Tom Riley

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Character Profile

Name: Tom Riley
Date of Birth:
Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Captain
Nationality: British
Billets: HMS Belize, Third Lieutenant
HMS Reliant, Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain
HMS Allegiance, Captain


At the time the Amitie was captured in early 1805, Riley was second lieutenant to Capt. William Laurence on the Reliant. Riley had been with Laurence since 1797, when he was a midshipman, including service aboard the HMS Belize as third lieutenant to Laurence. He and Laurence had a good relationship; had it been up to Laurence, Riley would have been his first lieutenant rather than Gibbs.

As Gibbs had been assigned to take the Amitie into port, Riley was the ranking officer on the Reliant when Temeraire was hatched, and Laurence breveted him to captain. He commanded the Reliant from January to October 1805, when the ship sailed with Nelson's fleet and took part in the blockade at Cadiz prior to the Battle of Trafalgar. The Reliant was seriously damaged in a storm following the battle, and Riley found himself a captain without a ship, and without seniority or influence in the Admiralty to help him obtain a new command. At Laurence's suggestion, he sought and won command of the Allegiance, which transported Laurence, Temeraire, and their crew to China.

Riley had fair, freckled skin, and tended to telegraph his emotions on his face.

Riley's father had plantations in the West Indies that used several hundred slaves. Lord Allendale once named Riley's father as one of several men who "disgrace the name of Christian, and blight the character and reputation of their country." As Riley was much closer to his father than Laurence was to Lord Allendale, this put a great strain on their relationship for a time. The idealogical division caused further distress during the course of their journey to China.

Laurence and Riley were further torn apart on their second journey. Upon return from China, Riley was once again pressed into the service of the Aerial Corps. This time the HMS Allegiance was bound for Africa, to find a cure for the dragon plague. However, Laurence brought Rev. Josiah Erasmus and his family aboard the ship, since the Reverend wished to become a missionary in Africa. As as freed slave, the Erasmuses presence was unacceptable to Riley. Laurence and Riley clashed over the treatment of Mrs. Erasmus on the day they set sail. Laurence believed she deserved greater attention as a lady, and Riley made it clear he did not consider her a lady.

Because of their rift, Catherine Harcourt is forced to act as a go between for Riley and Laurence. She becomes close to Riley. And when she announces that she is pregnant, Laurence is shocked to learn that the child is Riley's.