Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Church, Richard

CHURCH, Sir RICHARD (1784–1873), liberator of Greece, second son of Matthew Church of Cork, by Anne, daughter of John Dearman of Braitliwaite in Yorkshire, was born in 1784. His father and mother were both members of the Society of Friends. He was a boy of high spirit, and ran away from school to enlist. Subsequently his relations purchased him an ensigncy in the 13th (Somersetshire) light infantry, to which he was gazetted on 3 July 1800. Church, though small for his age, went through all the hardships of the Egyptian campaign, and was present at the battles of 8, 13, and 21 March 1801, and at the taking of Alexandria. On 13 Jan. 1803 he was promoted lieutenant into the 37th regiment, then garrisoning Malta, and on 7 Jan. 1806 he was, at the request of Lieutenant-colonel Hudson Lowe, promoted to a captaincglin the Corsican Rangers. Here he learned ow to train and discipline men of the southem temperament. With a detachment of the Corsican Rangers, Church was present with Kempt’s light infantry brigade at the battle of Dfaida, and he was then sent to Capri, which Colonel Lowe was holdi with his own and a Maltese regiment. The place was believed to be impregnable, but Mpurat, the new king of Naples, wanted to perform an exploit, an so decided to seize it. In the night he sent some troops over to Anacapri, but failed to take Church and his men, for with usual coolness and courage Church get through the French lines to Caipri (Sir H. Bunbury, Narratives of some Passages in the Great War with France, p. 348). In the defence of Capri itself the valour of Church was as cons icuously shown. He was wounded in the head, and when Colonel Lowe found it necessary to surrender on condition of being sent to Sicily with his men, he so highly praised Church that he was appointed assistant quartermaster-general to the force sent to take the Ionian islands under Major-general Oswald. He distinguished himself at the capture of Zante, Cephalonia, Paxo, and Ithaca, and especially at the storm of Santa Maura, where his left arm was shattered. While in the Ionian islands Church was ordered, at his own suggestion, to raise a regiment of Greek light infantry, similar to the Maltese Fencibles, for the efence of the islands, of which he himself was made major on 9 Sept. 1809, and the Duke of York lieutenant-colonel. The Suliote chiefs of the mainland, who had been trying to get the French to come over from the islands to free the Peloponnesus, now turned to England, and Church had no difficulty in getting such chiefs as Colocotronis, Metaxas, Nikitas, Plapoutas, Petmesas, and others to be officers, while their tribesmen formed the soldiers. In 1812 a second r iment of Greek light infantry was raised, of which Church was gazetted lieutenant-colonel on 19 Nov. But though he was adored by his men, the English government determined, on the requisition of Turkey, who feared that the disciplined Greek troops would be a danger to her, to disband the Greek regiments in 1815. Church presented a report on the Ionian islands to the congress of Vienna, and afterwards received the appointment of British military resident with ‘Count Nu ent's Austrian army, which drove the Frencgm out of Styria, Croatia, and Istria. He held the same office with General Bianchi’s army in the short campaign against Murat, and with the army of occupation in the south of France. In 1815, at the end of the war, he was made a C.B.

Eager for active service, Church, with the permission of the war office, accepted the rank of maréchal de camp or major-general in the Neapolitan service with the governorship of the two Apulian provinces, Terra di Bari and Terra di Otranto, with a special mission to suppress brigandage. The task was a hard one, and Church’s life was in constant danger, but even Colletta acknowledges that he acted justly, though with severity, and destroyed the brigands (Storia del Reame di Napoli, ii. 334). His conduct gave such satisfaction to the king that he revived various Neapolitan orders, and was in 1820 made commander-in-chief in Sicily. There he had a more difficult task than even in Apulia, for open revolution soon broke out against the king's authority. He arrived at lgalermo to Hung the soldiers combined with the populace against the fallen government of the Bourbons; fearlessly but fruitlessly tried to preserve order; was sent by the revolutionary government to Naples; was imprisoned there in the Castello del Ovo; was acquitted after a sort of trial, and left the country in disgust. His services were recognised in his own country, and in 1822 George IV made him a K.C.

Wrlian the Greek revolution broke out, the Suliotes turned their eyes towards their old colonel, who had kept up his connection with Greece. His arrival on 7 March 1827 answered their appeal to him. Colocotronis, Metaxas, and his old Ionian friends met him at midnight with the cry, ‘Here is our father! let us obey him, and our liberty is assured!’ The third national assembly of Greece was then held, and through the influence of Colocotronis Church was elected generalissimo of the armies of Greece, Lord Cochrane admiral-in-chief, and Capo d’Istria president. Church accepted the command, but his first action, an attempt to relieve the Akropolis of Athens, was a failure. A night march from the shore across the plain of Athens had been forced upon Church by Cochrane as the price of his co-operation. Owing to want of preparation and disobedience of orders by the greek chief Tzavellas, the Greeks were cut to pieces in the plain. After the battle Church held his position on the Munyehuim hill for three weeks, and brought off his men without loss in the face of his conquerors. In December 1827 Church landed on the Akamanian coast of western Greece with a thousand men; gathered round him the chiefs; occupied the gulf of Arta and the passes of Macrinoros; nally cut the Turkish communications with Missolonghi and Lepanto; and forced both garrisons to surrender. When the evacuation of Akarnania and Æto1ia was complete, Church resigned his command in indignation at Capo d'Istria’s neglect of the army during the campaign. When Capo d’Istria wished to limit the Greek kingdom to the Morea, Church published a pamphlet in London, in which he represented the impolicy of handing over to Turkey the liberated provinces of westem Greece. The frontier roposed in 1830 was ‘rectified’ in 1832, ang western Greece included within the kingdom. One of the first acts of the new nationality and of the new king Otho was to continue Church’s appointment. But the tyranny of Otho was hateful to him, and he co-operated in the revolution of 1843, by which a constitution was given to the country, and a constitutional king elected. In 1843 Church was appointed a senator, and in 1854 general in the Greek army, an honour conferred on no one else, and he continued to live at Athens in retirement, although distingished bv all the honours the nation could betow. When he died, on 30 March 1873, the ‘Great Citizen’ was honoured with a public funeral and a ublic monument. The grand cross of the ordier of 11 anover was conferred upon him in 1837. He married, 17 Aug, 1826, In Elizabeth Augusta, elder daughter of Sir Robert Wilmot, second baronet, of Osmaston, Derbyshire. She died in 1878.

[Royal Military Calendar; Celletta’s history of Naples; Gordon’s and Finlay’s histories of the Greek Revolution; Funeral Oration pronounced at the Greek Cemetery of Athens on 15-27 March 1873 over the tomb of the late General Sir Richard Church, by the Hon. P. Chalkiopulos, minister of justice, and Mr. John Gennadius, secretary of legation, 1873; information from Sir Richard’s nephew, Canon Church of Wells, and Philip Meynell, esq.]

H. M. S.