Richard Church (general)

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Sir Richard Church as a Greek general

Sir Richard Church CB GCH (Greek: Ριχάρδος/Ρίτσαρντ Τσούρτς/Τσωρτς[1][2]; 23 February 1784 – 20 March 1873)[Notes 1] was a military officer in the British Army and commander of the Greek forces during the last stages of the Greek War of Independence after 1827. After Greek independence, he became a general in the Hellenic Army and a member of the Greek Senate.

Early life and career[edit]

He was the second son of Matthew Church, a Quaker merchant in the North Mall area of Cork, Ireland, and Anne Dearman, originally from Braithwaith, Yorkshire, England.[3] At the age of 16, he ran away from home and enlisted in the British Army. For this violation of its principles he was disowned by the Society of Friends, but his father bought him a commission, dated 3 July 1800, in the 13th (Somersetshire) Light Infantry. He served in the demonstration against Ferrol, and in the expedition to Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby in 1801, where he took part in the Battle of Abukir and the taking of Alexandria. After the expulsion of the French from Egypt he returned home, but came back to the Mediterranean in 1805 among the troops sent to defend the island of Sicily. He accompanied the expedition which landed in Calabria, and fought a successful battle against the French at the Battle of Maida on 4 July 1806. Church was present on this occasion as captain of a recently raised company of Royal Corsican Rangers. His zeal attracted the notice of his superiors, and he had begun to show his capacity for managing and drilling foreign levies. His Corsicans formed part of the garrison of Capri from October 1806 till the island was taken by an expedition directed against it by Joachim Murat, in September 1808, at the very beginning of his reign as king of Naples. Church, who had distinguished himself in the defence, returned to Malta after the capitulation.[4]

Richard Church as a major in the uniform of the 1st Regiment Greek Light Infantry, 1813

In the summer of 1809 he sailed with the expedition sent to occupy the French-occupied Ionian Islands. Here he increased the reputation he had already gained by forming a Greek regiment in British pay.[4] On 9 September 1809 he took the position of Major in the 1st Regiment Greek Light Infantry.[5] On 19 November 1812 he became Lieutenant-Colonel of the unit, by then renamed The Duke of York's Greek Light Infantry Regiment (1811 – 24 February 1816).[6][7][8] Having got the experience of managing foreign troops, he commanded the regiments made up from Greeks he recruited himself in 1813, when he formed a second regiment composed of 454 Greeks (2nd Regiment Greek Light Infantry) to occupy Paxoi islands.[9] These regiments included many of the men who were afterwards among the leaders of the Greeks in the War of Independence including Theodoros Kolokotronis, with whom he kept a friendship and correspondence. Church commanded this regiment at the taking of the island of Santa Maura (Lefkada), on which occasion his left arm was shattered by a bullet.[4]

During his slow recovery he travelled in northern Greece, in Macedonia, and to Constantinople. In the years of the fall of Napoleon (1813 and 1814) he was present as British military representative with the Austrian troops until the campaign which terminated in the expulsion of Murat from Naples. He drew up a report on the Ionian Islands for the congress of Vienna, in which he argued in support, not only of the retention of the islands under the British flag, but of the permanent occupation by Britain of Parga and of other formerly Venetian coastal towns on the mainland, then in the possession of Ali Pasha of Yanina. The peace and the disbanding of his Greek regiment left him without employment, though his reputation was high at the war office, and his services were recognized by the grant of a Companion of the Order of the Bath.[4]

In 1817, he entered the service of King Ferdinand of Naples as lieutenant-general, with a commission to suppress the brigandage then rampant in Apulia. Ample powers were given him, and he attained a full measure of success. In 1820 he was appointed governor of Palermo and commander-in-chief of the troops in Sicily. The revolution which broke out in that year led to the termination of his services in Naples. He escaped from violence in Sicily with some difficulty. At Naples he was imprisoned and put on his trial by the government, but was acquitted and released in January 1821; and King George IV conferred on him a Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order in 1822.[4] He was further promoted to Knight Grand Cross by William IV in 1837.

