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Colonel Mark Wilks

Title: Colonel

Epithet: (b-1759-d-1831) FRS. SHK 1823 - 1831

Record type: Photographs

Biography: Mark Wilks, born at Kirk Michael Vicarage, was the son of Revd James Wilks and his second wife Elizabeth Christian. He was named after his godfather, Bishop Hildesley. Receiving a good education, Wilks obtained a cadetship in 1781 and by 1782 received a commission in the Madras army of the EIC. From the early seventeenth century onwards the EIC had a presence in India, gradually increasing influence over the ensuing centuries (EIC's rule was officially recognised in 1764). As British control expanded, so too did Indian opposition. This led to a period of great political conflict and wars (such as the Anglo-Indian Wars) and many soldiers like Wilks were needed.

In 1788 Wilks was appointed fort adjutant at Fort St George, Madras (now Chennai) and gained the promotion of lieutenant the following year. From 1790 to 1792 he acted as brigade-major and aide-de-camp to Colonel James Stuart (d.1793) during the war against the Mysore ruler, Tipu Sultan (1750-1799). By 1793 Wilks was made assistant adjutant-general. In 1793 Wilks married Harriet Macleane (c.1773-1806) at Fort St George; the couple had two children, including Lady Laura Buchan (1797-1888).

Between 1795 and 1799 Mark was granted a leave of absence due to bad health. Returning to the Isle of Man he joined the Royal Manx Fencibles in 1797 as a lieutenant. During his absence Wilks received his captaincy in India and returned to the country in 1798, serving as military secretary and private secretary to the Governor of Madras, Edward Clive (1754-1839). Wilks was next appointed town-major of Fort St. George and from 1803 to 1808 he was political Resident at the Court of Mysore. Attaining the rank of major in 1804, Wilks then obtained lieutenant-colonel in 1808 (received the title of colonel in 1814).

A further bout of ill-health saw Wilks on the Isle of Man from 1809 to 1811, during which he was elected a member of the House of Keys. 1812 saw his return to India however by 1813 he had resigned from his office and returned to the British Isles. 1813 also saw Wilks marry his second wife, Dorothy Taubman (b.1783) in Bath, Somerset. Dorothy was the daughter of John Taubman (1746-1822), Speaker of the House of Keys. The couple had no children. In the same year Wilks was offered the position of Governor by the EIC in St Helena. Agreeing to rule for a period of three years, his administration was very popular with improvements to agricultural conditions and alterations to the system of land tenure. Wilks was present on St Helena when Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was exiled in 1815. It was said the exiled emperor admired Wilks and thought he was an able Governor.

Wilks was a leading authority in his lifetime on Indian literature and history and wrote several works. For example in 1810 he published Historical Sketches of the South of India in an Attempt to Trace the History of Mysoor . A second and third volume was published in 1814. He also translated into English Akhlaq-i-Nasiri , (the work of the Persian poet Nasir-al-Din al-Tusi [1201-1274]).

In 1816 he returned to the Isle of Man and settled in his estate of Kirby, the same year saw him re-elected into the House of Keys and in 1818 he officially retired from the EIC's service. In 1823 he was made Speaker of the House of Keys and in 1826 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). Wilks died in 1831 at Kelloe House, Berwickshire; the residence of his son-in-law Major-General Sir John Buchan (c.1783-1850).(Eleanor Williams 2016)

Occupation / profession: Author

Gender: Male

Name Variant: Wilks, Mark, Colonel


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