Tom Riley

From TemeraireWiki
Revision as of 01:06, 28 November 2008 by Rose (talk | contribs) (Biography)

Jump to: navigation, search

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


Tom Riley was an officer in the Royal Navy, a longtime friend and colleague of William Laurence. In appearance, he had fair, freckled skin, and tended to telegraph his emotions on his face.

Riley's father owned substantial plantations in the West Indies, including Jamaica, and several hundred slaves to work them. Riley himself owed no small portion of his personal wealth to these plantations. He was also deeply attached to his father. This initially put him at odds with Laurence, whose father Lord Allendale was a staunch abolitionist and had mentioned Riley's father by name in the House of Lords, as one of the slaveowners who "disgrace the name of Christian, and blight the character and reputation of their country."

Riley quite naturally resented this public insult. Laurence, on the other hand, was not particularly attached to his father personally but did share Lord Allendale's abhorrence of slavery. The two men never made peace on this subject but simply came to an unspoken agreement not to discuss it.

At the time the Amitie was captured by the HMS Reliant in January 1805, Laurence was captain and Riley was second lieutenant. Riley had been with Laurence since 1797, when he was a midshipman, including service aboard the HMS Belize as Laurence's third lieutenant. Had it been up to Laurence, Riley would have been first lieutenant of the Reliant rather than Gibbs, who had been imposed on Laurence by the Admiralty.

As first lieutenant, Gibbs was assigned to take the Amitie into port, with the expectation that he would be confirmed as her captain. Thus, Riley was the ranking officer aboard the Reliant when Temeraire hatched and chose Laurence as his own captain, effectively removing Laurence from the Navy to be pulled into service in the Aerial Corps. Laurence took advantage of this opportunity to brevet Riley to captain, a promotion that was eventually confirmed by the Admiralty despite Admiral Croft's desire to give either the Reliant or the Amitie to some favourite of his own.

 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'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.

As a consequence of the pregnancy Harcourt and Riley are married on board the HMS Allegiance on it's return trip from Cape Town to Britain.