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From Midshipman

Lieutenant 28 Oct 1780
Commander 21 Sept 1790
Captain 4 Jun 1791


H.M.S. Barfleur
H.M.S. Resolution
H.M.S. Salisbury
H.M.S. Beaulieu
H.M.S. Romney

a 50-gun 4th Rate of 1047 T


H.M.S. Scourge

brig-sloop only had 8 guns

H.M.S. Guardian
Royal Yacht

Princess Augusta

H.M.S. Discovery

on Cook's Third Voyage

299 tons

H.M.S. Gange
H.M.S. Rose

sixth rate ship

H.M.S. Amazon

Killed on board



-on the H.M.S. Barfleur, flagship of Sir Thomas Pye [q.v.], at Portsmouth

-on the H.M.S. Romney in the Newfoundland station with Vice-Admiral John Montague (1776-78 Governor of Newfoundland and commander-in-chief, on the North America station)

- joined theH.M.S. Discovery on Cook's Third Voyage as a midshipman with Captain Charles Clerke [q.v.] traveling along the west coast of Canada , whom he followed to the H.M.S. 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 H.M.S. Scourge in the West Indies, and on 3 Feb. 1782 was ill discharged from duty to the Royal Navy Hospital Haslar, Portsmouth. also see

- From April 1783 to June 1784 he was serving in the H.M.S. Ganges guardship at Portsmouth; and, after nearly two years on half pay, was appointed in March 1786 to the H.M.S. 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 H.M.S. 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 H.M.S Rose frigate,The original "HMS" Rose was built in Hull, England in 1757 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 H.M.S. Beaulieu of 40 guns; but his health gave way, and he was invalided.

He afterwards commanded the Royal Yacht Princess Augusta named after King George III's mother in law, Princess Augusta.

- in July 1799 commissioned the H.M.S. Amazon frigate, which in 1801 was attached to the fleet sent to the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker (1739-1807) [q.v.], He 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 H.M.S. 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).

Killed in action April 2, 1801

in the Battle of Copenhagen