Fanny Palmer was a woman born in St George’s, Bermuda. She was the youngest child, of four children, of John Grove Palmer, Bermuda's Attorney General, to survive to adulthood. She lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after marrying Charles Austen, a naval officer commanding a ship on the North American Station, later moving to the United Kingdom, in 1811, when her husband accepted a new command in those waters.
The pair married on May 18, 1807.
When they moved to the UK she got to meet her in-laws, including her sister-in-law Jane Austen. In Austen's novel Persuasion she describes how the heroine's love interest's sister is married to a senior Royal Navy officer, and actually lived with him aboard some of the ships he commanded. Officer's wives only rarely lived aboard their husband's ships, but Fanny was one of the outliers, and commentators believe Fanny inspired the character Sophie Croft in that novel.
Charles's sisters, Jane and Cassandra got along well with Fanny. Fanny died giving birth to her fourth child, in 1814.
Fanny's first child, Cassandra Esten, was born on December 22, 1808, when Charles was in command of HMS Indian, on the North American and Caribean Station. Her second child, Harriet Jane, was born on February 19, 1810, also prior to the families move to the United Kingdom. Her third child, born on December 1, 1812, when Charles was in command of the much larger HMS Namur, was named after her, Frances, Palmer. Fanny gave birth to her fourth child, Elizabeth, on board the Namur, on August 31, 1814. She developed post-natal complications, and died six days after the birth. Elizabeth also died, before she was a month old.
The Admiralty gave Charles leave after the deaths, but he never resumed command of the Namur.
In 1820 Charles married Fanny's sister Harriet.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Sheila Johnson Kindred (2017). "Jane Austen's Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen". McGill University Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1vjqqb3. Retrieved 2023-05-25. "'A VERY PLEASING LITTLE WOMAN, she is gentle and amiable in her manners, and appears to make [Charles] very happy' (Fig. 1). Such were the words of Cassandra Austen when she and her sister Jane first met Fanny Palmer, their brother Charles’s Bermuda-born wife."