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Captain Peter Heywood (1773–1831)

Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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A half-length portrait facing slightly to the left wearing a captain's full-dress uniform (over three years seniority), 1812–1825. As a midshipman Heywood sailed with Lieutenant William Bligh in the 'Bounty' in 1787. During the famous mutiny in 1789 his behaviour was ambiguous. Despite his own claims to being asleep when it happened, he knew of Fletcher Christian’s plans to desert and did not show himself sufficiently loyal to Bligh to avoid later trial. He did not wish to join Bligh when the latter was cast adrift in the over-crowded ship’s launch and, with the loyalists for whom there was also no room, went to Tahiti with the ship. They remained there when the hard core of mutineers sought remoter refuge in the ‘Bounty’, eventually on Pitcairn Island. On the arrival of the pursuing frigate 'Pandora', Heywood immediately joined her but, with the rest of those that Captain Edwards swept up on Tahiti, he was brutally and indiscriminately treated as a mutineer. Four of the group, unable to escape in time from the cell on deck in which they were confined, were drowned when ‘Pandora’ was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. In 1792 the survivors were tried by court-martial at Spithead and Heywood was condemned to death. He was, however, well defended and well connected, and obtained a Royal Pardon through the interest of Lord Chatham and was reinstated in his career.

National Maritime Museum





oil on canvas


H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm

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