Tuesday, December 21, 1762
Navel of St. Margaret’s, Barking, where James Cook and Elizabeth Batts were married on December 21, 1762. The church was founded in 1215.
December 21, 1762 – on this day James Cook, aged 34, married Elizabeth Batts, aged 21, in St. Margaret’s Church, Barking, on the east side of London.
Elizabeth was the only daughter of Mary and Samuel Batts who ran the Bell Inn, Execution Dock in Wapping, in the east end of London. Her father died the year she was born (1742) and Mary Batts had raised Elizabeth as a single mother until she remarried in 1745.
James and Elizabeth had not seen each other for more than four years before they married. James had sailed with the fleet to attack the French in North America on February 22, 1758, arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 9th (having routed via Bermuda). He did not arrive back in England until October 26th, 1762, and was not paid off (left the ship) until December 5th – just 17 days before his marriage and two days after the end of the Seven Year’s War.
Though by charting the St. Lawrence river below Quebec City, he’d been instrumental in the defeat of the French in Canada and had come to the attention of senior officers, Cook’s career prospects were by no means rosy at the time of his marriage. It was not known then that he would be appointed surveyor of Newfoundland and Labrador with command of his own (small) ship (April 1763). And his later circumnavigations were probably not even dreams in Cook’s own mind.
Though James and Elizabeth were married for 17 years (before Cook’s death in Hawaii on February 14th, 1779) they lived together for only about 4 years. All the other time Cook was away at sea – surveying in Newfoundland & Labrador or on the great voyages for which he is justly famous.
They had six children, all of whom died before their mother. Elizabeth was known as a skilled needlewoman and was embroidering a waistcoat for her husband to wear at court when he returned from his Third Voyage (exploring for the North West Passage from the Pacific). The unfinished waistcoat is today exhibited at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, Australia.
Elizabeth Batts Cook, aged 88, painted in 1830 by William Henderson
Elizabeth lived for 56 years after her husband’s death. She died on May 13th, 1835, at the age of 93. Sadly for the world, she burned all her late husband’s letters and papers. What an extraordinary woman she must have been.
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