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Reproduced courtesy of Frances Rouse

Costume design, 'James murdered Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii'

Date: 1985
Overall: 670 x 540 mm, 3.1 kg
Medium: Gouache on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Frances Rouse
Object Name: Costume design
Object No: 00004249

User Terms

    This costume design was made for the stage play ‘Counting Icebergs' by Frances Rouse and relates to the life of Elizabeth Cook. Elizabeth Batts married James Cook on 21 December 1762 and was only 38 when her husband was killed at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii on 14 February 1779. This costume conveys the sorrow brought on by his death through the dark gown, white shawl, collar, cuffs, black bows and bloodstained handkerchief. This is one of 25 paintings created by Rouse in the series titled, 'The Charts of Mrs Cook'.
    SignificanceThis costume represents the murder of Captain James Cook in Hawaii and the impact it had on his wife Elizabeth. Captain Cook's life and achievements generated much interest following his death, stimulating the production of souvenir portraits, figurines and books. This costume illustrates modern public interest in his wife Elizabeth, who is often overlooked in the Cook story.
    HistoryFrances Rouse is a Queensland-based playwright who began researching and writing the stage play 'Counting Icebergs' in 1984. It was commissioned by the Australian National Trust, Queensland for the reopening of the James Cook Museum in Cooktown. Rouse was inspired by the limited material available on Elizabeth Cook and the story of her lonely life as a widow, outliving all her children to the age of 94. Her series of paintings 'The Charts of Mrs Cook' are in her own words 'my tribute to her great spirit'.

    Very little is known of Elizabeth Cook, the wife of the famous English explorer Captain James Cook. She was born Elizabeth Batts at Wapping London in 1741, the only child of Samuel and Mary Batts, and married James Cook at St Margaret’s Church, Barking on 21 December 1762. It is believed they met through business associates. The couple first lived in East London near the docks and then Mile End, London. They were married for 17 years with Cook being away at sea for the majority of the time and managing to spend a total of only 4 years living with his wife. The couple had six children all of whom died prior to Elizabeth, leaving her without any immediate family for her last 40 years. In her later life Elizabeth lived in financial comfort with a pension provided by King George III and income received from the sale of books detailing Cook's voyages. However life would have been lonely and she died on 13 May 1835.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: James Murdered Kealakehua Bay, Hawaii

    Web title: Costume design, 'James murdered Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii'

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