Fletcher Christian

25 September 1764 – 20 September 1793

Fletcher Christian

The Bounty Chronicles / John Hagan

It’s a tale that has inspired Hollywood blockbusters, and one that still has a great many questions unanswered to this day. What drove Fletcher Christian to commit the shocking act of mutiny against his ship’s Captain, William Bligh, whilst the two sailed the Pacific Ocean aboard the HMS Bounty?

Was he acting against a tyrannical bully, or opting out of the righteous living standards required from the Navy in order to pursue a hedonistic lifestyle on an island paradise? Was it love or power that inspired him? And how much did William Wordsworth know about Christian’s final resting place?


Fletcher Christian was born in the small village of Eaglesfield, just outside of Cockermouth, in September 1764. He was the son of Charles Christian, and Ann Dixon, who had inherited a large estate in the area. Christian spent his early life in Cumbria, attending Cockermouth School along with William Wordsworth. However, his father died when he was four and his mother ran up large debts, resulting in her taking the family to the Isle of Man when Christian was 15.

Christian joined the Royal Navy when he was 17, and spent a brief period serving on the same frigate as William Bligh. When he completed his navy service in 1785, he joined the merchant navy, once more accompanying William Bligh, who was then Captain of the Britannia. Christian impressed Bligh with his hardworking attitude, and consequently, when Bligh was tasked with taking HMS Bounty to the pacific for trade in 1787, he made Christian his Master’s Mate, before later promoting him to Acting Lieutenant.

In October 1788, the ship arrived at Tahiti, and the crew spent around five months there, cultivating plants to bring back to the UK. During that time, Christian met and fell in love with a Tahiti native, whom he renamed Isabella. After leaving Tahiti, at the end of April 1789, Christian led a group of dissatisfied crewmembers in a mutiny that would see Bligh and several other members of crew forced off the ship and onto a small boat. Bligh would eventually return to the UK, whilst Christian fled to the then uninhabited island of Pitcairn, taking with him several crew and some Tahitian women, including Isabella. He was reportedly killed September 1793 by a group of disgruntled Tahitians.


The questions regarding Christian’s motivations have inspired storytellers to put their own spin on the tale, with books, films, and even a musical taking inspiration from the events. Some commentators have suggested that Christian was inspired to mutineer as a result of his reluctance to leave Tahiti and return to the strict regime of the ship, whilst others suggest that it was in response to Bligh’s increasingly harsh punishments and unrealistic expectations regarding the work his crew could do. As a result, Fletcher Christian has been portrayed as both a villain and a hero.

Today the island of Pitcairn is still largely inhabited by the descendants of the mutineers and Tahitians.

Links to the Lake District

Fletcher Christian was born just outside of Cockermouth, and attended Cockermouth School at the same time as William Wordsworth. He reportedly fell in love with Isabella Curwen of Windermere, but she rejected him in favour of his cousin. It’s thought that he would later name his Tahitian bride after his first love.

There remains some mystery surrounding Christian’s death, with a grave never being identified. There were apparently some sightings of the man in Plymouth after his reported death, suggesting that he may have returned to the UK. This idea has been fueled by both Wordsworth and Coleridge who made references to Christian that suggested that they had met him in their later years.

Sites of Interest

Cockermouth, where Fletcher Christian spent his first 15 years, is a delightful town with an array of independent shops. You can also visit the birthplace of William Wordsworth here.