36 free quilt blocks, one a week with a guide to Jane Austen's England and posts about the people in her life.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Block 13: Crosses & Losses for Charles Austen

13 Crosses & Losses for Charles Austen by Becky Brown 

Charles John Austen 1779-1852

Jane Austen’s youngest brother followed Francis Austen into the Royal Naval Academy in 1791 and into the French Revolutionary Wars three years later. The Austens were fortunate their sailor and soldier brothers survived the French wars without significant injury. Like Frank, Charles established a distinguished naval career in the early 19th century and rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral during the Victorian age.

Captain Frederick Wentworth's financial prospects
improved considerably due to prizes. Illustration by 
Hugh Thomson from the 1898 edition of Persuasion 

Charles's real-life story became plot in Jane’s novels Mansfield Park and Persuasion where sailors benefit financially from “prizes.” The British Navy encouraged enlistment and aggression through these bonuses, sharing the bounty of a captured ship with the underpaid sailors.

The Endymion, sketch by Admiral Sir Charles Paget in 1809. 
She was the fastest English ship of her day.

Charles was assigned to the British frigate Endymion, whose mission was to capture enemy ships, particularly privateers carrying trade goods (some of it captured from other ships). The goal was to board the ship and confiscate both ship and cargo for England. Ships might be sold or refitted as British vessels.

Charles’s early moment of glory came about 1800 in pursuit of French privateer Scipio, a new, swift ship that provided an "arduous Chace” until a storm came up. Charles was one of five who took advantage of poor visibility to sneak up on the Scipio in a small boat and capture her for England. Charles held the vessel overnight until the crew from the Endymion could back them up.

"Taken as a prize in the Revolutionary War from an English vessel."
Note stitched to the back of an 18th-century quilt now in the U.S.
See more:

Crosses & Losses by Bettina Havig

Charles's monetary prize from this adventure was rather small (the Scipio was carrying little cargo) but with his share the young man bought gifts for his older sisters.

Jane wrote to Cass:

"Charles has received £30 for his share of the privateer, and expects £10 more; but of what avail is it to take the prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his sisters? He has been buying gold chains and topaz crosses for us. He must be well scolded."

Those gold chains and crosses can be seen at the Jane Austen Chawton House Museum. Persuasion's fictional sailor brother William Price gives Fanny Price a “very pretty amber cross.”

A French fashion plate shows similar jewelry
in 1814.

Later in the wars Charles was posted the West Indies from 1805 to 1811 where he continued to win prizes enabling him to afford marriage. In Bermuda he met the family of John Palmer, late attorney-general of the Island, and married Fanny Palmer in 1807.

Frances Fitzwilliam Palmer Austen,
Charles's first wife, painted 1809-10 by
Robert Field 

She lived at sea with him and died on a ship at 24 years of age after giving birth to her fourth daughter seven years later. The three surviving girls went to live with their Aunt Harriet Ebel Palmer. In 1820 Charles married Harriet.

Rear-Admiral Charles Austen
Charles died in what is now Myanmar of cholera 
during the 1852 world-wide epidemic of the 
often-fatal digestive infection.

Crosses & Losses by Becky Brown

We can celebrate France's loss of the Scipio to Charles Austen and his gift of jeweled crosses with Crosses and Losses, given the name by the Kansas City Star in 1929.

BlockBase # 1313

Cutting a 12” Block

A -  Cut 4 squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 8 triangles.

B – Cut 4 squares 3-1/2”.

C -  Cut 2 squares 6-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 4 triangles.


Crosses & Losses by Dustin Cecil

Read the account of the jeweled crosses and the Prize by Jane and Cassandra's nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh in his 1869 A Memoir of Jane Austen here:

The Endymion on the right

During the English/U.S. branch of the Napoleonic Wars known as the War of 1812, the Endymion engaged with the U.S. President in the 1815 battle in which American Commodore Stephen Decatur was killed. Charles was captain of another ship by then.

Read Sheila Johnson Kindred’s essay The Influence of Naval Captain Charles Austen’s North American Experiences on Persuasion and Mansfield Park by clicking here:


  1. Love Crosses and Losses. I opened up my EQ and made an entire quilt pattern of it. I'll add it to the flickr group. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I am completely in love with this quilt, its concept, and the story of Jane Austen's family. It is completely enthralling and utterly fascinating! Thank you for the hard work you and the quilters have put into it!

    Just a note: William and Fanny Price are characters in Mansfield Park, not Persuasion, which is Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth.

  3. Really enjoy all the links you give to addditional Austin-related history. Just a brief note. My brother is a re-enactor of Commodore Stephen Decatur. Decatur was not killed in the 1815 battle aboard the USS President as stated under the last photo above. After a fierce fight with the British ship Endymion lasting several hours (during which both the Endymion and the USS President were damaged), Decatur reluctantly surrendered as there were four remaining British ships he would have to fight. Decatur's command suffered 24 men killed and 55 wounded, a fifth of his crew. Decatur himself was wounded by a large flying splinter. Five years later he was challenged by Commodore James Barron to a dual and subsequently killed on March 8, 1820 by Barron. You can read much more here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Decatur