Childhood & Early Life
Henry Parks was born on May 27, 1815 in Canley, near Coventry in Warwickshire, England in Great Britain. Henry's father was an impoverished tenant farmer. Little is known about Henry's mother, who died in childbirth a few years after Henry's birth.
As a young boy, Henry received little formal education and often worked in order to provide food for his family. At age 17, while working as an apprentice in Birmingham, he joined a political union.
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In 1839, Parkes and his wife moved to London. A few weeks later, they boarded a ship to Australia. Their daughter was born on board just two days before landing.
In 1842, a book of poetry written by the skilled writer was published entitled 'Stolen Moments'.
He leveraged money to found three different newspapers. Despite his best efforts, Henry was soon heavily in debt. While the newspapers were operating, he used them to publish more of his poetry as well as editorial columns supporting Australian culture.
In 1854, this eloquent orator ran in a special election for the position of representative of the City of Sydney to the New South Wales parliament. He garnered nearly twice the number of votes as his closest rival.
In 1856, the parliamentarian resigned his seat in protest at the inefficacy of the New South Wales parliament. Despite widespread calls for him to run for re-elected, he refused.
In 1857, Parkes published a book of his poetry entitled 'Murmurs of the Stream'.
By 1858, despite concentrating all his efforts towards making his newspapers profitable, he was heavily in debt. Parkes decided to run for election again, representing a different constituency in New South Wales. Although he was elected, he resigned six months later due to complications from his personal debts.
In 1864, he was re-elected to the New South Wales parliament, representing yet another district.
In 1866, a legislative maneuver ousted the head of the parliament. Governor Sir James Martin awarded the position of Colonial Secretary to Parkes. He would hold this position for three years, after which he would spend three years out of office.
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In 1870, Parkes published his book of poetry entitled 'Studies in Rhyme'. That same year, he had to resign from the legislature again due to complications related to his personal debts.
In 1871, he was elected to the legislature, representing yet another constituency. A year later, after differing political factions resulted in a deadlock, Parkes became the Premier of the Colony of New South Wales. He would hold the position for three years.
In 1875, he lost his position as the Premier of the Colony of New South Wales after a number of political scandals. Two years later, he resigned his position in the legislature, citing boredom as the reason. But when his colleague's brief government collapsed a few months later, Henry returned as the Premier of the Colony of New South Wales for a few months.
In 1878, he used political maneuvering to once again become Premier of the Colony of New South Wales. He would hold the position for the next five years.
In 1885, Parkes published his book, 'The Beauteous Terrorist and Other Poems'. That same year, he successfully was re-elected to parliament, representing yet another district.
In 1887, this seasoned politician took advantage of political turmoil to become Premier of the Colony of New South Wales for the fourth time. He would hold the position for three years.
In 1889, after a brief hiatus, he once again became Premier of the Colony of New South Wales. He would hold the position for two years.
Late in 1889, Parkes delivered his most famous speech, entitled 'The Tenterfield Oration', which gave a clarion call to the federalists to devise a constitution which would be necessary for bringing into existence a federal government with a federal parliament for the conduct of national undertaking.
Personal Life & Legacy
Henry Parkes was married three times. He married Clarinda Varney in 1836 and remained with her until her death.
In 1895 after Eleanor’s death, he married Julia Lynch, whom he remained with until his own death.
Henry Parkes breathed his last on April 27, 1896. He died of natural causes.
In total, Sir Henry Parkes fathered 17 legitimate children: Thomas, Clarinda Martha, Clarinda Sarah, Robert, Mary, Mary Edith, Milton, Lily Maria, Annie, Gertrude, Varney, Lily Faulconbridge, Sydney, Kenilworth, Aurora, Henry Cobden and Charles Jessel.
Parkes was devoutly religious to the Church of England his entire life.