John "Lucky Jack" Aubrey
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Character from Aubrey-Maturin Novels
Titles, Ranks Knight, Rear Admiral, Member of Parliament
Ships crewed or captained See list below
Afictation England, Royal Navy
First Appearance Master and Commander

Rear Admiral Sir John Aubrey is a fictional character in the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian.

He is the son of General Aubrey. He has a wife Sophie, three children, Charlotte, Fanny, George, and one illegitimate son named Samuel Mputa. Part of Aubrey's success is the result of having been disrated from midshipman and turned before the mast as a common sailor. Some of his crew follow him from ship to ship, not just because of his leadership but also due to his knack for capturing valuable prizes, for which he is nicknamed "Lucky Jack". Aubrey is also referred to by some as "Goldilocks" because of his long yellow hair. He dislikes flogging and punishment in the fleet, and saves it for extreme circumstances. His physical characteristics, namely a large frame and scarred visage, often lead to an underestimation of his mental abilities, but he is also a renowned mathematician and amateur astronomer. Aubrey's love of women has led to problems with the men he has cuckolded and with his wife. His other great loves are the violin and puns, which he seems to enjoy creating as much as telling. Unfortunately, as masterful and lucky as Jack is at sea, he is somewhat inept and unlucky by land, and is often forced to take ship hurriedly in order to escape his troubles and creditors.

Portrayal Edit

Aubrey is played by Russell Crowe in the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Most of his naval battles and adventures are drawn from actual Royal Navy history; several of his exploits and reverses are directly based on the chequered career of Thomas Cochrane.

Career Edit

Early career

A resourceful and powerful man, he is regarded as one of the best fighting captains in the Royal Navy. He serves as a Midshipman on HMS Surprise, and the Agamemnon as a Lieutenant. Later he serves under his own future hero Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. At one point before his promotion to commander he is made a common sailor, in part because of a love affair he has with a black girl named Sally Mputa. Though this experience is painful at the time, it gives him a nearly unique (among officers) insight into the life and beliefs of common sailors,

Aubrey and the Surprise

enabling him to more effectively lead them as an officer. In 1800 he is stuck in Port Mahon, with no ship, on half pay and in debt. After meeting Stephen Maturin at a concert, he is promoted to Commander and given a 14 gun brig called HMS Sophie. With James Dillon as his Lieutenant, he escorts a convoys and captures many small prizes.


After the convoy duties, Lord Keith allows Aubrey to cruise independently, looking for French merchants. After a number of prizes are taken, they meet and defeat the Cacafuego, a Spanish frigate, losing a number of crew, including Dillon, in the bloody action and gaining the respect of other naval officers. However, Captain Harte, the commandant at Mahon, has a grudge against Aubrey, who has been having an affair with his wife. His malevolence ensures the victory brings Aubrey and his crew no official recognition, promotion, or significant prize money. The Sophie is captured by a French squadron under Admiral Charles Linois in 1801 after a chase where Aubrey had her guns thrown overboard and steered her himself. French Admiral Linois brought his three ships of the line and one frigate into Algeciras with the prize crew, and they were attacked by a British fleet, which failed. Jack later watched the 2nd part of the battle from the Rock of Gibraltar. This time the British fleet is successful. Back at Gibraltar, Aubrey undergoes a court-martial over the loss of his ship, but he is cleared of the charges.

A year later, at the conclusion of the French Revolutionary Wars and the start of the Peace of Amiens. Jack returns to England to take up the life of a country squire. He meets the Williams family, and their cousin Diana Villiers. Aubrey courts Sophia Williams (the eldest daughter), but is also attracted to Diana, with whom he commences an affair.

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Aubrey and Stephen

Aubrey plans to marry Sophia Williams, but his fortune soon is gone between an order to repay a wrongly captured merchant ship and the rest of his money being embezzled by his prize-agent. Aubrey has to flee the country to avoid going to debtors' prison and he plans to live with Maturin in Spain. Before he gets there, France delcares war and Aubrey and Stephen flee the country. Finally making it through Gibraltar, Jack and Stephen take passage aboard an East India Company ship, with Lt Tom Pullings on board. Unfortunately, the ship is captured by the privateer Bellone. Discovered to be a Royal Navy officer, Jack is going to be sold to the French, but a British squadron overtakes them and rescues Jack and Stephen.

