Anna Josepha King
Australia Crest

Anna King, from Devon, was the first wife to accompany a governor to the colony of what was to become Australia.

Anna Coombe married her first cousin Philip Gidley King at St. Martin's-In-The-Fields, London, on 11th March, 1791, with the happy couple setting sail for the Antipodes 4 days later. The bride was 26 years old and the groom 33.

The Kings arrived in Sydney on HMS Gorgon and after a stay of 5 weeks in Sydney the now pregnant Anna and her husband left for Norfolk Island where he was to take up the position of Lieutenant-Governor on a salary of 250 per annum. They arrived early November and on December 13, 1791, she gave birth to a son, Philip. She was to be a mother of four more children, all daughters, with one dying in childhood.

The Kings went back to England in 1796 and eventually through the influence of the botanist Sir Joseph Banks, King was appointed Governor of NSW to replace John Hunter.

The Kings and youngest daughter Elizabeth arrived in Sydney in April 1800 but Hunter took his time in resigning his post and it was not until the September of 1800 that Governor King took up the reins of governing the fledgling colony.

Anna was horrified to find a depraved Sydney Town with hundreds of abandoned children. To survive, the boys resorted to crime whilst the girls usually became prostitutes.

Anna was deeply moved by the plight of these youngsters and pledged to help them, despite having limited funds herself due to the Kings paying for the education of three children back in England.

She organised the Bridge Street orphanage for girls which was managed by a committee consisting of Anna, Samuel Marsden the whipping parson, Johnson, and the surgeons Balmain and Harris. There was one other female committee member, Elizabeth Paterson, wife of Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson who was injured in a duel against John Macarthur, father of the colony's sheep and wool industry.

Not only did this establishment help the young ladies, but it flourished and was to provide wives for many settlers in the future.

King was replaced by William Bligh, of mutiny on the Bounty fame, and the Kings arrived back in England in February, 1807, after a nightmare journey via Cape Horn.

Ill health and troubles through his Governorship, with the likes of Macarthur and Bligh, had taken their toll and King died in London on September 3rd, 1808.

Anna was left impoverished and had to rely on her land and beef cattle investments in NSW to tide her over.

The longing for Australia was in her heart and some 24 years later, in 1832, accompanied by her son Philip, she returned to stay with her daughter Maria, at Parramatta.

She continued to help the poor and sick right up to her death, aged 80, on July 26th, 1844. Anna was buried at St. Mary's, Penrith.

She is regarded as being the colony's first female humanitarian.

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