Peter Parker was born probably in Ireland. He became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1743 and captain in 1747. In 1761, he took command of HMS Buckingham and helped cover operations on Belle Île. For 10 years he was out of the service on account of the reduction of the navy.
He was knighted in 1772 and rejoined the service in 1773.
During the American Revolution, he was sent to provide naval support for an expedition reinforcing Loyalists in the Southern Colonies. Parker hoisted his flag aboard HMS Bristol, and on June 28, 1776, led a naval attack against the fortifications on Sullivan’s Island (later called Fort Moultrie after their commander), protecting Charleston, South Carolina. After a long and hard-fought battle, Parker was forced to call off the attack, having sustained heavy casualties, including the loss of HMS Actaeon, grounded and abandoned. Lord William Campbell, the last British Governor of the Province of South Carolina, was mortally wounded aboard the Bristol. Commodore Parker was himself wounded by a flying splinter which injured his leg and tore off his breeches, an incident which occasioned much mirth in the newspapers.
He subsequently served under Lord Howe in the invasion and capture of New York City and commanded the squadron that captured Newport, Rhode Island. He subsequently became Commander-in-Chief, North American Waters, and then Commander-in-Chief, Jamaica. At this time, Parker acted as a patron and friend of Horatio Nelson, then serving aboard the Bristol, an attachment which would endure for the remainder of Nelson’s life.
He was created baronet in 1783. He was, against his will, returned as MP for Seaford, and would later serve as member for Maldon. In 1793 he became Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth.
In 1799 he succeeded Lord Howe as Admiral of the Fleet, and was Chief Mourner at Lord Nelson’s funeral in 1806.
Among his children were:
* Anne Parker, married George Ellis
* Vice-Admiral Christopher Parker (1761–1804), married Augusta Byron and had issue.
He was succeeded in the baronetcy by Christopher’s son Peter.