Jack is given the command of the Polychrest, and put on Convoy duty by Harte, he has an affair with Diana. Jealousy between Jack and Stephen rise over Diana, to the point when they plan to duel. Prior to the date of the duel, Jack is ordered to raid the French port of Chaulieu to sink the gathered French troopships and gun boats and to destroy the corvette Fanciulla. On the way, the crew plans to mutiny because of the treatment they receive from Lt. Parker. Stephen overhears their plans and goes to Jack, the first time they have spoken since the challenge. Forewarned, Jack separates the instigators of the mutiny from the rest of the crew.

Jack's ship runs argound in battle, and Jack boards a French ship which he uses to pull the Polychrest free, but she is sunk by French batteries. Jack returns to England and is Posted Captain and given a ship under construction. Afraid of being captured by his creditors, he declines and asks for a temporary command. He is appointed to HMS Lively whose Captain, Hammond, has just left to take up his seat in Parliament.

Post Captain

Sophia, at Stephen's urging, asks Jack to transport her and Cecila to the Downs. While on board, Sophia and Jack come to an agreement not to marry anyone else; Jack is too poor to propose anything more. Thanks to Stephen the Lively is included in a squadron of ships that are intercepting 4 Spanish treasure galleons. Jack earns enough prize money to pay his debts.

Jack takes the Lively to Port Mahon to find Stephen, but learns that he is being held by French troops, and leads a party to rescue him, and take them all back to England. Jack is distressed to find out that the sum of the prize money was reduced because Spain wasn't at war when the galleons were taken. He is arrested but is temporarily spared by Sir Joseph. Ever since Jack had fled the country for debt, Mrs. Williams had forbidden Sophie to talk to him. He believes that she is interested in marrying an Anglican priest, but meeting Sophie, Stephen convinces her to go see Jack secretly before he takes command of his new ship HMS Surprise. Jack and Sophie meet in a coach in the middle of the night, and promise to marry no one else. Jack is given HMS Surprise and is ordered to ferry an ambassador to the East Indies. Upon getting underway, half of the crew become sick with scurvy and the ship is forced to put into Brazil to receive fresh fruit.

As the journey continues the Surprise makes a wide turn around the Cape of Good Hope, at the time held by the Dutch who are at war with England. To avoid encounters, Jack navigates into the waters of the Antarctic Ocean and has to weather a severe storm. The ambassador at this time becomes very ill. The Surprise puts into India to refit from the storm and to rest the ambassador. The ambassador dies east of India and the Surprise turns around and sets sail for home. They run into the East India Company's China Fleet on return for England, but unescorted. A day after leaving the China Fleet the Surprise spots a French Squadron cruising the Indian Ocean. Surprise engages the smallest sloop of the squadron, knocking about her sails, then takes command of the China fleet. He paints the largest as men-of-war and sends some of his officers to help them fight. The French squadron closes on the Surprise and the large Indiamen. The Surprise turns and engages the largest French warship, the 74-gun ship of the line Marengo, and is exchanging broadsides with the heavier ship when one of the Indiamen is able to engage the French ship from the other side, forcing her to disengage and the entire French squadron is forced to flee to refit.

Jack is allowed to transport jewels as freight which gives him a significant cut of the profit as a reward. Jack acts as Stephen's second when he fights Richard Canning over Diana (who Stephen asked to marry). Canning dies and Stephen is wounded. With Jack's and the ambassador’s surgeon's help, Stephen operates on himself, removing the bullet. Jack sails the Surprise home, after sending ahead for Sophie so that he may marry her now that he is out of debt. Within a day’s sailing, Jack overtakes an English frigate in the night and finds that Sophie is aboard. She refuses to marry him then but promises that once they return to England, she will.

