Portrait of General Sir Richard Church. Painter Spyridon Prosalentis (1830-1895). 19th century (SHP collection)

 

Richard Church (1784-1873), was a British officer, an important Philhellene, as well as one of the first organizers of the regular Greek Army.

He was the second son of Matthew Church, a merchant from Cork, Ireland, and Anne Dearman[1].

On July 3, 1800, at the age of 16, he enlisted in the British Army as a non-commissioned officer, placed in the 13th Somerset Infantry Regiment[2]. He fought against the French at the Battle of Ferrol in northern Spain in 1800 and during the campaign in Egypt under General Sir Ralph Abercromby in 1801[3]. After the withdrawal of the French army from Egypt, he returned to Great Britain, and in 1802 he was placed in the 37th Infantry Regiment with the rank of lieutenant[4].

During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1805 Church’s unit was sent to defend Sicily, while on January 7, 1806, Church himself, holding the rank of captain, was placed in the Royal Corsican Hunters Regiment. There he was for the first time in charge of commanding foreign troops, recruited among the local population. In October 1808 he became Assistant Quartermaster General in Sicily. In 1809 he was promoted to Quartermaster General and placed officer in the mission which occupied the Ionian Islands under General Sir John Oswald[5]. . On September 9, 1809, he was promoted to major in the Greek Light Infantry of the British Army, while on November 19, 1812 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the 1st Greek Light Infantry Regiment of the Duke of York[6].

Richard Church as an officer in the Greek Light Infantry of the Duke of York in the Ionian Islands in a painting of 1813.

Church was already particularly experienced in commanding foreign troops and he used his experience to effectively command troops recruited among the Greeks. In fact, this experience contributed to the creation of the 2nd Greek Light Infantry Regiment of the Duke of York, which was used in 1813 to occupy the Paxos island[7]. In the ranks of these units commanded by the Church, participated soldiers and officers, who came from fugitives from mainland Greece, such as Theodoros Kolokotronis. Church had developed a friendly relationship with the future military leader of the Greek Revolution, and maintained regular correspondence with him, which contributed to him remaining constantly up-to-date on the evolutions and to the cultivation of his Philhellenism[8].

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, following complaints from the Ottoman administration, the Greek troops organized by the Church with the cooperation of other British officers were disbanded. However, their members had already gained valuable experience from the operation, organization and training of a regular army. This experience was used by Kolokotronis, but also by other fighters who took part later in the Greek Revolution of 1821.

During this period, before and after the Revolution of 1821, Church served in Malta, Naples, Sicily, Calabria. He was present at the battle of Maida, in the defense of Capri, where he was wounded in the head, in the occupation of Ischia, in the mission to the Ionian Islands, in the occupation of Zakynthos and Kefalonia. In the battle of Agia Mavra he was seriously injured in his left hand, which was hit by a bullet[9].

After his service in the Ionian Islands, Church was placed on a British government mission in the allied armies of Austria and Prussia and then he served as a liaison between the British and Austrian Armed Forces, which used Italy as their base, in 1814 -1815[10]. At the same time, he took part as a military expert in the Congress of Vienna, where he supported the stay of the Ionian Islands under British rule, but also of Parga and other former Venetian cities, which were then occupied by Ali Pasha[11]. For his work in the Ionian Islands, Italy and Vienna, he received in 1815 from the British government the title of the Knight of the Order of the Bath[12].

Church returned to Italy in 1817, at the suggestion of the government of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. With the permission of the British government, he took over in Italy the position of major General in the Sicilian Army, as well as the position of inspector of foreign troops, in the service of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. He served in Puglia, based in Lecce, where he managed to stop the attacks of local bandits who had been operating uncontrollably until then. His successful service also earned him the titles of Knight of the Order of St. Ferdinand of Naples and the Grand Cross of the Noblest Military Battalion of St. George of the Two Sicilies[13].

The end of Church’s career in Italy was dictated by the political turbulences that broke out there. After his successful tenure in Puglia, Church was offered the command of the 9th Battalion in Sicily, based in Palermo, in early July 1820. When Church went to Palermo, he was not allowed to take with him the army of foreigners, despite his desire, as he trusted them for being faithful to him. So when the revolution started locally, the Carbonari revolutionaries wanted to capture him. Church escaped arrest and returned to Naples on July 23, 1820, where he was arrested by the rebels, who had seized power there as well. He was imprisoned for some time and was released after a trial in which he was found not guilty. So in 1821 he returned to Great Britain, where he was honored with the title of Knight Commander of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order[14].

