Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN

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Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN's Geni Profile

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John Franklin

Birthdate: (61)
Birthplace: Spilsby, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Death: June 11, 1847 (61)
Immediate Family:

Son of Willingham Franklin and Hannah Franklin
Husband of Eleanor Anne Franklin (Porden) and Jane Franklin
Father of Eleanor Isabella Gell (Franklin)
Brother of Thomas Adams Franklin; Sarah Jane Sellwood; Mary Franklin and Hannah Booth

Managed by: Timothy Michael Gell
Last Updated:

About Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN

Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), knighted 1829


One of the outstanding explorers of the early 19th century, Admiral Franklin’s tragic end earned him iconic status. As a young midshipman, Franklin served at Trafalgar. He then commanded a frigate in the seas around Greece between 1830 and 1833. Four years later, in 1837 Franklin was appointed Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), a post he held until 1843. His lasting reputation derives from his major expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in search of the North West Passage. He embarked on the third in May 1845. The last sighting of his ships was in July 1845. Relief expeditions were mounted, but by 1850 it was clear to everyone except his second wife Lady (Jane) Franklin (1792-1875) that the expedition was lost. She continued to raise funds to send out search parties until 1859 when proof was found of the deaths of Franklin and his party. Franklin’s first wife was Eleanor Anne Porden (1797-1825) whom he married 19th August 1823. Their only child, Eleanor Isabella (1824-1860), married the Rev John Philip Gell. Franklin himself was married for the second time in 1828 to Jane Griffin (1795-1875), but the couple had no children.


Wikipedia Biographical Summary

"Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN (16 April 1786 – 11 June 1847) was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer. Franklin also served as governor of Tasmania for several years. He disappeared on his last expedition, attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The icebound ships were abandoned and the entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.

Early life

Franklin was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, in 1786 and educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth. He was the ninth of the twelve children of Willingham Franklin, the descendant of a long line of country gentlemen, and his wife Hannah Weekes. One of John's sisters, Sarah, was the mother of Emily Tennyson. Franklin's father initially opposed his son's interest in a career at sea. However, Franklin was determined and his father reluctantly allowed him to go on a trial voyage with a merchant ship. This hardened young Franklin's resolve, so at the age of 14 his father secured him a Royal Navy appointment on HMS Polyphemus.

Franklin was later present at a number of historic voyages and naval battles. These included the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, an expedition to explore the coast of Australia on HMS Investigator with his uncle, Captain Matthew Flinders, a return to the Napoleonic Wars, serving aboard HMS Bellerophon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and he was at the Battle of New Orleans.

He accompanied Captain Dance on the East India Company's ship the Earl Camden, frightening off Admiral Linois at the Battle of Pulo Aura in the straits of Malacca on 14 February 1804.


1823: Marriage and third Arctic expedition

In 1823, after returning to England,Sir John Franklin married the poet Eleanor Anne Porden. Their daughter, Eleanor Isabella, was born the following year. Eleanor (senior) died of tuberculosis in 1825, shortly after persuading her husband not to let her ill-health prevent him from setting off on another expedition to the Arctic. On 5 November 1828 he married Jane Griffin, a friend of his first wife and a seasoned traveller who proved indomitable in the course of their life together. On 29 April 1829 he was knighted by George IV. On 25 January 1836 he was made Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order by King George IV. He was made a Knight of the Greek Order of the Redeemer as well.

In 1825 he left for his second Canadian and third Arctic expedition. The goal this time was the mouth of the Mackenzie River from which he would follow the coast westward and possibly meet Frederick William Beechey who would try to sail northeast from the Bering Strait. With him was John Richardson who would follow the coast east from the Mackenzie to the mouth of the Coppermine River. At the same time William Edward Parry would try to sail west from the Atlantic. (Beechey reached Point Barrow and Parry became frozen in 900 miles east. At this time the only known points on the north coast were a hundred or so miles east form the Bering Strait, the mouth of the Mackenzie, Franklin's stretch east of the Coppermine, and a bit of the Gulf of Boothia which had been seen briefly from land.) Supplies were better organized this time, in part because they were managed by Peter Warren Dease of the Hudson's Bay Company.

After reaching the Great Slave Lake using the standard HBC route he took a reconnaissance trip 1,000 miles down the Mackenzie and on 16 August 1825 became the second European to reach its mouth. He erected a flagpole with buried letters for Parry. He returned to winter at Fort Franklin on the Great Bear Lake. Next summer he went downriver and found the ocean frozen. He worked his way west for several hundred miles and gave up on 16 August 1826 at Return Reef when he was about 150 miles east of Beechey's Point Barrow. He reached safety at Fort Franklin on 21 September. He left Fort Franklin on 20 February 1827 and spent the rest of the winter and spring at Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. He reached Liverpool on the first of September 1827. Richardson's eastward journey was more successful.

1836: Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania)

Franklin was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land in 1836, but was removed from office in 1843. He did not endear himself with the local civil servants, who particularly disliked his humane ideals and his attempts to reform the Tasmanian penal colony. His wife, Jane, was quite liberated for a woman of her day, known for "roughing it" to the extent that an expedition had to be mounted after she and Franklin were delayed in their crossing of Tasmanian south-west wilderness. Such exploits further distanced the couple from "proper" society, and may have contributed to Franklin's recall. Nevertheless, he was popular among the people of Tasmania.

