Phillip Gidley King

Philip Gidley King, 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Sirius 1788

Philip Gidley King was born 23 Apr 1758 Launceston, Cornwall, England, son of Phillip KING and his wife Utricia nee GIDLEY. He arrived in NSW as 2nd Lieutenant aboard HMS Sirius 1788.

In the middle of Feb 1788, Lieutenant King of HMS Sirius, a master’s mate, and surgeon’s mate, with four other men from HMS Sirius, together with a few men and women convicts, embarked on board HM Supply, and travelled to Norfolk Island, to established a settlement. Each year on 6 Mar, Norfolk Island celebrates Foundation Day, which is a Norfolk Island public holiday, the day in 1788 when Lt Philip Gidley King landed on Norfolk Island to establish the first European settlement on Norfolk Island.

On Norfolk Island he formed a relationship with Ann INETT, Convict, Lady Penrhyn 1788. Ann also arrived on Norfolk Island aboard HM Supply on 6 Mar 1788.

Their son Norfolk King was the first child born on Norfolk Island, on 8 Jan 1789. A pregnant Ann and her infant son Norfolk King travelled to Sydney Cove aboard HM Supply, disembarking 6 Apr 1790 at Port Jackson, Norfolk name appears on HM Supply muster as Norfolk King Inett. Travelling with them was also Philip Gidley King, who stayed aboard and travelled onto England via Batavia arriving back in England in Dec 1790. He was charged with Governor Phillips’s dispatches for their journey to England.

King left Norfolk Island to go to England with despatches from Phillip. He sailed from Port Jackson in Apr 1790, in the Supply for Batavia. The brig returned to the colony with such food as she could obtain, and King chartered a small Dutch vessel to convey him to the Cape of Good Hope.

At the Cape he found Riou with the wreck of the Guardian, he who fell at Copenhagen, and whose epitaph is written in Nelson’s despatch, telling how “the good and gallant Captain Riou” fought the Amazon. The Guardian, loaded with stores for Port Jackson, had struck an iceberg, and her wreck had been navigated in heroic fashion by Riou to the Cape. To the colony her loss was a great misfortune, and King realized that there was so much the greater need for hurry, and two months later he reached England. This was on the 20th of December, eight months from Port Jackson.[1]

Whilst in England Phillip King married Anna Josepha COOMBE, 11 Mar 1791 St Martin-in-the-Field, Devon, England. Phillip and Anna travelled to the Colony aboard HMS Gorgon in Sept 1791 for Phillip to take back on the role of Commandant Norfolk Island, which he held this position from Nov 1791 – Oct 1796.

Phillip King who was suffering from gout with his family returned to England aboard the Britannia in Oct 1796, taking with them Phillip’s two natural sons Norfolk and Sydney for education in England. … and on his arrival in England, tired of civil appointment, set about looking for a ship. But Sir Joseph Banks, whose disinterested regard for the colony and its affairs had given him considerable influence with the Home Office, procured him a dormant commission as governor of New South Wales, under which he was to act in the event of the death or absence of Hunter. He arrived in the colony early in 1800, bringing with him a despatch recalling Hunter, and it can easily be understood that the ex-governor did not display very good feeling towards his successor, who was sent to replace him in this rough and ready fashion.

The state of the colony at this time has already been described, and although during King’s administration many events of colonial importance happened, we have only space for those of more general interest. King displayed great firmness and ability in dealing with the abuses which had grown up owing to the liquor traffic; but the condition of affairs required stronger remedies than it was in his power to apply, so things went on much the same as before, and the details of life then in New South Wales are of little interest to general readers.

King’s determination and honesty of purpose earned for him the hatred of the rum traders, and the New South Wales Corps was in such a state that in a despatch, after praising the behaviour of the convicts, he wrote that he wished he could write in the same way of the military, “who,” says King, “after just attempting to set their commanding officer and myself at variance and failing, they have ever since been causing nothing but the most vexacious trouble both with their own commandant and myself.”

Philip and Anna and their younger children returned to NSW aboard the Speedy in 1800, Phillip had been appointed the Governor of NSW. Norfolk and Sydney King remained in England for education. After his term as Governor of NSW, Phillip and Anna travelled back to England aboard the Buffalo in Feb 1807. Philip King died 3 Sept 1808 Tooting, London, England.

Some Career highlights of Phillip Gidley King:

  • Commandant Norfolk Island – Lieut. King: Mar 1788 – Mar 1790.
  • Commandant Norfolk Island – Lieut. Governor King: Nov 1791 – Oct 1796.
  • Third Governor of New South Wales: Sept 1800 to Aug 1806.

After Philip’s death, Anna returned to NSW to be with her children. Anna died 26 July 1844, aged 80 years, The Vineyard Parramatta. Her death notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 5 August 1844: DIED, At Parramatta, on Friday, the 26th July, Mrs. Anna Josepha King, widow of the late Captain Philip Gidley King, R.N., formerly Governor of New South Wales, in the 80th year of her age. At The Vineyard, Parramatta, the home of her daughter Maria, she was a valued part of an active family life until she died there on 26

July 1844. A stalwart member of the Church of England, she was buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Penrith, formerly South Creek.

Philip Gidley King Family

P.G. King and family, painted in London by Robert Dighton, 1799.
(L to R)  Anna Josepha King, Elizabeth (b.1797 at sea); Anna Maria (b. 1793 Norfolk Island).  Phillip Parker (b. 1791 Norfolk Island), Philip Gidley King. Mitchell Library Sydney: ML 1244

[1] Louis Becke and Walter Jeffery, The naval pioneers of Australia ,  John Murray, London, 1899.

Cite this article as: Cathy Dunn, 'Philip Gidley King, 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Sirius 1788', Australian History Research,, accessed [insert current date]
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