Church married Marie-Anne Wilmot, daughter of Robert Wilmot, 2nd Baronet of Osmaston [15] , on August 17, 1826 in Worthing. At the same time he published his memoirs from the revolution in Palermo[16].

In parallel, all this time he maintained correspondence with Kolokotronis, with whom he had a relationship based on mutual respect. In fact, during the preparatory work of the Third National Assembly, which began in Epidaurus on April 6, 1826, Kolokotronis proposed Church to take over as commander-in-chief of the Greek Army. The continuation of the preparatory work of the National Assembly, which was scheduled for August 1826, was delayed due to the unfavorable situation of the country. The final date for the official opening of the Third National Assembly was decided after consultations of Church with Kolokotronis (whom he met in Kastri, Kynouria[17]), the British Admiral Thomas Cochrane (who took over as commander of the Greek Navy[18]) and the British admiral Rowan Hamilton. Finally, the Third National Assembly was formally convened in Troizina, on March 19, 1827[19], and took place there, from March to April 1827[20].

Kolokotronis’ proposal in favor of Church was voted during the Third National Assembly. It is worth noting that this proposal was supported by the other great military leader of the Greek Revolution, G. Karaiskakis. This is confirmed by a letter bearing his signature (“Karaiskakis”), sent to the Third National Assembly from Keratsini, on April 2, 1827. G. Karaiskakis proposes in his letter to the Third National Assembly, to assign the general command to Richard Church: «… For this I put in view of the Respectful Assembly, the person of the most eminent general Rikardou Zorzi (Richard Church), for whom we have valid information that he is indeed worth of such an assignment, and knowing the attitude of the army, I have all the certainty that he wants to direct the troops, he wants to unite them, and he wants to gather them to counter the common enemy, and therefore he wants to cause the liberation of the Athenians and the whole homeland … ».

A handwritten letter from G. Karaiskakis, in which he also supports the assignment to Church of the General Command of the Greek Army. (SHP collection).

The first mission of Cochrane and Church, was the reinforcement of Karaiskakis who was fighting in Faliro and Keratsini, to end the siege of the Acropolis. At this stage, the Turkish forces had superior armament, while they were also favored by the morphology of the ground which had the form of an open battlefield. Thus, this mission was particularly difficult, resulting in the Greek forces [21] suffering significant losses.After the death of Karaiskakis and the disbandment of the Greek army, Church showed courage and utmost prudence. He managed to save the men who were scattered on the shores, he took care of their boarding ships and their concentration in Faliro and Piraeus, and then he organized their transfer to the island of Salamis, where after a while most of the troops were gathered[22].

The Anti-Government Committee then entrusted Church with the administration of the military in Nafplio. After a few months, Church was placed in the fortress of Corinth. From there he was transferred to Diakopto in Vostitsa (today Aigio) and then to Eastern Greece mainland, where he remained until the arrival of Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias in Greece[23].

When Kapodistrias arrived, Church was sent to Western Greece mainland. His mission was to liberate the largest possible part of the wider region, in order to facilitate Kapodistrias’ efforts during the negotiation of the borders of the free Greek state. In the period 1828 – 1829, Church coordinated many operations of the troops of Western Greece in collaboration and with the help of the Greek fleet, in which the great Philhellene Hastings participated with the steam-powered “Karteria” and five other boats[24]. With these moves, the blockade of the Amvrakikos Gulf was achieved, and finally, Vonitsa, Aetoliko and Messolonghi were conquered. These operations were the last acts of the war for the liberation of Greece, which defined the borders of the newly formed Greek state in the mainland of Greece.

With the arrival of King Othon in Greece, the government of Spyridon Trikoupis offered to Church the position of ambassador to Russia, something that was not accepted by the Russian Czar[25].

Greece honored Church in 1833 with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Knights of the Redeemer[26]. Church was then appointed Councilor of the State and in 1836, he was appointed Inspector General of the Greek Army. In February 1843, he was in charge of the honorary procession at the funeral of Theodoros Kolokotronis[27].

