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Philip Gidley King

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philip Gidley King

Philip Gidley King - Project Gutenberg eText 12992.jpg
3rd Governor of New South Wales
In office
28 September 1800 – August 1806
Preceded byJohn Hunter
Succeeded byWilliam Bligh
Personal details
Born(1758-04-23)23 April 1758
Launceston, Cornwall, England, Great Britain
Died3 September 1808(1808-09-03) (aged 50)
London, England, United Kingdom
Resting placeSt Nicholas churchyard, Lower Tooting, London
Spouse(s)Anna Josepha Coombe
Children3 sons (incl. Phillip), 3 daughters
Military service
AllegianceKingdom of Great Britain
Branch/serviceRoyal Navy
Battles/warsAustralian Frontier Wars

Captain Philip Gidley King (23 April 1758 – 3 September 1808) was the third Governor of New South Wales, and did much to organise the young colony in the face of great obstacles.

When the First Fleet arrived in January 1788, King was detailed to colonise Norfolk Island for defence and foraging purposes. As Governor of New South Wales, he helped develop livestock farming, whaling and mining, built many schools and launched the colony's first newspaper. But conflicts with the military wore down his spirit, and they were able to force his resignation.

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  • ✪ Australian Empire: Overseas Territories Explained


This is the Commonwealth of Australia, the 6th largest nation on the planet with an area of 7.7 million square kilometers. However, this is not a full picture of the nation. While the mainland of the Australian continent and Tasmania form Australia almost entirely, the nation also owns six external island territories. Three of the six territories are inhabited, Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, and the Cocos Keeling Islands. The three remaining uninhabited territories are the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, and the Heard and McDonald Islands. But how did these islands become territories of Australia? In order to understand this we need to look at the history of each island. Norfolk Island, the most populated of Australia’s external territories with a population of over 2,200, has an area of 34.6 square kilometers and is located 1,412 kilometers east of the Australian mainland. The territory consists of three islands, Norfolk Island, the territory’s namesake, Phillip Island, and Nepean Island. These three islands together have an area of 37 square kilometers. Captain James Cook was the first European to have sighted and landed on Norfolk Island on October 10th, 1774. This was during his second voyage around the world sponsored by Britain aboard the HMS Resolution. He named the island for the Duchess of Norfolk, which was, at the time, Mary Howard, not knowing that she had died after he had set sail. When he first came across Norfolk island, he was struck by the large pine trees that covered it. He believed that they would be suitable for the masts of ships and cloth, going so far as to return to England with samples. Cook sailed on shortly thereafter however, leaving the island to remain uninhabited until January of 1788. This was when Lieutenant Philip Gidley King returned to the island with fifteen convicts and 7 free men. This was in order to stop the French from claiming the island, who had already shown an interest in territory in the South Pacific. The island quickly became a farm with it’s main purpose being to provide food for Sydney, which, along with surrounding settlements, had been experiencing devastating starvations. Lieutenant Philip Gidley King left Norfolk Island in 1789, later suggesting that the island be closed as a penal colony due to it’s remoteness. Despite this, in March of 1790, Norfolk island received a ship of 300 new convicts, which helped relieve the pressure created by the Sydney crisis. In 1803, Secretary of State Lord Hobart called for the removal of the Norfolk Island settlement due to the same reasons stated by Lieutenant King previously. This process took place slowly, but by 1825 the island was once again completely abandoned. The island experienced a second wave of settlement later in the same year, now a final place of punishment for reoffenders, holding an average of 1,500 to 2,000 prisoners at any given time. This ended in 1855 when deportations fell out of favor in England and the prisoners were evacuated to Tasmania. A year later, on June 8th, 1856, 194 people from Pitcairn Island arrived on Norfolk Island. This day, now known as Bounty Day, is still celebrated on Norfolk Island. In the years following, several groups of the settlers returned to Pitcairn Island, leaving 43 people to remain on Norfolk Island. In 1897, Britain granted administration rights of Norfolk Island to the governor of New South Wales, though the island remained a British colony. The Norfolk Island Act, effective 1914, changed this however, making Norfolk Island a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. Christmas Island, the largest of Australia’s external territories land wise with an area of 135 square kilometers, has a population of over 2,000 and is located around 1,500 kilometers Northwest of the Australian mainland. The island was first included on European navigation charts by the British and Dutch in the early 1600s. Captain William Mynors named the island Christmas Island when he first encountered it on Christmas day, 1643. The island did not, however, appear on common maps until a map by Pieter Goos, a Dutch cartographer, was produced and published in 1666. The earliest known people to set foot on the island were two of William Dampier’s crew members, sailing on the British ship Cygnet. They found the island completely uninhabited. Dampier had been attempting to sail from New Holland, the term used for the Australian mainland at the time, to the Cocos Keeling Islands, however his ship was pulled off course, leading him to the island 28 days later. The next visit was by Daniel Beekman, who described it in his 1718 book titled “A Voyage to and from the Island of Borneo, in the East Indies.” The first attempt to explore Christmas Island was by the crew of the Amethyst in 1857. They attempted to reach the summit of the island, but found the steep cliffs impassable. During the 1872 to 1876 Challenger expedition to Indonesia, Dr. John Murray, a naturalist from Canada, carried out extensive surveys of the island. The following year, 1887, Captain Maclear of the HMS Flying Fish, discovered a bay which he coined Flying Fish Cove. This is the location and namesake of the modern day capital. In 1888, Pelham Aldrich of the HMS Egeria, visited Christmas Island for ten days and gathered a larger amount of minerals and specimen. Many of the minerals brought back were nearly pure phosphate of lime, a discovery that led the British Crown to annex the island on June 6th of 1888. The same year, a small settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove by George Clunies Ross, the owner of the Cocos Keeling Islands at the time, to collect supplies for the growing settlements on the Cocos Keeling Islands. By the 1890s, indentured servants from Singapore, Malaysia, and China were being brought to Christmas Island to work in Phosphate mining. The mining industry on the island continued to thrive, with Japan as its biggest customer, until the first World War. After the war, mining companies were having difficulties mining and selling at prices similar to pre-war conditions. 