Captain Sir Richard Pearson (1731-1806) by unknown

Captain Sir Richard Pearson (1731-1806)


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Captain Sir Richard Pearson (1731-1806) by unknown zoom

Captain Sir Richard Pearson (1731-1806)

An oval bust-length miniature of Captain Sir Richard Pearson in watercolour on ivory, in a silver suspension frame. The sitter faces forward, turned slightly to his right, in the 1774-1787 captain's full-dress uniform, with his receding hair curled and powdered. Pearson came from a respectable Westmoreland family and had an active and successful early career. He is most famous, however, for his 1779 defence of a Baltic convoy off Flamborough Head while in command of the 44-gun 'Serapis', when they were attacked by the American rebel squadron led by John Paul Jones in the converted French Indiaman 'Bonhomme Richard'. Pearson's other accompanying escort, the 'Countess of Scarborough' , a hired armed vessel, was quickly taken by the American 'Pallas' and left 'Serapis' in a hard fight against superior force. Pearson eventually surrended to Jones but only after inflicting such damage to the 'Bonhomme Richard' that she sank shortly afterwards. This ended Jones's cruise and he put back to France in the captured 'Serapis' with his prisoners and other vessels. On release Pearson was honourably acquitted of the loss of his ship and knighted for his defence and saving the valuable convoy, all of which escaped, as well as receiving other civilian rewards. While it was excessive recognition for an embarrassing defeat sustained in public view from the cliffs of Flamborough, the knighthood rightly made the point that the Navy's prime role was the protection of trade as the source of national wealth and security, and that escorts were expendable in comparison. Jones, on hearing of it however, aptly said:

  • Image reference: F9505

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