Jane Franklin

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This article is about the explorer of Australia. For other people, see Jane Franklin (disambiguation).
Jane, Lady Franklin
Portrait by Amelie Romilly
Born Jane Griffin
(1791-12-04)4 December 1791
London, United Kingdom
Died 18 July 1875(1875-07-18) (aged 83)
London, United Kingdom
Spouse(s) Sir John Franklin (5 November 1828 – 11 June 1847) (his death)

Jane, Lady Franklin (4 December 1791 – 18 July 1875) was an early Tasmanian pioneer, traveler and second wife of the explorer John Franklin.

Jane was the second daughter of John Griffin, a liveryman and later a governor of the Goldsmith's Company, and his wife Jane Guillemard. There was Huguenot blood on both sides of her family. She was born in London, where she was raised with her sisters Frances and Mary at the family house, 21 Bedford Place.[1] She was well educated, and her father being well-to-do had her education completed by much travel on the continent. Her portrait painted when she was 24 by Amelie Romilly at Geneva shows her to have been a pretty girl with charm and vivacity. Jane Franklin Hall is a residential college in Hobart, Tasmania, that was named in honour of her.

Marriage to John Franklin[edit]

As a young woman, Jane had been strongly attracted to a London physician and scientist, Dr. Peter Mark Roget.[2] She once said he was the only man who made her swoon. But nothing ever came of their relationship. Jane had been a friend of John Franklin's first wife, Eleanor Anne Porden, who died early in 1825. In 1828, Griffin became engaged to him. They were married on 5 November 1828 and in 1829 he was knighted. During the next three years, she was parted for lengthy periods from her husband who was on service in the Mediterranean. In 1836, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Tasmania disembarking the immigrant ship Fairlie on 6 January 1837.

Relationship with the colonies of Australia[edit]

Lady Franklin at once began to take an interest in the colony and did a good deal of exploring along the southern and western coast. In 1839, Lady Franklin became the first European woman to travel overland between Port Phillip and Sydney. In April that year, she visited the new settlement at Melbourne, where she received an address signed by 63 of the leading citizens which referred to her "character for kindness, benevolence and charity". With her husband, she encouraged the founding of secondary schools for both boys and girls; including Christ's College.[3] In 1841, she visited South Australia and persuaded the governor, Colonel George Gawler, to set aside some ground overlooking Spencer Gulf for a monument to Matthew Flinders. This was set up later in the year. In 1841-42, she was the first European woman to travel overland from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour.

She had much correspondence with Elizabeth Fry about the female convicts, and did what she could to ameliorate their lot. She was accused of using undue influence with her husband in his official acts but there is no evidence of this. No doubt he was glad to have her help in solving his problems, and probably they collaborated in the founding of the scientific society which afterwards developed into the Royal Society of Tasmania. When Franklin was recalled at the end of 1843, they went first to Melbourne by the schooner Flying Fish and then to England by way of New Zealand on board the barque Rajah.

Their popularity was such in the Australian colonies that when it was learned that Lady Franklin was organising an expedition using the auxiliary steamship Isabel in 1852, subscriptions were taken up and those in Van Diemens Land alone totalled £1671 13/4.[4]

Following the disappearance of her husband[edit]

Lady Franklin's ʻahuʻula, a Hawaiian feather cape given to Lady Franklin by King Kamehameha IV during her visit 1861, Bishop Museum

Her husband started on his last voyage in May 1845, and when it was realized that he must have come to disaster, Lady Franklin devoted herself for many years to trying to ascertain his fate.

Lady Franklin sponsored seven expeditions to find her husband or his records (two of which failed to reach the Arctic):

By means of sponsorship, use of influence and by offering sizeable rewards for information about him, she instigated or supported many other searches. Her efforts made the expedition's fate one of the most vexed questions of the decade. Ultimately evidence was found by Francis McClintock in 1859 that Sir John had died twelve years previously in 1847. Prior accounts had suggested that, in the end, the expedition had turned to cannibalism to survive, but Lady Franklin refused to believe these stories and poured scorn on explorer John Rae, who had in fact been the first person to return with definite news of her husband's fate.

Although McClintock had found conclusive evidence that Sir John Franklin and his fellow expeditioners were dead, Lady Franklin remained convinced that their written records might remain buried in a cache in the Arctic. She shared this opinion with fellow expedition sponsor Henry Grinnell of New York, and the two corresponded regularly. She provided moral and some financial support for some later expeditions that planned to seek the records, including those of William Parker Snow [5] and Charles Francis Hall [6] in the 1860s. Finally, in 1874 she joined forces with Allen Young to purchase and fit out the former steam gunboat HMS Pandora to undertake another expedition to the region around Prince of Wales Island. The expedition left London in June 1875, but Lady Franklin herself died in London on 18 July 1875. At her funeral on 29 July, the pall-bearers included Captains McClintock, Collinson and Ommanney, R.N., while many other "Old Arctics" engaged in the Franklin searches were also in attendance. The Pandora expedition returned in December, unsuccessful, as ice prevented her from passing west of the Franklin Strait.

Lady Franklin was a woman of unusual character and personality. One of the earliest women in Tasmania who had had the full benefit of education and cultural surroundings, she was both an example and a force, and set a new standard in ways of living to the more prosperous settlers who were now past the stage of merely struggling for a living. Her determined efforts, in connection with which she spent a great deal of her own money to discover the fate of her husband, incidentally added much to the world's knowledge of the arctic regions.

