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Richard Church (general)

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Subject: Thomas Gordon (British Army officer), Richard Church, Francis Hervé, Konstantinos Vlachopoulos, Members of the Greek Senate
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Richard Church (general)

Sir Richard Church as a Greek general

Sir Richard Church KCH, CB (Greek: Ριχάρδος/Ρίτσαρντ Τσούρτς/Τσωρτς[1][2]) (1784 – March 1873),[Notes 1] was a military officer in the British Army and general in the Greek army during the last stages of the Greek Revolution after 1827 and elected politician in Greece, member of the Greek Parliament in 1843, member of the Greek Senate.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Role in the Greek Revolution 2
  • Family 3
  • Death 4
  • Notes 5
  • Sources 6
  • References 7

Early life and career

He was the son of a Quaker, Matthew Church of Cork. At the age of sixteen he ran away from home and enlisted in the British Army. For this violation of its principles he was disowned by the Society of Friends, but his father bought him a commission, dated 3 July 1800, in the 13th (Somersetshire) Light Infantry. He served in the demonstration against Ferrol, and in the expedition to Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby in 1801, where he took part in the Battle of Abukir and the taking of Alexandria. After the expulsion of the French from Egypt he returned home, but came back to the Mediterranean in 1805 among the troops sent to defend the island of Sicily. He accompanied the expedition which landed in Calabria, and fought a successful battle against the French at the Battle of Maida on 4 July 1806. Church was present on this occasion as captain of a recently raised company of Royal Corsican Rangers. His zeal attracted the notice of his superiors, and he had begun to show his capacity for managing and drilling foreign levies. His Corsicans formed part of the garrison of Capri from October 1806 till the island was taken by an expedition directed against it by Joachim Murat, in September 1808, at the very beginning of his reign as king of Naples. Church, who had distinguished himself in the defence, returned to Malta after the capitulation.

In the summer of 1809 he sailed with the expedition sent to occupy the Ionian Islands. Here he increased the reputation he had already gained by forming a Greek regiment in British pay. On the 9th of September 1809 he took the position of Major in the 1st Regiment Greek Light Infantry.[3] On the 19th of November 1812 he became Lieutenant-Colonel at renamed The Duke of York's Greek Light Infantry Regiment (1811-24 February 1816).[4][5][6] Having got the experience of managing foreigh troops, he commanded the regiments made up from Greeks he recruited himself in 1813 when he formed a second regiment composed of 454 Greeks 2nd Regiment Greek Light Infantry) to occupy Paxoi islands.[7] These regiments included many of the men who were afterwards among the leaders of the Greeks in the War of Independence including Theodoros Kolokotronis with whom he kept a friendhsip and correspondence. Church commanded this regiment at the taking of the island of Santa Maura (Lefkada), on which occasion his left arm was shattered by a bullet.

During his slow recovery he travelled in northern Greece, and Macedonia, and to Constantinople. In the years of the fall of Napoleon (1813 and 1814) he was present as British military representative with the Austrian troops until the campaign which terminated in the expulsion of Murat from Naples. He drew up a report on the Ionian Islands for the congress of Vienna, in which he argued in support, not only of the retention of the islands under the British flag, but of the permanent occupation by Britain of Parga and of other formerly Venetian coastal towns on the mainland, then in the possession of Ali Pasha of Yanina. The peace and the disbanding of his Greek regiment left him without employment, though his reputation was high at the war office, and his services were recognized by the grant of an Companion of the Order of the Bath.

In 1817 he entered the service of Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order.

Role in the Greek Revolution

The rising of the Greeks against the Turks, which began at this time, had his full sympathy from the first. But for some years he had to act only as the friend of the insurgents in England. In 1827 he took the honorable but unfortunate step of accepting the commandership-in-chief of the Greek army. At the point of anarchy and indiscipline to which they had now fallen, the Greeks could no longer form an efficient army, and could look for salvation only to foreign intervention. Sir Richard Church, who landed in March, was sworn archistrategos on 15 April 1827. But he could not secure loyal co-operation or obedience. The rout of his army in an attempt to relieve the acropolis of Athens, then besieged by the Turks, proved that it was incapable of conducting regular operations. The acropolis capitulated, and Sir Richard turned to partisan warfare in western Greece.

Here his activity had beneficial results, for it led to a rectification in 1832, in a sense favourable to Greece, of the frontier drawn by the powers in 1830 (see his Observations on an Eligible Line of Frontier for Greece, London, 1830). Church had, however, surrendered his commission, as a protest against the unfriendly government of John Capodistria, on 25 August 1829. He lived for the rest of his life in Greece. He was created general of the army -an honorary title- in 1854, and died at Athens on 1873.