In the Revolution of September 3, 1843, Church was chosen from among the Councilors of the State who were revolutionaries, as a mediator between them and Othon. In fact, the next day he co-signed the proclamation of the Council of State thanking the people and the guard of Athens for their behavior, and declaring September 3 as a national holiday. He was the fourth signatory after Mavromichalis, Koundouriotis and Notaras[28].

One month later, in October 1843, he was elected plenipotentiary of Zygos, Aetolia to the National Assembly of the Greeks on September 3, representing an area of Western Greece that he liberated in 1828-1829 and was elected a member of the Senate[29].

A meeting of the 1844 National Assembly, attended by Church, marked his history and the one of the Parliament. This meeting was marked by the conflict between the indigenous residents of the new Greek state and the Greeks who came from other parts of the Ottoman empire, which were still occupied. The former claimed that only those who came from the liberated areas of Greece could be appointed as civil servants. Supporters of the Greeks from abroad demanded that the rights apply to all Greeks. Church sided with the non-natives, being consistent with the spirit of philhellenism and not that of expediency. His speech on the issue remains legendary, as it contained only one word: “Gaiduria!” (“donkeys!”), expressing his indignation for the attitude of the deputies in favour of the indigenous – natives.

Church retired from military service in 1844 at the age of 60. However, he remained a senator until the abolition of the Senate in 1864[30].

In 1854, he was promoted to honorary general of the Greek Army, in order to be honored for his services during the Struggle and in the first years of the existence of the new Greek state.

General Richard Church enjoyed the appreciation of the Greek and British societies of his time and he was regularly visited by King George I during the last years of his life[32]. Church died of an illness on Thursday, March 8, 1873, and was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens at public expense on March 15, 1873[33]. The funeral was delayed in anticipation of his nephew, who was expected from England. The funeral procession took place in the Protestant church on Filellinon Street in the presence of the king and a crowd of officials. The tomb monument, opposite to the sanctuary of St. Lazarus, bears an English inscription on the front and the corresponding Greek one on the back: “Richard Church, General, who having given himself and all he had, to rescue a Christian race from oppression, and to make Greece a nation, lived for her service, and died among her people, rests here in peace and faith “. An epitaph speech was delivered on March 15, 1873, by the Minister of Justice Panagiotis Chalkiopoulos[34] and then in English, the later National Benefactor and then diplomat, Ioannis Gennadios[35].

SHP and Greece honor the memory of General Richard Church, a remarkable and noble British Philhellene, who fought for the Greek rights and who was honored for this action with high positions of responsibility in the new Greek state, while enjoying the appreciation and respect of the Greek society.

First Cemetery of Athens. The tomb of General Richard Church.

 