21 years later, the second World War broke out. Christmas Island became a target for the Japanese due to its rich phosphate deposits. A naval gun was installed under the command of a British official and Indian officers. These Indian officers held a mutiny against the British on March 31st, 1942, leading to the Battle of Christmas Island in which the Japanese occupied the island with little resistance. They forced the inhabitants to begin mining phosphate once again, some of which was loaded onto Japanese transport ships. They also used the island to repair some of their broken military equipment. Following the war, Singapore was made a separate Crown Colony, which simultaneously transferred ownership of both Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands to Singapore. Singapore was still owned by Britain, so this act basically added a second layer of administration to the islands. The Prime Minister of Australia raised the question of Christmas Island’s sovereignty and Australian interest in the island in discussions with the British government in 1955. This was controversial however, as some took it as empire building on Australia’s part, something which is not popular in modern times. Eventually it was decided that Christmas Island would transfer from British ownership directly to Australia. This was announced in British parliament on June 6th, 1957. The Christmas Island Act of 1958 was passed in September, making the island a part of the Commonwealth of Australia on October 1st, 1958. The Cocos Keeling Islands consists of 27 individual islands and 2 coral islands which have a total land area of 14 square kilometers and a population of nearly 600. This territory is located around 2,100 kilometers Northwest from the Australian mainland. Cocos refers to the significant amount of coconut trees on the islands, while Keeling refers to Captain William Keeling. Keeling was the first European to encounter the islands in 1609, discovering the Cocos Atoll while sailing for the East India Company. At this time, the islands were completely uninhabited. 196 years later, James Horsburgh charted the islands and named one individual island after himself. He was the first to coin the name the Cocos Keeling Islands. 20 years later, Captain John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish trader, arrived at the islands after being unable to land on Christmas Island due to poor weather. He instead surveyed the Cocos Keeling Islands. John Clunies-Ross would later be known as “the King of the Cocos Keeling Islands” due to his large influence on the islands. The following year the first settlement on the Cocos Keeling Islands was established by Alexander Hare and his slaves, under the orders of Robert Clunies-Ross. This settlement was on Home Island and had a population of 98 people, most of which being of Malay descent but some of Dutch, Chinese, and African descent. The next year, John Clunies-Ross returned and established another settlement on South Island. In 1829, the first coconut oil was exported to England by Hare. By 1831, tensions between Hare and Clunies-Ross were high and Hare was experiencing financial difficulties, leading to Hare’s return to the Netherlands. 3 years later, Hare died in Europe, allowing Clunies-Ross to assume full control of Hare’s settlements. Seeking British annexation of the Cocos Keeling Islands, Clunies-Ross traveled to British controlled Mauritius in 1836. In 1854, Charles Darwin, most notably the creator of the theory of evolution, visited the islands and created his theory of atoll formation. Also in 1854, John Clunies-Ross died, handing control of the settlements to his son John George Clunies-Ross. I will now refer to John George Clunies-Ross as Clunies-Ross for simplicity. 3 years later, in 1857, the islands were annexed by the British Empire as Clunies-Ross had wanted. This made Clunies-Ross the governor of the islands. However, in 1871, Clunies-Ross died, handing over control of the settlements to his son, George Clunies-Ross, who I will refer to as Clunies-Ross from this point on. In 1886, Queen Victoria granted legal control of the islands to Clunies-Ross. In 1901, a relay cable station was established on Direction island which travels to Western Australia, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, South Africa, and Mauritius. The relay station continued operation for 65 years, being shut down in 1966. 9 years after the establishment of the relay station, a wireless station was established to communicate with nearby ships. On the morning of November 9th, 1914, the Battle of the Cocos began, one of the earliest naval battles in the first World War. The crew of German Cruiser SMS Emden dismantled both the wireless station and the relay station, however were not quick enough as islanders were able to transmit a distress signal. The HMAS Sydney, an Australian ship, was sent to the islands after receiving the signal. The ship intercepted the German cruiser and prepared for combat. After heavily damaging the Emden, the Germans were forced to beach themselves on North Keeling Island. Shortly thereafter, the Germans raised a white flag. 134 Germans on board the Emden were killed and 69 were wounded, while 4 Australians were killed and 16 were wounded. The remaining Germans were loaded onto the Sydney and sent to the British controlled island of Malta to be held as prisoners of war. During World War two, the Cocos Keeling Islands were once again an important link. Following Japan’s entrance into the war, Allied forces were worried that Japan would occupy the islands, as Allied troops already occupied surrounding islands. To avoid attracting Japanese attention, the cable station and wireless transmitter ceased operation temporarily. After the fall of Singapore, the island was placed under Allied administration. In May of 1942, 15 soldiers stationed on the island held a brief mutiny against their captains, however this was crushed before they ceased control. In December of the same year, the islands were bombarded by Japanese submarines, however no damage was caused. Following this, two airstrips were constructed on the islands with intentions of raiding Japanese targets in Southeast Asia. After the war, the islands were placed under the administration of Singapore, a British colony. Ownership of the islands was later transferred from the United Kingdom to Australia on November 23rd, 1955. So that’s Australia, 6 states, 2 internal territories and 7 external territories, 3 of which aren’t desolate and have a deeper history than you may have previously thought. And as always, thanks for watching.


