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Title: A Short History of the Royal Navy 1217 to 1688

Author: David Hannay

Release Date: September 2, 2014 [EBook #46754]

Language: English

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1217 TO 1688






It has been my endeavour in this book to give a popular, but clear and not inaccurate, account of the growth, and services, of the Royal Navy. I have not attempted a general maritime history of England. This, which would include the rise and extension of commerce, discovery, much scientific matter and much legislation, would be the life-work of a Gibbon or a Hume. Such a task would be far beyond my powers, even if circumstances, which need not be specified, did not refuse me command of the time needed for so great an undertaking.

I am not unconscious that a landsman deals with sea affairs at a certain risk. He has, in Southey's phrase, to walk among sea-terms "as a cat does in a china pantry." He is liable to discover, from the criticism of a sailor, that he has made a fleet sail within two points of the wind—a disaster which it was once my lot to undergo. Perhaps only long professional experience will save a writer from such errors. If, as is only too probable, there are some in this book, I can but beg for the favourable consideration of the friendly reader.

The present volume ends at that dividing line in our history, the Revolution of 1688. Another will give the history of the great struggle with France and her dependent allies, which began in 1689, and ended only when the time of great naval wars was over—for at any rate the larger part of a century, if not for ever. The main subject of the present volume, apart from the formation of the naval service, is the less known, but not less important, and assuredly not less arduous, struggle with Holland.

I have made it the rule to adopt the accepted spelling of names—to write Monk, not Monck; Raleigh, not Ralegh; Hawkins, not Hawkyns. Matthew Arnold once gave it as his reason for not adopting a reformed system of spelling classical names, that he would not pass his life in a wilderness of pedantry in order that his children might attain to an orthographical Canaan. That Hawkins used a "y" where we use "i" in his name, as in other words, therein following the custom of his time, does not seem to me to be any reason for departing from the practice of the language as it is to-day.




Introduction—The Mediæval Navy 1
I. The Navy of the Tudors till the Accession of Elizabeth 33
II. Reign of Elizabeth to the Defeat of the Armada 73
III. From the Armada to the Death of the Queen 116
IV. James I. and Charles I. 146
V. The Navy in the Civil War 180
VI. The First Years of the Commonwealth 195
VII. The First Dutch War 230
VIII. The Latter Half of the War 256
IX. The Protectorate 276
X. The Navy under Charles II. 299
XI. The Second Dutch War to the Four Days' Battle 334
XII. From the Four Days' Battle till the End of the War 364
XIII. The Algerine Pirates and the Third Dutch War 398
XIV. The Last Years of the Stuart Dynasty 444
Index 465



Authorities.—Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas has made an exhaustive collection of all the evidence as to the history of the Royal Navy in the Middle Ages, in the only two volumes published of his History of the Royal Navy from the Earliest Times to the Wars of the French Revolution. It is the basis of this Introduction. Captain Burrows' Cinque Ports, in the Historical Towns Series, supplements Sir H. Nicolas.

A glance at a globe turned so as to bring the British Isles directly under the eye will at once reveal the most effective of all the material causes which have made them the seat of the great naval power among nations. It is the unrivalled advantage of their position. They lie between the Old World and the New, with free access to the great ocean, surrounded by seas, which, though stormy, are not unmanageable. Their coasts are never blocked by ice. No long intervals of calm varied by mere puffs of wind reduce sailing ships to immobility, and limit their size by imposing on them the necessity of relying on the oar. Steam has freed maritime war and commerce from dependence on the wind, but the naval power of England was created during the ages of the sailing ship. Steam, too, has only made the benefit of [2]free access to the ocean if possible more valuable. It is commonly said that an island is peculiarly fitted to be the seat of a naval power, and no doubt freedom from the perpetual risk of invasion by land is a material advantage. Immunity from that danger has saved us from the necessity for expending our resources on armies, which crippled Holland, exhausted Spain, and has hampered France. But it must be remembered that the great maritime powers of antiquity and the Middle Ages were on the mainland round the Mediterranean, not on the islands. Again, it is clear that if, in the place of Ireland, there lay to the immediate west of us any great bulk of territory too strong to be conquered, too alien to be absorbed, our insular position would not have saved us from being much confined, if not wholly shut in. But to the west of us lies the Atlantic Ocean, the beginning of the road which leads to wealth and empire all over the world. No power can block our way thither while we exercise even equal strength on water.

Before full advantage could be taken of our position, three conditions had to be fulfilled. These islands had to become the seat of an organised State, and to cease from being merely the field in which hostile races were fighting for the mastery. The weapon of sea-power, which is the seaworthy and sea-keeping ship, had to be created. The New World had to be opened to the enterprise of the Old, and the globe to be explored. Ages passed before these conditions were fulfilled.

The maritime history of the country divides itself into three periods. First, there are the ages during which the people was being formed and the weapon forged. This may be said to extend from the first beginnings to the accession of the House of Tudor. At that date, when, be it noted, the Portuguese were exploring the sea route round Africa to the east, and Columbus was leading Spain to America, there was still much to be done in the work of consolidation within, and in the perfecting of the ship; but a vessel had been made which could sail the world round, and in the British Isles it had come to this, that England was [3]predominant, and that for her fellow-islanders the choice was between conquest at her hands, or union on honourable terms. The second period stretches from the accession of the House of Tudor to the close of the seventeenth century, when superiority of power at sea had been fully won. The third, beginning with the Revolution, lasts until our own time. It includes the two hundred years or so during which England, having now united to herself, or conquered, all rivals within these islands, has exercised the power she had won.

A complete history of the maritime power of England would be a vast subject, for it must include the whole story of the growth of her commerce, and her commercial or fiscal legislation. The object of this book is more modest. It is merely to describe in the main lines, and without professing to enter into detail, the growth and action of the Royal Navy—the armed force by which England has protected her commerce, has made her strength felt in the strife of nations, and has first secured, and then defended, her dominions beyond the sea.

