Admiral Sir William Parker

Admiral Sir William Parker

1743 - 1802

Note: The above picture appears in the book An Illustrated History of the British Navy in association with the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth, and is represented to be the second Admiral Sir William Parker (1781 - 1866) (as noted below, there were two men named Admiral Sir William Parker). However, the photo also appears in the book The Life of John Jervis, Admiral Lord St. Vincent by Captain W. V. Anson, R.N. The page is entitled, " Commemoration of the XIV th February MDCCXCVII." Parker is depicted with other participants in actions against the Spanish fleet and the French Republic at The Battle of St. Vincent in 1797. At this time, the second Admiral Sir William Parker would only have been 16.

Some of the information below is taken from Sir A. Phillimore's Life of Admiral Sir William Parker and Sir A. Phillimore's The Last of Nelson's Captains, some from a book by John Winton "In Association with the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth, an Illustrated History of the Royal Navy", and some from the Dictionary of National Biography.

There were two Admiral Sir William Parkers. The first was born on January 1, 1743 at Harburn, Warwickshire, England, and died on October 31, 1802. William's parents were Augustine Parker, who died in June of 1783 and Elizabeth Beal, daughter of William Beal. Augustine Parker had been a mayor of Queenborough and a commander of one of the king's yachts. William entered the navy at a very early age, about 1756. He was on the Centurion, captained by William Mantell, and was present during the capture of Louisbourg in 1758 and the capture of Quebec in 1759. After six years service as a midshipman and master's mate, he passed an examination in 1762 and by 1766 he was promoted to lieutenant. For a time he served off the coast of Newfoundland and was promoted to commander in 1763. He continued to serve in Newfoundland for a time and in 1777 he went to the West Indies where he served under Barrington and later under Byron. He served aboard various ships and as commodore and commander-in-chief on the Leeward Islands station. During the 1790's he served under Admiral Richard Howe. In 1794 he was promoted to rear admiral and served in Jamaica. In 1797 Admiral Sir William Parker served under Sir John Jervis, who commanded a fleet in action against the Spaniards near Cape St. Vincent. In some of the action, Sir William Parker was on the ship Prince George. In this action, Sir John Jervis defeated a much larger Spanish fleet with his smaller fleet: "The responsibility for attacking so large a force with so few ships was his (Sir John Jervis') alone. To Jervis was due the efficiency of the fleet under his command. At the critical moment when victory was necessary and essential to England, he put into action a scheme long planned and long prepared for, and carried it through successfully. It was a timely and a daring action, well conceived by him and splendidly carried out by the captains of the fleet and the well-trained and disciplined crews, most of whom had been long under his command and had gained their efficiency in serving under him." (page 175, The Life of John Jervis, Admiral Lord St. Vincent by Captain W. V. Anson, R.N.)

Admiral Sir William Parker was the eldest. His sister Sarah, was christened March 11, 1744 at Queenborough, Kent. She died unmarried December 4, 1791. A brother Augustine was christened Feb 9,1746 at Queenborough. A sister, Elizabeth Parker, was born October 11, 1748 at Queenborough, Kent, England. She married William Head on July 19, 1785 in Queenborough. A child named Elizabeth Head was born February 9, 1787 also at Queenborough, Kent, England. Another sister Susannah was born and died 1750. A younger brother, Capt. Robert Parker of HMS Intrepid was born April 8, 1753 and died Nov 23, 1797. He married and had 8 children

William and Jane Collingwood Parker had seven daughters and one son. The daughters were named Jane, Sarah, Susanna, Harriet, Ann, Mary and Elizabeth. Harriet is the only daughter who never married. The only son, William George, was born in 1787. He married August 29, 1808, Elizabeth Still, (born 1791)the daughter of James Charles Still of East Knoyle in County Wiltshire and Charlotte Wake. He left a large family and died a vice admiral March 24, 1848.( This information from the book "A Naval Biographical Dictionary" by W.R. O'Byrne published in 1849.) One of the daughters of William George Parker and Elizabeth Still was Fanny Catharine who married Charles Bligh in 1837 and died in 1894. One daughter was named Clara and another daughter, Elizabeth Charlotte was born in 1816 in England. Two of the sons married in Toronto. Melville Parker married Jesse Hector in 1847 and Albert Parker married Lucy Henrietta Jennings in 1851.