Lady Franklin herself travelled to Out Stack, the northernmost of the British isles, to get as close as she could to her missing husband.

Sophia Cracroft (1816–1892), niece and companion of Lady Franklin

From soon after her husband sailed on his final voyage until shortly before her own death, Lady Franklin herself travelled extensively around the world, generally accompanied by her husband's niece Sophia Cracroft, who remained her secretary and companion until her death. Most of Lady Franklin's surviving papers are held by the Scott Polar Research Institute.

The ballad Lady Franklin's Lament commemorated Lady Franklin's search for her lost husband. It was said: 'What the nation would not do, a woman did'.

The Lady Franklin Museum is a classical temple built by Lady Franklin in 1842, and named Ancanthe, 'blooming valley'. Wife of Lt-Governor Franklin, Lady Franklin was shocked at Tasmania's lack of cultural institutions, and colonists' indifference. She built the temple as a museum, and left 400 acres (1.6 km2) in trust to ensure the continuance of what she hoped would become the focus of the colony's cultural aspirations. A century of apathy and forsaken duty by the administrators of the Anglican Church and the city of Hobart followed, with the museum used as an apple shed among other functions; but in 1949 it was made the home of the Art Society of Tasmania, who rescued the building. In its arcadian setting at Lenah Valley, it sits like a 'tiny Temple of Athene' – at once ineffable and enchanting.[7]

On 29 October 2009 a special service of thanksgiving was held in the chapel at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, to accompany the rededication of the national monument to Sir John Franklin there. The service also included the solemn re-interment of the remains of Lieutenant Henry Thomas Dundas Le Vesconte, the only remains ever repatriated to England, entombed within the monument in 1873.[8] The event brought together members of the international polar community and invited guests included polar travelers, photographers and authors and descendants of Franklin, Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier and their men, and the families of those who went to search for them, including Admiral Sir Francis Leopold McClintock, Rear Admiral Sir John Ross and Vice Admiral Sir Robert McClure among many others. The gala was directed by the Rev Jeremy Frost and polar historian Dr Huw Lewis-Jones and was organised by Polarworld and the High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom. It was a celebration of the contributions made by the United Kingdom in the charting of the Canadian North, which honoured the loss of life in the pursuit of geographical discovery. The Navy was represented by Admiral Nick Wilkinson, prayers were led by the Bishop of Woolwich and among the readings were eloquent tributes from Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the Greenwich Foundation and H.E. James Wright, the Canadian High Commissioner.[9][10] At a private drinks reception in the Painted Hall which followed this Arctic service, Chief Marine Archaeologist for Parks Canada Robert Grenier spoke of his ongoing search for the missing expedition ships. The following day a group of polar authors went to London's Kensal Green Cemetery to pay their respects to the Arctic explorers buried there.[11] After some difficulty, McClure's gravestone was located. It is hoped that his memorial, in particular, may be conserved in the future. Many other veterans of the searches for Franklin are buried there, including Admiral Sir Horatio Thomas Austin, Admiral Sir George Back, Admiral Sir Edward Augustus Inglefield, Admiral Bedford Clapperton Trevelyan Pim, and Admiral Sir John Ross. Lady Franklin, is also interred at Kensal Green in the vault, and commemorated on a marble cross dedicated to her niece Sophia Cracroft.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Founder's Gold Medal, the Royal Geographical Society[12]

The biography "The Ambitions of Jane Franklin" by Tasmanian historian Alison Alexander won the 2014 National Biography Award.[13]

See also[edit]

Mount Lady Jane Franklin, a hill near Barnawartha in Northern Victoria, climbed by Lady Jane on her trip from Port Phillip to Sydney in 1839.


  1. ^ Penn Club newsletter: Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  2. ^ McGoogan, Ken (2001). Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot. New York, NY: Carroll and Graf Publishers. p. 221. ISBN 0-7867-1156-6. 
  3. ^ Stevens, Catherine M. C. Haines with Helen M. (2001). International women in science : a biographical dictionary to 1950. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576070905. 
  4. ^ "LOCAL.". The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 27 October 1852. p. 3. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Trevelyan, Raleigh, A Pre-Raphaelite Circle, Chatto and Windus, 1978, ISBN 0-7011-1885-7
  6. ^ Chauncey C. Loomis, Weird and Tragic Shores: The Story of Charles Francis Hall, Explorer, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1971.
  7. ^ http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/L/Lady%20Franklin%20Museum.htm
  8. ^ Article by Dr Huw Lewis-Jones
  9. ^ Online review of recent Service of Thanksgiving
  10. ^ Online blog of Service of Thanksgiving
  11. ^ Online blog at McClure's Memorial in London
  12. ^ Harper, Kenn (1 December 2006). "Taissumani: A Day in Arctic History Dec. 4, 1791, The Birth of Jane Griffin, the Future Lady Franklin". Nunatsiaq.com. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  13. ^ "Rivers run deep for lady of letters", The Australian, 5 August 2014, page 4

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexander, Alison (2013), The ambitions of Jane Franklin, Crows Nest, NSW Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-74237-569-4 

External links[edit]