Early years and establishment of Norfolk Island settlement

Philip Gidley King was born at Launceston, England on 23 April 1758, the son of draper Philip King, and grandson of Exeter attorney-at-law John Gidley.[1] He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12 as captain's servant, and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1778. King served under Arthur Phillip who chose him as second lieutenant on HMS Sirius for the expedition to establish a convict settlement in New South Wales. On arrival, in January 1788, King was selected to lead a small party of convicts and guards to set up a settlement at Norfolk Island, leaving Sydney on 14 February 1788 on board HMS Sirius.[2][3][4]

On 6 March 1788, King and his party landed with difficulty, owing to the lack of a suitable harbour, and set about building huts, clearing the land, planting crops, and resisting the ravages of grubs, salt air and hurricanes. More convicts were sent, and these proved occasionally troublesome. Early in 1789 he prevented a mutiny when some of the convicts planned to take him and other officers prisoner, and escape on the next boat to arrive. Whilst commandant on Norfolk Island, King formed a relationship with the female convict Ann Inett – their first son, born on 8 January 1789, was named Norfolk. (He went on to become the first Australian-born officer in the Royal Navy and the captain of the schooner Ballahoo.) Another son was born in 1790 and named Sydney.[3][4][5]

Following the wreck of Sirius at Norfolk Island in March 1790, King left and returned to England to report on the difficulties of the settlements at New South Wales. Ann Inett was left in Sydney with the boys; she later married another man in 1792, and went on to lead a comfortable and respected life in the colony. King, who had probably arranged the marriage, also arranged for their two sons to be educated in England, where they became officers in the navy. Whilst in England King married Anna Josepha Coombe (his first cousin) on 11 March 1791 and returned shortly after on HMS Gorgon to take up his post as Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island, at an annual salary of £250. King's first legitimate offspring, Phillip Parker King, was born there in December 1791, and four daughters followed.[3][4]

