Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs

Clements Markham
(1830-1916)
4 July 1862

Volume 8, page 176, shutting 10,324.

Born on 20 July 1830 at Stillingfleet in Yorkshire, Clements Markham was the second son of Reverend David Frederick Markham, then Vicar of Stillingfleet. His mother was Catherine née Milner, daughter of Sir William Milner, 4th Baronet, of Nun Appleton Hall in Yorkshire. 

Following a brief period at Westminster School, in June 1844 Markham joined HMS Collingwood as a naval cadet and took to sea under the aegis of Admiral Sir George Seymour. The voyage lasted almost four years and visited Chile, Peru, Brazil, the Falkland Islands, Mexico, Tahiti and the Sandwich Islands. These visits to foreign lands formed in Markham the desire to become an explorer and geographer. 

In April 1850 he used his family connections to secure a place on HMS Assistance, one of four ships about to embark for the Artic in search of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition that had left England in May 1845 in search of the putative Northwest Passage. On his return home he left the Navy and made plans for an extended trip to Peru. He sailed from Liverpool on 20 August 1852 and reached Cuzco on 20 March 1853, where he researched Inca history and Quechua culture. 

On his return to England he took a job as a junior clerk at the Inland Revenue but after six months transferred to what became the India Office in 1857. He found the work interesting and rewarding and it allowed him sufficient time to travel and pursue his geographical interests.

In 1857 he married Minna Chichester. Their only child, a daughter Mary Louise (known as May), was born in 1859.

In 1859 he was placed in charge of an operation to bring cinchona specimens from Peru to establish plantations in India, where the plant’s natural quinine could be used to treat malaria. His wife accompanied him on this mission to Peru and India. 

In 1867 he was appointed geographer to Lord Napier’s expedition in Abyssinia and was present at the storming of Magdala. He remained at the India Office until his retirement in 1877. 

‘As an active geographer Sir Clements Markham’s travels took him to the Arctic regions twice (with the Franklin relief expedition of 1850-1 and with Sir George Nares’ expedition as far as Greenland in 1875), to the forests of Peru and the Eastern Andes, and in later years to Western Asia and the United States. For many years he might have been described as the soul of the Royal Geographical Society. He acted as secretary of the society from 1863 to 1888 and on his retirement received the society’s gold medal for his services to geography. Then in 1893 he was elected president and retained that office for the unprecedented period of twelve years, and during his presidency he took a leading part in raising funds for the despatch of Sir Robert Scott’s first Antarctic expedition. […] Sir Clements Markham had a prolific pen and his interests ranged over a wide field. He wrote one book to prove that Richard III was not guilty of the murder of the Princes in the Tower; he was the author of memoirs of the Great Lord Fairfax, John Davis the Navigator, Columbus, and other great men. Other books of his described his own travels and experiences in the Arctic, in Peru, and in Abyssinia, and he also published a history of Peru, and account of the war between Chili [sic] and Peru, 1879-81, a memoir on the Indian Surveys and a number of other books. There were, indeed, few of the countries or peoples he had seen in the course of his travels which did not inspire him to produce a book about them’ (Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore), 3 February 1916).

Shortly after his accession to the presidency, in recognition of his services to geography he was promoted Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, and became Sir Clements Markham.

Sir Clements Markham died on 30 January 1916 at the age of 85. The cause of death was shock as the result of burns sustained when the candle he was using to read in bed set fire to the bedclothes. 



code: cs1726
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