Daniel Parke

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This article is about the British soldier and politician. For the Virginian planter, see Daniel Parke Custis.
Daniel Parke, Jr.
Daniel Parke by Closterman.jpg
Daniel Parke II by John Closterman, oil on canvas, 1706, in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society
Born 5 September 1664
Died 7 December 1710
Nationality British (American Colonial)
Occupation Politician and Soldier
Spouse(s) Jane Ludwell
Parent(s) Daniel Parke, Sr. and Rebecca Evelyn

Daniel Parke, Jr. (5 September 1664 – 7 December 1710) was a British-American colonist, soldier, politician, and member of the colonial gentry of Virginia. He was lynched by an angry mob during his tenure as governor of the Leeward Islands, making him the only governor in British America to be murdered.[1]

Early life[edit]

Daniel Parke Jr. was born in Virginia in 1664, He was the son of Daniel Parke, Sr. (1635-1703), a native of Essex who held several offices in Virginia, and his wife Rebecca Evelyn (1637-1715), a cousin of noted writer John Evelyn.[2] As a child, he was sent to England to be raised with his cousins from the Evelyn family, at the family seat in Long Ditton.[3]

Parke returned to Virginia at age 16 to reclaim the family estates from his guardian Philip Ludwell. He also married Ludwell's daughter Jane, and the couple had two daughters.[4] He became a protégé of Sir Edmund Andros, with whose support he served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1683 and on the governor's council from 1690. Despite these successes Parke was unpopular with his peers, who considered too ready to threaten violence in financial or political disputes.[4]

Parke resigned his political offices in 1697 and again set sail for England, abandoning his family in Virginia. He settled in Hampshire and in 1701 was an unsuccessful Whig candidate for the House of Commons constituency of Whitchurch.[4]

Military service[edit]

Having failed to win a Parliamentary seat, Parke sought a military career by purchasing a commission in the British Army in 1702. He was a capable soldier who won honours as aide-de-camp to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough throughout the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1704 Marlborough selected Parke to personally advise Queen Anne of England's victory in the Battle of Blenheim. The Queen, impressed by Parkes' military bearing and record of service, rewarded him with a jewel containing her portrait, a one thousand pound gratuity and her personal thanks.[5]

According to Parke, Marlborough had also offered him the Governorship of Virginia in return for his military service. However, on reaching England, Parke discovered the governorship had been awarded to another man. Furious, he petitioned for an equivalent office and was offered Governorship of the Leeward Islands, which he accepted despite it being "the hardest taske of all the Queen's Governors, tho' the least salary."[6]


Parke arrived in the Leeward Islands in late 1706 to discover a chaotic administration at constant risk of defeat by the French. The islands of Nevis and St Kitts were in ruins following a French attack in February and March, and supplies for their relief had been embezzled by local merchants.[4] There were rumours of impending French assaults on Antigua and Montserrat, and the sea lanes between the islands were controlled by privateers. Further, Lieutenant Governor John Johnson advised Parke that the English settlers of the Islands were a self-interested, "ill-natured and troublesome people."[7]

Parke also quickly made enemies – most notably Christopher Codrington, an earlier administrator of the colony, and Edward Chester, the local factor of the Royal African Company. Parke confiscated estates acquired by Codrington, who in turn helped stir resentments among the people against Parke. Chester's animus against Parke was more personal – Parke took Chester's wife as his mistress, and had a will witnessed in which he publicly acknowledged her newborn child as his own and a beneficiary of his estate.[8] A list of grievances was compiled against Parke, including complaints against his personal conduct as well as allegations that he had enriched himself by seizing vessels, concealing wills to buy up supposedly intestate estates, and pressuring others not to contest his bids for lands, slaves, and cattle.


The situation in Antigua quickly deteriorated; Lieutenant Governor Johnson was killed in a riot, Parke himself avoided two assassination attempts, and he responded by using the island's garrison against his enemies. A petition to have Parke removed succeeded and orders were received recalling him to England, but he ignored the order and dissolved the island's assembly.

Finally, an angry mob captured Parke in his house, beat him severely, and dragged him out to die of his wounds.[9] His last words to his tormentors, as he lay dying, were reported as: "Gentlemen, you have no sense of honor left, pray have some of humanity."[10]

He was succeeded in the post of Governor by Walter Douglas, who did not bring charges against any of the individuals involved in Parke's death.


Daniel Parke had two legitimate children, both daughters, by his wife Jane Ludwell. The elder daughter married John Custis IV, while the younger married William Byrd II. His descendants include Daniel Parke Custis, first husband of Martha Washington, and Mary Custis Lee, wife of General Robert E Lee. He had at least one illegitimate son by an English mistress. He also had an acknowledged illegitimate daughter by Catherine, wife of Edward Chester. This daughter, Lucy, married Thomas Dunbar, who assumed the surname Parke and became embroiled in an estate dispute with Daniel Parke Custis.[11]


  1. ^ O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson [1] "An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean" pg. 43
  2. ^ Tyler, Lyon Gardiner, and Morton, Richard Lee [2] "The William and Mary Quarterly" vol. 10 pp. 172–172
  3. ^ Webb, Stephen Saunders [3] "Marlborough's America"
  4. ^ a b c d Burns 1954, p.417
  5. ^ Burns 1954, pp. 417–418
  6. ^ Correspondence of Daniel Parke, 1704, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, American and West Indies 1661–1736, cited in Burns 1954, p.418
  7. ^ Correspondence of Lt-Governor John Johnson, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series (America and West Indies), No. 1215, 1704–05. Cited in Burns 1954, p.417
  8. ^ Smith, Merril D. [4] "Sex and Sexuality in Early America" pp. 198 – 199
  9. ^ Parker, Matthew [5] "The Sugar Barons", Ch. 18
  10. ^ Fischer, David Hackett [6] "Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America" pg. 319
  11. ^ Washburne, George Adrian [7] "Imperial Control of the Administration of Justice in the Thirteen American Colonies, 1684 – 1776" pg. 140


  • Burns, Alan (1954). History of the British West Indies. Allen & Unwin. OCLC 557499386. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Miller, Helen Hill (1989). Colonel Parke of Virginia: "The Greatest Hector in the Town". Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books. ISBN 9780912697871.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
John Johnson, acting
Governor of the Leeward Islands
Succeeded by
Walter Hamilton, acting