Commodore George Walker (before 1700-1777)

A three-quarter length portrait of the famous privateersman George Walker. He wears a blue jacket with gold braiding and buttons, red waistcoat, necktie and brown wig. Walker is shown standing in front of a rock and gesturing with his left hand towards a sea action taking place in the distance on the right. His right hand rests on a globe just above a partly legible inscription ‘F…… Gib…l…C. St. Vin’.

This portrait probably commemorates one of Walker’s successful actions capturing a Spanish treasure ship, the ‘Glorioso’, near Cape St Vincent. He had command of the ‘King George’, a 32-gun frigate which formed part of a squadron of four privateers ‘King George’, ‘Prince Frederick’, ‘Duke’, and ‘Princess Amelia’. Collectively known as the Royal Family, they had been cruising for nearly a year and made considerable prize money. In July 1747 they sailed from Lisbon and on 6 October sighted the 70-gun Spanish ship ‘Glorioso’ heading for Cape St Vincent. Guessing that she was laden with treasure, Walker attacked. After an action lasting several hours the ‘Glorioso’ was finally captured by another ship, the ‘Russell’ and escorted into Tagus under Walker’s guidance. It is probably this event which is shown in the painting.

Walker is generally regarded as the most successful British privateer. A resourceful and innovative seaman, he always carried musicians on board, and cared for his crews who in their turn respected him. Very little is known of his subsequent life, though the syndicate that owned the Royal Family did not honour their debts to him and he was imprisoned and then declared bankrupt. He died on 20 September 1777 at Seething Lane, in the City of London, and was buried at All Hallows Barking, Great Tower Street, London.

Object Details

ID: BHC4247
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: British School, 18th century
Date made: circa 1750
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Society for Nautical Research Macpherson Fund
Measurements: Painting: 1290 mm x 1020 mm; Frame: 1562 mm x 1315 mm x 100 mm

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