Riou, Edward (DNB00)

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RIOU, EDWARD (1758?–1801), captain in the navy, after serving in the Barfleur, flagship of Sir Thomas Pye [q. v.], at Portsmouth, and in the Romney with Vice-admiral John Montagu on the Newfoundland station, joined the Discovery as a midshipman with Captain Charles Clerke [q. v.], whom he followed to the Resolution. On his return to England he passed his examination on 19 Oct. 1780, being then, according to his passing certificate, upwards of twenty-two. On 28 Oct. 1780 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He was then appointed to the Scourge in the West Indies, and on 3 Feb. 1782 was discharged from her to Haslar hospital. From April 1783 to June 1784 he was serving in the Ganges guardship at Portsmouth; and, after nearly two years on half pay, was appointed in March 1786 to the Salisbury, flagship of Rear-admiral John Elliot at Newfoundland. In November 1788 he was again placed on half pay, but in April 1789 was appointed to command the Guardian, a 44-gun ship, ordered out to Sydney with stores, cattle, and convicts. The Guardian sailed in the autumn, and on 24 Dec., being then in lat. 44° S. and long. 41° E., fell in with a huge iceberg or ice-island, from which Riou determined to fill up his water. But, approaching it for that purpose, the ship struck heavily on a point which extended a long way under water, and on getting off appeared to be sinking. Next day Riou sent away the boats with as many men as they could hold, to endeavour to reach the Cape of Good Hope, distant more than four hundred leagues. After nine days they were picked up by a French merchant ship, and were safely landed at the Cape on 18 Jan. The position of Riou, meantime, was one of extreme danger, from the state of the ship, the violence of the weather, and the unruly temper of the convicts. But courage, seamanship, and tact overcame all difficulties, and after a voyage almost without a parallel, the Guardian sighted the Cape on 21 Feb. 1790, and was towed into Table Bay by boats sent out to her assistance. She was then run on the beach and became a complete wreck. Riou returned to England, where he was immediately promoted to the rank of commander, and to that of captain on 4 June 1791.

In 1793 he was appointed to the Rose frigate, one of the squadron which, in November, sailed with Sir John Jervis (afterwards Earl of St. Vincent) [q. v.] for the West Indies, where she was present at the operations against Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1794. In 1795 he was moved into the Beaulieu of 40 guns; but his health gave way, and he was invalided. He afterwards commanded the Princess Augusta yacht, and in July 1799 commissioned the Amazon frigate, which in 1801 was attached to the fleet sent to the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker (1739–1807) [q. v.], took the commander-in-chief and Lord Nelson in to examine the defences of Copenhagen on 31 March, and on 1 April led the detached squadron through the narrow channel by which it advanced. During the night of 1 April Riou was in almost constant attendance on Nelson; and in the last instructions prior to the battle of Copenhagen the frigates and small craft were placed under his orders, ‘to perform such service as he is directed by Lord Nelson.’ When the battle began, in consequence of three of the English ships having got on shore, the Crown battery was left unopposed. Riou, with the frigates, endeavoured to fill the void, but their feeble armament was no match for the battery's heavy guns, and they suffered great loss. Riou himself was severely wounded in the head by a splinter, but was sitting on a gun-carriage encouraging his men when a cannon-shot cut him in two. From Parker's letter reporting his death (Nicolas, iv. 320) it appears that he was not married, and that his mother was still living. Riou is described by Brenton as having all the qualities of ‘a perfect officer.’ Nelson, who had no acquaintance with him before 31 March, was much struck by the discipline of the Amazon, and conceived an immediate affection for him. ‘In poor dear Riou,’ he wrote, ‘the country has sustained an irreparable loss’ (ib. vii. p. ccv). Parliament voted a monument to his memory in St. Paul's; and in literature his name will live as ‘the gallant good Riou’ of Campbell's ballad.

[List Books and Official Papers in the Public Record Office; Brenton's Naval Hist. i. 90; Naval Chronicle, v. 482; Nicolas's Nelson Despatches, iv. 302–30.]

J. K. L.