Sir Richard Church married Marie-Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Wilmot, 2nd Baronet of Osmaston in Worthing, on 17 Aug 1826[8][9][10][11] [Notes 2]


Grave of Richard Church, Athens.

He died after an illness on Thursday, 8 March [[N.S. 27 March], the minister of justice, Panagiotis Chalkiopoulos, gave the funeral speech in Greek,[17] while John Gennadius gave a speech in English.[18][19]


  1. ^ For the date of death see relevant Section of the article explaining the discrepancy of sources
  2. ^ There are also references such as the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica which mention that his wife was "Elizabeth Augusta Wilmot-Horton, who survived him till 1878" and which are apparently wrong since there are secondary as well as primary sources which confirm that he married Marie-Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Wilmot, 2nd Baronet of Osmaston
  3. ^ Primary [12] and secondary sources[13] indicate that his date of death was 8 March [N.S. 20 March] 1873, while the Encyclopædia Britannica mentions 30 March as the date of death.[16]


  1. ^ Fotios Chrisanthopoulos (Fotakos), , Athens, 1888.Βίοι Πελοποννησίων Ανδρών"ΤΣΟΥΡΤΣ", in:
  2. ^ Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Εθνους, vol. IB', Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon, 1975.
  3. ^ "Greek Light Infantry". The National Archives. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  4. ^ John Philippart (1820). "The Royal military calendar, or Army service and commission book, Volume 4". 3rd Edition. A.J. Valpy, sold by T. Egerton. pp. 436–437. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  5. ^ "1st (The Duke of York's) Greek Light Infantry Regiment (1811-1816)". The National Archives. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  6. ^ Steve Brown. "Heroes and Villains: Death and Desertion in the British Army 1811 to 1813". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  7. ^ René Chartrand, Patrice Courcelle (2000). Émigré & Foreign Troops in British Service (2) 1803-15. Osprey Publishing. p. 20. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  8. ^ Debrett's Baronetage of England : with alphabetical lists of such baronetcies as have merged in the peerage, or have become extinct, and also of the existing baronets of Nova Scotia and Ireland (page 43 of 95)
  9. ^ Gentleman's magazine and historical chronicle, Volume 96, Part 2. 1826. p. 172. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  10. ^ Oriental herald and journal of general literature, Volume 10. 1826. p. 595. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  11. ^ The Annual register of world events: a review of the year: Volume 115, Edmund Burke - 1874
  12. ^ a b , 9 March 1873Alitheia (digital page 1122)
  13. ^ a b "Lemma Richard Church (Τσώρτς, Ριχάρδος)". P. Drandarkis, Μεγάλη Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια. 23 (ΚΓ') (1 (Α') ed.). Pyrsos. 1932. 
  14. ^ "Lemma Richard Church (Τσώρτς)". Εγκυκλοπαιδικό Λεξικό Ελευθερουδάκη 12. Athens: Eleftheroudakis. 1931. 
  15. ^ Arthur John Jewers (1892). "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 (1892)". London: Nichel and Hughes. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  16. ^ Richard Church, Encyclopædia Britannica 1911
  17. ^ , No. 2893, 21 March 1873 (digital page 502), Funeral Speech to Richard Church, General and Grand Cross given at the Cemetery of Athens by P. Chalkipoulos, minister of JusticeAion
  18. ^ Γεννάδιος, Ιωάννης (1844-1932) (1873). "Funeral speech to the late Philellen General Sir Richard Church, given at the First Cemetery of Athens on the 15th of March 1873". Typois Efimeridos Sizitiseon (Τύποις Εφημερίδος των Συζητήσεων). Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  19. ^ Alitheia, issue 1842, Friday, 16 March 1873 (digital page 1132)


  • Stanley Lane Poole, Sir Richard Church (London, 1890)
  • E. M. Church, Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece (Edinburgh, 1895) based on family papers (an Italian version, Brigantaggio e societé segrete nelle Fugue, 1817–1828, executed under the direction of Carlo Lacaita, appeared at Florence in 1899).
  • The Manuscripts Correspondence and Papers of Sir Richard Church, in 29 vols, now in the Finlay, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and other historians of the war (see Cam. Mod. Hist. x. p. 804).
  • Moises Enrique Rodriguez, Under the Flags of Freedom: British Mercenaries in the War of the Two Brothers, the First Carlist War, and the Greek War of Independence (1821-1840) (Lanham, Maryland, 2009)
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