Royal Naval Biography/Markham, John

Admiral of the Blue, and M.P. for Portsmouth.

The subject of this memoir is a younger son of the late venerable and learned Dr. William Markham, Lord Archbishop of York, Primate of England, Lord High Almoner to the King, and Visitor of Queen’s College, Oxford; who, in 1776, previous to his translation from Chester to the archiepiscopal see of York, was chosen by his late Majesty to be Preceptor to our present gracious Sovereign.

Our officer was educated at Westminster School, and entered the service at an early age. He obtained the rank of Post-Captain, Jan. 3, 1783, and in the following year commanded the Sphinx of 24 guns, on the Mediterranean station. At the commencement of the war with the French republic, he was appointed to the Blonde frigate, and served in her during the West India campaign[1]. On his return from the Leeward Islands he cruized some time in the Channel, and then removed into the Hannibal, of 74 guns, in which ship he joined the squadron on the Jamaica station, where he captured la Gentille, French frigate of 40 guns, and several privateers.

We next find Captain Markham commanding the Centaur 74, on the coast of Ireland, under the orders of Commodore Duckworth, whom, towards the end of the year 1798, he accompanied to the Mediterranean, and assisted at the reduction of Minorca[2].

Early in 1799, our officer was entrusted by his friend Earl St. Vincent with the command of a flying squadron, with which he attacked the town of Cambrelles, on the coast of Catalonia; and after driving the Spaniards from their battery, landed a party of men under Lieutenant Grossett, who dismounted the guns, burnt five settees, and took five others laden with staves, wine, and wheat. About the same period the Centaur captured la Vierga de Rosario, of 14 guns and 90 men.

On the 16th March, the Centaur, in company with the Cormorant, drove el Guadaloupe, Spanish frigate, of 40 guns, on shore near Cape Oropesa, where she was totally wrecked. In the month of June following, the squadron under Captain Markham captured the following French men of war, on their return to Toulon from the coast of Syria; la Junon, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Perée, mounting 40 guns, 400 men; l’Alceste, 36 guns, 300 men; le Courageux, 22 guns, 300 men; la Salamine, 18, and l’Alerte, 14 guns, each carrying 120 men.

The Centaur returned to England soon after the above capture, and Captain Markham continued to command her until the early part of 1801, when he was nominated one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and at the general election in 1802, was chosen M.P. for Portsmouth. On the 13th Dec. in the same year, he brought in a bill for appointing Commissioners to inquire into the abuses, frauds, and irregularities practised in several of the Naval Departments, and in the business of prize agents, &c. During the progress of the above bill through its several stages, it encountered much opposition; however, it finally passed both Houses, and received the royal assent on the 29th of the same month.

In 1804, when Earl St. Vincent left the Admiralty, our officer accompanied that nobleman in his retirement. He was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, April 23, in the same year; and on the change of ministry occasioned by the death of that great statesman the Right Hon. William Pitt, in 1806, he became a Commissioner of the new Board of Admiralty, under Mr. T. Grenville, but again retreated from office with his friends in 1807.

With the exception of the short interval that ensued between the general election in 1818, and the dissolution of Parliament occasioned by the demise of his late Majesty, in 1820, Admiral Markham has ever since continued to represent the borough of Portsmouth. His promotion to the rank he now holds took place Aug. 12, 1819.

He married, Nov. 17, 1796, Maria, youngest daughter of the late Baroness Dynevor, and sister of the present peer, by whom he had several children. Mrs. Markham died in childbed, Dec. 22, 1810.

A picture by Captain Richbell, R.N. representing the Centaur passing Gravesend at ten o’clock at night, by moonlight, in Sept. 1797, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1809.

Residence.– Walston, Sussex.

  1. See p. 19.
  2. Minorca surrendered Nov. 15,1798, after a very feeble resistance, to a small naval and military force under the orders of Commodore Duckworth and General Stuart. The island was restored to Spain by the treaty of Amiens.