Captain Peter Heywood, 1772-1831

A half-length portrait slightly to the left wearing a captain's full-dress uniform (over three years seniority), 1812–25. 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 ‘Pandora’s box’ – the special cell on deck in which they were confined - were drowned when ‘Pandora’ was herself 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. Two years later, still a midshipman, he was captain’s aide-de-camp in Lord Howe’s flagship ‘Queen Charlotte’ at the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794, being promoted by him to acting lieutenant that August, which was confirmed in March 1795. From 1796 to 1800 he was on the East Indies Station where he did good work as a surveyor. (His later standing in this area was shown in 1818, when he was offered the position of Admiralty Hydrographer: he declined but his recommendation secured the appointment of the more celebrated Francis Beaufort.) Heywood became a captain in 1803, seeing much subsequent service in South America – where he also did important surveys – and the Mediterranean. In 1810, in the ‘Nereus’, he was entrusted with bringing Admiral Lord Collingwood’s body home from there for burial. In 1813 he was appointed to command the 'Montagu' in the North Sea and afterwards in the Mediterranean under Lord Exmouth, until July 1816. This was his last service. On 31 July 1816 he finally married Frances Joliffe, a widow with a young daughter. They had no children but he was attached to his stepdaughter (Diana) and greatly encouraged her marriage to Captain Edward Belcher RN in 1830.

A Tahitian vocabulary that he compiled after the ‘Bounty’ trial was of considerable use to missionaries sent there from 1796. This portrait was painted well into his retirement and was shown at the Royal Academy in 1822. Simpson, the artist, was an assistant to Sir Thomas Lawrence and in the 1820s a friend of the theatre and marine painter Clarkson Stanfield, whom he also painted at least twice (BHC2339). The Heywoods were early patrons of Stanfield at that time so there is a connection between all of them, although not yet fully clear.

Object Details

ID: BHC2766
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Simpson, John
Date made: 1822
People: Heywood, Peter
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Painting: 762 mm x 635 mm; Frame size: tbc

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