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William Harvey (1752-1807)


William Harvey sailed on all three of Cook’s voyages, but I do not believe he was originally called Harvey. 


On his return from Cook’s second voyage at the end of July 1775, he was entered for the Lieutenant’s examination.  To support his application he was required to submit proof of his birth.  It usually entailed a member of the church where he had been baptised copying the entry from the parish records, thereby confirming his identity.  Harvey passed his examination and his certificate was dated 4 September 1775.


Five days earlier the parish record for St. Andrew, Holborn was amended by an affidavit signed by a William Harvey.  The original baptism entry for April 1752 on page 197 had read:

William son of William and Mary Antonie Grays Inn Lane


It now reads:

                               Harvey Esq
William son of William and Mary Antonie Grays Inn Lane

And at the bottom of the page had been added:

NB   the 15th line of this page the name of (Harvey Esq) being omitted was entered by virtue of an affidavit sworn before John Cox Esq the 31st day of August by William Harvey Esq the father.


Therefore I believe that William Harvey was born William Antonie.  At some time soon afterwards his father changed their surname to Harvey.  Often a bequest in a will required a person to change his/her name.  It is possible the family may have been of French origin, and the father felt it best to change their name.  


When William joined the navy he was known by the name Harvey, but when the time came for his elevation to lieutenant it was realised that his baptism record was in the name of Antonie.  His father then had to swear the affidavit so that the baptism record would match the name now being used.


The use of Esq after the father’s name in the baptismal alteration suggests he was a man of some substance and standing – not aristocracy but a professional man.  The address of Grays Inn Lane (which is in London) suggests he was a lawyer, or at least worked in the legal profession. 


William’s mother was called Mary.  He had two brothers, Thomas and John Antonie (Harvey), and a sister, Mary Antonie (Harvey).


William joined Endeavour on 3 June 1768 as the servant of Zachary Hicks, the second lieutenant.  On 7 April 1769, he became an able seaman (AB).  On 7 February 1771 he became a midshipman.  After the Endeavour voyage, he joined HMS Scorpion on 16 September 1771 as a midshipman.


Together with about 30 other men, Harvey was discharged from Scorpion on 16 December 1771 and re-joined Cook the next day for the Second Voyage.  He was a midshipman in Resolution.  He kept a journal.1  Harvey must have acquired astronomical skills as he was one of the observers of a lunar eclipse on 12 October 1772 while Resolution was in the South Atlantic approaching Cape Town.  John Elliott, one of his colleagues, described him as “a steady officer”.  A second William Harvey joined ship for the Second Voyage on 10 December 1771 as an AB, but ran on 19 January 1772 before the voyage had begun.


Harvey did not immediately receive his lieutenant’s commission after passing his examination, so when he joined Resolution for the Third Voyage on 10 February 1776 it was as an AB.  However, he was rated master's mate on 12 March before the ship departed.  On the 30 October 1777 at Huahine, an islander in custody escaped while William Harvey was on watch.  Harvey was disrated to midshipman and transferred to Discovery.  After Cook’s death in February 1779, Harvey was promoted to third lieutenant and followed Captain Clerke over to Resolution.  Clerke wrote, “have often heard Capt. Cook in private conversation declare his intentions of making Mr Harvey a Lieut”.


His commission as lieutenant was later back-dated to 15 December 1779.  He kept a log during the third voyage.2


In October 1789 Harvey was appointed to Gorgon, a 44-gun 5th rate of 911 tons, converted to a storeship, preparing to go to New South Wales with provisions.  He was promoted to commander on 21 October 1790.  There are three letters from Harvey to Joseph Banks in connection with his appointment and plans for the voyage.  However, shortly before the ship sailed in March 1791, Harvey was replaced by Captain John Parker.  


In 1801, he was listed as being in command of HMS Amphitrite, a guard ship off The Needles at the western end of the Isle of Wight.


William Harvey married Martha Plumer on 27 July 1790 at St. Mary’s, Portsea.  Martha was born about 1763 at or near Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, near the town of Bishop’s Stortford.  They bought a property called Halfway House near the village in 1797, moving there to live.  They had one child, a daughter Elizabeth, who was baptised in 1792.  


William Harvey died on 12 July 1807 aged 65, leaving a will, proven on 19 December.  He was buried at St. Cecilia’s Church in Little Hadham.  A memorial in the church records his burial there:

In Memory of / CAPTAIN WILLIAM HARVEY / late of the R.N. / Who accompanied that Illustrious / Navigator CAPTAIN JAMES COOK / on his three voyages of / Discoveries, who died July 12t / 1807 Aged 65 Years. / Frequently having observed in the course /of his travels the wonderful works of the / Almighty and the words of Job truly verified / 'He stretcheth the North over the / empty place, and hangeth the / Earth upon nothing / Job 26,7.


In 1815, Elizabeth Harvey married William Henry Bendel, and together they had ten children.


Martha Harvey died on 20 May 1836, aged 73.  She left a will, proven on 2 July 1836.  Interestingly, while William Bendel acted as an executor, neither he, nor Elizabeth, nor any of their children were listed as beneficiaries.  Instead members of her Plumer and Huggons families benefitted.

John Robson


  1. The journal runs from 17 December 1771 to 7 March 1775.  Held at The National Archives, Kew.  ADM 51/4553/184-7. 
  2. One part of the journal runs from 10 February 1776 to 9 June 1777 (Adm 55/110). Another from 10 June to 28 November 1779 (Adm 55/121). 
  3. PROB 11/1471.
  4. PROB 11/1864.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 24, volume 34, number 2 (2011).


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Gary, the short answer to your question is "No", I do not know of any other portraits of Wm Harvey.
I have seen the Christies portrait of an English gentleman, and seriously question its attribution to Wm Harvey. Judging by the costume of the sitter, the painting was executed in the Regency period (1800-1825). Harvey was born in 1752, and would have been 48 in 1800. The sitter in the portrait looks much younger than 48. By 1800, Harvey was a Commander in the Royal Navy, I feel sure that if he had sat for a portrait he would have wanted to be painted in his naval uniform.
By Cliff Thornton on 8/2/2018 9:40:50 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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There is a portrait, supposedly of William Harvey, that was sold at Christies auctions London, 28th September 2001, lot 213 (see https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/english-school-early-19th-century-3045737-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=3045737&sid=d19288fd-3a2e-43f8-8191-825eea16f540).
The lot also included a snuff box, that was inscribed as belonging to him. I believe both the portrait and the snuff box were again recently sold.
Does anyone know of any other portraits of William Harvey?
By Gary Morgan on 7/31/2018 2:26:29 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Hi Jazmine, thank you for posting your message. You must live in Little Hadham, as that was where William Harvey was buried. Not much is known about Commander Harvey. All of the facts that are known about him are included in the above article. Please let the Captain Cook Society know if you find out any information about him.
By Cliff Thornton on 11/2/2014 8:30:06 AM Like:1 DisLike:0
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I went for a walk with my Grandfather in the village wher I live and we found Captain Hardy's grave in the Churchyard. I had not known about him before. (I am 9 years old). I would like to find out more about him for my school.
By Jazmine Richardson on 10/27/2014 3:49:04 PM Like:1 DisLike:0

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