Role in the Greek War of Independence[edit]

The rising of the Greeks against the Turks, which began at this time, had his full sympathy from the first. But for some years he had to act only as the friend of the insurgents in England. In 1827 he took the honourable but unfortunate step of accepting the commandership-in-chief of the Greek army. At the point of anarchy and indiscipline to which they had now fallen, the Greeks could no longer form an efficient army, and could look for salvation only to foreign intervention. Sir Richard Church, who landed in March, was sworn archistrategos on 15 April 1827. But he could not secure loyal co-operation or obedience. The rout of his army in an attempt to relieve the acropolis of Athens, then besieged by the Ottomans, proved that it was incapable of conducting regular operations. The acropolis capitulated, and Sir Richard turned to partisan warfare in western Greece.[4]

After the Battle of Navarino, and during the Capodistrias period, he was placed commander-in-chief of the Greek regular forces in Central Greece, together with Demetrios Ypsilantis.

Church, however, surrendered his commission, as a protest against the unfriendly government of Capodistrias, on 25 August 1829. He lived for the rest of his life in Greece.[4]

Role in independent Greece[edit]

His activity had beneficial results and led to a rectification in 1832, in a sense favourable to Greece, of the frontier drawn by the Great Powers in the London Protocol (1830) (see his Observations on an Eligible Line of Frontier for Greece, London, 1830).

Under King Otto, he occupied senior military positions. On 3 October 1833, he was promoted to lieutenant general in the Hellenic Army, and in January 1835 became commander of the forces in Continental Greece. On 10 June 1835 he was appointed head of the Secretariat of State for Military Affairs (Army Minister), becoming Inspector-General of the Army on 28 October 1836. In 1844–45 he was a senator.[10] He was promoted to full general—the grade being established for the first time for this purpose in the Hellenic Army—in February 1854,[11] and died at Athens in 1873.[10]


Sir Richard Church married Marie-Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Wilmot, 2nd Baronet of Osmaston in Worthing, on 17 Aug 1826[12][13][14][15] [Notes 2]

He was the uncle of English churchman and writer Richard William Church.[16]


Grave of Sir Richard Church, Athens.

He died after an illness on Thursday, 20 March [O.S. 8 March] 1873 and he was buried at the First Cemetery of Athens at public expense on 27 March [O.S. 15 March].[17][18][19][20][Notes 3] The funeral took place after a delay in waiting for his nephew, who was expected to come from England.

The funeral service took place in the Anglican Church in Filellinon Street in the presence of King George I and a large numbers of official guests. The funeral monument is at the First Cemetery of Athens, opposite the Church of St. Lazarus, and it has an inscription in English on the front ("Richard Church, General, who having given himself and all he had, to rescue a Christian race from oppression, and to make Greece a nation, lived for her service, and died among her people, rests here in peace and faith") and Greek on the back. On 15 March, the Minister of Justice, Panagiotis Chalkiopoulos, gave the funeral speech in Greek,[21] while John Gennadius [el] gave a speech in English.[22][23]


  1. ^ For the date of death see relevant Section of the article explaining the discrepancy of sources
  2. ^ There are also references such as the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica which mention that his wife was "Elizabeth Augusta Wilmot-Horton, who survived him till 1878".[4] However there are secondary as well as primary sources which confirm that he married Marie-Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Wilmot, 2nd Baronet of Osmaston[citation needed]
  3. ^ Primary[17] and secondary sources[18] indicate that his date of death was 8 March [N.S. 20 March] 1873, while the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography give 30 March as the date of death.[4][16]