The first of the three periods just spoken of may be passed over rapidly. In the earlier ages there was neither the organised State which could wield a navy, nor the ships for it to use. From the days of Julius Cæsar to those of William of Normandy, no invader found effectual resistance for long on water when he was about invading this country. Our own Teutonic fathers, who were raiding on the coast long before they began their permanent settlements, the generals of the Roman emperors who had rebellions to suppress, the "hornets," as Simeon of Durham called them, who swarmed out of Scandinavia, and the Conqueror himself, landed as they pleased, with rare and doubtful exceptions. There was no State so rich and so fully organised as to be able to maintain a permanent navy. How fully this was the case was shown in the fateful year 1066. Harold was undisputed king in England. The House of Godwin was familiar with the use of ships, and possessed not a few. Yet within a few months England was twice invaded from over sea. Harold must have known that the [4]most effectual of all ways of protecting his crown was by preventing the landing of an enemy. But he was compelled to disband his land and sea forces on the Nativity of St. Mary, for want of provisions. No organisation capable of meeting the cost of a permanent navy existed. The ships, too, were but large open boats, seaworthy enough, and even capable of making long voyages, but, when full of fighting men, they could not be stored with provisions, and they could not give cover to their crews. So there could be no blockade, no long months of watching spent at sea, without which a navy can never be used except as a mere means of transport. Hence for centuries it is always the same story. The invader runs into an estuary, or on to an open beach, and marches inland, seizing horses. A battle on land decides whether he is or is not to succeed in his purpose, whether of mere plunder or settlement. The Conqueror himself made so little use of his ships, except to cross the Channel, that he could not prevent the Danish king from hanging on the eastern coast for months.

With the beginning of the thirteenth century there came a great change. The conflict of races was over, State and people were formed in England. On the throne there was a man nearly as able as he was wicked, and he had every motive to make use of his ships to forestall invasions. With King John begins, strictly speaking, the naval history of this country. His predecessors since the Conqueror were masters of both sides of the Channel, and had no need of their fleets except for transport. They might take English ships and seamen with them on their expeditions as far as Syria. Under their powerful rule commerce had increased, and a seafaring class had been formed. But John is the first king of England who effectually used his navy to stop invasion. By 1213 his Continental dominions had been torn from him. Philip Augustus, King of the French, was preparing an invasion, and John well knew that an invader would find friends among his vassals. Being richer and better armed, if not wiser, than Harold, he struck first. A fleet of English ships, under the command of John's half-brother, [5]William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, crossed to Damme, where the ships of the French king were collected, and burned them. The scheme of invasion broke down completely for that time. John's reign ended in anarchy. His rebellious barons brought in a son of the French king, and set him up as sovereign. But the death of the wicked king removed the one valid excuse for the rebellion. The country rallied round his infant son and against the invader. Within four years the ships of England were again used with decisive effect to crush an invasion.

In 1217 Prince Louis and his allies, the barons, had been defeated at the battle of Lincoln, and, being now hemmed in between their enemies and the sea, were in urgent need of reinforcements from abroad. Stores and men were collected for them in Normandy. Eighty ships, besides smaller vessels, are said to have been brought together at Calais, under the command of Eustace the Monk. This man was one of the many mercenary fighters of the time, and had once been in the employment of King John. With this force he put to sea, running before a southerly wind. His intention was to round the North Foreland, and carry his convoy up the Thames to London, which was still held for the barons. If he had succeeded, he might have greatly prolonged the Civil War, but, happily for England, neither the man nor the means to avert the disaster were wanting. Hubert de Burgh, the King's Justiciary and Governor of Dover Castle, was at his post. He appealed to the men of the Cinque Ports, not in vain. "If these people land," he said, "England is lost; let us therefore boldly meet them, for God is with us, and they are excommunicate." Hubert de Burgh saw that the one effectual way of preventing Eustace from doing harm on shore was to beat him at sea before he could land. The man who reasoned like this had grasped the true principle of the defence of England. Sixteen large ships and some smaller vessels were lying in Dover harbour. They were at once got out by the shipmen and fishermen of the town, worthy ancestors of the men who, centuries later, volunteered to fill up the crews of Blake, [6]when he was threatened by Tromp in these very waters. The knights, squires, and men-at-arms of Hubert de Burgh's following made up the fighting crews. Training the yards of the one great square sail which the vessels of that time carried on their single mast, fore and aft, the English squadron kept its luff (the word is used by Matthew Paris), and, standing out to the east, placed itself on the track of the Monk, and between him and Calais.

As Eustace saw the Dover ships apparently standing over to Calais, he came to the not wholly unnatural conclusion that their plan was to plunder the town in his absence. He laughed, for he knew that he had left it well protected. But the intention of Hubert de Burgh was incomparably more courageous and more effective. He had begun, as every English admiral in after time was wont to begin, by manœuvring to secure the windward position, which with sailing ships gives him who holds it the option of attack. As soon as the French vessels had been brought well to leeward, the English turned together before the wind, and, forming what in after times would have been called the line abreast, stood at their utmost speed in pursuit of the enemy. The Monk was completely out-manœuvred. His heavily-laden vessels could not escape pursuit by flight, while they must infallibly be thrown into confusion by the act of turning to face the pursuers. It was no small advantage to the English that their arrows would fly with the wind. So soon as they were within shot, Hubert de Burgh's archers let fly, and the clothyard shafts, or the bolts from the crossbows, came whistling down on the crowded benches of the French ships. All battles then by land or sea were settled at close quarters with cold steel. The English pressed on to board. Where the enemy's ships were caught in the act of turning, they drove into them with the stem, ramming and sinking them. When this more expeditious method could not be practised, the English laid the enemy aboard, throwing quicklime, which the wind blew in the Frenchmen's faces, into the air in the moment of impact. The boarders [7]followed close on the blinding cloud, and the axes of the Cinque Ports men fell briskly to work.

"Whenas he fights and has the upper hand
By sea he sends them home to every land,"

wrote Chaucer of the shipman. The Cinque Ports men, who had had a cruel experience of the tender mercies of John's foreign mercenaries, were certainly in no humour to give quarter to the adventurers who were on their way to England to renew the worst excesses of the wicked king's followers. There was a great massacre. Taken at a disadvantage, and scattered at the moment of attack, the Monk's ships were overpowered in detail. So great was the fury of the English crews that it overcame even the love of ransom which commonly introduced some measure of mercy into mediæval battles. Eustace himself, who, we are told, offered a great price for his life, was beheaded by one blow of the sword by Richard, King John's bastard son. The whole fleet on which Louis and the barons had relied to save them from destruction, was annihilated. The neck of the opposition to the young king's government was effectually broken. Before the end of the year Louis had returned to France, and the barons had made their submission.

