John Granby

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Character Profile

Name: John Granby
Date of Birth: c. 1780
Service: Aerial Corps
Rank: Captain
Nationality: British
Billets: Actionis
Temeraire, first lieutenant
Iskierka, captain


John Granby originally came from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England, where he was the third son of a coal merchant. After his mother was widowed, she could not afford to keep all of her sons at home, so Granby was given to the Aerial Corps for training at the usual age, seven. He grew up into a tall, lanky man, with dark hair and pale skin that was almost always sunburnt from spending so much time in the air.

Granby had already served as an officer on four other dragons when he first met William Laurence at the Loch Laggan covert, Celeritas having told Laurence that Granby would show him around the covert. Granby's most recent assignment had been aboard Laetificat, where Lt. Dayes was chief of the riflemen. Dayes was quite irate after Temeraire refused his attempt to replace Laurence as Temeraire's captain. Apparently out of friendship with Dayes, Granby was initially quite hostile to Laurence. When Laurence insisted that he at least show the respect due from a lieutenant to a captain, Granby retaliated with insolently exaggerated "respectful" behaviour.

However, Granby was also obviously the best qualified of the candidates available for Temeraire's first officer. Laurence was torn, as he wanted the best for Temeraire but knew that he would not be able to tolerate Grandy's insolence in his first lieutenant. This conflict was resolved when, during a training exercise, Temeraire and Maximus were called on to fly to Aberdeen to assist Victoriatus, who had been wounded and needed the support of the two heavy-weights to reach Loch Laggan.

Temeraire, being a faster flyer than Maximus, reached Victoriatus first. While he was positioning himself beneath the wounded dragon, Victoriatus unintentionally clawed him, giving him some gashes but also almost severing the shoulder strap of his harness. Granby and the other officers were bandaging the gashes when Laurence noticed the harness about to give and, unlocking his own carabiners, climbed out along Temeraire's shoulder to effect a temporary repair using his lookouts' personal harnesses. He had just completed this task and alerted Granby to send for Fellowes, the harness master, when Victoriatus shifted position, throwing Temeraire off balance and in particular, causing his shoulder to dip so that Laurence began to slide off. Temeraire was faced with a choice between saving Laurence and saving Victoriatus and the other dragon's crew - which for Temeraire, was no choice at all. He would certainly have let the other dragon fall in order to save his captain.

Fortunately, Granby - who unlike Laurence was clipped to the main harness - was able to reach Laurence in time for the captain to lock on to Granby's harness until the midwingmen could reach them and pull them to safety.

After Temeraire and Maximus successfully brought Victoriatus back to Loch Laggan, Laurence was initially reluctant to leave his wounded dragon. Even though the gashes were shallow, it was the first time Temeraire had been physically hurt, and Laurence took it quite hard. It was Granby who, after delivering a preliminary report to Celeritas, collected some of the other officers, brought them out to Temeraire's clearing and quietly pointed out to Laurence that he was covered in dragon's blood and needed to bathe, eat something hot and sleep in a bed.

It was on the basis of this incident that Laurence set his reservations aside and offered Granby the post of first lieutenant. Granby apologized for his past behaviour, at first stiffly - as if he were trying to copy Laurence's manner of speech - and then more naturally and frankly. After this, all hostilities between the two were set aside, and a genuine loyalty and friendship arose.

One example of Granby's loyalty occurred in late 1805, when Temeraire was grounded due to the demands of the Chinese embassy led by Prince Yongxing. Excidium's first lieutenant, Lloyd, had been pulled from his crew as captain for an egg laid by the flag-dragon, Observaria, which had hardened and was about to hatch. Jane Roland spoke to Granby about taking the vacant post, but he politely refused her. Roland thought at the time Granby had had some word from Laurence that Temeraire was to remain in Britain despite the Chinese demands, but in fact no such hope existed, and Laurence was dismayed to think that Granby had lost his chance at such a fine post.

However, Granby's loyalty made its own luck. When Lord Barham attempted to arrest Laurence at the Dover covert, Granby led the other officers in forming a defensive line between Temeraire and Laurence on one side and Barham and his Marines on the other, an action that was tantamount to mutiny. After Yongxing demanded that Laurence be sent to China if this was the only way to get Temeraire there, Admiral Lenton arranged for Temeraire's crew - including Granby - to be sent as well in order to spare them the results of their action.

The incident also illustrated something that was to become very typical of Laurence as captain and Granby as his first lieutenant. Captains in the Aerial Corps were supposed to avoid placing their own lives at risk. This was because a dragon would surrender to the enemy to preserve his captain's life and might well run mad if his captain was killed. The other officers, led by the first lieutenant, were responsible for protecting the captain's life.

Laurence, however, had not been brought up in the Corps and was not used to thinking in these terms. Furthermore, his character was such that it was hard for him to sit back and watch others take risks he was not taking himself. Thus, Granby was placed in the position of constantly trying to keep Laurence from getting himself injured or killed. For example, during the Valerie engagement, Granby's first priority was to get Laurence aboard Temeraire so that the two of them could escape to shore. Once aloft, however, Laurence decided instead to attack the two French frigates, the Valerie and the Chanteuse, which were harrying the HMS Allegiance.

(However, during the course of the journey from China back to Britain, Temeraire's crew came into the possession of two dragon eggs. One hatched before their return, and Granby, being the senior officer, became captain of the dragonet, Iskierka.) 

Granby was wounded rather seriously during the Valerie engagement on the journey to China, taking a musket ball in the chest. The ball cracked a rib and he lost a great deal of blood, taking a fever thereafter, but he recovered.

Granby never expected to be trusted with his own dragon, but hoped if he served Britain well enough, his children might rise in the ranks. Iskierka's hatching was thus very emotional for him.

He is formally confirmed as Captain by Admiral Jane Roland upon Temeraire's party's arrival at Dover covert, and Laurence pins his bars.

During Napoleon's invasion of Britain he and his dragon were caught by the French. Iskierka disobeyed orders and convinced the Ferals to fly alone in the direction of French Army to search for prizes. They were spotted by the French and boarded. Granby was caught and taken to the occupied London, to the Kensington Palace. Later, he was freed by Tharkay and Laurence.

After the invasion he was taken to Australia by Iskierka against his will.

Capture of French Prizes

Traditionally the Aerial corps main prizes were dragons of opposing air forces captured through boarding. Given that captured dragons would not be willing to be used in Britain's service, the prize money for these captures was much lower than for an equivalent ship.

During 1807, Iskierka and Granby became the first dragon crew to regularly capture foreign ships, mostly through Iskierka's determination to earn capital to fund the building of a Pavilion. In the process, she made Granby a rich man and forced him to wear extravagant signs of his wealth, such as golden buttons on his coat, golden rings and a gilded sword with a diamond at the pommel.