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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Shaw   3 October 1865

Admiral FitzRoy Testimonial Fund. | 55, Charing Cross, London, S.W.1

Oct. 3d. 1865


I have to acknowledge the receipt of your kind note requesting a statement of the objects of the “FitzRoy Testimonial”, & the largest amount subscribed in one sum.— 2

In consequence of Admiral FitzRoy haveing expended the whole of his patrimony, amounting to £6100, & which was never reimbursed to him;—3 three children by his first wife—two of them daughters, the son a young Lieut. in the Navy, with nothing but his pay—are literally without means.—4

Mrs. FitzRoy (his second wife) & her young daughter5 have a small provision under her marriage settlement.— It is therefore contemplated to raise by this fund a provision for the family of the late Admiral FitzRoy.—

The largest amount at present subscribed is £100 & the smallest ten shillings. I regret I have not a printed statement to send, but I hope the information I have given is what you require6   I may add that the £3,000 granted by Government will do no more than pay the existing debts.

I have the honour to be | Sir, | Your obedient Servant | Charles Shaw | Hon Sec.

Charles Darwin Esq | &c &c &c


The Post Office London directory 1865 lists the ‘Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution’ and the ‘Welsh Charity School, Charles Shaw, esq. sec’ at 55 Charing Cross. Evidently, Shaw used his business address for the Admiral FitzRoy Testimonial Fund.
CD’s letter has not been found. Robert FitzRoy committed suicide on 30 April 1865 (DNB; see also letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865, letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 May [1865], and letter from B. J. Sulivan, 8 May [1865]).
FitzRoy had used his own funds to hire vessels and equipment to support his official missions, expecting the outlay to be reimbursed by the government. In 1833, for example, he had bought a large schooner in the Falklands Islands (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 30 March – 12 April 1833 and n. 8). For more on FitzRoy’s expenditures and the Admiralty’s refusal to reimburse him, see Mellersh 1968, pp. 104–6, 130–6.
FitzRoy had three daughters, Emily-Unah, Fanny, and Katherine, from his first marriage, to Mary Henrietta O’Brien. Emily-Unah died in 1856 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865 and n. 4). His only son, Robert O’Brien FitzRoy, entered the navy in 1853, and became a captain in 1872 (Modern English biography).
FitzRoy married Maria Isabella Smyth, his second wife, in 1854. They had one daughter, Laura Maria Elizabeth FitzRoy (Burke’s peerage 1878, s.v. Grafton, duke of).
CD recorded a payment of £100 to ‘Admiral Fitz Roy Testimonial’ under the heading ‘Charities’ in his Classed account book (Down House MS), on 4 October 1865.


Burke’s peerage: A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom. Burke’s peerage and baronetage. 1st– edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1826–.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Mellersh, Harold Edward Leslie. 1968. FitzRoy of the Beagle. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.

Modern English biography: Modern English biography, containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850. By Frederick Boase. 3 vols. and supplement (3 vols.). Truro, Cornwall: the author. 1892–1921.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Admiral FitzRoy’s daughters by his first marriage have been left without means. The largest subscription to the fund has been £100.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Shaw
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Admiral FitzRoy Testimonial Fund, London, Charing Cross, 55
Source of text
DAR 177: 147
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4908,” accessed on 26 September 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13