The trial stroke of the English Navy was a master-stroke. No more admirably planned, no more timely, no more fruitful battle has been fought by Englishmen on water. It settled for ever the question how best this country is to be defended. In after times, during the Armada year and later, there have been found men to talk of trusting to land defences; but the sagacity of Englishmen has taught them to rely on the navy first, and that protection has never wholly failed us in six hundred and eighty years. The battle is curiously similar to the long list of conflicts with the French which were to follow it. The enemy is found carrying out a scheme of attack on our territory, and so intent on his ultimate object that he neglects to attack our ships first. Hubert de Burgh, acting exactly as Hawke, Rodney, Hood, or Nelson would have done, manœuvres [8]for the "weather-gage," the position to windward, falls upon the Frenchman on his way, and wrecks his carefully laid scheme at a blow.

The navy was now established in all essentials as it was to remain till the accession of the Tudor dynasty, at the close of the fifteenth century. The ship was indeed in process of development throughout all these ages. The stages of this growth are obscure, and belong rather to the domain of the archæologist than to that of the historian. We still possess an example of the original type in the Viking ship which was dug up from the burial mound at Gókkstad in Norway. She is a vessel of some size, nearly a hundred feet long, sharp at both ends, high in the bow and stern. Her breadth is about a third of her length, and she is low in the waist. The bottom is flat, as was natural in a vessel designed to be hauled up on the beach, and to take the ground without damage on a receding tide. Her hull is clinker-built, that is to say, with the planks overlapping one another, and not put edge to edge, as in the carvel-built ships of later times. One mast, shipped exactly in the middle, and carrying one great square sail, constituted all her rigging. There was no deck, though there may have been small covered spaces at the bow and stern. She was steered by an oar fixed on the right or starboard (i.e. steering) side, a little before the sternpost. In battle the mast and sail were lowered, and the vessel propelled by oars, of which the Gokkstad ship rowed sixteen on each side. By the thirteenth century this type had been already developed. The maritime States of the Mediterranean and the Basque ports of Spain had begun to build more elaborately constructed galleys and much heavier vessels. But, to judge by the illuminations in the manuscript of Matthew Paris, the ships of Hubert de Burgh did not differ in any essential particular of construction from those of Saint Olaf or Canute. Indeed, as late as the reign of Edward III., and later, our ships were small in comparison with the Basque. Still there was a steady though slow advance in mechanical skill. Decks were introduced, and the vessels were built higher. Fore and after castles [9]began to be erected. The rudder gradually displaced the steering oar. Two masts, and finally three, replaced the one of the early ships. The introduction of cannon, which dates from the fourteenth century, compelled changes in form. In order to support the weight of the guns, and the shock of firing them, it was necessary to build ships higher and stronger. The height could have been obtained by merely continuing the curve of the bottom farther; but if this had been done, the vessel would have been weak, and the leverage of the weight of the guns would have tended to tear her to pieces. To obviate this risk, the sides were curved in above the water-line in what was called "a tumble home." The guns were at first fired over the top of the bulwarks. A French builder, Descharges of Brest, has the credit of first constructing a ship with portholes through which the cannon could be pointed. In one respect the mediæval ship was curiously like the modern war vessel. She carried a crow's nest on her masts, a military top, in fact, from which archers and crossbowmen could fire, or stones be thrown, on to an enemy's deck. It must not be supposed that these improvements were all strictly successive. Old and new types would be found existing side by side. The rudder and the steering oar, for instance, are found in use together, but gradually the better drove the less good out of use. The long low galleys of the Mediterranean, or at least craft of that description, are heard of as employed in the Middle Ages, but our seas are not friendly to that class of vessel. It appears, from the account of the battle with Eustace the Monk, that the practice of lowering masts and sails on going into action had fallen into disuse by the thirteenth century. This implies at least a greater weight of spars and solidity of rigging than had obtained earlier. It will be easily understood that then, as at all times, there were wide differences in the sizes of ships. They ranged from mere row-boats to the vessel of 250 or 300 tons, known as "cog," or by other names of which we only dimly appreciate the significance.

The King of England drew his fleets from three sources. To begin with, he had his own ships, which were his personal [10]property, like his horses or the suits of armour he supplied to his own immediate following. These he used in war, or hired to the merchants in peace, according to circumstances. The purely administrative and financial management of these vessels was entrusted to some member of his household. In earlier ages it fell to one of the "king's clerks," the permanent civil servants of the time, who, when all learning was the province of the Church, were naturally ecclesiastics, and for whom the king provided by securing their nomination to benefices. William of Wrotham, Archdeacon of Taunton, was "keeper of the king's ships, galleys, and seaports" to King John. There is a mention, though not continuous record, of other "clerks" who had charge of the king's ships till the reign of Henry VIII. The number of these ships would vary according to the interest the king took in them, the need he had for them, and his merits as a husband of his money. In the troubled times of the Lancastrian line the king's ships were few, but it does not seem that at any period he was wholly without some of his own.

The second source from which the fleets were recruited was the trading craft of London and the outports. The kings of England claimed, and exercised from the beginning, the right of impressing all ships for the defence of the realm. Every port was assessed according to its supposed resources in so many vessels properly found. They were, however, maintained by the king on service. There was a certain difference in the method of manning these two classes. In the king's own ships all alike were his servants. When a merchant ship was impressed, her crew would, when possible, be taken with her. The king then put an officer of his own, with a body of soldiers, into her. In both there was a distinction between the military officer whose business it was to fight, and the shipman whose business it was to sail.

Thus arose that distinction between the captain and the master of an English man-of-war, which lasted far into this century. The practice was universal as late as the seventeenth century. Every Spanish ship had two captains—the [11]"capitan de guerra" (of war) and the "capitan de mar" (sea captain). But whereas in the Spanish ships the two officers were co-ordinate, with us there was no question that the master was subordinate to the captain. The Kings of England, from the Conqueror downwards, have had no love for divided authority.

