American History and Genealogy Project


The Soldier Boy of the Revolution Who Whipped the Future King of England

It was the summer of 1774. The Royal George, the flagship of the line, had weighed anchor in the sunlit harbor and, with all sails set, was speeding gaily toward England with her freight of Revolutionary war prisoners in irons. This was the same Royal George, the man-of-war of one hundred and eight guns that, on August 28, 1782, went down while refitting at Spithead. Under strain of shifting her guns, she keeled over and sank with her commander, Admiral Kampenfeldt and nearly one thousand soldiers, marines, visitors, and the usual crew.

The prisoners, whom we see at the time our story opens, taking their airing on deck, were captured on board a privateer which had been doing much dam-age to the King's ships. They were the most note-worthy men on board, unless we except the young heir apparent to the English throne, the Duke of Clarence, son of George HI., or, as he was more familiarly called by both English and Americans, ''The Young Midshipman.''

According to the usual custom in royal families, he was serving his apprenticeship in the King's Navy under the tutelage of the best of admirals, in order to become familiar with danger and acquire the courage requisite for the duties that might come to him later in his career as King of England. He afterwards did become king, on the death of his father, under the title of William IV. His short reign immediately preceded the long and glorious reign of Queen Victoria, his niece and next of kin, in the line of British sovereigns.

We left the prisoners in irons, on the deck under the scornful eyes of the whole ship's crew. Behind them, growing more and more indistinct in the distance, were the primeval forests of the New World. They could still discern in the strong sunlight the King's arrow glistening on the trunk of -many a sturdy tree. The King's arrow! How many things of value it used to claim and set apart for the reigning majesty! Now it is seen nowhere except on the course, green, prison garb.

Presently the strong young voice of the Duke of Clarence could be heard speaking insolently of the ''rebels" and the land of the rebels, they were leaving behind.

Young Nathan Lord, a rebel and a leader of rebels, like the brave hero that he was, turned as quickly as his shackles would permit, and said, ''If it were not for your rank. Sir, I would make you take that back."

''No matter about my rank," said the royal middy, ''I am ready to fight. If you can whip me, you are welcome to."
So ''standing over a tea-chest," as the tradition has it, ''They had a famous fight, with nobody to interfere," for the English, whatever may be their faults, do love fair play and Nathan Lord, a youth from Berwick, won.

The royal middy shook hands, admitted that he was fairly beaten, asked Lord's name and home and promised not to forget him. The sequel proves that the word of the next King of England was as good as gold and would be honored always at its face value.

When they reached England and anchored in the harbor which was their destination, all the prisoners of war were marched to prison to join other earlier captives in the war. There was one exception, Nathan Lord. He was summoned by the Admiral, who told him that his Grace, the Duke of Clarence, son of his Majesty, the King of England, begged his pardon and had left a five pound note at his disposal, which he was free to use to take him home to the Colonies, for his Grace could never think of holding, as a prisoner of war, a man who could whip him.

The brave, sturdy Berwick boy lost no time in getting home and joining his blessed rebels, with whom he did good service. The following year he joined Benedict Arnold's famous expedition to Quebec. He died there in 1775 in young manhood, not as he would have chosen, in battle line, his face to the foe, but from wasting disease, contracted in a noisome, polluted prison.

Fanny E. Lord

Source: Maine My State, The Maine Writers Research Club, The Journal Print Shop, Lewiston, Maine, 1919

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