Robert Fitzroy: Midshipman Aboard H.M.S. Hind, 1822–26

By Frederick E. Ellis, published May 1986


Robert Fitzroy at age of 17 served aboard H.M.S. Hind. With the exception of one from Owen Glendower, the remaining eleven letters were sent while he was serving aboard the Hind. They are to his father, Lord Charles Fitzroy at Wicken, Stony Stratford; his sister Fanny and brother George. The four year commission was spent mostly in Gibraltar, Naples Bay, Smyrna, and Malta with many patrols into the surrounding islands, in the main controlled by rival Greeks and Turks. Hind’s assignment was to protect the interests of merchant shipping. The letters reveal a growing maturity, the acquisition of acute observational skills, and opinions typical of a fairly liberal minded young man of his day. He mostly liked his shipmates, high and low, but sought companionship from those who could provide intelligent conversation. Well connected, he was concerned about “getting into good society”. Professionally he was more than competent. Less than ten years later he was in command of H.M.S. Beagle on a scientific expedition with Charles Darwin who was chosen by Fitzroy, in part as a companion and for his conversational skills. Eventually they parted ways, essentially on religious grounds. Fitzroy was an important scientist in his own right, particularly in meteorology. If “the child be father of the man”, then these letters help reveal the intellectual and emotional growth of Robert Fitzroy.

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Filed under: Mediterranean | Other (Nineteenth C)
Subjects include: Biography

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