The third source from which the king drew his ships was the most picturesque of all. The towns, with their dependent townships, Hastings, Winchelsea, Rye, Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich, forming the ancient corporation of the Cinque Ports, were bound by the terms of their charters to supply the king in any one year with 57 ships, 1140 men, and 57 boys for fifteen days at their own charges, and after that for as long as he chose to retain them at his own expense. For this they were repaid by privileges and honours. Every ancient institution is respectable, and the Cinque Ports men won such immortal honour by the defeat of Eustace the Monk, that we are naturally tempted to treat them tenderly. Yet it may be doubted whether they have not enjoyed an historical reputation much in excess of their merits. It is the defect of every privileged body that it is apt to be jealous. The Cinque Ports men were no exception to the rule. Many instances might be quoted of their savage feuds with rival towns, notably with Yarmouth. Under so strong a king as Edward I. and in the midst of an expedition to Flanders they fell upon and destroyed a number of Yarmouth vessels. Under weak kings complaints of their piracies and excesses on the coast are incessant. Although they no doubt supplied some kings with stout shipmen and useful vessels, it may be doubted whether they did not on the whole do as much in the way of fighting and plundering their own countrymen as against the national enemy. In the later Middle Ages the ports had already begun to silt up. They sank into insignificance, and in their last stage were chiefly known as nests of smugglers and pirates.

The crews of war vessels were divided into mariners and soldiers in unequal proportions. There were always more of the second than of the first. Thirty seamen were [12]considered the full complement even of a large vessel; and when it is remembered that two hundred or two hundred and fifty tons was the size of a "great ship," and that the rigging was simple, the number will appear amply sufficient. It must always, too, be kept in mind that, though the relative number of sailors and soldiers in ships has varied, this distinction between the two elements constituting the crews of fighting craft has prevailed to our own time. No man-of-war was ever manned entirely by seamen, nor was it necessary that she should be. The number of men required to fight or to do work only on the decks, or between the decks, was at all times much in excess of what was needed for the purpose of sailing the ship. The steersmen and mariners of the Middle Ages, and the prime seamen of the eighteenth century, were highly trained men, whom it would have been folly to employ on such work as could be sufficiently well done by less skilful hands. From the earliest time of which there is any record, the great and arbitrary power of impressment was used to find crews for the king's ships. In 1208 King John ordered the seamen of Wales to cease making trading voyages, and to repair to Ilfracombe for the purpose of transporting soldiers to Ireland. He bade them "know for certain that if you act contrary to this, we will cause you and the masters of your vessels to be hanged, and all your goods to be seized for our use." In later times this would have been called a "hot press." The forms used might vary, and the penalties grow more humane, but the king's ships continued to be supplied with crews, down to the end of the war with Napoleon, after exactly the fashion in which King John provided for the transport of his soldiers to Ireland in 1208.

All the elements of the crews of later times are found in the ships of the Middle Ages. The mariners and "grometes" are the able seamen and ordinary seamen. There were boys then also. The archers were the predecessors of the marines, and of those drafts from the line regiments which were frequently used to make up the complement of men-of-war. The modern officers, too, have their representatives [13]in the vessels of the Plantagenet kings. The Rector, afterwards called in official Latin Magister, is the master, the constable is the ancestor of the gunner, there was a carpenter, a "clerk," who was renamed the purser later on, and the boatswain. The nature of the work to be done would dictate the formation of these different offices. So soon as regular ships' companies began to be formed, it would be found indispensable to have someone to conduct the navigation—the master; someone to supervise the arms—the constable; someone to serve out the stores—the clerk. As ships' companies grew larger and ships more complicated, it would be necessary to increase the number of officers, and little by little the staff of a modern warship was formed. The title of captain appears at first to have been given to an officer who held what we should call flag rank. In the fifteenth century it began to be applied to the commander of a single ship. He was primarily a military officer, who might or might not be a seaman, but who in either case had a master under his command whose function it was to navigate the ship.

The growth of what came afterwards to be called flag rank may easily be traced. At first the king appointed some knight or noble to command his sea forces, and the soldiers in his ships, for some definite service. Then we hear of officers commanding in a given district for a specified time. These were first known as "captains and governors," justices or constables. In the early years of the fourteenth century the title of "Admiral" began to come into use. Captain and Admiral is the rank of the officer who commands the North and the Western Fleets. The first included the coast and sea from Dover to Berwick; the second, from Dover to the duchy of Cornwall inclusive. There was occasionally a third officer, who commanded in the Isle of Man and the Irish Sea. Of him we hear little. His chief duty was to assist in the work of subduing the Scots, and he was once at least chosen from among those chiefs of the Isles and the Western Highlands who were the worst enemies of the King of the Scots in the Lowlands. These captains and admirals were at first simple [14]knights. Some of them were seamen of the Cinque Ports. The Alards, a family of Winchelsea, produced more than one holder of the post. The first admiral for all the seas was Sir John Beauchamp, K.G.; he was appointed by Edward III. in 1360, for a year. But it was not till later that it became the rule to have one admiral superior to all the others. In the fourteenth century a considerable change began to appear in the character, though not in formal rank or power, of these officers. In 1345 it was found necessary to appoint the Earl of Arundel to command the Western Fleet, "for no one can chastise or rule them unless he be a great man," to quote the candid confession of the King's Council. The royal authority, in fact, was growing weaker. It fell to its lowest depths in the later times of the Lancastrian line. The inevitable consequence was, that the barons seized upon the command of the ships, and used them for their own purposes. Warwick the king-maker, who among his many other offices held that of Captain of Calais and Admiral, was practically master of the whole naval forces of the country. The office of Lord High Admiral, which dates from the Lancastrian dynasty, was, in fact, a result of the aggression of the baronage. The king's authority being no longer sure of obedience, it was necessary to call in the power of the nobles, with the inevitable result. Those who knew that they were indispensable made their own terms. By the end of the Middle Ages the office of Lord High Admiral had become permanent. The old captains and admirals of the Northern and Western Fleets had disappeared, or were represented by subordinate officials, who received their commission from the Lord High Admiral. When the great Royalist reaction of the later fifteenth century had restored the authority of the Crown, the office survived. On the military side of his office the Lord High Admiral was the king's lieutenant for the fleet, exercising immense delegated powers in complete subjection to the Crown. But during the anarchy of the Wars of the Roses, such a man as Warwick, who garrisoned Calais with his own followers, and had the command of the ships, of which many were his own property, was practically [15]master of the Channel, and rendered as much obedience to the king—or as little—as he pleased.

