Markham, John (1761-1827) (DNB00)

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MARKHAM, JOHN (1761–1827), admiral, second son of William Markham [q. v.], archbishop of York, by Sarah, daughter of John Goddard, was born in Westminster on 13 June 1761. At the age of eight he was sent to Westminster School, where he was under the special charge of William Vincent [q. v.], author of 'The History of the Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients,' In March 1775 he entered the navy on board the Romney, with Captain G. K. Elphinstone (afterwards Lord Keith) [q. v.], and in her made a voyage to Newfoundland. In March 1776 he followed Elphinstone to the Perseus, going out to join Lord Howe at New York. On the way she captured a couple of American privateers, in one of which Markham was sent as prize-master, with a crew of four men.

Going to the West Indies in February 1777, the Perseus captured another privateer, to which again young Markham was sent as prize-master, and a third time, in May, he was appointed in a like capacity to a large merchant-ship, captured on the coast of Carolina. He had with him four men and a boy from the Perseus, and four of the prisoners, americanised Frenchmen, to assist in working the ship. During a violent gale the ship sprang a leak, and became waterlogged. The English seamen, growing desperate, got dead drunk, and the Frenchmen, arming themselves as they best could, attacked Markham, who was at the helm. He succeeded, however, in beating them below. The ship, too, though waterlogged, was laden with barrel-staves, and kept afloat until her crew were rescued by a passing vessel. Some months later Markham arrived in England, to find his family in mourning for him, Elphinstone having written that he had certainly been lost with the ship. In March 1779 he was appointed to the Phoenix, and in July was moved into the Roebuck, with Sir Andrew Snape Hamond [q. v.], in which he returned to North America. Hamond appointed him acting-lieutenant, and in May 1780 Arbuthnot, to whom he had private introductions, and who had hoisted his flag on board during the siege of Charleston, gave him a commission as first lieutenant of the Roebuck. In April 1781 he was moved into the Royal Oak, and in August Admiral Graves took him as first lieutenant of the London, his flagship [see Graves, Thomas, Lord Graves].

In the London, Markham was present in the battle off Cape Henry on 5 Sept., and afterwards went to Jamaica, where, in March 1782, Sir Peter Parker promoted him to command the Volcano fireship. In May Rodney moved him to the Zebra sloop, and sent him out to cruise off Cape Tiburon. On 22 May he fell in with a brig flying a French ensign. He chased her, and was fast gaining on her, when she hoisted a union jack at the fore. Markham supposed that this was a signal to a small craft in company, and as the motions of the brig were otherwise suspicious, he fired into her. It then appeared that she was a cartel, and meant the English jack for a flag of truce. On the complaint of the French lieutenant in command, Markham was tried by court-martial and cashiered, but Rodney, reviewing the evidence, reinstated him on his own authority, and the king in council, on the report of the admiralty, completely restored him, 13 Nov. He received half-pay for the time, June to November, that he was out of the service, and on 3 Jan. 1783 was promoted to the rank of post-captain.

From 1783 to 1786 he commanded the Sphynx in the Mediterranean. He was then on half-pay for seven years, during which he travelled in France, in Sweden, in Russia, and in North America. In June 1793 he was appointed to the Blonde, in which, after a few months' service in the Channel, he went out to the West Indies with Sir John Jervis (afterwards Earl of St. Vincent), and took part in the reduction of Martinique. The Blonde was then sent home with despatches, and during the summer was attached to the squadron under Admiral George Montagu [q. v.], or cruising among the Channel Islands and on the French coast. In August Markham was moved into the Hannibal, and in Mav 1795 was again sent out to the West Indies, where he was met by the sad news of the death of a dearly loved younger brother, David, colonel of the 20th regiment, slain at Port-au-Prince on 26 March. The shock was very great, and owing to the terrible sickness at Port-au-Prince, afloat as well as ashore, the work was excessive. In November he was invalided; more than one-fourth of the ship's company died, and another fourth was in hospital.

In March 1797 Markham commissioned the Centaur at Woolwich, and during the following months sat on many courts-martial on the ringleaders of the mutiny at the Nore. He did not get to sea till September, and was then employed during a stormy winter on the south coast of Ireland. In May he sailed under the command of Sir Roger Curtis to join Lord St. Vincent, off Cadiz. St. Vincent's rule was at all times severe, and especially so during the blockade of Cadiz. There had been some cases of fever on board the Centaur, and the surgeon of the flagship, who was sent to examine into the cause, reported that they were due to 'the filthy condition of the woollen clothing.’ St. Vincent thereon ordered, among other measures, the woollen clothes to be thrown overboard. Markham remonstrated, denying the truth of the allegation respecting the woollen clothing, and an angry correspondence followed. Having carried his point, St. Vincent bore Markham no grudge, and soothed his wounded feelings by sending him on detached service under Commodore Duckworth [q. v.] to capture Minorca.

Continuing one of the Mediterranean fleet, the Centaur took part in the vain chase of the French round the Mediterranean and back to Brest, in May-August 1799, but when Lord Keith returned to his station, the Centaur was left to join the Channel fleet, and to take part in the blockade of Brest at once, under the command of Lord Bridport, and the next year under the more stringent government of Lord St. Vincent. The two men had, however, learnt to understand each other; Markham cordially co-operated with St. Vincent; and when, in February 1801, St. Vincent was appointed first lord of the admiralty, he selected Markham as one of his colleagues at the board. For the next three years Markham's career was identified with St. Vincent's. In November, on the death of Lord Hugh Seymour, he was returned to parliament by Portsmouth, and thus became the representative of the admiralty in the House of Commons, although at the board junior to Sir Thomas Troubridge [q. v.], who was not in parliament. He retired from the admiralty with St. Vincent in May 1804, but returned to it in January 1806, as a colleague of Lord Howick [see Grey, Charles, second Earl Grey], and afterwards of Thomas Grenville [q. v.], till March 1807, when he practically retired from public life, though he continued to sit in parliament for Portsmouth till 1826, with one short break from 1818 to 1820. In 1826 his failing health compelled him to retire altogether. He was ordered to winter in a milder climate. He left England in September, and, travelling by easy stages, reached Naples in January 1827. He died there on 13 Feb., and was there buried.

According to Sir William Hotham [q. v.], there was an appearance of moroseness about Markham, despite his notable private virtues. ‘Though he had not many opportunities of distinguishing himself, [he was] a very zealous and attentive officer. His acquaintance with Lord Lansdowne brought him politically in connection with Lord St. Vincent, of whose admiralty board he was the efficient member. … He was very reserved and uncommunicative in everything connected with public news while in office, and my venerable friend, his father, used to say that he never got so little naval news from anybody as the lord of the admiralty. Though his countenance was more stern, and his figure in no way so good, he bore a strong resemblance to the archbishop.’ He married in 1796 Maria, daughter of George Rice and the Baroness Dynevor. She died in 1810, leaving issue three sons and a daughter. Their youngest son, Frederick, a distinguished Indian soldier and sportsman, is separately noticed.

Portraits of Markham by Lawrence and by Beechey, as well as miniatures copied from these, and a miniature of his wife by Mrs. Mee, are in the possession of the family. They have not been engraved.

[A Naval Career during the Old War, being a Narrative of the Life of Admiral John Markham, is published anonymously, but is understood to be by Clements R. Markham. esq.. C.B., F.R.S.]

J. K. L.