|Date of Birth:|
|Billets:||Gibraltar, Captain to Laetificat|
Portland was a tall, thin man with severe features and a hawkbill nose, who looked rather dragon-like himself. He was captain to the Regal Copper Laetificat. As Berkley explained to Laurence at the Loch Laggan covert, the Aerial Corps only got four or five Regal Coppers in a generation and Aerial Command did not "leave it to chance who mans 'em." Thus, the fact that Portland had been assigned to Laetificat suggested that he was highly regarded.
At the time Laurence met Portland in early 1805, Portland was a senior captain at the Gibraltar covert, the nearest covert to Madeira, where the HMS Reliant had delivered Temeraire - barely in time, as the three-week-old dragon was already outgrowing the frigate. Once Captain James aboard the courier dragon Volatilus had delivered this news from naval Admiral Croft to Gibraltar, Portland, Laetificat and their crew arrived in less than 24 hours.
As a longstanding member of the Aerial Corps, Portland was used to hearing the contemptuous remarks of naval officers and crew and, since the Corps' code forbade duelling, having to ignore them. This did not also mean that he had to like them. Furthermore, there were various aspects of life in the Corps which they were reluctant to disclose to outsiders. These included the presence of female officers; the fact that a dragon, Celeritas, held the post of training master at the Loch Laggan covert; and more generally, the fact that dragons were neither the brute beasts of burden nor the savage predators that the general public seemed to imagine.
Considering these factors, it was not surprising that Portland was initially reluctant to accept a naval officer of some thirty years as captain of a rare heavy-weight dragon. Instead, Portland sent Laurence away - making at least some attempt to be polite about the matter - and had Lieutenant Dayes, the chief of his riflemen, make an attempt to gain Temeraire's acceptance. Temeraire's blunt refusal placed Portland in a bad situation. Not knowing Laurence personally, he had no way of knowing whether or not Laurence would be willing to return. Portland must have been in some measure relieved that Laurence responded so quickly that he arrived without his overcoat and that the first thought on his mind was that something might have happened to Temeraire.
It probably helped that following a confrontation with the disappointed and angry Dayes, who had to be removed from the room on Portland's orders, Laurence expressed his own disapproval of naval personnel who uttered "disparaging words against any division of His Majesty's armed forces." He was also willing to accept the apology Portland offered and promised to accept Dayes' apology, when it might be offered. After this, Portland became more friendly.
As there was a dragon transport from Nova Scotia on its way to Britain less than a hundred miles away, Portland and Laetificat proposed to escort Laurence and Temeraire to it. As a full-grown female Regal Copper, Laetificat was large enough to support the young Celestial long enough to give him a breather if he tired during the flight.
This was Laurence's first experience of the pace of events in the Aerial Corps. He was used to waiting for the tide to turn before a ship could depart and therefore having time to pack things carefully in his sea chest. Portland, however, was puzzled that it would take Laurence longer than twenty minutes to pack and suggested instead that he throw the rest of his things into a few bags, both chest and bags to be loaded into Laetificat's belly-netting. Laurence finally realized that this was what lay behind the generally rumpled appearance of aviators, which up until that point he had imagined to be due to some advanced technique of flying.
By the spring on 1807, Laetificat had been stricken with the Dragon Plague. It was thought that she would not last the summer if a cure could not be found. Admiral Lenton had been removed as commander-in-chief of the Channel Division and admiral at the Dover covert following the death of his dragon Observaria and a stroke. Portland would have been in line for the position, but Laetificat could not make the trip, and he would not leave Gibraltar without her. Jane Roland was made admiral at Dover instead, a step the Admiralty was reluctant to take due to the fact that she was a woman.