The Admiral’s Wife Mrs Phillip Parker King

Edited by Dorothy Walsh


Mrs Phillip Parker King was Harriet King 1796-1874 nee Lethbridge, wife of the heroic Australian, Rear-Admiral Phillip Parker King RN 1791-1874.

The King family were to be life long friends of Allan Cunningham. Their bond was formed during Phillip Parker King’s courageous maritime journeys surveying the coastline of Australian between 1818 and 1822. Allan was the Kings Botanist aboard the Mermaid and the Bathurst, along with two junior officers, John Septimus Roe and Frederick Bedwell, twelve able seamen, two boys and an aboriginal, Bungaree. ((Source: WG McMinn Allan Cunningham Botanist Explorer))

Dorothy Walsh’s book, The Admiral’s Wife, is made up of a series of letters “written by her great-grandmother Harriet to her husband from England, at sea and from New South Wales, telling of her experiences. Also, letters of great interest include two hitherto unpublished ones by Phillip Parker King and preserved by the families of the recipients in England until quite recently; one by Governor Philip Gidley King and the others by notable people of the mid-nineteenth century.”

“Lieutenant Phillip Parker King RN married Harriet Lethbridge of Launceston, Cornwall, in January 1817. A few weeks later he and his bride sailed with a convoy in a convict ship the Dick for Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). Here King planned and prepared for his notable survey1818-1822 of the part of the Australian coast line which Captain Matthew Flinders RN, had been unable to finish.”

“Later, in command of HMS Adventure and Beagle he surveyed the southern shores of South America, including the Straits of Magellan, 1826-1830.”

“Read-Admiral Phillip Parker King RN, FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), FRLS (Fellow of the Royal Linnean Society), died in Sydney in February 1856, after a life of service to Australia. Harriet, his wife, lived eighteen years longer surrounded and loved by her family.”

SOURCE: Adapted from the cover of the book, The Admiral’s Wife.


Dorothy Walsh, the editor of “The Admiral’s Wife”, is the great-granddaughter of Harriet and Phillip Parker King. Her mother was Harriet Maud Gidley Walsh daughter of Arthur Septimus King 1827-1899 the son of Harriet and Phillip Parker King.

The story is a made up of a collection of letters. Dorothy tenaciously worked through the “tedious job of transcribing the letters; tedious, because they were so finely written, then written across at right angles in the custom of the period… Added to this difficulty the edges of some pages were burned or charred, as though they had been held too near a candle whilst being read.”

SOURCE – Adapted from: The cover of “The Admiral’s Wife”

First published 1967
Wholly set up and printed in Australia by
The Hawthorn Press Pty Ltd
15 Guildford Lane Melbourne