William Turner

Birth: 1792


William Turner (1792-1867) was a British diplomatist and author. He was born at Yarmouth on 5 Sept. 1792, was the son of Richard Turner (1751-1835), lecturer, and afterwards perpetual curate of Great Yarmouth, by his second wife, Elizabeth (1761-1805), eldest daughter of Thomas Rede of Beccles. Sir George James Turner was his younger brother. The father, Richard Turner, was a friend of George Canning, who gave William a post in the foreign office. In 1811 he was attached to the embassy of Robert Liston, and accompanied him to Constantinople [see Liston, Sir Robert]. He remained in the east for five years, and during that time visited most parts of the Ottoman dominions, as well as the islands and mainland of Greece.

While in Asia Minor he endeavored to emulate Leander and Lord Byron by swimming the Hellespont, and, failing in the attempt, palliated his ill-success by pointing out that he tried to swim from Asia to Europe, a far more difficult feat than Lord Byron's passage from Europe to Asia. Byron replied in a letter to Murray published at the time, and Turner, in a counter rejoinder, overwhelmed his adversary with quotations from ancient and modern topographers (Moore, Life of Byron, 1846, pp. 497, 663). He published the results of his wanderings in 1820 under the title ‘Journal of a Tour in the Levant,’ London, 8vo. His diary contains many sketches of eastern customs. He is somewhat discursive, dealing rather with local manners and customs than with the political or military institutions of Turkey.

In 1824 he returned to Constantinople as secretary to the English embassy. During the absence of an ambassador, due to the removal of Lord Strangford to St. Petersburg, Turner filled the office of minister plenipotentiary. On 22 Oct. 1829 he was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the republic of Columbia, and after filling that post for nine years he retired from the service. He died at Leamington on 10 Jan. 1867, and was buried in the vault of the parish church of Birstall in Leicestershire.

A brass was erected in his memory on the north wall of the chancel. On 10 April 1824, at St. George's, Hanover Square, he married Mary Anne (1797-1891), daughter and coheir of John Mansfield of Birstall. By her he had one surviving son—Mansfield—and a daughter, Mary Anne Elizabeth (1825-1894), who married Walter Stewart Broadwood.

[Harward Turner's Turner Family; Burke's Family Records.]


Edward Irving Carlyle, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57. pgs. 368-369.

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