While the King of England possessed dominions on the Continent, he drew part of his naval forces from them. There is occasional mention of the king's ships and galleys of Aquitaine. The great reputation of the Italian seamen of the Middle Ages led to their employment now and then, and one, Nicholas Ususmaris of Genoa, was for a time in the service of Edward III., though only to command the ships belonging to Aquitaine. The Mediterranean seamen were employed very largely by the King of France, who was driven to use them by the want of skilful men among his own subjects. In the Middle Ages the English king appears only to have had recourse to them when he wished to make use of that typical Mediterranean craft, the galley. Under Henry VIII. Italians were brought in largely to serve both as seamen and shipbuilders, but by that time a larger class of vessel and a more extensive art of seamanship had begun to prevail. The galley, as has been already said, has never been found to answer in the Channel, and its brief appearances there have been of little note. For the classes of vessels he mainly used, that is, ships which might take to the oar as a subsidiary resource, but relied chiefly on the sail, the king could find men in abundance among his own subjects.

The most brief sketch of our navy in the Middle Ages would be incomplete without some mention of the famous claim to the sovereignty of the seas. That the King of England did make this haughty profession of superiority is within the knowledge of everybody, and it was advanced, in form at least, till late in the reign of George III. Attempts have been made to carry it back to the reign of King John, and have been supported by the inveterate mediæval practice of forging documents to bolster up supposed rights. But the so-called ordinance of King John, issued at Hastings in 1200, has been long given up. It was unquestionably a mere forgery, concocted at a later time to give the authority of antiquity to a more recent pretension. Yet about a hundred years later we find the sovereignty of [16]Edward II. over the seas fully recognised by the Flemish towns. Edward III. asserted his right to be sovereign of the four seas of Britain without qualification. It must be remembered that this claim, which later times found intolerably arrogant, had in the Middle Ages the justification that it was supported by effective power. Not only was the King of England by far the most powerful sovereign on the seas in the west, but the possession of Calais gave him the command of the Straits of Dover on both sides. At a time when trade was conducted by coasting voyages, this enabled him to throttle the maritime commerce of the south with the north at will. The Venetian and Basque ships which came up to Antwerp in the early summer and went south again before autumn, were not only liable to attack by English vessels coming out of Dover or Calais, but they had constant need to use the roadsteads of these ports. It was consistent with all the ideas and practice of the Middle Ages that this power to injure should have been held to imply a right to assert superiority, and compel the recognition of it. Sir Harris Nicolas states that the first admission of this right on the part of foreigners is found in 1320, when certain Flemish envoys appealed to Edward II. to put a stop to piracies committed on their vessels by English evil-doers, praying him "of his lordship and royal power to cause right to be done, and punishment awarded, as he is Lord of the Sea, and the robbery was committed on the sea within his power, as is above said." It may be pointed out that the offences complained of were committed upon the English coast, and that an astute diplomatist of a later date might have argued that this admission did not amount to a recognition of English sovereignty over the whole North Sea. No serious resistance was, however, made to this claim till the reign of Louis XIV., which we may account for by the fact that nobody was strong enough to resist. The Venetian and Basque traders submitted to the claim much as an African caravan might recognise the right of a chief to extort backsheesh. The kings of France were too weak and too much occupied elsewhere to fight on this point [17]of honour. The Flemings were generally our allies, and the northern powers were not concerned. Our pretension was the more easily borne because the King of England did not insist upon levying dues on all who passed through the four seas, but only on a salute as a formal recognition of superiority. This outward sign of deference, the lowering of sails, and in later times the firing of guns, was insisted upon punctiliously till far into the seventeenth century, and there are isolated cases in which it was extorted even in the eighteenth. The space of sea over which the sovereignty of England was held to extend was counted to stretch from Finisterre to the coast of Norway.

When the words "sovereignty of the sea" are used as meaning the king's effective superiority to any force which could be brought against him, there can be no question as to its reality. Throughout the Middle Ages, a king of England who was master of his own dominions was rarely hampered by the naval force of any enemy. When he marched to subdue his kingdom of Scotland, his fleets kept pace with his army as it advanced through the Lothians. On the rare occasions on which he visited his lordship of Ireland, there was nobody to say him nay. He passed and repassed at will to and from his kingdom of France. Pirates, Scotch, Flemish, and Scandinavian, might infest the coast. Now and then an expedition met with disaster. French and Spanish adventurers sometimes harried the coast, and burned small towns. But these failures of our power were comparatively rare. They occurred only when the king was weak, and the country exhausted or disturbed. The rule was, that when the monarchy exerted its strength it could sweep the seas. If the king was careless, Parliament was at hand to exhort him to action. Englishmen were keenly alive to the importance of "guarding the narrow seas round about." Nor were our ancestors ever in doubt as to how best to employ their navy. Even in the bad times of Edward II., when wisdom did not preside in the Council, a threat of invasion from France was met by the preparation of a fleet which was to attack, so that the enemy might first feel the [18]evil. Centuries of experience have taught no better way of using the sea power.

A detailed account of the naval enterprises of the Middle Ages would go altogether beyond the scale of this work. Nor is the story one which can be told without monotony. In spite of the many improvements in the construction of ships and the advance of seamanship, the means of conducting a regular naval campaign were wanting. Vessels were still unable to keep the sea during long periods of cruising and blockade. They were not strong enough to stand the strain, nor could they carry the water and provisions required for the large fighting crews crowded into vessels ranging from fifty to three hundred tons. It followed from this double disability that warfare on sea was conducted by expeditions of brief duration. A fleet was collected, and sailed to attack the enemy's ships or harry his coast. When successful, it gathered all the plunder it could find, and returned home to be laid up for repair, while its crews were disbanded. Thus it not infrequently happened that, immediately after a striking victory, a raiding expedition of the enemy was able to pounce on some part of our coast, and retaliate by murder and ravage for what he had just suffered at home. We had a prevailing superiority, due to the greater number and efficiency of English seamen, and the greater average faculty of the English kings; but we must not look for examples of coherent, orderly war conducted through months, or even years, of effort by permanent forces.

