Peter Hawker was the only son of Peter Ryves Hawker who had been an officer in the 1st Troop of Horse Guards. His mother was Mary Wilson Yonge, from an Irish family. They lived at Long Parish, Hampshire but young Peter was born in London on 24 Dec 1786. He entered the army as a cornet in the Royal Dragoons on 29 Jan 1801. He exchanged into the 14th Light Dragoons on 5 May 1803, being promoted to Captain on 4 Aug 1804. He served in Portugal with the regiment and was severely wounded at Talavera in 1809. His thigh bone was shattered by a ball and this ended his active service in the army. At the same battle, his relative Lt-Col Samuel Hawker, who commanded the regiment was also severely wounded.
In 1815, on the recommendation of the Duke of Clarence, he was appointed major in the North Hampshire Militia. By 1821 he commanded the unit in the rank of lieutenant-colonel, having been promoted by the Duke of Wellington. He was later Deputy Lieutenant for Hampshire. He died on 7 Aug 1853 at Dorset Square, London and buried at Marylebone Church. He was also a musician and composer. He patented an improvement in the construction of pianos in 1820. At the exhibition of 1851 his ideas on firearms development attracted attention but were not acted upon by the War Office. He was a well-known sportsman and excelled at wildfowl shooting. He wrote 'Instructions to Young Sportsmen' generally referred to as 'Hawker on Shooting' which was reprinted eleven times between 1814 and 1859.
The painting is a detail from a three quarter length portrait by James Northcote dated 1812 (see Uniforms). Captain Hawker wears the pre-1811 braided jacket with orange facings.
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