He was knighted in 1829.
His tenure as Lieut. Governor of Van Diemen's Land between 1837 and 1843 was not a success as his progressive views ran into the stone wall of the landed gentry inhabiting the Legislative Council. He was also unsuccessful in an attempt to modernise and revive the whaling industry.
He is credited with mapping nearly two-thirds of the North American coastline. However his Arctic expeditions were not entirely successful and his first overland expedition to North-west Territories of Canada in 1819 led to the death of eleven of his 20-man crew coupled with murder and rumours of cannibalism. The survivors were forced to lichen and even tried to eat their own boots for nourishment.
An expedition to navigate a North-west Passage with two ships in 1845 led to the loss of the entire expedition.
It was reported in September 2014 that the wreck of one of Franklin's ships has been found: Sir John Franklin: Canada finds fabled ship from doomed 19th-century expedition.