Sir William Parker, 1742 - 1802, Vice-Admiral of the Red

Oval bust-length miniature in an oval gilt metal suspension locket with a scalloped edge. The sitter is turned to his left, but with his head facing out to the viewer. He is shown as a captain, wearing the 1774-87 full-dress uniform, apparently with his hair powdered and curled rather than a wig.

Parker came from Kent and entered the Navy in 1756. He was present at various major events on the American station in the Seven Years War and was promoted lieutenant in 1766 and captain in 1777. As a passed midshipman and lieutenant he was one of Cook's assistants in the survey of Newfoundland, of which he himself drew a very good map about 1770 (now in TNA). He was commodore and commander-in-chief in the Leeward Islands, 1787-90, and in 1792 took command of the 'Audacious' (74 guns) under Howe in the Channel fleet, playing a distinguished role in the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794. Later that year he became a rear-admiral and commander-in-chief at Jamaica until 1796.

In 1797 he again played a good part as third-in-command at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, for which he received his baronetcy and other rewards. He considered himself slighted by the appointment of Nelson (his junior) to command British re-entry to the Mediterranen in 1798 and also became estranged from St Vincent as his C-in-C for other reasons, though remaining in the Mediterranean fleet until 1799. His last appointment was as C-in-C at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1800 but he was recalled for a disciplinary inquiry the following year in which he was honourably acquitted and, though his career would have continued, the Peace of Amiens and his sudden death from apoplexy on 31 December 1802 ended it. He died a rich man and this, with the meticulous conditions of his will and his long station commands, suggest administration was one of his strengths.

For most of the 1790s he and his family lived at 12 Croom's Hill, Greenwich (today the Fan Museum). He died at his recently acquired country estate, Beaufort House, Ham, near Richmond in Surrey but was buried in the Parker family vault at St Alfege, Greenwich. His wife, Jane Collingwood, from a Greenwich and Deptford family (not the Collingwood who was Nelson's second-in-command at Trafalgar), lived on at Croom's Hill to her death in 1815, aged 70, and was then buried with him. Five of their twelve childen died young and their only son, (Sir) William George Parker (2nd baronet,1787-1848) was also a naval officer, though only saw active service until promoted to Captain in 1814. He continued to own the Ham estate into the 1830s.

Scouler, the artist, (c.1740-1812) was of Scottish family and son of an organ builder. He won a Society of Arts premium for drawing in 1755 when about 14, attended the St Martin's Lane 'Academy ' run by Hogarth and others and also studied in the Duke of Richmond's sculpture gallery from 1758. As a miniaturist and pastel portraitist he exhibited at the Society of Artists, 1761-68, and according to Redgrave was a member of the Free Society in 1763. He only showed work at the RA from 1780 to 1787. The sitter's age here suggests the miniature might mark his promotion to post rank in 1777. If unsubstantiated report that Scouler visited India in 1776-80 were true, it might be a little later.

Object Details

ID: MNT0121
Collection: Fine art
Type: Miniature
Display location: Not on display
Creator: James Scouler, James; Cosway, Richard
Date made: about 1777
People: Parker, William
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 38 x 30 mm

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