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Fletcher Christian 25 September 1764 – 20 September 1793
Fletcher Christian
Mutiny on the Bounty
Fletcher Christian (25 September 1764 – 20 September 1793) was a master's mate on board the Bounty during William Bligh's fateful voyage to Tahiti for breadfruit plants (see Mutiny on the Bounty). It was Christian who seized command of the Bounty from Bligh on 28 April 1789.
Christian was born on 25 September 1764, at his family home of Moorland Close, Eaglesfield near Cockermouth in Cumberland. Fletcher was the second youngest son of Charles Christian of Moreland Close in Eaglesfield, near Cockermouth, and of Ewanrigg Hall in Dearham, Cumberland, an attorney-at-law descended from Manx gentry, and his wife Ann Dixon.
Charles' marriage to Ann brought with it the small but respectable property of Moorland Close, "a quadrangle pile of buildings ... half castle, half farmstead." Charles died in 1768 when Fletcher was not yet four. Ann proved herself grossly irresponsible with money. By 1779, when Fletcher was fifteen, Ann had run up a staggering debt of nearly £6,500 (equal to £697,277 today), and faced the very real prospect of debtors' prison. Ultimately Moorland Close was lost, and Ann and her three younger children were forced to flee to the Isle of Man where English creditors had no power. The three elder Christian sons managed to arrange a £40 (equal to £4,291 today) per year annuity for their mother, allowing the family to live in genteel poverty. In the meantime, Christian had spent seven years at the Cockermouth Free School from the age of nine. While there, one of his younger contemporaries was Cockermouth native William Wordsworth.
He next appears in 1783, now eighteen years old, on the muster rolls of HMS Eurydice outward bound for a 21-month voyage to India. The ship's muster shows Christian's conduct was more than satisfactory because "...some seven months out from England, he had been promoted from midshipman to master's mate". Christian twice sailed to Jamaica with Bligh.

In 1787, Christian was appointed master's mate on the Bounty, on Bligh's recommendation, for the ship's breadfruit expedition to Tahiti. During the voyage out, Bligh appointed him acting lieutenant. The Bounty arrived at Tahiti on 26 October 1788, and Christian spent the next five months there.
The Bounty set sail with its cargo of breadfruit plantings on 4 April 1789. Some 1,300 miles west of Tahiti, near Tonga, mutiny broke out on 28 April 1789, led by Christian.
Following the mutiny, Christian attempted to build a colony on Tubuai, but there the mutineers met with conflict with natives. Abandoning the island, he stopped briefly in Tahiti where he married Maimiti, the daughter of one of the local chiefs, on 16 June 1789. While on Tahiti, he dropped off sixteen crewmen. These sixteen included four Bligh loyalists who had been left behind on the Bounty and two who had neither participated in, nor resisted, the mutiny. The remaining nine mutineers, six Tahitian men, and eleven Tahitian women then settled on Pitcairn Island where they stripped the Bounty of all that could be floated ashore before Matthew Quintal set it on fire. This sexual imbalance, combined with the effective enslavement of the Tahitian men by the mutineers, led to insurrection and the deaths of most of the men.
The American seal-hunting ship Topaz visited Pitcairn in 1808 and found only one mutineer, John Adams (who had used the alias Alexander Smith while on the Bounty), still alive along with nine Tahitian women. The mutineers who had perished had, however, already had children with their Tahitian wives. Most of these children were still living. Adams and Maimiti claimed Christian had been murdered during the conflict between the Tahitian men and the mutineers. According to an account by a Pitcairnian woman named Jenny who left the island in 1817, Christian was shot while working by a pond next to the home of his pregnant wife. Along with Christian, four other mutineers and all six of the Tahitian men who had come to the island were killed in the conflict. One of the four surviving mutineers fell off a cliff while intoxicated and was killed, and Quintal was later killed by the remaining two mutineers after he attacked them.
John Adams gave conflicting accounts of Christian's death to visitors on ships that subsequently visited Pitcairn. He was variously said to have died of natural causes, committed suicide, gone insane, and been murdered.
Christian was survived by Maimiti and his son, Thursday October Christian (born 1790). Besides Thursday October, Fletcher Christian also had a younger son named Charles Christian (born 1792) and a daughter Mary Ann Christian (born 1793). Thursday and Charles are the ancestors of almost everybody with the surname Christian on Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands, as well as the many descendants who have moved to Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
Rumors have persisted for more than two hundred years that Christian's murder may have been faked, that he had left the island, and that he made his way back to England. Many scholars believe that the rumors of Christian returning to England helped to inspire Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
There is no portrait or drawing extant of Fletcher Christian that was drawn from life. Bligh described Christian as "5 ft. 9 in. high [175 cm]. blackish or very dark complexion. Hair - Blackish or very dark brown. Make - Strong. A star tattooed [sic] on his left breast, and tattooed on the backside. His knees stand a little out and he may be called a little bow legged. He is subject to violent perspiration, particularly in his hand, so that he soils anything he handles".
Fletcher Christians House
Fletcher Christians House
Map showing Bounty's movements in the Pacific Ocean, 1788–1790
Map showing Bounty's movements in the Pacific Ocean, 1788–1790
Voyage of Bounty to Tahiti and to location of the mutiny, 28 April 1789
Movements of Bounty after the mutiny, under Christian's command
Course of Bligh's open-boat journey to Coupang
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