Hanmer George Warrington (circa 1776 – 1847) was born in Acton, Nantwich, Cheshire, England, served in the British Army, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel and subsequently became British Consul General at Tripoli on the Barbary Coast (in present-day Libya), a position he held for 32 years.
Possible marriage with the illegitimate daughter of the Prince Regent
An unresolved mystery surrounds the marriage of Hanmer Warrington to Jane-Eliza Pryce, who was rumoured to be the illegitimate child of the Prince Regent, later George IV. Although never proven, this tenuous connection may explain why Warrington was able to maintain himself in unusual style in a villa outside Tripoli, and why he was never recalled, in spite of repeated diplomatic infringements, particularly towards one French consul, Baron Joseph-Louis Rousseau. Indeed, he was required to explain his sometimes aggressive behaviour to the Colonial Office on more than one occasion. This seeming immunity to severe discipline meant that he was able to entrench himself in his office and thus become an influential actor in the region's affairs, and able to contribute to the various Niger expeditions originating from Tripoli in no small measure.
Role in the exploration of the Niger
At a time when British influence on the Barbary Coast was overshadowed by that of France, Hanmer Warrington nevertheless succeeded in developing a close relationship with the local ruler, known as the bashaw, Yusuf Karamanli. In 1817, at the instigation of John Barrow, the Second Secretary of the Admiralty, it was decided to attempt a mission to the Niger River via Tripoli. Two men were chosen to lead the expedition, Joseph Ritchie and George Francis Lyon. Due to the unpredictable nature of the tribal groups likely to be encountered, particularly the Tuareg, it was essential to obtain some measure of protection from the bashaw, at least as far south as his influence would reach. Warrington was able to convince the bashaw to give his permission for the expedition and enabled the explorers to accompany a caravan leaving in the general direction of Timbuktu. This expedition, which resulted in the death of Joseph Ritchie, failed even to reach Timbuktu.
Second Niger expedition from Tripoli
John Barrow resolved to undertake a second expedition in order to build on the small achievements on the first. Warrington wrote to encourage this idea, saying that he would not hesitate to go himself, a challenge from which he was soon to demur. In 1822, Walter Oudney, Hugh Clapperton and Dixon Denham set out after much delay, once again with the help of Warrington who was able to convince a now doubtful bashaw that he should provide an armed escort. When the expedition faltered at the town of Murzuk, Warrington was called upon to provide more funds and once again use his influence with the bashaw. This expedition also broke down, leaving Oudney dead and Clapperton and Dixon at loggerheads.
Third Niger expedition from Tripoli
The third and last Tripoli-based expedition was undertaken by Alexander Gordon Laing in 1825, once again with Warrington's considerable assistance. Several days before he left on what was to prove a fateful expedition, Laing married Warrington's daughter Emma. Laing succeeded in reaching the Niger and Timbuktu, but still could not ascertain the river's ultimate destination. At about the same time, Hugh Clapperton returned to the region, determined to beat Laing in finding the outlet of the Niger. Clapperton was accompanied by Richard Lemon Lander, whom he had hired as a servant and it was Lander who finally solved the puzzle of the Niger by sailing all the way down from Timbuktu to the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger delta.
Hanmer Warrington finally retired in 1842. He died in Patras, Greece in 1847. His son Frederick Warrington succeeded him as British Consul in Tripoli and in 1845 played a role in one more expedition led by James Richardson, who was accompanied by the German geographer Heinrich Barth.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K., 2004-10
- Thorn, Dorothy M., The Four Seasons of Cyrene, Studia Archaeologica, L'Erma di Bretschneider, Rome, 2007
- De Gramont, Sanche, The Strong Brown God, The Story of the Niger River, Hart Davis, MacGibbon, London, 1975
- Fleming, Fergus, Barrow's Boys, Granta Books, London, 1998
- Lockhart, Jamie Bruce, A Sailor in the Sahara: The Life and Travels in Africa of Hugh Clapperton, Commander RN, ISBN 1-84511-479-5, I B Tauris & Co Ltd, London, 2007