Christian was descended from a very prominant family. He was born at the farmstead of Moorland Close on 25 Sep 1764, and was carried over the hill to nearby Brigham church for baptism the same day. Not far from Cumbria's Lake district, Moorland Close sits on the summit of a gentle hill that slopes down to the river Derwent and the town of Cockermouth. Moorland Close was inherited from the family of Christian's mother.
The family had control of several other properties. Christian's father was born and raised at Ewanrigg in Cumberland, and his mother's mother, Mary Fletcher, was raised at Cockermouth Hall. The ancestral properties also included lands at Douglas on the Isle of Man, and it was this connection that suggests that Christian was a Manxman.
According to Bligh, Christian was 5 feet 9 inches tall, with very dark-brown complexion, dark-brown hair, strong-made, bowlegged, of a nervous disposition, and subject to violent sweating. He had a star tattooed on his left breast. He has been described as having a pleasing countenance and was a commanding figure. No picture of him exists. The above rendition is an artist's conception.
He was distantly related to William Wordsworth. A schoolmate, the local poet Isaac Wilkinson, described him as 'mild, generous, open, humane, sincere, and quick of spirit'. In general, even his detractors admit that he had a likeable personality.
The fortunes of his family, unfortunately, suffered serious reversal. His father died, and his mother was soon on the edge of bankruptcy, with Moorland Close about the be foreclosed. Christian, at an age where he welcomed adventure, went to sea at 18, signing as ship's boy the 'Cambridge', on which Bligh was 6th Lieutenant. He later took two trips with Bligh to Jamaica on the 'Britannia'.
It is interesting to compare the opinions of the way he was treated. Bligh felt that all his attempts to prepare the young man for eventual command were rejected. The crew, especially among the older officers and petty officers, felt that Bligh gave him too much special treatment. Christian himself felt more severely put upon by his commander than he had apparently ever felt in the past.
His conduct, especially after the mutiny, indicate that he was thin-skinned, mercurial, and emotional. Here was a man who felt he had ability, but any criticism made him question his own worth. Did he feel insecure among the older officers, being treated by a commander not too much his senior as a youngster? Would he have fared better with a stronger commander who might have forced him to sink or swim? We will never know.
There is little doubt that his feeling for Maimiti in large part, convinced him to take the ship. They were, unquestionably, the most monogamous couple on Pitcairn. His 'English' name for her, Isabella', reflected his feelings for his cousin, Isabella Curwen. Had circumstances been different, one might have expected him to jump ship, which indeed he contemplated at one point, and make his life alone in the south seas. He was not a man who craved company, a loner who could have been a successful island entrepreneur. As it was, fate was not his ally.