Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Franklin, Jane

FRANKLIN, JANE, Lady (1792–1875), second wife of Sir John Franklin [q. v.], whom she married on 5 Nov. 1828, was one of three daughters of John Griffin of Bedford Place. Before her marriage she was in the habit of accompanying her father in his frequent journeys both in England and on the continent. Shortly after her marriage Franklin was appointed to the command of a frigate in the Mediterranean, and during the time she travelled in Syria, Asia Minor, and other parts adjacent, joining her husband as opportunity offered. She afterwards accompanied him to Van Diemen's Land, and appears to have travelled not only over the whole of that island, but also in Australia and New Zealand. But she also devoted herself very earnestly to the improvement of the condition of the female convicts, on which, as well as on measures for the good of the honest labouring population, she is said to have expended very considerable sums. When apprehensions as to the safety of Sir John Franklin began to be felt, she was naturally one of the first to take alarm, and as early as 1848 stimulated the search both by personal influence and by the offer of a reward of 2,000l. Between 1850 and 1857 she fitted out, mainly if not entirely at her own expense, no less than five ships for the search (Richardson, Polar Regions, p. 174); the last of these, the Fox, being the one that succeeded in bringing back the story of the lost expedition. To this work she devoted a very large part of her property. At this period, too, she seems to have sought relief from oppressing anxiety in constant travel. Her journeys embraced almost the whole of the civilised world, including Japan and Nevada. It was not, however, these that the Royal Geographical Society recognised in conferring on her their founder's medal in 1860, but rather the zeal and self-sacrifice with which she had maintained the search for the missing ships, and the success which, in 1859, had rewarded her efforts. She continued occasionally to attend the meetings of the society, where she was always an honoured guest. During the last months of her life she had been much occupied with the outfit of the Pandora yacht, which she had sent to try and make the north-west passage by the route on which her husband had failed. The Pandora failed also, but Lady Franklin did not live to hear the result. Her very last work was the completion of a monument to her husband's memory in Westminster Abbey. She wished to compose his epitaph, but thoughts and words would not flow in unison, and the task was completed by Lord Tennyson, Franklin's nephew by marriage. It was unveiled a fortnight after her death, and a note added by Dean Stanley tells that it was ‘erected by his widow, who, after long waiting and sending many in search of him, herself departed to seek and to find him in the realms of light, 18 July 1875, aged 83 years.’

[Annual Register, 1875, cxvii. 143; McClintock's Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin; Osborn's Career, Last Voyage, and Fate of Sir John Franklin; A Brave Man and his Belongings; Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xxv. p. lxxxvi.]

J. K. L.