A few examples must suffice to illustrate the general character of these centuries of conflict. No better instance of the nature of mediæval sea warfare can be found than the story of the desperate feud between the English and Norman fishermen, in the reign of Edward I. In 1293 a dispute arose in some port of Normandy or Gascony—for the authorities differ—between the French and English sailors. The point at issue, it is said, was which was entitled to drink first. It came rapidly from words to blows, and a man was killed. The authorities again differ as to whether he was French or English. All agree that [19]the English sailors were chased back to their ships by a mob. Their ship put to sea, pursued by French vessels, and escaped. But the passions of the Norman seamen being now thoroughly aroused, they were minded to pursue the feud. Meeting six English merchant ships, they fell upon them and captured two. They hanged the crews at the yardarm, together with some dogs by way of greater insult. Then they paraded the Channel, plundering all they met, making "no distinction between an Englishman and a dog." In the meantime, the four ships which had escaped took refuge in the Cinque Ports. Here they promptly found allies, and a foray was rapidly arranged to revenge the outrage. A squadron of English ships, mainly drawn from the Cinque Ports, started in pursuit of the French. Finding that the enemy had returned to port, the English adventurers entered the Seine, captured six vessels after a sharp burst of fighting, and carried them off, having previously despatched their crews. Hereupon followed raid and counter raid, with their inevitable accompaniment of "great slaughter on both sides, shipwreck and rapine—both thirsting for blood." At last by common consent it was agreed to set a day and fight it out. The feud had apparently extended to all the seamen who used the Channel. Not only did other Frenchmen join the Normans, but Flemings and Genoese also. The Dutch and the Irish, the men, that is, of the partly English partly Norse towns of the coast, allied themselves with us. On the appointed day, the 14th April or May,—for once more the authorities do not agree,—the fleets met in mid-Channel, and after a savage battle the French and their allies were overcome with great carnage. At this point, but not till now, the Kings of England and of the French took up the quarrel of their subjects, and the feud between the fishermen and seamen grew into a national war. As, however, it possessed no naval features of interest, we need not pursue further the consequences of this explosion of the violence and pugnacity of the mediæval seamen.

It must always be remembered that the conditions which made this private war possible endured throughout the [20]Middle Ages. In the absence of strong organised fleets to patrol the sea, and when no police had yet been formed in any State capable of depriving the sea robber of a safe market for his booty, every sailor not only had to fear the pirate, but he generally was prepared, upon a favourable opportunity presenting itself, to become one. The men of the Cinque Ports, of Yarmouth, or of Poole, to say nothing of the fact that they were prompt to pillage one another for want of better, were ever ready to applaud their townsman who brought in a French or Basque prize. The Norman or Basque, again, would have been surprised indeed if he had been asked to blame the fellow-countryman who came home with English booty. In fact, the sea everywhere was much in the condition of the Scotch Border. There might be truce between the kings, but the Borderers never ceased in their raids on one another, or on the rival clans of their own side. Hence it was that merchant ships sailed in large fleets for mutual protection, and that the complaints of rulers that their subjects had been pillaged by the sailors of another prince were incessant. Nor were the kings by any means backward in encouraging their vassals by their example. Of the two sea fights with which the chivalrous memory of Edward III. is associated, Sluys, and the battle off Winchelsea, known as "Les Espagnols sur Mer," the second was an incident in this piratical warfare. King Edward did not indeed make an unprovoked attack on the Spaniards for mere purposes of plunder, but he retaliated for one piece of piracy by another. His act was not one of especial violence for his time, yet it would not have been possible except in an age when the relations of seafaring nations were habitually lawless, and when an act of robbery by one was left unpunished, except when it provoked retaliation in kind by the other.

The battle of Sluys was a great regular engagement fought in pursuit of a national war. Edward III. had openly assumed the title of King of France in January 1340, and was preparing to assert his right by conquest. Philippe de Valois made ready to defend his throne, and took the measure dictated by sound sense. He collected [21]a great fleet, composed in part of ships belonging to his subjects, in part of vessels hired from the Genoese. But the wisdom of the King of the French stopped at this preliminary stage. Although it appears that his fleet was collected as early as March, when King Edward had only forty ships in the Orwell, the great French armament lay idle in the little Flemish river Eede, at the anchorage of Sluys. The calculation perhaps was that its mere presence would suffice to delay the English king from attempting to cross. King Edward was not to be frightened. In spite of the opposition of his Chancellor and the backwardness of some of his captains, he decided to attack. Vigorous use was made of the time allowed him by the sloth of the enemy. Ships were called in from the north, and about the middle of June the king stood over to Blankenberg on the coast of Flanders. His fleet was somewhat stronger than the French. He puts the force opposed to him at a hundred and ninety vessels, while his own, including small craft, was over two hundred. But the French acted as if it had been their intention to deprive themselves of the advantage of their numbers. They remained in the river, with their ships lashed side by side to one another in three divisions. At a time when all battles were finally decided by hand-to-hand fighting, this was a not uncommon device with fleets which decided, or were compelled, to accept the attack. Nor was it altogether unreasonable, for it seemed to possess this advantage, that it forced the assailant to come on bow to bow, where his beaks would act with least effect, and where his men must board along a narrow passage; while the defender had the advantage of being able to make a barrier across the fore part of his vessel with his yard and his oars. The fatal defect of the formation was that an enemy who could fall on one end of the line could roll it up. As the French were drawn up along the bank of an estuary, and the English fleet was coming in from the sea, there was nothing to force King Edward to make a front attack. This fatal weakness of the position is said to have been noted by Barbavera, the veteran admiral of the Genoese. He is credited with an [22]effort to induce King Philip's officers, Kiriet and Bahuchet, to stand out to sea so soon as the English appeared on the coast, but they showed the timidity which has commonly been noted in the sea fighting of the French, and preferred to wait passively for the attack. As usual, the victory fell to the side which could and would fall on.

