Jack Aubrey

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John Aubrey[1] is usually known as Jack Aubrey in the Aubrey-Maturin series. One of two primary protagonists of the series, Aubrey begins the series as a Royal Navy lieutenant in Port Mahon, Minorca, in Master and Commander.

In the opening scene, Aubrey is at a concert at Governor's House in Port Mahon. He is described as "Between twenty and thirty whose big form overflowed his seat...with the silver medal of the Nile in his buttonhole...while his bright blue eyes, staring from what would have been a pink-a-white face if it had not been so deeply tanned gazed fixedly at the bow of the first violin." (Norton pg 7) He is nicknamed Goldilocks by his crew due to his long yellow hair.


Family background and childhood

Jack Aubrey is the oldest son of General Aubrey of Woolcombe in the County of Dorset. His family has been lords of the manor for generations. In The Surgeon's Mate he is said to have been 'a seventeen-year-old master's mate' on board HMS Resolution at the time of an action near Brest, and this would imply that he was born in 1774 or 1775, since such an action could only have taken place after the declaration of war against France in 1793; however, elsewhere he is said to have already gained his commission as lieutenant in 1792, and this suggests that he was born soon after 1770. His mother died when he was a small child and he was cared for by his cousin Queenie Keith. His education was intermittent, although a few Latin tags remained with him into maturity. Philip Broke, afterwards captain of HMS Shannon, was a childhood friend.

Early career

While a midshipman aboard Resolution, Captain Douglas had disrated Aubrey and turned him before the mast where he spent some months as a foremast-hand. He originally tells Maturin that the cause of his disrating was that he kept a girl[2] in the cable tier. In The Reverse of the Medal, however, Captain Goole, who was himself a midshipman on Resolution at the time, tells his wife that it was due to another liberty Aubrey took with the rule. "He stole most of the captain's dish of tripe by means of a system of hooks and tackles."[3]

Besides Resolution, Jack served as midshipman on HMS Namur.[4] Other incidents from this part of his career include a duel with Heneage Dundas, who nonetheless remained a lifelong friend, and a period when he was disrated and sent to serve among the forecastle hands. As lieutenant, he took part in the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797) on board the Orion and in the Battle of the Nile (1798) on the Leander; it was this occasion which brought him into contact with Nelson.

In the Canon

SPOILER WARNING:  Plot or ending details for "series"  follow.

Highlights of his life and career as presented in the canon:


  1. O'Brian, Patrick. Treason's Harbor.(c)1983. W.W. Norton and Company, New York, NY; p. 173: Aubrey signs his letter home "your most affectionate husband, Jno Aubrey." Jno was the common abbreviation for John at the time.
  2. O'Brian, Patrick. The Reverse of the Medal. (c)1986 First published as a Norton Paperback 1992. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, NY: p. 36
  3. Ibid.: p. 13
  4. O'Brian, Patrick. The Far Side of the World. (c)1984 by William Collins Sons & Co., Ltd. Published as a Norton Paperback 1992: p. 373
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