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No. 07, Service In The Eastern Mediterranean

After his expedition overland to the Arctic sea (1825-7), just described in our last chapter, Franklin returned to England; his hero status, still, much intact. It will be remembered that even before he left on this 1825 expedition, he was famous for the "Man Who Ate His Shoes." (The troubles that Franklin experienced during his Second Expedition were not as bad as they were during his First.)

The government advised that there were to be no further polar explorations. This left Franklin with the question after his phenomenal exploits, as to what to do next. After making the rounds in London, he turned to Russia where he stayed a spell and met all the upper-crust including the royals -- he was, famous, worldwide. After his travels, in early autumn of 1828, he returned to England. In reasonably quick order there occurred the marriage to Jane31, it took place on November 5th. They were within a week after that off to Paris to do the rounds. Returning to London, the couple, at the beginning of 1829, took up residence there. In April, Franklin was knighted; in July, he was granted a Doctor of Civil Law (The D.C.L.) at Oxford. These were blissful days for the couple, until naval duties intervened.

In August of 1830, Franklin was appointed the captain of HMS Rainbow. In November she proceeded to the Mediterranean. It appears that Franklin, with his Rainbow, up to 1831, was stationed at Malta. Then, in April or May, he was stationed at Corfu. And so, in this period of his career, Franklin for two years did patrol work in the Gulf of Corinth, just west of Athens. The situation there, and it seems throughout Greece at this time, was described by Traill, as follows:

"The Turks had been expelled from the country, but the people were groaning under worse oppressors and a heavier yoke. The whole substance of the land was devoured by hosts of soldiers, sailors, captains, generals, policemen, Government officials, secretaries, and political adventurers, all living idly at the public expense, while the agricultural population was dying."32
In the meantime Lady Franklin was back in England, and, at one time was at Brighton to became engaged with the large royal circle there, including the new British king, William IV. All along, the Franklins were busy writing long letters to one another. So too, we see, where Mrs Franklin, who looked forward to such travels, left Portsmouth on August 7th, 1831, in a steam-packet bound for Cadiz. She spent time in Spain, then, of course, Gibraltar and Malta where she expected to meet up with her husband. It is not clear if she met her husband at either Gibraltar and/or Malta, if they did it was but a brief meeting as quarantine restrictions were in effect. On reaching Corfu, the couple were able, finally, to spend some time together. The place they stayed was less than idyllic. It is described by Jane, in her words:
"[The dwelling] is in a pleasant situation on the esplanade, facing the most romantic-looking rock that ever Nature or even fancy created, crowned by a citadel and lighthouse. We have a suite of four sitting-rooms in front, partly elegant, partly comfortable but more than half shabby, having wretched stained and cracked walls ... doors that seem falling off their hinges, chairs, tables, and sofas of various forms, most of which are groaning under the weight of all the newspapers, reviews, and other periodicals, maps and prints which bestrew them, and dirty open bookcases crammed with books which cannot always be drawn forth from their homes without bringing a variety of novel-looking and flourishing insects along with them."33
Lady Franklin, in March of 1832, having "paid a visit to Malta, obtained a complimentary conveyance thence to Egypt in the Concord, an American corvette." From there she was given a tour of the Holy Land. By the autumn of 1832, Lady Franklin was back in Greece. Franklin might have joined his wife on her tour of Egypt and the Holy Land, however, he had returned to England at about this time having been ordered home after his successful command in the Mediterranean. In dealing with the Greek officials, and those of the French and Russian allies (particularly the Russians), Franklin showed his splendid judgment and patience "under circumstances of repeated opposition and provocation." What Franklin wanted was to stick close to London and the officials that ran the British Admiralty. To tour with his wife would have required him to request a prolonged leave of absence, "which he would have to do if he were to accompany Lady Franklin on to Syria and Greece, and to return by the Continent overland."34

On August 31st, 1834, John Franklin's brother, James, who had returned to England from India where he had acquitted himself well as a military officer, died.35 James left a daughter who, after her father's death, joined her Uncle John's family; there she remained until her marriage. That autumn, Lady Franklin returned from her travels. The Franklins then took up residence at their home on Gower Street, Bedford Square. In the meantime, Franklin was patiently waiting for a meaningful appointment to serve in the British Navy. He wrote of this:

"You ask ... what my prospects are. At present I have no employment in view, though I have application for it in common with many others. Having been recently afloat, and there being but few ships in commission, I cannot expect to be preferred before many other officers of merit. I keep, however, on the watch for anything that may offer."36
Though Franklin was ready and willing to go on another exploration expedition, and while he made the admiralty generally know of his readiness - no such mission was given to him. Generally, since the war, the British government was not much in a money spending mood. Though, in this period, further exploration of the north polar regions was undertaken by the British. In 1829, the Victory under Captain John Ross was sent to attempt the discovery of the North-West Passage. She got stuck in the ice and the Victory and her crew spent three years, so stuck.

With Ross, missing in the arctic, the British government, in 1833, sent George Back to discover what became of John Ross; he was to go overland. (In the meantime Ross and his men were making their way home having been picked up by a whaler that had discovered them.) It was when Captain Back was seeking John Ross, 1834, that Back reached his most northerly point on King William Island. Then again, in 1836, Captain Back left for further exploration in the Terror. The Terror got stuck in ice even before it cleared the Hudson's Strait. By September, the damaged Terror was back in England.

In the meantime, Franklin looked on, wondering, at times, why the admiralty had not turned to him; he continued to gently remind his superiors at the admiralty that he was standing by, if they had something for him. They did! But it probably did not suit Franklin's aspirations. In March of 1836, Franklin was offered the lieutenant-governorship of Antigua, which, after considering and discussing with his lady, politely declined. Shortly after that, Franklin was offered a similar position but of Van Diemen's Island (Tasmania); he accepted. In the autumn of 1836 the Franklins went aboard the Fairlie after saying their goodbyes to their relatives and friends. Things, looked good, at least, at first.

NEXT -- No. 08, Tasmanian Troubles


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Peter Landry
2015 (2018)