Miniature of Francis Austen

Object name: Miniature of Jane Austen’s fifth brother Francis, 1806.

Object number: CHWJA:JAH318

Category: Objects

Description: Miniature of Jane’s fifth brother Francis Austen (1774-1865) in uniform as Captain of HMS Canopus. Miniature in colour on ivory contained in gilded ornate gesso frame. On the reverse is a newspaper cutting recording the sea career of HMS Canopus.

Made: 1806

Context: Born in April 1774, Frank was the closest sibling to Jane in age.  Small in stature and with curly hair, he was nicknamed ‘Fly’ by the Austen family because of his restless energy. Despite the Austens having no naval connections, the young Frank was determined to join the Navy and just before his twelfth birthday, he entered the Royal Naval Academy in Portsmouth.

He had a prestigious career as a Naval officer gaining a reputation for successful operations in the field and fair treatment of his men.  Lord Nelson recognised Frank’s abilities, writing in a letter around the time Frank was appointed to HMS Canopus at Nelson’s command – ‘You may reply upon every attention in my power to Captain Austen…..he is an excellent young man.’

To his great disappointment, Frank missed the Battle of Trafalgar having been ordered to sail the Canopus to Gibraltar to source supplies and protect the convoy ships on their return.

In 1863 at the age of 89, Frank was appointed Admiral of the Fleet.  The last surviving Austen sibling, he died in 1865 at the age of 91.

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