References

[1] Jewers, Arthur John, “Wells Cathedral: its monumental inscriptions and heraldry: together with the heraldry of the palace, deanery, and vicar’s close: with annotations from wills, registers, etc., and illustrations of arms”, εκδ.  Nichel and Hughes, Λονδίνο, 1892.
[2] Philipart, John, “The Royal Military Calendar”, εκδ. A.J. Valpy, Λονδίνο, 1820, δ’ τόμος, σελ. 436 -437.
[3]  Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[4] Jewers, Arthur John, “Wells Cathedral: its monumental inscriptions and heraldry: together with the heraldry of the palace, deanery, and vicar’s close: with annotations from wills, registers, etc., and illustrations of arms”, εκδ.  Nichel and Hughes, Λονδίνο, 1892.
[5] Dakin, Douglas, “The Greek struggle for independence, 1821-1833”, εκδ. University of California Press, Berkley, 1973, σελ. 33.
[6]  Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[7]  Chartrand, Rene, Courcelle, Patrice, “Émigré & Foreign Troops in British Service 1803 – 1815”, εκδ. Osprey, Λονδίνο, 2000, σελ. 20.
[8] “Εγκυκλοπαιδικό Λεξικό Ελευθερουδάκη”, εκδ. Ελευθερουδάκη, Αθήνα,  1931, 12ος τόμος.
[9] Philipart, John, ‘’The Royal Military Calendar’’, εκδ. A.J. Valpy, Λονδίνο, 1820, δ’ τόμος, σελ. 436 -437.
[10] Church, R. W., “Occasional Papers selected from the ‘’Guardian’’, the ‘’Times’’ and the ‘’Saturday Review’’ 1846-1890”, εκδ. Macmillan, Λονδίνο, 1897.
[11] Church, E.M., “Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece”, εκδ. William Blackwood & Sons, Λονδίνο, 1895.
[12] Εγκυκλοπαίδεια ’Brittanica’, εκδ. Cambridge University Press, Λονδίνο, 1911, 6ος τόμος, σελ. 325.
[13] Jewers, Arthur John, “Wells Cathedral: its monumental inscriptions and heraldry: together with the heraldry of the palace, deanery, and vicar’s close: with annotations from wills, registers, etc., and illustrations of arms”, εκδ.  Nichel and Hughes, Λονδίνο, 1892.
[14]
[15] Περ. ‘’The Gentleman’s Magazine’’, φύλλο Αυγούστου 1826, Λονδίνο, 1826.
[16] Church, Richard, “Lieutenant General Sir Richard Church’s personal narrative of the revolution at Palermo, in the year 1820”, εκδ. περ. ‘’Monthly Magazine’’, Λονδίνο, 1826.
[17] St Clair, William, “That Greece Might Still Be Free. The Philhellenes in the War of Independence”, εκδ. Open Book Publishers, Λονδίνο, 2008, σελ. 326.
[18] ‘’Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας’’, εκδ. Βιβλιοθήκη της Βουλής των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1971, γ’ τόμος, σελ. 421.
[19] Μάμουκας, Ανδρέας, “Τα κατά την αναγέννησιν της Ελλάδος. Ήτοι, συλλογή των περί την αναγεννώμενην Ελλάδα συνταχθέντων πολιτευμάτων, νόμων και άλλων επισήμων πράξεων από του 1821 μέχρι του 1832”, εκδ. Τυπογραφίας Ηλίου Χριστοφίδου ‘’Η αγαθή τύχη’’, Πειραιάς, 1839, τόμος 7ος.
[20] ‘’Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας’’, εκδ. Βιβλιοθήκη της Βουλής των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1971, γ’ τόμος, σελ. 410.
[21] Κουτσονίκας, Λάμπρος, “Γενική ιστορία της ελληνικής επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Δ. Καρακατζάνη, Αθήνα, 1863, δ’ τόμος, σελ. 331.
[22] Χρυσανθόπουλος, Φώτιος  (Φωτάκος), “Βίοι Πελοποννησίων ανδρών και των εξώθεν εις την Πελοπόννησον ελθόντων κληρικών, στρατιωτικών και πολιτικών των αγωνισαμένων τον αγώνα της επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Π. Δ. Σακελλαρίου, Αθήνα, 1888, σελ. 260.
[23] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[24]  Αλληλογραφία Church – Υψηλάντη, Συλλογή Βλαχογιάννη, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα, Φάκελος 290.
[25] Church, E.M., ‘’Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece’’, εκδ. William Blackwood & Sons, Λονδίνο, 1895.
[26] Κλάδης, Α. Ι., ‘’Επετηρίς του Βασιλείου της Ελλάδος’’, εκδ. Βασιλική Τυπογραφία & Λιθογραφία, Αθήνα, 1837.
[27]  Εφ. ‘’Η Ταχύπτερος Φήμη’’, φύλλο 3ης Φεβρουαρίου 1843, Αθήνα, 1843.
[28] Church, E.M., ‘’Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece’’, εκδ. William Blackwood & Sons, Λονδίνο, 1895.
[29]  Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[30]  Γράψας, Κ.Μ. , ‘’Ελληνική Πολιτική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια’’, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1948, β’ τόμος, σελ. 12.
[31] ‘’Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως του Βασιλείου της Ελλάδος’’ , ΦΕΚ 10ης Φεβρουαρίου 1854, Αθήνα, 1854 , Β.Δ. 6/1854.
[32] Εφ. ‘’Αιών’’, φύλλο 5ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.
[33] Εφ. ‘’Αλήθεια’’, φύλλο 9ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.
[34] Εφ. ‘’Αιών’’, φύλλο 21ης  Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.
[35] Εφ. ‘’Εφημερίς των Συζητήσεων ‘’, φύλλο 15ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.