The second Admiral Sir William Parker lived from 1781 to 1866 and served as Admiral of the Fleet. He was born on December 1, 1781, the third son of George Parker of Almington, Staffordshire, England. George Parker, his father, was the second son of Sir Thomas Parker, who had been lord chief baron of the exchequer. Sir Thomas Parker's nephew was John Jervis, first earl of St. Vincent, who had married Martha Parker, George Parker's half-sister.

Admiral Sir John Jervis
Admiral Sir John Jervis, Earl of St. Vincent

William Parker entered the navy in February of 1793 as a captain's servant on the ship Orion, serving under Captain John Thomas Duckworth. His letter home to his mother reveals something of his life on board ship:

Orion, Spithead, Sunday Morn Feb. 24, 1793

My dearest Mother,

It gave me great pleasure to receive your kind letter, for which I thank you, and I have begun upon a large sheet the moment I received it....I am very happy and as comfortable as if I was at home, and like it of all things; and I think I have every prospect of doing well, particularly under the care of so good a gentleman as Captain Duckworth, who is like a father to us all. Mr. Nevill and all on board are extremely kind to me. I have not yet gone higher than the maintop. We are to sail to the West Indies, and I have my things on shore being altered and made cooler for me. Pray tell Patty that I do not sleep in a hammock, but a cot, which is a much more comfortable thing, and that it is not swung yet, so I manage very well....

Sir John Jervis (William's uncle by marriage--i.e., married to his aunt and also his first cousin once removed) has told Mr. Nevill (who he knows very well) to take care of me, and I assure you he does, and is by far the best friend I have on board (Captain Duckworth excepting); tells me to ask him anything I want, and often asks me questions in those rules of navigation I have gone through;...Captain Duckworth says, I shall not do any service of any kind before two years. But a Mr. Gray is so good as to say he will take me to watch with him in a year, and if he has a little sloop and goes with Captain Duckworth, he will take me with him, but do not mention a word about it to anybody, or in any of your letters. I am very glad to hear that Admiral Gardner is Admiral of our Fleet. Captain Duckworth is so good as to send for some plums, and other good things, for Messrs. Land, Baker and me.

My father has furnished me with a box of colours, drawing-books and everything that could possibly amuse me. He sends me music and more drawings from town by Admiral Gardner. Captain Duckworth very often asks me to breakfast, dine and drink tea with him. He desires his compliments to all our family. Nobody ever looks at our letters. I intend to get Sir John Jervis to forward this... My paper being by this time filled, and I suppose I must have worn out your patience, I must conclude with desiring you to give my best love to all our family, and friends, and the servants.

And believe me, dearest Mother,

Your dutiful son,

W. Parker

The Orion was part of the Channel fleet under Lord Howe and took part a battle on June 1, 1794. This was the Battle of the Glorious First of June, Rear-Admiral Villaret Joyeuse had been told by Robespierre that he would be guillotined if he did not escort safely to harbour the ships bringing American grain. The Rear-Admiral got the grain-ships through, but he lost seven of his battleships in this battle. When Captain Duckworth was assigned to another ship, the Leviathan, William followed him, and sailed with him to the West Indies where Duckworth appointed him acting lieutenant of the Magicienne, a frigate. In May of 1798 he was appointed to the Queen, a flagship of Sir Hyde Parker. In March of 1799 he was confirmed in his rank of acting lieutenant. On May 1, 1799 he was appointed by Sir Hyde as acting captain of the Volage and during the next few months he cruised in the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of Cuba. In 1800 he returned to England on the Stork. He then spent nearly a year in the North Sea, attached to the fleet off Brest. His position of commander had been confirmed in October of 1799 and he was advanced to post rank in October of 1801.

It is interesting to note that in the British navy lieutenants were only promoted when they had achieved some significant success in their careers; promotions did not come as a result of years served or age, so William's promotion at a young age is a significant mark of this remarkable man. The reference to post rank is the second promotion possibility in the British Navy. Post Captains got the command of a ship of the first six rates and could also lead a squadron of small ships during special missions.

