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Francis William Austen
Born (1774-04-23)23 April 1774
Died 10 August 1865(1865-08-10) (aged 91)
Place of birth Steventon, Hampshire, England
Place of death Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1786-1865
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Awards GCB
  • Jane Austen (sister)
  • Charles Austen (brother)
  • Cassandra Austen (sister)
  • George Austen (brother)
  • Henry Thomas Austen, 1771-1850 (brother)
  • James Austen (brother)

Sir Francis William Austen, GCB (23 April 1774 – 10 August 1865) was a British officer who spent most of his long life on active duty in the Royal Navy, rising to the position of Admiral of the Fleet.


Born at Steventon, Hampshire, he was the son of George Austen and his wife, the daughter of Thomas Leigh.[1] Austen was brother to novelist Jane Austen, and likely the model for the character William Price in the novel Mansfield Park. His younger brother, Charles Austen, also had a naval career, reaching the rank of rear-admiral.


He entered the Royal Naval Academy in 1786 at the age of 12 and graduated in 1788. Austen then joined HMS Perseverance, who was sailing for the East Indies under Captain Isaac Smith. He was promoted to midshipman in December 1789. He joined the 64-gun third-rate Crown and then the 38-gun Minerva in November 1791. He was promoted to lieutenant in December 1792, while still in the East Indies. He returned to England at the end of 1793.[2] In March 1794 he joined Lark, a brig that was part of a fleet that evacuated British troops from Ostend and Nieuwpoort after the French captured the Netherlands. In 1795, Lark was part of a squadron that escorted Princess Caroline of Brunswick to England.

On the outbreak of Napoleonic Wars he was appointed to raise and organise a corps of Sea Fencibles to defend a strip of the Kentish coast. He subsequently married a local Ramsgate girl, Mary Gibson. In spring 1804 he was appointed to Leopard, a 50-gun Fourth Rate.

Admiralty House, Halifax, residence of Francis Austen from 1844-48

In October 1805, as Captain of HMS Canopus, a French ship of the line captured in the Battle of the Nile (as the Franklin), Austen was temporarily detached from Admiral Nelson's fleet for convoy duty in the Mediterranean and missed the Battle of Trafalgar. However, Austen did command the Canopus the following year in the Battle of San Domingo, leading the lee line of ships into the battle. On 13 July 1808, the Honourable East India Company gave Austen £420 with which to buy a piece of plate. This was a substantial gift (perhaps the equivalent of a year's salary) in thanks for his having safely convoyed to Britain from Saint Helena seven of their Indiamen, plus one extra (voyage chartered) ship.[3]

Austen served throughout the whole Napoleonic Wars until 1814.[1] Austen was transferred to the North America and West Indies Station in 1844 and was promoted an Admiral of the Red in 1855.[1]

Austen's rapid early promotions were largely due to the patronage of the powerful Warren Hastings, who was a friend of the Austen family and was alleged to be the natural father of Frank's cousin (and later sister-in-law), Eliza de Feuillide.


In 1806, he married the eldest daughter of John Gibson.[1] She died in 1823. Austen is buried in a tomb at Wymering Parish Church, Wymering, Portsmouth. It lies to the west of the church as viewed from the porch. The inscriptions are still legible.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dod, Robert P. (1860). The Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Whitaker and Co.. pp. 97. 
  2. Poplawski, Paul. A Jane Austen Encyclopedia. Westport: Greenwood. pp. 63–64. 
  3. Le Faye (2006), p.355.


  • Le Faye, Deirdre (2006) A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family: 1700-2000. (Cambridge University Press). ISBN 9780521810647

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Charles Adam
Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Cochrane
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Graham Eden Hamond, Bt
Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Sir William Parker, Bt
Preceded by
Sir Graham Eden Hamond, Bt
Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Cochrane

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