  1. ^ Fotios Chrisanthopoulos (Fotakos), "ΤΣΟΥΡΤΣ", in: Βίοι Πελοποννησίων Ανδρών, Athens, 1888.
  2. ^ Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Εθνους, vol. IB', Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon, 1975.
  3. ^ "Irish Examiner". 30 March 1971. p. 5 – via
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHannay, David McDowall (1911). "Church, Sir Richard". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 325.
  5. ^ "Greek Light Infantry". The National Archives. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  6. ^ John Philippart (1820). The Royal military calendar, or Army service and commission book, Volume 4. 3rd Edition. A.J. Valpy, sold by T. Egerton. pp. 436–437. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 37th Foot Richard Church.
  7. ^ "1st (The Duke of York's) Greek Light Infantry Regiment (1811-1816)". The National Archives. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  8. ^ Steve Brown. "Heroes and Villains: Death and Desertion in the British Army 1811 to 1813". Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  9. ^ René Chartrand, Patrice Courcelle (2000). Émigré & Foreign Troops in British Service (2) 1803-15. Osprey Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 9781855328594. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b Malesis, Dimitris (1993). Ο Ελληνικός Στρατός στην πρώτη Οθωνική δεκαετία (1833-1843). Πολιτική οργάνωση και πελατειακές σχέσεις [The Greek Army in the First Othonian Decade (1833-1843). Political Organization and Clientelistic Relations] (PhD thesis). Panteion University. p. 212 (note 13). doi:10.12681/eadd/3258. hdl:10442/hedi/3258.
  11. ^ "Royal Decree of 10 February 1854, published in the Government Gazette Nr. 6/1854" (in Greek).
  12. ^ "Read the eBook Debrett's Baronetage of England : with alphabetical lists of such baronetcies as have merged in the peerage, or have become extinct, and also of the existing baronets of Nova Scotia and Ireland ; by John Debrett online for free (page 43 of 95)". Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  13. ^ Gentleman's magazine and historical chronicle, Volume 96, Part 2. 1826. p. 172. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  14. ^ Oriental herald and journal of general literature, Volume 10. 1826. p. 595. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  15. ^ The Annual register of world events: a review of the year: Volume 115, Edmund Burke – 1874
  16. ^ a b "Church, Sir Richard". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5388. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  17. ^ a b Alitheia, 9 March 1873 Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine (digital page 1122)
  18. ^ a b "Τσώρτς, Ριχάρδος". P. Drandarkis, Μεγάλη Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια. Vol. 23 (ΚΓ') (1 (Α') ed.). Pyrsos. 1932.
  19. ^ "Lemma Richard Church (Τσώρτς)". Εγκυκλοπαιδικό Λεξικό Ελευθερουδάκη. Vol. 12. Athens: Eleftheroudakis. 1931.
  20. ^ Arthur John Jewers (1892). "Wells Cathedral: its monumental inscriptions and heraldry: together with the heraldry of the palace, deanery, and vicar's close: with annotations from wills, registers, etc., and illustrations of arms (1892)". London: Nichel and Hughes. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  21. ^ "Aion, No. 2893, 21 March 1873 (digital page 502), Funeral Speech to Richard Church, General and Grand Cross given at the Cemetery of Athens by P. Chalkipoulos, Minister of Justice". Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  22. ^ Γεννάδιος, Ιωάννης (1844-1932) (1873). "Funeral speech to the late Philellen General Sir Richard Church, given at the First Cemetery of Athens on the 15th of March 1873". Typois Efimeridos Sizitiseon (Τύποις Εφημερίδος των Συζητήσεων). Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  23. ^ Alitheia, issue 1842, Friday, 16 March 1873 Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine (digital page 1132)


  • Stanley Lane Poole, Sir Richard Church (London, 1890)
  • E. M. Church, Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece (Edinburgh, 1895) based on family papers (an Italian version, Brigantaggio e societé segrete nelle Fugue, 1817–28, executed under the direction of Carlo Lacaita, appeared at Florence in 1899).
  • The Manuscripts Correspondence and Papers of Sir Richard Church, in 29 vols, now in the British Library (Add MSS 36543-36571), contain invaluable material for the history of the War of Greek Independence, including a narrative of the war during Church's tenure of the command, which corrects many errors in the published accounts and successfully vindicates Church's reputation against the strictures of Finlay, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and other historians of the war (see Cam. Mod. Hist. x. p. 804).
  • Moises Enrique Rodriguez, Under the Flags of Freedom: British Mercenaries in the War of the Two Brothers, the First Carlist War, and the Greek War of Independence (1821-1840) (Lanham, Maryland, 2009)


External link[edit]

Media related to Richard Church at Wikimedia Commons