Corrections and errors in James Fitzjames’ biography

There were a number of errors in the book.


The biggest is the mis-identification of his mother. At the time of publication I had proof that his father was Sir James Gambier. I knew that Sir James was British Consul General to the Portuguese Court in exile in Rio de Janiero from 1808 to 1814. Assuming that the date of James Fitzjames’ birth, stated on his Baptismal Certificate to have been July 27th, 1813, I drew the conclusion that James Fitzjames must have been born in Brazil and therefore that his mother was probably Brazilian or Portuguese. A reasonable deduction, but I could not have been more wrong!


Another error was the incorrect identification of James Fitzjames’ grandmother. Clarification came from Patrick Marioné, of the very interesting ‘Age of Nelson’ website, who kindly sent me the email below:

“Dear Mr Battersby, “Your book is very interesting and I think that you solved the mystery. Just a remark : you give the mother of Sir James Gambier as Mary Ruck. Admiral Gambier married thrice. He first married Mary Ruck of Bethanger, Kent, and by that lady who died in 1763, aged 40, in Ripple, Kent, he left no children. He secondly married Jane, daughter of Colonel Montpeson (or Monpesson) of London, and by that lady who died on 27 Mar 1785, he left two sons and two daughters. The second was Sir James Gambier (yours). His first son was Lieutenant John Gambier, RN who died in 1789. He thirdly married on 8 January 1787, in Bath, Somerset, Sarah, daughter of the Rev Dr Newcombe, DD, Dean of Rochester, and by that lady he left no children. “Regards,Patrick Marioné ——————— Website”

Admiralty House, not Somerset House

A silly mistake was to confuse Admiralty House with Somerset House. On page 162 I describe the famous dinner held by the Admiralty on Thursday 8th May, 1845 for Franklin, Crozier and Fitzjames before they sailed. Famous because the guests included all the eminent figures of early ninteenth century polar exploration. Unfortunately, I assumed it took place at Somerset House, whereas in fact it seems to have taken place at Admiralty House.

Death of William Coningham.

A careful reader for pointing out a transcription error on my part. On page 183 I give the date of William Coningham’s death as 1881. In fact that was the date Elizabeth Coningham his wife died. Coningham died in 1884.

Baffin Bay, not David Strait

A further confusion was the incorrect use of the description ‘Davis Strait’ for what should correctly be called ‘Baffin Bay’.