 

Bibliography – Sources

  • Jewers, Arthur John, “Wells Cathedral: its monumental inscriptions and heraldry: together with the heraldry of the palace, deanery, and vicar’s close: with annotations from wills, registers, etc., and illustrations of arms”, εκδ. Nichel and Hughes, Λονδίνο, 1892.
  • Philipart, John, “The Royal Military Calendar”, εκδ. J. Valpy, Λονδίνο, 1820, δ’ τόμος.
  • Dakin, Douglas, “The Greek struggle for independence, 1821-1833”, εκδ. University of California Press, Berkley, 1973.
  • Chartrand, Rene, Courcelle, Patrice, “Émigré & Foreign Troops in British Service 1803 – 1815”, εκδ. Osprey, Λονδίνο, 2000.
  • “Εγκυκλοπαιδικό Λεξικό Ελευθερουδάκη”, εκδ. Ελευθερουδάκη, Αθήνα, 1931, 12ος τόμος.
  • Church, R. W., “Occasional Papers selected from the ’Guardian’, the ’Times’ and the ’Saturday Review’ 1846-1890”, εκδ. Macmillan, Λονδίνο, 1897.
  • Church, E.M., “Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece”, εκδ. William Blackwood & Sons, Λονδίνο, 1895.
  • Εγκυκλοπαίδεια ‘’Brittanica’’, εκδ. Cambridge University Press, Λονδίνο, 1911, 6ος τόμος.
  • Περ. “The Gentleman’s Magazine”, φύλλο Αυγούστου 1826, Λονδίνο, 1826.
  • Church, Richard, “Lieutenant General Sir Richard Church’s personal narrative of the revolution at Palermo, in the year 1820”, εκδ. περ. “Monthly Magazine”, Λονδίνο, 1826.
  • “Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας”, εκδ. Βιβλιοθήκη της Βουλής των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1971, γ’ τόμος.
  • St Clair, William, “That Greece Might Still Be Free. The Philhellenes in the War of Independence”, εκδ. Open Book Publishers, Λονδίνο, 2008.
  • Μάμουκας, Ανδρέας, “Τα κατά την αναγέννησιν της Ελλάδος. Ήτοι, συλλογή των περί την αναγεννώμενην Ελλάδα συνταχθέντων πολιτευμάτων, νόμων και άλλων επισήμων πράξεων από του 1821 μέχρι του 1832”, εκδ. Τυπογραφίας Ηλίου Χριστοφίδου “Η αγαθή τύχη”, Πειραιάς, 1839, τόμος 7ος.
  • Κουτσονίκας, Λάμπρος, “Γενική ιστορία της ελληνικής επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Δ.Καρακατζάνη, Αθήνα, 1863, δ’ τόμος.
  • Χρυσανθόπουλος, Φώτιος (Φωτάκος), “Βίοι Πελοποννησίων ανδρών και των εξώθεν εις την Πελοπόννησον ελθόντων κληρικών, στρατιωτικών και πολιτικών των αγωνισαμένων τον αγώνα της επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Π. Δ. Σακελλαρίου, Αθήνα, 1888.
  • Αλληλογραφία Church – Υψηλάντη, Συλλογή Βλαχογιάννη, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα, Φάκελος 290.
  • Κλάδης, Α. Ι., “Επετηρίς του Βασιλείου της Ελλάδος”, εκδ. Βασιλική Τυπογραφία & Λιθογραφία, Αθήνα, 1837.
  • Εφ. “Η Ταχύπτερος Φήμη”, φύλλο 3ης Φεβρουαρίου 1843, Αθήνα, 1843.
  • Γράψας, Κ.Μ., “Ελληνική Πολιτική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια”, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1948, β’ τόμος.
  • “Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως του Βασιλείου της Ελλάδος”, ΦΕΚ 10ης Φεβρουαρίου 1854, Αθήνα, 1854 , Β.Δ. 6/1854.
  • Εφ. “Αιών”, φύλλο 5ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.
  • Εφ. “Αλήθεια”, φύλλο 9ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.
  • Εφ. Αιών”, φύλλο 21ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.
  • Εφ. “Εφημερίς των Συζητήσεων”, φύλλο 15ης Μαρτίου 1873, Αθήνα, 1873.