Box icon Sir John Franklin (1786-1847)

Tragic arctic hero

portrait of Sir John Franklin

Sir John Franklin was a national hero for his attempts to find the sea route known as the North West passage. His first expedition was overland in co-ordination with a naval expedition commanded by William Edward Parry. Due to misfortunes and a lack of supplies, the expedition failed, with only 11 of Franklin's 20 men surviving.

Franklin's harrowing account was published as 'Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the Years 1819, 20, 21, and 22' (1823). It was hugely popular.

Franklin's next expedition produced 'Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea, 1825, 1826, and 1827' (1828). He was praised for his successes and received many honours, including a knighthood in 1829.

In 1845 he was invited to lead another Arctic expedition. This ended in complete failure and claimed the lives of the entire party. Between 1847 and 1859 some 30 expeditions were sent to discover the expedition's fate. Franklin's wife, Lady Jane Franklin, was a key campaigner in discovering the fate of her husband's party.

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NRA name: Franklin, Sir John (1786-1847) Knight Rear Admiral Arctic Explorer.

The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history in archival holdings in the UK and overseas. You can find more information on the National Register of Archives name authority catalogue.


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'The Almighty Goodness of the Lord only can deliver us"'
– Franklin's notebook, 1821.


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