Parker, Hyde (1714-1782) (DNB00)

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PARKER, Sir HYDE (1714–1782), vice-admiral, younger son of Hyde Parker, rector of Tredington in Worcestershire, was born at Tredington on 1 Feb., and baptised on 25 Feb. 1713–14 (information from the Rev. R. E. Williams, rector of Tredington). His grandfather, Sir Henry, nephew of Sir Hugh Parker, alderman of London, created a baronet in 1681, married Margaret, daughter of Alexander Hyde [q. v.], bishop of Salisbury, and first cousin of the first Earl of Clarendon. An elder brother, born in 1709, and also named Hyde, died in 1710. Parker would seem to have served several years in the merchant service before entering the navy at the comparatively ripe age of twenty-four. He then served in the Antelope as able seaman, in the Swift and Pearl, with Captain Matthew Michell [q. v.], and in the Centu- rion, with Commodore George Anson (afterwards Lord Anson) [q. v.] He passed his examination on 16 Jan. 1744–5, and the same day was promoted to be lieutenant of the Harwich, in which he went out to the East Indies, where he was moved by Commodore Barnett to the Preston; and in 1747 to the Princess Mary by Commodore Griffin, who on 24 March 1747–8 promoted him to be captain of the Lively, which he brought home in 1749. In November 1751 he was appointed to the Vanguard for harbour duty, and in February 1753 to the Cruiser sloop for the protection of the North Sea fisheries and the prevention of smuggling. In October 1755 he commissioned the Squirrel, and in 1756 was sent out on a special mission to negotiate a treaty with the prince of Morocco, and to redeem such European slaves as possibly he could. During 1757 the Squirrel was employed in the North Sea, and in October Parker was appointed to the Brilliant, which in the following year formed part of the squadron on the coast of France under Lord Howe [see Howe, Richard, Earl]. In September he was for a few weeks in temporary command of the Montagu, and again in November.

In November 1759 he commissioned the Norfolk, which in January 1760 sailed for the East Indies. On his arrival on the station he was moved by the commander-in-chief, Rear-admiral Charles Steevens [q. v.], into the Grafton, in which he took part in the operations against Pondicherry, ending in the reduction of that place on 15 Jan. 1761, and against Manila in 1762. He was then moved by Vice-admiral Samuel Cornish [q. v.] to the Panther, and sent out, with the Argo frigate in company, to look out for the yearly ship from Acapulco. On 31 Oct., after very slight resistance, they captured a vessel which they supposed to be the object of their search, but which proved to be the return ship from Manila to Acapulco, compelled to put back in consequence of damage sustained in a storm. Though perhaps not so valuable as the Acapulco ship, she was still very rich, and yielded, it was said, 30,000l. to each of the two captains. Parker returned to England in 1764, and had no employment for the next twelve years. In November 1776 he was appointed to the Invincible, in the Channel. On 23 Jan. 1778 he was promoted to be rear-admiral, and shortly afterwards hoisted his flag on board the Royal Oak, as second in command in the squadron going out to North America with Vice-admiral John Byron [q. v.] With six of the squadron, in a shattered and disabled state, Parker arrived at New York on 29 Aug., D'Estaing having fortunately withdrawn his fleet just before. In December he went with Byron to the West Indies, and on 6 July 1779 was present, though scarcely engaged, in the action off Grenada.

In August, when Byron and Barrington sailed for England, the command of the Leeward Islands station devolved on Parker, who shifted his flag to the Princess Royal, and stationed himself with the fleet at St. Lucia, the better to watch the French at Martinique. A great many storeships, privateers, some sloops of war, and three frigates fell into the hands of his well-placed cruisers, and on 18 Dec. the whole fleet slipped out of Gros Islet Bay in chase of a convoy of twenty-six sail. Of these ten were captured, four were driven on shore and burnt. Lamotte-Picquet, who was lying at Fort Royal with only three ships ready for sea, came out, and by a ‘dexterous manœuvre’ covered the escape of the remainder. Lamotte-Picquet was unquestionably an able officer, but it is difficult to believe that Parker, as stated by French writers, wrote to say that he esteemed, admired, and envied him (Chevallier, p. 156). It is a case in which the text of the letter would be more satisfactory than the paraphrase. Early in the following year Lamotte-Picquet was joined by four ships, and sailed to the northward, to take charge of the convoy from Cape François. He was immediately followed by Parker, who drove him into the roadstead of Basseterre of Guadeloupe, and was there blockading him when he learnt that Guichen, with a powerful French fleet, was daily expected at Martinique. He at once returned to provide for the safety of St. Lucia, where a few days later he was joined by Sir George Rodney, who took the chief command [see Rodney, George Brydges, Lord]. In the action of 17 April 1780 Parker commanded the English van, and, having no conception of what Rodney intended, frustrated his design and rendered the attack nugatory. He continued with Rodney during the campaign, was present in the skirmishes of 15 and 19 May, and in June, while expecting the attack of the combined French and Spanish fleet in Gros Islet Bay. In July he sailed for England in charge of the convoy.

On 26 Sept. 1780 Parker was promoted to be vice-admiral, and in March 1781 was appointed to command a squadron in the North Sea. He had escorted the trade for the Baltic, and was coming south with a convoy of some two hundred merchantmen, when, on the Doggerbank on 5 Aug., he met a Dutch squadron convoying their trade to the north. In nominal force the two squadrons were very nearly equal; but several of the English ships were barely seaworthy, and had reduced armaments. And Parker, as brave as his sword, but now nearly seventy, had neither the temper nor the genius to compensate for these defects. More closely than any since the battle of Malaga in 1704, the action that followed was fought out on the lines prescribed by the ‘Fighting Instructions;’ and after both sides had sustained heavy loss, the antagonists parted without arriving at any definite result. Parker believed that his force might have been strengthened considerably had the Earl of Sandwich cared to do it, and he did not scruple to say that he was the victim of treachery and falsehood. The king attempted to soothe him; he went down the river and made a state visit to the flagship; it was intimated to Parker that honours and rewards would follow. He refused to be pacified; he replied that he would not accept anything that came through Lord Sandwich; he insisted on resigning his command, and, when pressed to remain, answered, ‘Sire, you have need of younger men and newer ships.’

By the death of his elder brother, Sir Harry Parker, D.D., he succeeded to the baronetcy on 10 July 1782. Shortly before this, under the new ministry, he had been appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies. With his flag in the Cato, a new 60-gun ship, he sailed in October 1782, and, after leaving Rio de Janeiro on 12 Dec., was not again heard of. Nine years later it was reported at the admiralty that some buckets and spars, believed to have belonged to the Cato, had been seen on board a country-ship at Jeddah, and were said to have been got from a ship that was wrecked many years before on the Malabar coast, where the officers and men escaped to the shore, but were all killed. The story seems doubtful, and leaves it possible that the older idea, that she was accidentally burnt at, sea, was a true one. Parker married in 1734 Sarah, daughter of Hugh Smithson, and had two sons: Harry, who succeeded to the baronetcy; and Hyde (1739–1807) [q. v.] His portrait, by Northcote, which was engraved by R. Smith in 1787, belongs to the Earl of Morley; another, by Romney, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. vi. 83; Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. i. 161; Naval Chronicle, iii. 40, xx. 337; Official Letters and Documents in the Public Record Office; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs; Ekins's Naval Battles of Great Britain; Chevalier's Hist. de la Marine française pendant la Guerre de l'Indépendance américaine; De Jonge's Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Zeewesen.]

J. K. L.