Peter Heywood

Peter Heywood (6 June 1772 – 10 February 1831) was a British naval officer who was aboard HMS Bounty during the mutiny of 28 April 1789, in which he took part. He was later captured, tried and condemned to death as a mutineer, but subsequently pardoned. He resumed his naval career and eventually retired with the rank of post-captain, after 29 years of honourable service.

The son of a prominent Isle of Man family with strong naval connections, Heywood joined Bounty under Lieutenant William Bligh at the age of 15 and, although unranked was given the privileges of a junior officer. Bounty left England in 1787 on a mission to collect and transport breadfruit from the Pacific, and arrived in Tahiti late in 1788. Relations between Bligh and certain of his officers, notably Fletcher Christian, became strained, and worsened during the five months that Bounty remained in Tahiti.

Shortly after the ship began its homeward voyage Christian and his discontented followers seized Bligh and took control of the vessel. Bligh and 19 loyalists were set adrift in an open boat; Heywood was among those who remained with Bounty. Later, he and 15 others left the ship and settled in Tahiti, while Bounty sailed on, ending its voyage at Pitcairn Island. Bligh, after an epic open-boat journey, eventually reached England, where he implicated Heywood as one of the mutiny's prime instigators. In 1791 Heywood and his companions were captured in Tahiti by the search vessel HMS Pandora, and held in irons for transportation to England. The subsequent journey was prolonged and eventful; Pandora was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, four of Heywood's fellow prisoners were drowned, and Heywood himself was fortunate to survive.

Heywood was court-martialed and with five others was sentenced to hang. However, in Heywood's case the court recommended mercy, and he was pardoned by King George III. In a rapid change of fortune he found himself favoured by senior officers, and after the resumption of his career received a series of promotions that gave him his first command at the age of 27 and made him a post-captain at 31. He remained in the navy until 1816, building a respectable career as a hydrographer, and then enjoyed a long and peaceful retirement. The extent of Heywood's true guilt in the mutiny has been clouded by contradictory statements and possible false testimony. During his trial powerful family connections worked on his behalf, and he later benefited from the Christian family's generally fruitful efforts to demean Bligh's character and present the mutiny as an understandable reaction to an unbearable tyranny. Contemporary press reports, and more recent commentators, have contrasted Heywood's pardon with the fate of his fellow prisoners who were hanged, all lower-deck sailors without wealth or family influence.

Read more about Peter HeywoodEarly Life, Notes and References

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