On his return to Norfolk Island, King found the population of nearly one thousand torn apart by discontent after the strict regime of Major Robert Ross. However, he set about enthusiastically to improve conditions. He encouraged settlers, drawn from ex-convicts and ex-marines, and he listened to their views on wages and prices. By 1794 the island was self-sufficient in grain, and surplus swine were being sent to Sydney. The number of people living off the government store was high, and few settlers wanted to leave. In February 1794 King was faced with unfounded allegations by members of the New South Wales Corps on the island that he was punishing them too severely and ex-convicts too lightly when disputes arose. As their conduct became mutinous, he sent twenty of them to Sydney for trial by court-martial. There Lieutenant-Governor Francis Grose censured King's actions and issued orders which gave the military illegal authority over the civilian population. Grose later apologised, but conflict with the military continued to plague King.[3][4]

Governor of New South Wales

Suffering from gout, King returned to England in October 1796, and after regaining his health, and resuming his naval career, he was appointed to replace Captain John Hunter as the third Governor of New South Wales. King became governor on 28 September 1800. He set about changing the system of administration, and appointed Major Joseph Foveaux as Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island. His first task was to attack the misconduct of officers of the New South Wales Corps in their illicit trading in liquor, notably rum. He tried to discourage the importation of liquor, and began to construct a brewery. However, he found the refusal of convicts to work in their own time for other forms of payment, and the continued illicit local distillation, increasingly difficult to control. He continued to face military arrogance and disobedience from the New South Wales Corps. He failed to receive support in England when he sent an accused officer John Macarthur back to face a court-martial.[3][4]

King had some successes. His regulations for prices, wages, hours of work, financial deals, and the employment of convicts brought some relief to smallholders, and reduced the numbers 'on the stores'. He encouraged construction of barracks, wharves, bridges, houses, etc. Government flocks and herds greatly increased, and he encouraged experiments with vines, tobacco, cotton, hemp, and indigo. Whaling and sealing became important sources of oil and skins, and coal mining began. He took an interest in education, establishing schools to teach convict boys to become skilled tradesmen. He encouraged smallpox vaccinations, was sympathetic to missionaries, strove to keep peace with the indigenous inhabitants, ordered the printing of Australia's first book, New South Wales General Standing Orders, and encouraged the first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette.[6] Exploration led to the survey of Bass Strait and Western Port, and the discovery of Port Phillip, and settlements were established at Hobart and Port Dalrymple in Van Diemen's Land.[3][4]

While still aware that Sydney was a convict colony and always alert to the ebb and flow of the rebellious Irish political prisoners he established his own body guard. He gave opportunities to emancipists, considering that ex-convicts should not remain in disgrace forever. He appointed emancipists to positions of responsibility, regulated the position of assigned servants, and laid the foundation of the 'ticket of leave' system for deserving prisoners. Although he directly profited from a number of commercial deals, cattle sales, and land grants, he was modest in his dealings compared with most of his subordinates. Most famously he quelled the Castle Hill Rebellion in March 1804. The increased animosity between King and the New South Wales Corps led to his resignation and replacement by William Bligh in 1806, and he returned to England. Here his health failed and he died on 3 September 1808.[3][4]

Although he worked hard for the good of New South Wales and left it very much better than he found it, the abuse from the officers harmed his reputation, and illness and the hard conditions of his service eventually wore him down. Of all the members of the First Fleet, Philip Gidley King perhaps made the greatest contribution to the early years of the colony.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Phillip 1970, p. 50
  2. ^ "Old Families of New South Wales". Sunday Times. Sydney, NSW: National Library of Australia. 9 December 1923. p. 13. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Shaw, A. G. L. (1967). "King, Philip Gidley (1758–1808)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 26 October 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Serle, Percival (1949). "King, Philip Gidley". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 26 October 2008.
  5. ^ Gillen, Mollie (1989). The Founders of Australia: a biographical dictionary of the First Fleet. Sydney: Library of Australian History. p. 608. ISBN 0-908120-69-9.
  6. ^ "Establishing Law and Order – NSW General Standing Orders". State Library of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.


  • Phillip, Arthur (1970). Auchmuty, J. J., ed. The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, with an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0207953104.
  • Richards, D. Manning (2012). Destiny in Sydney: An epic novel of convicts, Aborigines, and Chinese embroiled in the birth of Sydney, Australia. First book in Sydney series. Washington DC: Aries Books. ISBN 978-0-9845410-0-3

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
John Hunter
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
William Bligh
This page was last edited on 1 February 2019, at 17:31
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