Monday, 16 March 2009

Matthew Flinders Chess Set (1810)

Matthew Flinders Chess Set (1810):
Full size image ... here
[Courtesy State Library of NSW]

Matthew Flinders RN (1774-1814), the famous cartographer and navigator, was born in Donington, Lincolnshire, England. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 years, at least partly as a result of being "induced to go to sea against the wishes of my friends from reading Robinson Crusoe". Flinders is remembered for suggesting the name of Australia, for what was then known as Terra Australias, though the name was only gradually taken up over the next 10 years after his death. As a mariner, he sailed at one time with the infamous William Bligh.

Matthew Flinders attempted to return to England in 1803, on the schooner Cumberland, but was forced to dock in French-controlled Mauritius for repairs. Unfortunately war had broken out between Britain and France (1803-1814, one of the Napoleonic Wars). The French governor of Mauritius, Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, detained Matthew Flinders on the island until 1810.

During his detention Flinders was taught the game of chess by a M. Chazal. The diaries of Flinders document many chess playing sessions whilst on Mauritius. Before leaving the island he was presented with a chess set (pictured above) by M. Labauve (source).

Matthew Flinders (1774-1814)

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