James Fitzjames


James Fitzjames was a hero of the early nineteenth-century Royal Navy. A charismatic man with a wicked sense of humour, he pursued his naval career with wily determination. When he joined the Franklin Expedition at the age of 32 he thought he would make his name. But instead the expedition completely disappeared and he never returned. Its fate is one of history’s last great unsolved mysteries, as were the origins and background of James Fitzjames – until now.

Fitzjames packed a great deal into his thirty-two years. He had sailed an iron paddle steamer down the River Euphrates and fought with spectacular bravery in wars in Syria and China. But Fitzjames was not what he seemed. He concealed several secrets, including the scandal of his birth, the source of his influence and his plans for after the Franklin Expedition.

In this first complete biography of the captain of the HMS Erebus, William Battersby draws extensively on Fitzjames’ personal letters and journals – most never published before – as well as official naval records, to strip away 200 years of misinformation and half-truths and enables us to understand for the first time this intriguing man and his significance for the Franklin Expedition.


The book thoroughly engaged me if naval history or the Franklin Expedition are your interests, youll want to add James Fitzjames to your collection.

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal

"... the book thoroughly engaged me ... and if naval history or the Franklin Expedition are your interests, you'll want to add James Fitzjames to your collection."

Chronicle-Journal (September, 2010)

"The book is painstakingly researched and well written."

Alberta History (January, 2010)

"Battersby provides convincing answers ... he uncovers the true and compelling story of a very remarkable self-made adventurer."

Maclean’s (September, 2010)

" a well crafted, highly readable biography. It will appeal not only to those intrigued by the fate of the Franklin expedition, but also to naval historians with a focus on the Royal Navy in the first half of the 19th century, and to members of the general public with a taste for mysteries."

(March, 2011)

"This engrossing book by William Battersby is well worth reading."

BC History (October, 2011)

This well-written book is a bravura example of what might be termed forensic history and a rewarding read for anyone interested in the social history of the Royal Navy

The Northern Mariner

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