He and Sophie marry and have two twin girls, this is a bit of a disappointment, as he had his heart set on a boy, but is still happy none the less. When Aubrey is ordered to take command, (as Commodore) of a small squadron of ships in Cape Town, and sails south from Portsmouth with one ship, to take command of the squadron, and sail them to the Cape of Good Hope. He is charged with taking the islands of Mauritius and La Réunion. He is given command of the 38-gun frigate HMS Boadicea. The wife of one of his captains, Lady Clonfert, seeks passage with Aubrey to enable her to join her husband but Aubrey is not keen on this and contrives to leave early one morning without her. After sail weeks of sailing he takes the Hebe, and sends her home with an old Lt, with letters.

On arrival, Aubrey meets Admiral Bertie and also has to contend with the disparate characters of his captains. One of these is Lord Clonfert, a minor member of the Irish aristocracy who has political influence, and who served with Jack Aubrey whilst out in the West Indies. They were involved in an action together and he had some reservations at the time about Clonfert's courage. Another is Captain Corbett who is a harsh disciplinarian and drives his men almost to the point of mutiny. Barett Bonden, usually Aubrey's coxswain, and Preserved Killick request permission to join Aubrey once more, particularly as Bonden was given fifty lashes for an unpolished firing piece on his cannon.

After a long campaign the British fleet wins and Jack sails home with dispatches. At home once again a captain, his mother in law thinks he has been demoted (commodore is a temporary rank). He is saved when he is ordered to take the HMS Leopard with transported convicts aboard bound for Australia. Sophie convinces Stephen to get Jack to go for two reasons, one because of Jack's situation with the family is worsening because of Mrs. Williams, and to help Stephen get over Diana. The captain is forced to drop the sick crew members at Recife, Brazil to receive treatment. This leaves Aubrey with James Grant as his new first lieutenant - considered a good seaman but with little experience of warfare, and occasionally rebuked by Aubrey for countermanding his orders. The Waakzaamheid, a Dutch 74 cuts them off near the Cape of Good Hope, and forces Jack to sail to Cape Horn. After many days of running downwind, the Waakzaamheid steadily gains on the Leopard and starts firing with her starboard chaser. Aubrey returns fire with his two brass nine pounders and a lucky shot shoots away the Waakzaamheid's foremast, she is capsized by a huge wave and sinks with all 600 hands.

Being east of the Cape, the Leopard sets sail for Australia. The ship stops near an iceberg to take on ice to replace her jettisoned water but unfortunately is struck, damaging the rudder and causing a severe leak. After trying for several days to keep it afloat by pumping, Grant finally asks permission to leave the ship in the cutter once the water reaches the orlop deck. He and the hands are given permission to leave the ship. The Leopard continues running east pumping all the time and finally is able to find a safe harbour in a bay of Desolation Island.

While there, Aubrey has the ship repaired but because he has no forge, cannot complete the repair of the rudder. An American whaler sets into the bay for supplies. They are suspicious of the British, especially since it is the Leopard, the same ship under a different commander, had attacked the unprepared USS Chesapeake to recover fugitive British hands. The Americans, however, are suffering from scurvy - and their captain from a septic tooth - so they agree to have Maturin treat them in exchange for the use of their much-needed forge.

Aubrey and his much reduced crew limp into harbour in the Dutch East Indies. He reports to the admiral on station, Admiral Drury, who he has known on and off for the last twenty years. Aubrey finds he is to relinquish the much diminished Leopard, now only good enough to be used as a transport ship, and return to Portsmouth. Jack and the Leopards ship in HMS La Fleche for the voyage back, commanded by Captain Yorke. The ship catches fire and Jack leads the Leopards in a long boat. They row at sea for weeks before they are rescued by the Java, already laden with passengers headed for Bombay and commanded by Captain Lambert.

