Jack Aubrey

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John "Jack" Aubrey
First appearance Master and Commander
Last appearance 21 or The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey
Created by Patrick O'Brian
Portrayed by Russell Crowe
Nickname(s) Lucky Jack, Goldilocks
Occupation Naval Officer
Title Rear-Admiral
Spouse(s) Sophie Aubrey
Children Charlotte, Fanny, George, Sam Panda
Relatives Several

John "Jack" Aubrey, JP, MP, FRS[1][2] is a fictional character in the Aubrey–Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian. The series portrays his rise from lieutenant to rear-admiral in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The twenty (and one incomplete draft)-book series encompasses Aubrey's adventures and various commands along his course to flying a rear admiral's flag. He starts as a lieutenant, depressed, poor and without a ship until he is given his first command: a fourteen-gun brig-rigged sloop, HMS Sophie.

Most of his naval battles and adventures are drawn from actual Royal Navy history.[1] Several of his exploits and reverses, most importantly those in the plots of Master and Commander, The Reverse of the Medal and Blue at the Mizzen,[1] are directly based on the chequered career of Thomas Cochrane: as his friend the botanist and surgeon Stephen Maturin mused, "There was something of Cochrane in Jack, a restless impatience of authority, a strong persuasion of being in the right."[3]

Throughout the books, Aubrey is presented as interested in maths and astronomy, a great lover of music and player of the violin, and is generally accompanied by his friend and shipmate Stephen Maturin on the cello. Aubrey is particularly fond of the music of Corelli and Boccherini. He is noted for his mangling and mis-splicing of proverbs, sometimes with Maturin's involvement, such as “Never count the bear’s skin before it is hatched” and “There’s a good deal to be said for making hay while the iron is hot.” [4]

Aubrey is played by Russell Crowe in the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and by David Robb in the BBC Radio 4 adaptations of the novels .

Education and Early life[edit]

In Master and Commander, Aubrey attributes his education to "Queeney," who returns into his life unexpectedly, now the wife to Lord Keith; she is the historic Hester Maria Elphinstone, Viscountess Keith, and in her mother the reader will recognize the historic Hester Thrale.[5] Her family had occupied Damplow, a house adjoining General Aubrey's estate ("they were almost in our park"), and Jack learned mathematics and Latin from her.[5]

Early career[edit]

This section covers the career of Aubrey before the Aubrey-Maturin series, for more information on that period, see the individual books.

Like many officers in the British fleet, Aubrey spent much of his life raised on the sea, joining the navy very early: he was on the books at the age of nine and at sea when he was twelve. While a midshipman aboard HMS Resolution commanded by a friend of General Aubrey's, Captain Douglas, Jack was turned before the mast for hiding a girl aboard the ship.[6] He spent six months as a common seaman before being re-rated as a midshipman.[6] This was when Lord Keith was still Captain Elphinstone,[6] therefore pre-1797.

Aubrey also spent some time as fifth lieutenant aboard HMS Hannibal (in service 1786–1801), under Captain John Newman.[6] There, after insulting the first lieutenant, he was put in front of a board, with Lord Keith upon it, which reprimanded him for his "petulance," which led to Aubrey spending eight months ashore with half pay.[6]

While second lieutenant aboard HMS Foudroyant (1798), Aubrey was the leader of the prize crew for the Généreux when she was captured by Nelson's fleet in 1800.[7]

Ships commanded by Jack Aubrey[edit]

During the series of novels, Jack Aubrey commands a succession of many different 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), and the Franklin is a privateer Jack Aubrey captures and uses for a brief time before he sells it. Nutmeg of Consolation's status is undefined, as she belongs to Stamford Raffles, the Governor of Batavia.

Ship Rate Guns Main armament Book Notional year End of commission Fictional?
HM Sloop Sophie Brig-Sloop 14 4 lb Master and Commander 1800 Captured = HM Sloop Speedy
HM Sloop Polychrest Sloop 24 32 lb carronades Post Captain 1803 Sunk (structural failure) Yes
HMS Lively 5th 38 18 lb Post Captain 1804 Temporary command No
HMS Surprise 6th 28 12 lb HMS Surprise 1805 Paid off No
HMS Boadicea 5th 38 18 lb The Mauritius Command 1809 Transferred to Raisonnable No
HMS Raisonnable 3rd 64 24 lb The Mauritius Command 1809 Monsoon season; transferred back to Boadicea No
HMS Leopard 4th 50 24 lb Desolation Island 1811 Converted to transport No
HM Sloop Ariel Sloop 16 6 lb The Surgeon's Mate 1813 Sunk after striking reef No
HMS Worcester 3rd 74 32 lb The Ionian Mission 1813 Converted to shear hulk following storm damage Yes
HMS Surprise 6th 28 12 lb The Ionian Mission 1813 Temporary command No
HEICS Niobe 9 lb Treason's Harbour 1813 Temporary command Yes
HMS Surprise 6th 28 12 lb The Far Side of the World 1813 Paid off, then sold out of service No
HMS Diane 5th 32 18 lb The Thirteen Gun Salute 1813 Grounded on a reef, then destroyed by storm Yes
Nutmeg of Consolation 6th 20 32 lb carronades The Nutmeg of Consolation 1813 Returned to governor, transferred to Surprise Yes
HMHV Surprise 6th 28 12 lb Clarissa Oakes 1813 Transferred himself to Franklin No
Privateer Franklin 22 24 lb carronades The Wine Dark Sea 1813 Transferred himself back to the Surprise Yes
HMS Bellona 3rd 74 32 lb The Commodore
The Yellow Admiral
1813 Paid off No
HMS Pomone 5th 38 18 lb The Hundred Days 1815 Transferred to HMS Surprise No
HMS Surprise 6th 28 12 lb The Hundred Days 1815 Damaged in collision, then sent in for repairs No
HMHV Surprise 6th 28 12 lb Blue at the Mizzen 1815 Promoted: raised Flag on HMS Suffolk No
HMS Suffolk 3rd 74 32 lb The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey 1817 was sold in 1816


  1. ^ a b c Patrick O'Brian (1978). Desolation Island. United Kingdom: Collins. ISBN 9780393308129. 
  2. ^ The Nutmeg of Consolation, Ch.10.
  3. ^ H.M.S. Surprise, Ch.5.
  4. ^ Jan Harold Brunvand. 2004. “The Early Bird Is Worth Two in the Bush”: Captain Jack Aubrey’s Fractured Proverbs. What Goes Around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life, Kimberly J. Lau, Peter Tokofsky, Stephen D. Winick, (eds.), pp. 152-170. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.
  5. ^ a b "Dr Johnson - Dictionary Johnson was a great friend of theirs, until their mother ran off and married an Italian, a Papist. Queeney was wonderfully upset at having a Papist to her father-in-law, as you may imagine." Master and Commander, pp.164–165 (Norton ed.).
  6. ^ a b c d e Master and Commander, pp.162–163 (Norton ed.)
  7. ^ Post Captain, p.250 (Norton ed.)


  • Patrick O'Brian (2003). Master and Commander (Norton ed.). New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-32517-2.