King Edward had landed knights, who, riding over the sandhills, had taken a leisurely view of the French fleet at anchor. The weakness of their position must have been patent even to a less skilful captain than the victor of Creçy, and he decided to attack without delay. The battle was fought on the 24th of June. In the early morning the tide was at ebb, and an advance up the river was impossible. The English ships stood out to sea on the starboard tack till they were well opposite the entrance to the river. Then, as the tide turned, they swept in with it, and fell on the nearest division of the French. The destruction which followed bears an interesting resemblance to the battle of the Nile. On that occasion an English fleet coming in from the sea attacked the French lying passively at anchor, and overwhelmed them in detail. The difference was, that the Nile was decided by broadsides, and the great fight at Sluys by sword-stroke and the edge of the axe. Ship after ship was carried by boarding and its crew slaughtered, for all sea fights were, as Froissart noted, "felon," merciless and without quarter. The French had put the Great Christopher, a ship of King Edward's own, of which they had formerly made prize, at the end of their line. She fell first, and her sister ships shared her fate. In the rear of the French, that is, at the end farthest from the sea, some ships did indeed escape. They were commanded by Barbavera. It is probable that the English had not reached them when the tide turned, and the expert Genoese mercenary took the opportunity to slip to sea, leaving the van and centre to be crushed. In this also there is a curious similarity to the battle of the Nile, when Villeneuve fled with the rear ships. Sluys was an incredibly murderous battle. Upwards of thirty thousand men are said to have perished in the French fleet. It [23]entirely crushed the naval forces of the Valois king, and from that time forward for years Edward crossed the Channel with as little molestation from an enemy as he would have met on the Thames at Oxford. The English loss was comparatively slight, but it is said to have included four of the ladies whom the king was taking with him to join the queen at Ghent.

The sea fight which took place ten years later is mainly memorable as a picturesque example of the lawlessness of the times. Characteristically enough, we owe our best account of it to Froissart, and it was just such a battle as he loved—a fine example of high-born daring, love of adventure, and, it is to be added, of total absence of scruple. To understand this battle, it is necessary to remember that the sea-borne commerce between the North and South of Europe was conducted in fleets which came up in spring from the south, and, after unloading and reloading at the great marts of Flanders, returned towards the end of summer. For the reasons already stated, they were subject to plunder on the way, and they were apt to retaliate. The king had cause of complaint against the Spanish, that is to say, the Basque traders, who are known to have plundered ten English ships coming from France. So, without wasting time in diplomacy, which would indeed have brought him little save delays and counter claims, he resolved to do himself justice. A fleet was collected at Winchelsea, and there the king, accompanied by some of his most famous knights, and by his still youthful sons, the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, lay in wait for the traders who must pass on their way home. The Basques were warned of what was preparing for them, but, confident in the size of their ships and their own courage, they were resolved to force a passage. They hired at Antwerp one of those gangs of fighting men who were then to be found in every marketplace in Europe, ready to serve any master who would pay, and any cause which promised booty. Then they sailed, well provided with weapons, and ready for the fray.

King Edward had taken up his quarters in an abbey [24]near Winchelsea, with his queen and the ladies of his household. By day he visited his ships. By night there was feasting and dancing. When he knew that the Spaniards must be at hand, he went on board his flagship to be ready for them. It appears that no cruisers were stationed on the offing, and that the English fleet lay at anchor in the expectation that the Spaniards would seek them. If the southern traders had not been so unduly confident in their own strength, they might have passed in safety by keeping well out at sea. But, relying on the size of their vessels, and on "all kinds of artillery wonderful to think of," with which they were provided, they sought for battle, and therefore steered well in with the coast.

On the afternoon of the day of the fight, the 28th August 1350, the king was sitting on the deck of his vessel, the cog Thomas, wearing a black velvet overcoat over his armour and a black felt hat "which became him well." To pass the time, Sir John Chandos was singing the German dances he had learned on a visit to that country, and the minstrels played. While the knights and squires were amusing themselves with the gaiety of men who lived mainly for battle, the look-out in the top hailed the deck with "I see one, two, three, four—I see so many, so help me God, I cannot count them." Then the king called for his helmet, and for wine. His knights drank to the king, and to one another, and went to their stations. The fleet stood to sea. Its movements must have been seen by Queen Philippa, who remained in the abbey to pray for her husband and her two sons. The young John of Gaunt, then Earl of Richmond, and afterwards Duke of Lancaster, refused to leave his brother, the Prince of Wales. He was a boy of only ten, but King Edward and the Black Prince were the last men in the world to balk his very proper desire to be in a battle.

The Spaniards came sweeping along from east to west with a good breeze. They were fewer in number than the English, but heavier ships. "It was passing beautiful to see, or to think of," says Froissart, who loved the pomp and circumstance of war. Their tops were glittering with [25]armed men, and "their streamers bearing their coats of arms, and marked with their bearings, danced and quivered and lept in the wind." Coming out from the anchorage of Winchelsea, King Edward's ships struck on the Spaniards, who were advancing in a line, at an angle. His own vessel was steered into one of the biggest of the enemy. The two met with such a crash that "it was as if a tempest had suddenly burst upon them." They recoiled from the shock, and then crashed together again. Their spars became entangled, and one of the Spaniard's tops was broken off. All in it were hurled into the water and drowned. If the king's ship had not been stout, she would have been broken to pieces against the bulk of her opponent. As it was, she had enough. Her seams gaped, and the water rushed in. The Spaniard, being the less injured of the two, gathered way and stood on. King Edward ordered his men to lay her aboard again, but was answered, "No, sir, you cannot have this one, but you shall have another." It would, as his shipmen knew, but probably had not the time to explain, have been impossible to overtake the enemy with a vessel already in danger of sinking. The only chance was to run into one of those coming up behind and carry her by boarding. We may presume that the shipmen did their best to pick a smaller one. It was done, and only just in time, for the king's ship sank almost immediately after he and his crew had forced their way on to the Spaniard's deck.