The Java engages the USS Constitution and loses. Jack is taken along with the officers to Boston. Once in Boston, Aubrey convalesces from his wounds in Dr Choate's hospital for "lunatics" waiting for the next prisoner exchange. He is caught unawares when, amidst this type of "unhinged" patient, as Jahleel Brenton of the Navy Department starts to quiz him about the behaviour of the Leopard and its dealings with the US merchantman, the Alice B. Sawyer. Jack helps Stephen escape with Diana to the sea as he won't be exchanged for awhile.

They manage to rendezvous with the thirty-eight gun frigate, Shannon, entering the outer harbour on blockade duty and are taken on board. As his water supplies aboard the Shannon are coming to an end, Captain Broke - a cousin and childhood friend of Jack's - writes to Captain Lawrence, the commander of the thirty-eight gun Chesapeake lying in harbour, challenging him to come out and fight. The Chesapeake, already in the process of weighing anchor, comes out in apparent pursuit of Aubrey and engages the Shannon. The Shannon's crew has had long years of practice at her great guns, aptly demonstrated to Jack Aubrey in practice, and the resultant clash brings about the British Navy's first victory in the war (having already lost three frigates).

The Shannon sails to Halifax with her prize. Jack, along with Stephen and Diana (who is pregnant by Henry Johnson, an American spymaster) start their return journey to England aboard a packet ship. Two American privateer schooners - commissioned by Harry Johnson - pursue the packet ship across the Grand Banks until one of them fortuitously hits an iceberg.

After returning home he comes to find that his three children, have little memory of him, and are scared of him at first. This passes, however, just in time for Jack to be given the Arial, a sloop and takes Maturin to persuade the Catalan garrison of the fortress at Grimsholm to defect. Aboard the Ariel, Aubrey manages to capture the Minnie, a swift Danish privateer cum merchantman, after a day long chase. Once Stephen Maturin and British hands are aboard, they pretend to give chase to her in order to deceive the Spanish garrison. The next morning, the Catalan troops and their colonel are loaded aboard the transport ships and Jack sails them to a warm welcome back at base from Admiral Sir James Saumarez.

Later during a storm, Jack sees the Jason pursuing a French two-decker, the Meduse. He fires at the two decker trying to help, and slows her down in time for both ships to flee. After two nights of dark, stormy weather the Arial finds herself fifty miles off course in Gripes Bay with the wind dead on shore. Aubrey attempts to club-haul her but the Ariel ends up on the Thatcher and he has to beach her on the shore. After a brief period of imprisonment in Brittany, Jack, Stephen and Jagiello are taken to Paris, accompanied by a Monsieur Duhamel. Imprisoned in the Temple, Aubrey attempts to break out down the immense stone privy as Stephen is interrogated by French officers. Duhamel (who has been aiding Stephen) gives Stephen some English newspapers to read and Jack learns from the Naval Chronicle that Ajax defeated the Meduse off La Hogue which buoys up his spirits enormously.

It also turns out that Diana Villiers has given her great diamond, the Blue Peter, to a Minister's wife to help secure their release. Just as Jack breaks through the privy, four Frenchmen enter their prison cell - D'Anglars, Duhamel, a foreign ministry official and a cloaked officer. After agreeing terms, the prisoners are taken down to two carriages and spirited out of Paris (accompanied by Diana who has lost her baby) to a waiting cartel at Calais, the Oedipus commanded by William Babbington.

Jack returns to his home with Sophie, and the kids. During the visit, Jack is given command of the HMS Worcestor, and is ordered to join the blockade off Toulon under the command of Admiral Thornton (an admiral of the white). The ship soon settles into the blockade routine, with some of the crew improvising a choir and the midshipmen's berth acting out Hamlet. The only trouble is when Jack has a run-in with his drunken aristocratic third lieutenant, Somers, for missing stays and has him transferred to another ship.

Commands Edit

During the series of novels, Jack Aubrey commands a large number of vessels. Most of them are ships of the Royal Navy, prefixed HMS. On one occasion he commands an Honourable East India Company Ship, and for some time Surprise is a hired vessel working for the Royal Navy (HMHV).

He also served on several ships as a Midshipman, and a Lt. One was the Agamemnon.

Notes and References Edit