Parker, Hyde (1784?–1854), naval officer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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Parker, Hyde

(1784?–1854)
  • Andrew Lambert
  • [doi.org]
  • Published in print: 23 September 2004
  • Published online: 23 September 2004

Parker, Hyde (1784?–1854), naval officer, was the son of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker (1739–1807) and his first wife, Anne, daughter of John Palmer Boteler, of Henley. He entered the Royal Naval Academy on 2 February 1796, and went to sea in September 1799, serving as a volunteer aboard the Cambrian. In 1801 he joined the Narcissus as a midshipman, and was promoted lieutenant on 24 September 1804. He was particularly noticed for bravery in boat action against beached coasters on 11 July 1804 at La Vadour in the Bay of Hyères. The following year he took part in the capture of the Cape of Good Hope, and joined the Volontaire (Captain Joscelyn Percy). On 22 January 1806 he was promoted commander and, after returning to Britain in June, went on half pay.

In March 1807 Parker took command of the sloop Prometheus for the Copenhagen expedition, his services being specially noticed, and he was promoted captain on 13 October. In 1811 he commanded the Monmouth, flagship of Sir Thomas Foley, and in April 1812 the frigate Tenedos, whose crew he drilled to a high level of efficiency, on the North American station. He served with distinction throughout the Anglo-American War of 1812–14, blockading Boston with his friend Philip Vere Broke, HMS Shannon, before leaving the area to permit Broke to engage the USS Chesapeake in single combat. On 21 May 1813 he captured an American privateer. In April 1814, in company with the Junon, he drove the USS Constitution into Marblehead harbour, and would have followed her in had he not been recalled by his superior officer. In September 1814 he commanded the naval forces at the reduction of Machias, the last American-held town between Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Bay. On 15 January 1815 he took the surrender of the USS President.

Parker returned to Britain in August 1815. Between 1818 and 1821 he commanded the Iphegenia on the North American station, losing one third of his crew to yellow fever. On 16 July 1821 he married Caroline Eden, daughter of Sir Frederick Morton Eden, bt, and sister of Captain Charles Eden, a whig cousin of Lord Auckland. They had several children, and one son joined the navy. In 1830 he commanded the St Vincent, as flag-captain to Sir Thomas Foley at Portsmouth. On 5 September 1831 he was appointed extra aide-de-camp to William IV.

In 1831–2 Parker commanded the Asia on the Lisbon station, where he astonished Sir Edward Codrington by his ignorance of signals, tactics, and squadron sailing, before returning to command the Victory at Portsmouth. In 1835 he commissioned the Rodney for the Mediterranean, where he remained for four years, confirming his reputation as a brilliant seaman and an outstanding captain. He was created CB in April 1839. On 23 November 1841 he was promoted rear-admiral. Between August 1842 and the end of 1847 Parker served as admiral superintendent of Portsmouth Dockyard. His term was interrupted by command of the Evolutionary squadron in 1845, which demonstrated his tory politics and aversion to Sir William Symonds's ships, rather than any attempt at impartial assessment.

In March 1852 Parker was appointed senior naval lord in the earl of Derby's ministry, having been selected by the first lord, the duke of Northumberland. On 5 June 1852 he reached the rank of vice-admiral. The board was riven by the attempts of the tory government to reverse the work of Lord Auckland, which removed political patronage from dockyard appointments; Parker, who supported the naval professional approach, spent most of his time persuading the surveyor, Sir Baldwin Walker, not to resign, and keeping the peace between the political secretary, Stafford O'Brien, and the first lord's private secretary, Captain Frederick Pelham. At the same time this board agreed that all future warships should be propelled by steam, increased the size of the active fleet, and began work on additional steam battleships. Although a tory, Parker was retained as senior naval lord by Sir James Graham on account of his whig connections and lack of ambition. Graham used Parker's ill health to ignore the board in developing strategic planning for the war with Russia.

Parker was already a cipher when war broke out in March 1854. He died at his home in Ham, Surrey, on 25 May 1854. His wife, whose prolonged ill health had added to his worries, survived until 10 November. Their son Captain Hyde Parker (1824–1854) was killed storming the Russian batteries in the Sulina Channel of the Danube on 8 July 1854. Parker had made his son up to captain at a very early age, and secured him a steam command. His own early career had been made by his father, but his service afloat, and later at Portsmouth Dockyard, demonstrated a high degree of skill and competence. His elevation to the post of senior naval lord in 1852 reflected his politics, and the lack of alternatives. The problems of 1852 and the demands of 1853–4 revealed his limits, and exacerbated his ill health.

Sources

  • O'Byrne, Naval biog. dict.
  • Annual Register (1854)
  • P. Padfield, Broke and the Shannon (1968)
  • NMM, Codrington MSS
  • Cumbria AS, Graham MSS
  • S. M. Eardley-Wilmot, Life of Vice-Admiral Edmund, Lord Lyons (1898)
  • A. D. Lambert, The Crimean War: British grand strategy, 1853–56 (1990)
  • Bodl. Oxf., Dep. Hughenden
  • B. S. Mends, The life of Sir W. Mends (1899)
  • J. H. Briggs, Naval administrations, 1827 to 1892: the experience of 65 years, ed. Lady Briggs (1897)
  • ‘Select committee on dockyard appointments’, Parl. papers (1852–3), vol. 25, no. 511
  • University of Cape Town, South Africa, Walker MSS
  • W. James, The naval history of Great Britain, from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV [8th edn], 6 vols. (1902), vol. 3
  • T. Roosevelt, The naval war of 1812 (1882)
  • W. S. Dudley, ed., The naval war of 1812: a documentary history, 2 (1992)
  • Burke, Peerage (1927)

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Close National Maritime Museum, London Cumbria Archive Service, Carlisle Bodleian Library, Oxford W. R. O'Byrne, (1849); repr. (1990); [2nd edn], 2 vols. (1861) (1801–) J. Burke, A general [later edns A genealogical] and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom [later edns the British empire] (1829–)