-General James Stanhope. During the years of peace Cope entered politics. He was M.P. was Queenborough (1722-1727), Liskeard (1727-34) and Orford (1738-41).
Cope was promoted to brigadier-general in 1735, major-general in 1739, and lieutenant-general in 1743. His military success in Germany in that year led to his decoration as a Knight of the Bath.
Cope was commander-in-chief in Scotland at the time of the Jacobite uprising in 1745. His army was heavily defeated at the battle of Prestonpans on 21 September 1745, and Cope was severely criticised for blunders he was alleged to have made during the campaign. He was exonerated in a court of enquiry held the following year, but poor health meant that he never commanded an army in the field again.
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