Seaside Magazine Bird

Conversations from the Past: Lady Jane Franklin

– by Valerie Green –

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit down and talk with some interesting characters from Greater Victoria’s past? If so, wonder no more. Although these conversations are merely creative figments of my imagination, they are all based on fact.

World traveller Lady Jane Franklin first visited Victoria in 1861. She was on a mission, dedicated to finding answers about her husband, Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin’s, last expedition in 1847 to find the North West Passage. Was he lost at sea or was he still alive somewhere? His devoted wife was determined to find the truth and Victoria was just one of many places around the world to which she travelled to find answers.

Lady Franklin, many people are in awe of you because of your strong belief that your husband is still alive, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Evidence? There is no evidence. No one knows for sure what happened on his last expedition in command of the Erebus and the Terror. There were some searches made but no proof was ever found. No clue as to whether or not my husband drowned. Naturally I will continue searching until I find the truth. I am here for the purpose of raising funds for even more searches to be made.

But he disappeared in 1847 – 14 years ago. Don’t you think that by now the truth is simply a shipwreck?

No, I do not.

I understand you are travelling with your niece, Sophia Cracroft?

Yes, Sophia is my dear companion. She is keeping a journal of our experiences and is so observant. We both think that Victoria is a somewhat crude settlement where every man carries his revolver and many have a large knife hanging from their belts. So uncivilized!

What have you been able to do while in Victoria?

We are staying at one of the best lodging houses in town and we have visited Governor Douglas and his wife in James Bay. Lady Douglas’ mother was an Indian woman, you know, and she keeps herself to herself most of the time, possibly because of her mixed blood. We’ve also visited Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Harris, the Mayor and his wife. Excellent people and he is a very rich butcher. Unfortunately they are not blessed with much education – more’s the pity!

And, apart from raising funds for more search expeditions, I believe you are here for another purpose?

Yes, I am looking into the reports on Anglican schools and Churches in the colony. Baroness Burdett-Coutts has donated a great deal of money for the benefit of religion and education and I want to assure her that the money is being used wisely.

What have you found?

That the children on Vancouver Island are currently receiving a first-class education and Churches are flourishing.

Good news indeed.

Lady Franklin made a second visit to Victoria in 1870 following up on another lead concerning her husband’s fate. Although this lead proved to be a hoax, she never gave up her search. She died in London in 1875 after a life-long devotion to her husband who was described as “one of Britain’s bravest and noblest seafaring sons.”

Valerie Green is an author and historian and can be reached at

Shopping Cart