Christopher Parker

1761-1804. Baptised on 27 October 1761 at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, he was the only surviving son of Admiral Sir Peter Parker and his wife, Margaret Nugent, and was the father of Captain Sir Peter Parker.

At the age of fourteen the privileged Parker was the head boy of Westminster School, and he was described in his youth as having ‘abilities of a superior cast’.

Whilst serving under his father, the commander-in-chief of the Jamaican station, he was promoted commander on 7 December 1778, having apparently been advanced from the rank of midshipman without the necessity of being commissioned lieutenant. His given command was the recently captured French privateer Astree, which was commissioned as the Hinchingbrooke 28. He was subsequently posted captain at the age of eighteen on 7 March 1779, and these promotions were eventually confirmed by the Admiralty on 16 March 1782.

800px-Sir_peter_parker_NMM

Christopher Parker’s rapid and undoubtedly absurd promotion to captain at the age of 18 was facilitated by his father, Sir Peter Parker, the commander-in-chief of the Jamaican station.

Parker removed into the Lowestoft 32 in May 1779, and he participated in the successful and enriching Omoa campaign during September – October. Continuing on the Jamaican station, he next joined the Diamond 32 in November 1780 and on 3 June 1781 was reported to have engaged the French frigate Fee 32 for eighty minutes off Monte Cristo, forcing her to seek the protection of the St. Domingo batteries. He then gave chase and broke the line of over a dozen vessels, taking one of them. In August his command rescued the crew of the Pelican 24, Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, which had been wrecked on the Morant Keys, and on 19 September she captured the privateer Marquis de Castries. Ordered to reconnoitre Curaçoa by the commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, Parker came upon a Dutch frigate and schooner to which he gave chase. In turn the Diamond was pursued by a Dutch sail of the line that had come out of the harbour, and although Parker forced the frigate to strike and took some prisoners out of her he was obliged to abandon her as a prize. Deprived of a capture, he also deprived himself of any recognition by the paucity of his report on the incident to Rodney.

In July 1782 Parker exchanged with Captain John Thomas into the Pallas 36 in order to return to England with the convoy commanded by Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves which included several French ships captured at the Battle of the Saintes. Whilst in passage he was detached to escort the damaged Caton 64 to Nova Scotia, and he thereby avoided the destruction vested on the convoy by the Central Atlantic Hurricane during September. After collecting another convoy from Halifax the Pallas was herself run ashore on São Jorge Isle in the Azores on 12 February 1783, being destroyed two weeks later. Her crew were embarked upon the transport Firm which arrived at Portsmouth in April, whereupon Parker set off for London.

From early 1787 he commanded the Jupiter 50, sailing from Portsmouth for the Leeward Islands at the end of March to fly the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Richard Bickerton, and returning home to be paid off in September 1789.

In the autumn of 1792 Parker recommissioned the Blanche 32, and he sailed for the Leeward Islands from Portsmouth at the beginning of December. During 1793 he captured the privateer Vengeur 12 on 1 October, the Révolutionnaire 20 on 8 October and the Sans Culottes 22 on 30 December, and he served in Vice-Admiral Sir John Jervis Leeward Islands campaign from January 1794 before being sent home with despatches to arrive at the Admiralty on 16 May.

During June- July 1794 he briefly commanded the Robust 74 after her previous commander, Hon. George Keith Elphinstone, had been raised to flag rank. Next joining the thirty-six year-old Valiant 74 in August, he retained her through to July 1795 in the Channel Fleet, being present but incurring no casualties at the Battle of Lorient on 23 June.

Parker was the youngest by seven years of any officer to be promoted rear-admiral on 1 June 1795. In early 1797 he was placed in command of six sail of the line and four frigates that had been detached to the south from the Channel Fleet, and he later flew his flag aboard the Duke 98, Captain John Holloway, at the same time that his father flew his own flag at Spithead. This ship participated fully in the Spithead Mutiny that erupted on 16 April and Captain Holloway was thrown off the ship.

Parker was promoted vice-admiral on 1 January 1801, and on 31 July sailed for Holland aboard the Princess of Orange 74, Captain Charles Cobb, to hoist his flag aboard the Irresistible 74, Captain William Bligh, being employed as the second-in-command to Admiral Archibald Dickson. A month later he returned to Great Yarmouth in very poor health, but even so he retained this position until the peace.

Parker died on 26 May 1804 at the house of an acquaintance at Hurlingham near Fulham after a protracted and painful illness, predeceasing his father by eleven years.

On 29 September 1785 at Takeley, Essex, Parker married Augusta Barbara Charlotte, daughter of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron. His eldest son was the celebrated Captain Sir Peter Parker, who was killed fighting the Americans near Baltimore in 1814. His second son, John Parker, was a captain in the Royal Artillery and died in 18 November 1835, and his third and youngest son, Sir Charles Christopher Parker (1792-1869) rose to the rank of captain in the navy. He also had three daughters, one of whom died at the age of twelve and another at sixteen.

Parker was known as ‘Kit’ and was well-regarded by his contemporaries despite his absurdly premature elevation to senior rank. Nelson even stated on one occasion that Parker could have achieved all that he had. A steady officer, he reportedly kept a well disciplined ship without resorting to any severity which inspired the loyalty of his men and officers.