Richard Parker

Mutiny Leader of the Nore Fleet,

Mutiny at the Nore Nore Mutiny Demands

Richard ParkerWell educated and a persuasive orator, Richard Parker was not your normal sailor in Britain's Royal Navy.

He came from a well-off background, the son of a grain merchant and baker, and had gone to grammar school in Exeter.

He was good looking, swarthy and was described as having flashing black eyes.

For some reason Parker rejected his family business and went to sea as a midshipman where his naval career, even before the Nore Mutiny, was chequered with a history of insubordination, a willingness to stand up for good food and better conditions.

He even challenged one of his captains, Edward Riou of HMS Bulldog, to a duel.

Parker married Ann McHardy, a Scottish farmer's daughter, in 1791 but this union failed to temper his outspoken ways.

He was demoted and transferred from his ship until discharged from the service because of persistent rheumatism.

After a time as a teacher, Parker ended up in debtor's prison and in 1797 he accepted an offered 30 pounds to rejoin a Royal Navy desperately short of experienced seamen.

His ship was the Sandwich and a little over a month later on 12 May the mutiny at The Nore began.

Parker was chosen by the other delegates to be President of the Fleet because he was a gentleman and was smart enough to match clever words with well-educated officers.

Despite his intelligence Parker's position was difficult in the extreme and he walked a taut wire between radical fellow delegates and the intransigence of the Admiralty.

King George III demanded Parliament pass draconian laws against mutiny so that anyone trying to "seduce soldiers or sailors from their duty" would receive the death penalty.

Although accused of being a traitor, Parker always said he would fight his country's enemies.

But public opinion was against the mutineers with their families being threatened with transportation to Australia. Parker attracted a 500-pound reward for his capture.

Parker's attitude was that he wanted to settled the matter with pardons for the mutineers. He went to leave the Sandwich with an offer of submission, but radicals blocked his path.

With rations cut off and internal bickering rising among the mutineers the so-called Floating Republic was about to disintegrate.

One by one ships slipped their cables and sailed away - at risk of being fired on - from the rest of the mutiny fleet.

The Government and Admiralty could now smell blood and there would be no concessions to the mutineers. All ships had to surrender unconditionally and then the sailors would have to wait for a decision on a King's Pardon.

An order went out to then obey officers' orders and the mutiny was effectively over.

The hunt then began for the delegates of the fleet - at least one of whom William Wallis of HMS Standard shot himself rather than be tried and hanged.

Parker tried to leave the Sandwich only to find his way blocked by the crew who feared retribution if he was allowed to escape. He held a vote on the Sandwich to see if his men wanted to continue on or surrender. The vast majority of men called to raise the white flag.

He was then given a cabin to stay in while the Sandwich sailed for Gravesend where delegates were identified and arrested by militia troops.

Upon arrival he was placed in leg shackles and the next day was taken ashore through a hostile crowd who booed him. Parker is reported as having said "Don't hoot me. It is not my fault. I will clear myself."

Parker was taken to Maidstone prison where he was charged with treason and piracy.

The former president of the fleet told his interrogators he had been ignored when he had called for moderation during the mutiny and that he had hoped to "prevent wild men from doing worse injury to the country".

At the express orders of Prime Minister William Pitt, Parker was to face trial before 13 naval captains or higher ranks - including Captain Edward Riou the man he had challenged to a duel years before.

He also had to do so without the aid of legal counsel.

His wife, however, did her best by her husband and sent a petition to Queen Charlotte asking for clemency.

On 22 June, Parker's trial began aboard HMS Neptune under the presidency of Vice-Admiral Thomas Pasley.

Contemporary reports say Parker walked in with a "respectful, but unintimidated air."

After two days of indifferent evidence, the prosecution closed its case against Parker and called for him to begin his defence. He was denied court transcripts of the proceedings so far, but was given an extra two days to prepare.

Parker's defence was spirited and would have shown to a fair-minded jury that he was neither a revolutionary, nor one of the radical mutineers.

It lasted until the early afternoon - 1.30pm to be precise - and then the captains left to consider their verdicts. By 4pm they had returned and Parker was sentenced to be hanged.

He read a statement to the court: "My Lords, I shall submit to your sentence with all due submission, being confident from the clearness of my conscience that God who knows the hearts of people will favourably receive me.

"I most sincerely hope that my death may atone to the country and that all the rest of the fleet may be pardoned and restored to their former situations. I am convinced they will return to their duty with steadiness and alacrity."

On 30 June the yellow flag of execution flew from the gallows ship Sandwich.

Parker was dressed all in black and after a breakfast with marines he walked to the quarterdeck where he prayed with a priest. Afterwards he asked for a glass of white wine and with it said: "I drink first to the salvation of my soul and next to the forgiveness of my enemies."

He then shook hands with Sandwich's Captain Mosse and then was led towards the forcastle followed by his former comrades who would be those soon hauling him by the neck up into the rigging.

That was the scene his wife saw when she came near the Sandwich in a rowboat. It was her third attempt to see her husband and it so shocked her she fainted.

After another short prayer Parker asked for permission to speak and shouted out: "I acknowledge the justice of the sentence under which I suffer. I hope my death may be deemed a sufficient atonement and save the lives of others."

A personal enemy placed the noose badly around his neck - and Parker asked for another to do it properly. This time it was done so that his death would be quick and he would not suffer terribly as his body was hauled high.

Parker resisted the hood being put over his head and asked that the moment for it be deferred. He turned to his former comrades and smiled at them saying "Goodbye to you."

Requesting a white handkerhief with which to signal for the execution to begin, Parker then mounted the steps leading to where he would die.

The hood was pulled down and before he dropped his white cloth Parker jumped off the platform towards the sea. The rope was still to be untied for the hauling gang and so when it reached its limit it jagged taut and broke the prisoner's neck.

A signal gun sounded and the shocked hauling gang belatedly raised the body to the yardarm. After an hour it was brought down and quickly buried near Sheerness fort.

Later that day Ann Parker and three women dug him up and smuggled the body in a dung cart to London where she hoped for a Christian burial. The authorities, however, tracked her down and left Parker's body on public display in a tavern for a week.

Eventually a magistrate allowed her the body, but officials seized it and hid it in a workhouse, before it was taken to St Mary Matfelon's burial vault.

Ann Parker did get to see her husband again when church workers felt pity for her and opened Richard Parker's coffin one last time.

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