William Napier, 9th Lord Napier

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William John Napier
William Napier, 9th Lord Napier.png
Lord Napier
Chief Superintendent of British Trade in China
In office
December 1833 – 11 October 1834
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by John Francis Davis
Personal details
Born 1786
Died 11 October 1834
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Cochrane-Johnstone
Profession Naval officer, politician, diplomat

William John Napier, 9th Lord Napier (Chinese: 律勞卑; 1786 – 11 October 1834) was a Royal Navy officer, politician and diplomat.

Early life[edit]

He was the son of Francis Napier, 8th Lord Napier (1758–1823) and the father of Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier and 1st Baron Ettrick (1819–1898). He served during the battle of Trafalgar (1805) as a midshipman. He later served as Lieutenant under Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald.


Lord Napier's house in Macau
Lord Napier Memorial

A peer of Scotland, Lord Napier was an elected Scottish representative in the House of Lords from 1824 to 1832.

In December 1833, upon the ending of British East India Company's monopoly on trade in the Far East, Lord Napier was appointed by Lord Palmerston, the foreign secretary and a family friend of Napier, the first Chief Superintendent of Trade at Canton (now Guangzhou), in China. He arrived at Macau on 15 July 1834 on board the East India Company frigate Andromanche, and reached Canton ten days later, with the mission of expanding British trade into inner China. Lacking the necessary diplomatic and commercial experience, he was not successful in achieving the objective.

Having failed to secure a meeting with Lu Kun, the Governor-general of the Liangguang,[1] and amid a litany of breaches of protocol, misunderstandings approaching complete communication breakdown and stubbornness on both sides, Napier's frustration in failing to break an intractable trade deadlock led to his favoring a military solution. He sent the frigates Andromache and Imogene to Whampoa in plain breach of an edict issued by Lu Kun, with fatalities resulting on both sides in a skirmish of cannon fire as the British warships breached defences at the Bocca Tigris. After a prolonged stalemate, Lord Napier was forced, sapped by typhus, to retire to Macau in September 1834, where he died of the fever on 11 October. Originally buried in Macau, he was later exhumed for reburial at Ettrick in Scotland. Napier was first to suggest establishment of a British presence on Hong Kong, then the site of a few small villages.[2][page needed]

Shortly before his death, Napier dispatch on 14 August 1834, proposed to take possession of Hong Kong by force. (Eitel, Europe in China; Sussana Hoe and Derek Roebuck, The Taking of Hong Kong p.39)

The Second and Third Superintendents were John Francis Davis and Sir George Best Robinson, respectively.

John Davis resigned as Chief Superintendent and returned to Britain. He later return to the scene as the second Governor of Hong Kong, the colony as a ransom to the first Opiom War stated under the Treaty of Nanjing.

Lord Napier married Elizabeth Cochrane-Johnstone (c. 1795-1883), daughter of Scottish adventurer Andrew Cochrane-Johnstone, in 1816; they had two sons and five daughters. His eldest son, Francis Napier, also entered diplomatic service and was promoted by Palmerston for the rest of his life.


Following his death, the British Government placed a memorial to him before the Macao Customs Office. After being lost for a short time, it was moved to the Hong Kong Cemetery, and then to the Hong Kong Museum of History, where it now rests.



Susanna Hoe and Derek Roebuck: The Taking of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press ISBN 978-962-209-988-3

External links[edit]

Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Francis Napier, 8th Lord Napier
Lord Napier
Succeeded by
Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier