Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/King, Richard (1730-1806)

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KING, Sir RICHARD, the elder (1730–1806), admiral, son of Curtis King, master in the navy, and afterwards master-attendant at Woolwich, and of his wife Mary, sister of Commodore Curtis Barnett [q. v.], was born at Gosport on 10 Aug. 1730. He entered the navy in 1738 on board the Berwick, of which his father was master, but was shortly afterwards moved into the Dragon, then commanded by his uncle, whom he accompanied to the Mediterranean and to the East Indies, where he was promoted to be lieutenant, 1 Feb. 1745–6. In 1754 he again went to the East Indies as lieutenant of the Tiger, from which he was moved into the flagship by the commander-in-chief, Rear-admiral Charles Watson [q. v.], formerly a lieutenant of the Berwick. On 23 July 1756 he was promoted to be commander of the Blaze fireship, and in the following January commanded the boats and the landing party at the capture of Calcutta and Hoogly. He was then sent home with despatches, and was immediately ordered to the West Indies in the Bonetta sloop, from which he was posted, by Commodore Moore, to the Rye frigate, 29 Jan. 1759. In May he was moved to the Ludlow Castle and sent home with convoy. In January 1760 he was appointed to the Argo, in which he cruised with some success on the coast of France and in the North Sea. In 1762 he carried out General Draper to the East Indies; took part in the expedition to Manila [see Draper, Sir William; Cornish, Sir Samuel], and with Captain Hyde Parker (1713–1783) [q. v.] assisted in the capture of an extraordinarily rich galeon, his personal share in the prize-money amounting to upwards of 30,000l. In the following year he returned to England in command of the Grafton. In the Spanish armament of 1770 King commissioned the Northumberland; from her he was moved to the Ardent, and afterwards to the Asia, which he commanded for three years, as a guardship. In January 1778 he was appointed to the Monmouth, was soon afterwards transferred to the Pallas, and, in January 1779, to the Exeter of 64 guns, in which he went out to the East Indies with Sir Edward Hughes [q. v.] On arriving on the station he was ordered to wear a broad pennant as an established commodore and second in command. In the action off Sadras, 17 Feb. 1782, the Exeter was the rearmost ship of the English line, and was for some time in great danger of being overpowered, the French admiral having ably concentrated his attack on the English rear. She was almost entirely dismasted, had received several shot under water, had ten men killed and forty-seven wounded. The flag-captain, Reynolds, was killed, and his brains were dashed in King's face, temporarily blinding him, just as the master, seeing yet another enemy's ship bearing down on them, asked ‘What was to be done?’ Wiping his face with his handkerchief, King answered, ‘There is nothing to be done but to fight her till she sinks.’ A lucky shift of wind, however, enabled the van to tack to the assistance of the rear, when the French retired. In the other four actions between Hughes and Suffren, the Exeter played a distinguished part, though not such an exceptional one as in the first, and on the passage home had to be condemned at the Cape of Good Hope as no longer seaworthy. On arriving in England King was knighted. He was promoted to be rear-admiral 24 Sept. 1787, was commander-in-chief in the Downs in 1790, and had a junior command in the fleet at Spithead in 1791. In 1792 he was created a baronet, and appointed governor and commander-in-chief at Newfoundland. He became a vice-admiral on 1 Feb. 1793, and returning to England was elected M.P. for Rochester. In December 1794 he was appointed commander-in-chief at Plymouth, and was advanced to the rank of admiral on 1 June 1795. He died 7 Nov. 1806. He married Susannah Margaretta, daughter of William Coker of Mappowder, Dorset, and left, besides three daughters, a son, Richard (1774–1834) [q. v.], who succeeded to the baronetcy. His portrait by Sir William Beechey is in the possession of the family.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 369; Ralfe's Naval Biog. i. 225; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs; Chevalier's Histoire de la Marine française (pt. i.); Commission and Warrant Books in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.