Francis Light (Captain) (1740 - c.1794)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Suffolk, Dallinghoo, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Penang, Malaysia
Occupation: Captain in the English Army, Founder & Governor of Penang
Managed by: Debra Croft
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Francis Light (Captain)

Captain Francis Light was the founder of the British colony of Penang (in modern-day Malaysia) and its capital George Town in 1786.

He was baptized in Dallinghoo, Suffolk, England on December 15, 1740. His mother was given as Mary Light, though his father preferred to remain anonymous. He was taken in by a relative, the nobleman William Negus, and educated in elementary school with the Negus children; but was apprenticed early to a Naval Surgeon. It was initially thought that Light was illegitimate son of William Negus, but according to Noël Francis Light Purdon, the 6-times great-grandson of Francis Light, Negus was paid to look after him and be his guardian throughout his schooling.

Light served as a Royal Navy midshipman from 1759 to 1763, but went out to seek his fortune in the colonies. From 1765, he worked as a private country trader. For about ten years he had his headquarters in Salang, Thailand, near Phuket, reviving a failed French trading post. While living there he learned to speak and write several languages, including Malay and Siamese. In 1785, he warned the Thais on Phuket Island of an imminent Burmese attack. Light's warning enabled the islanders to prepare for Phuket's defence and subsequently repel the Burmese invasion.

For the British East India Company, Light leased the island of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah, where many others had failed, and was supposedly given the Princess of Kedah as a reward (other sources state that the Princess was sent to covet Light's aid on behalf of the Sultan). The multicultural colony of Penang became extraordinarily successful from its inception and Light served as the Superintendent of the colony until his death.

Light died from malaria on October 21, 1794 and was buried at the Catholic Cemetery on Northam Road (now Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah) in George Town. A statue which bears his name but has the facial features of his son William stands at Fort Cornwallis in George Town.

Light had four daughters and two sons with Martina Rozells, who was said to be of Portuguese and Siamese lineage. Martina is occasionally referred to in the literature as the Princess of Kedah, as above. If they were legally married, he did not declare it. However, it was against East India Company rules to marry a Catholic and, as Martina was Catholic, Light may have tried to avoid dismissal by never declaring his marriage. He did leave her his considerable property. Their son, Colonel William Light, was the founder of Adelaide in Australia.

(Information from Wikipedia.)

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Francis Light (Captain)'s Timeline

1740
December 15, 1740
Suffolk, Dallinghoo, United Kingdom
1794
October 20, 1794
Age 53
Penang, Malaysia
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