This copy of a portrait by an unknown artist is the only known image of Elizabeth Batts (1741–1835), Cook's wife. The original is in Australia. After their marriage in 1762, they lived first at Shadwell before moving to Mile End, which was quieter and not so close to the busy riverside. Soon after their marriage Cook returned to Canada where he was charged with surveying the coast of Newfoundland. For the next few years he sailed for Newfoundland every spring, returning in November or December to complete the work on his charts and drawings.
The wives of naval men had to endure the long absence of their husbands away at sea. During their seventeen years of marriage, Cook and his wife never spent more than a few months together at a time. The Cooks had six children, only three of whom survived childhood. Two entered the Royal Navy, but did not survive their mother, while the third died of a fever while a student at Cambridge. She endured 56 years of widowhood.
In later life Elizabeth moved to Clapham where her cousin Isaac Smith lived. She continued to receive relatives and friends who came to admire the many relics and maps which filled the house, but apparently destroyed any letters from Cook to her. She was buried with two of her sons in Cambridge.
Where to see this painting?
Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Grape Lane, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England, YO22 4BA
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.
More on this painting
commissioned copy from the artist from an original in Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales