William Babbington

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William Babbington was notably short of stature and short of teeth, both perhaps the result of ill-health brought on by his obsessive (and frequently successful) pursuit of women, even at a young age. In later years, he formed a strong and permanent attachment to Fanny Harte, the daughter of Admiral Harte, Jack Aubrey’s most persistent service enemy, and the wife of Andrew Wray, an important Admiralty official. Upon at least one occasion, Fanny was heard to refer to Babbington as "Charles", which she later explained as being a nickname derived from a masked ball where Babbington dressed as Bonnie Prince Charlie (and Fanny had impersonated a Highland sheep). There was a marked affection between Jack Aubrey and William Babbington, which perhaps could be characterized as almost a father-son relationship.

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

Naval career with Jack Aubrey

William Babbington was among the most loyal of Jack Aubrey's followers. They first met in 1800 when Babbington was a young, but sexually precocious, midshipman aboard the brig HMS Sophie, Aubrey’s first command. Babbington followed Aubrey as a midshipman into HMS Polychrest and HMS Surprise; in the latter ship, Aubrey appointed Babbington as an acting lieutenant (1805), the promotion later being made permanent after the ship's arrival in India. Babbington returned to serve under Aubrey's direct command as a lieutenant in HMS Leopard (1812), loyally staying with Aubrey when the ship seemed on the verge of sinking after a collision with an iceberg. Babbington accompanied Aubrey on HMS LaFleche as passengers on a voyage intended to return them to England, but LaFleche burned in an accident, resulting in Aubrey, Babbington, and others adrift in a small boat in the South Atlantic. They were rescued by HMS Java in time to take part in that ship's disastrous encounter with the USN Constitution. As a prisoner of the American Navy, Babbington was repatriated to England for exchange.

Naval career after serving under Jack Aubrey

After being repatriated to Endland, Babbington was promoted to commander in HMS Sylphide and then given command of HMS Oedipus, a cartel ship assigned to make Channel crossings between England and France. In that role, Babbington again encountered Jack Aubrey, in company with Stephen Maturin and Diana Villiers, escaping from French custody. During the voyage across the Channel to England, Babbington in his capacity as ship's captain performs a marriage ceremony for Stephen and Diana.

Babbington next met Jack Aubrey, by this time captain of HMS Worcester in the Mediterranean, as commander of the sloop HMS Dryad, narrowly escaping death at the hands of the French in an ambush at the port of Medina. Some years later, Babbington again encountered Aubrey as commander of the sloop HMS Tartarus in the English Channel, where he rendered crucial aid to Aubrey in a cutting out action intended to bolster Aubrey's chances for reinstatement to the Navy List. Aubrey had been reluctant to ask Babbington’s assistance out of concern that this could harm Babbington’s prospects for promotion to post captain, but was relieved to find that Babbington had already been promised promotion to that rank because of his family connections (this political influence notwithstanding, Babbington had consistently shown himself to be a brave capable sea officer on numerous occasions).

Babbington’s career following his promotion to post captain is not detailed in the Aubrey-Maturin novels but, thanks to Babbington's family connections, it can be safely assumed that he found steady employment throughout the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars.

Babbington was an avid and skilled amateur cricketer. He was especially close to Stephen Maturin, who not infrequently indulged Babbington with loans of money and with needed medical care, connected with his encounters with women.

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