In March 1801 William Parker was assigned to the Alarm and in November he moved to the Amazon, which he commanded for nearly 11 years. He was attached to the fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson and accompanied the fleet to the West Indies when they followed the French fleet. After this, the Amazon was sent on a cruise westward and therefore missed the Battle of Trafalgar. The Amazon was then attached to a squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren. He participated in action wherein two French ships were captured, winning the praise of Sir John. For the rest of the 11 years William Parker was almost constantly on the move with the Amazon, mainly along the coast of Spain and Portugal. When the Amazon was sent home for a cleaning, William Parker took the opportunity for a leave of absence and married Frances Anne, daughter of Sir Theophilus Biddulph and Hannah Prestidge. Frances Anne was born November 15, 1791 at Warmington, Warwick, England. He then rejoined his ship and sailed to Spain, later Brest and the English Channel. However, in 1812, the Amazon was worn out and was paid off on Jan. 16.

William Parker purchased Shenstone Lodge near Lichfield and for the next 15 years led a peaceful country life. In 1827, however, he returned to the sea as captain of the Warspite, and sailed to the Mediterranean and acted in 1828 as the senior officer on the coast of Greece. In December,1828 William Parker was appointed to command the royal yacht Prince Regent.

On July 22, 1830, William Parker was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. In the British Navy, there were three kinds of admirals--Rear-Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Admiral of the Fleet. The admirals had command of fleets like the Channel Fleet, the command of squadrons for special tasks like the conquest of the cape colony or the command of stations overseas like East India. They ordered the movement of their ships but were not allowed to order the sailors on the ship without the permission of their captain. They planned and ordered the missions. In April, 1831 was appointed second in command of the Channel squadron, under Sir Edward Codrington with his flag in the Prince Regent. In September, 1831 he was detached on an independent command on the Tagus, where he went to Asia to protect British interests during a civil war. When he returned to England, his tact in handling the situation in Asia brought him an appointment as one of the lords of the admiralty under Lord Auckland. He left the Admiralty in 1841, having been briefly out of office when there was a change in ministry. He was then appointed commander-in-chief in China.

William Parker sailed for Hong Kong and assumed command of the squadron on August 10, 1841 and the British then proceeded to capture Amoy, Ningpo, Woosung and Shanghai, ending with the seizure of Chin-kiang-foo and closing the entrance to the Grand Canal on July 21, 1842. A peace was drawn up at Nankin in August. In return for his participation William Parker received a G.C.B in 1843, a good-service pension in 1844 and a baronetcy in 1841 In November of 1841 he had been appointed vice-admiral and in 1845 commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean

In 1846, because of his knowledge of both Portugal and its politics, he was appointed to command the Channel Fleet. In 1848, however, he returned to the Mediterranean. In 1852 he attained the rank of admiral and returned to England. He continued to be active, serving as a consultant on a variety of projects. One of these projects involved his participation as the head of a committee of naval officers appointed to review the decreasing numbers of seamen in the Navy. By the 1840's some 1,000 men were leaving the Navy each year, and the list of names on the Register of Seamen had dropped from 175,000 in 1839 to 150,000 by 1852, of whom 50,000 were exempt from service--only 4% of the men on the lists had ever served in the Navy. Fewer than 3,000 men had passed through the training establishment in more than 20 years. The committee's recommendations were part of an Order In Council dated April 1, 1853 and the Continuous Service Act later that year, taking effect from July 1, 1853. In 1862 William was appointed rear-admiral of the United Kingdom, and in 1863 admiral of the fleet.

William Parker died Nov. 13, 1866 from complications from bronchitis. He was buried in his parish churchyard near his home at Shenstone Lodge. A monument to his memory was erected in Lichfield Cathedral.

Charles Edward Parker Edwards (1853-1930) was the great great grandson of Admiral Sir William Parker (1743-1902). Charles' family was unsure of his relationship to the famous Admiral when his obituary was printed after his death. The obituary that was printed in the local paper read as follows: "Edwards: --Suddenly on the 16th, Charles Edward Parker Edwards of the Den, Christchurch, Hants. Son of John Edwards, West Indian Planter, and Great Nephew of Admiral Sir William Parker." The use of the name Parker in male lines has been carried down to the present.