He is remembered by a significant landmark in the centre of Hobart—a statue of him dominates the park known as Franklin Square, which was the site of the original Government House. On the plinth below the statue appears Tennyson's epitaph:

Not here! The white north hath thy bones and thou; Heroic sailor soul; Art passing on thine happier voyage now; Toward no earthly pole

His wife worked to set up a university, which was eventually established in 1890, a museum, credited to the Royal Society of Tasmanian in 1843 under the leadership of her husband. Lady Franklin may have worked to have the Lieutenant-Governor's private botanical gardens, established in 1818, managed as a public resource. Lady Franklin also established a glyptotek and surrounding lands to support it near Hobart; it was her intent to civilise the colony. The village of Franklin, on the Huon River, is named in his honour, as is the Franklin River on the West Coast of Tasmania, one of the better known Tasmanian rivers due to the Franklin Dam controversy.


Historical legacy

For years after the loss of the Franklin party, the Victorian era media portrayed Franklin as a hero who led his men in the quest for the Northwest Passage. A statue of Franklin in his home town bears the blatantly false inscription stating "Sir John Franklin — Discoverer of the North West Passage". Statues of Franklin outside the Athenaeum in London and in Tasmania bear similar inscriptions. Although the expedition's fate, including the possibility of cannibalism, was widely reported and debated, Franklin's standing with the public was not diminished.

The mystery surrounding Franklin's last expedition was the subject of a 2006 episode of the Nova television series Arctic Passage and a 2006 documentary "Franklin's Lost Expedition" on Discovery HD Theater. The expedition has inspired many artistic works including a famous ballad, Lady Franklin's Lament, a verse play by Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, a children's book, a short story and essays by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, and several novels, and is referenced in Canadian musician Stan Rogers' ballad Northwest Passage.

There is also a direct reference to John Franklin's ill-fated expedition in the Irish-American group Nightnoise's album Something of Time, specifically in a track titled "The Erebus and the Terror".

Additionally in 2007, a fictional account of the expedition was authored by Dan Simmons titled The Terror (ISBN 978-0-316-01744-2). Guitarist Bert Jansch and the band Pentangle (band) also interpreted the traditional song 'Lord Franklin'.

From 1954 to the introduction of decimal currency in 1966, Franklin's image appeared on the Australian £5 (five pound) note.

He is the namesake for the R/V Franklin, a research vessel built in Queensland. She currently flies the Swedish flag and serves in northern Europe.

The Franklin rose, developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was named in his honour. Franklin was commemorated by several geographic names, including two islands in Antarctica and Greenland, Franklin Sound north of Tasmania and Franklin Strait in Arctic Canada, whereas his wife has given name to Lady Franklinfjord in Svalbard. The explorer was also remembered when one of Canada's Northwest Territories subdivisions was named the District of Franklin. Including the high Arctic islands, this jurisdiction was abolished when the Territories were divided in 1999.

On 29 October 2009 a special service of thanksgiving was held in the chapel at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, to accompany the rededication of the national monument to Sir John Franklin there. The service also included the solemn re-interment of the remains of Lieutenant Henry Thomas Dundas Le Vesconte, the only remains ever repatriated to England, entombed within the monument in 1873. The event brought together members of the international polar community and invited guests included polar travellers, photographers and authors and descendants of Franklin, Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier and their men, and the families of those who went to search for them, including McClintock, Rear Admiral Sir John Ross and Vice Admiral Sir Robert McClure among many others. The gala was directed by the Rev Jeremy Frost and polar historian Dr Huw Lewis-Jones and was organised by Polarworld and the High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom. It was a celebration of the contributions made by the United Kingdom in the charting of the Canadian North, which honoured the loss of life in the pursuit of geographical discovery. It also marked the 150th anniversary of Francis Leopold McClintock's voyage aboard the yacht Fox, returning to London with news of the tragedy. The Navy was represented by Admiral Nick Wilkinson, prayers were led by the Bishop of Woolwich and among the readings were eloquent tributes from Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the Greenwich Foundation and H.E. James Wright, the Canadian High Commissioner.

At a private drinks reception in the Painted Hall which followed this Arctic service, Chief Marine Archaeologist for Parks Canada Robert Grenier spoke of his ongoing search for the missing expedition ships. The following day a group of polar authors went to London's Kensal Green Cemetery to pay their respects to the Arctic explorers buried there.[23] After some difficulty, McClure's gravestone was located. It is hoped that his memorial, in particular, may be conserved in the future. Many other veterans of the searches for Franklin are buried there, including Admiral Sir Horatio Thomas Austin, Admiral Sir George Back, Admiral Sir Edward Augustus Inglefield, Admiral Bedford Clapperton Trevelyan Pim, and Admiral Sir John Ross.

Franklin's redoubtable wife Jane Griffin, Lady Franklin, is also interred at Kensal Green in the vault, and commemorated on a marble cross dedicated to her niece Sophia Cracroft."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'John Franklin', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 May 2013, 15:59 UTC, <> [accessed 10 May 2013]

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Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN's Timeline

April 16, 1786
Spilsby, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
April 18, 1786
Spilsby, Lincoln, England
June 3, 1824
Age 38
London, UK
June 11, 1847
Age 61