King Edward's adventure was an example of what happened all along the line. The Prince of Wales was in great peril beside a tall Spaniard, for his ship too began to sink, and he could not scale the high sides of the enemy. From this pass he was rescued by his cousin Henry, Earl of Derby. The two got possession of the Spaniard. Then the prince's vessel sank, so that "he and his knights could more perfectly consider the danger in which they had just been." The most extreme danger was run by Robert of Namur, a Flemish noble, and a partisan of King Edward's, who in after times was the patron of Froissart, and probably his main authority for the battle. The king had given [26]him the command of the Salle du Roi, the vessel which carried those members of his household who could not find quarters with himself. Robert of Namur was grappled by a big enemy, who began to drag him along. His crew shouted, "Rescue for the Salle du Roi!" but to no purpose, for it was now getting dark, "and they were not heard, and if they had been heard, they would not have been rescued." The Fleming was saved by the desperate valour of his squire, Hanekin, who forced his way into the Spaniard and cut her halyards. Then Robert of Namur boarded, and the Spaniards "were all slain and thrown into the sea."

It was a desperate battle, for the English fought most valiantly, and the Spaniards "gave them plenty to do." The English archers had a great share in the victory. The enemy's crossbowmen, and others who were appointed to hurl bars of metal or heavy stones over the bulwarks of the tops and sides, were compelled to expose themselves to take aim, and were shot through the head or neck by the clothyard shafts, while thus uncovered. Seventeen Spaniards were taken in all. Against this we had to set off the loss of several of our smaller vessels and of many men. The booty must have been considerable. There was no pursuit, partly because the victors were eager to rifle the prizes, but partly also, no doubt, because they had suffered much rough usage. The king returned to Winchelsea Abbey to celebrate his victory by festivities.

The battle with the Spaniards off Winchelsea marks the culmination of King Edward's naval power. In the gloomy closing years of his reign all these glories hastened to decay. His navy, drawn from so many different sources, and composed at all times largely of hired or impressed vessels, was peculiarly liable to suffer from the general disorganisation of his government when the long war with France had begun to exhaust his resources, and his faculties were failing. Twenty years after his brilliant sea fight, he had to listen to the bitter complaints of the Commons, who told him boldly, and with too much truth, that the coast was unprotected, and trade ruined. So far had the strength of the "Sovereign of the Seas" sunk, that there was [27]actual fear of invasion from France, while raids carried out by French and Spanish adventurers on the ports of the Channel were numerous. Scotch "pirates," in alliance with Flemings, Frenchmen, and Basques, harried the north and east. The Parliament of 1371 insisted angrily on the abuses by which the naval strength of the country was being destroyed. There is much intrinsic probability in their complaints. When it is remembered that the fleets were mainly formed by impressing merchant ships, it is easy to understand how the misconduct or want of judgment of subordinate agents under a weak government might give ample justification for such complaints as these.

"First, that arrests of shipping were often made long before vessels were wanted, during which interval the owners were at the expense of keeping the ships and crews, without making any profit, by which many of them became so impoverished as to be obliged to quit their business, and their ships were ruined. Secondly, that the merchants who supported the navy had been so impeded in their voyages and affairs by divers ordinances, that they had no employment for ships; that great part of the mariners had consequently abandoned their profession, and gained their livelihood in some other way; and that their ships were hauled up on the shore to rot. Thirdly, that, as soon as the masters of the king's ships were ordered on any voyage, they impressed the masters and ablest part of the men of other ships, and those vessels being left without persons to manage them, many of them perished, and their owners were ruined."

Part of this petition against grievances is concerned with the general policy of the king in matters of trade, as expressed in his "divers ordinances." But the greater part of it is directed against abuses which were hardly to be escaped at a time when navies were formed by impressing merchant ships. Corrupt or even only insolent and overbearing officers would abuse the power of impressment. Where those evil motives were not at work, there was still an all but irresistible temptation to "arrest" ships long before they were needed, since, if they were allowed to [28]go on trading voyages, they would not be forthcoming later on. The king's officers were to be excused if they preferred to err on the safe side; but to the trader it was a grievous oppression, for he was deprived of the means of earning profits, while remaining liable to be taxed in order to provide the king with a revenue for the support of the war. In later ages the impossibility of combining the qualities of money-earning merchant ships and of fighting ships, which should be always available for war, had much to do with the formation of regular military fleets. In the seventeenth century the State took, first, to hiring vessels for long periods, and manning them itself; then, as the need of a special class of vessel grew with the development of artillery, to building for itself. In the Middle Ages no State was yet rich enough to maintain for long together a great and costly naval force. Thus it was necessary to rely on impressed vessels, which could only temporarily be withdrawn from commerce. Fleets formed in such a way bore an inevitable resemblance to armies composed of farmers, townsmen, or mountain clans collected for a single foray or battle, and always liable to dissolution on the approach of harvest, or even under the influence of the occasional soldier's not unnatural desire to put his booty in a safe place. In the great Civil War of the seventeenth century, the Parliament discovered that the London trainbands, though capable of good marching and hard fighting, as they proved during the relief of Gloucester and at the battle of Newbury, soon grew eager to be back to their shops, and mutinous if they were kept out for what seemed to them an undue period. So it must always be with a citizen force. Since the mediæval navy was largely of that description, it suffered from recurrent lapses of strength, and was peculiarly liable to total collapse when the country was overwrought by the strain of long war.

Edward's reign closed in failure and defeat. The last blow was given to his power in the south of France, when a fleet sent to the relief of Rochelle, under the command of John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, was crushed by a superior force of Spanish vessels under Ambrosio Bocanegra, [29]the Admiral of Castile, in 1372. The troubled reign of Richard II. saw no improvement. At one period in his minority, a Scotch pirate named Mercer harried the north-west unchecked, till he was defeated by the enterprise of a citizen of London, John Philipot. It is typical of the time, that Philipot was rebuked by some of the lords of the Council, with foolish insolence, for taking on himself to fight without their consent. A wealthy and important citizen of London, of Philipot's spirit, was not a man to stand bullying tamely. He answered that he had fought only to make good their failure to do their duty, and to that they had very naturally "not a word to answer."

Even the astute and capable Henry IV. was for long unable to bring about visible improvement. Amid the embarrassments of the first years of his reign, he had recourse to a very curious experiment. In order to deal with what may be called the ordinary work of the navy, the pursuit of pirates, and the repulse of mere raids on the coast, he entered into a contract with the citizens of London. They were to provide a force of ships and men, to be commanded by their own admirals, and were to be paid certain dues, and keep all their prizes. They did not undertake to deal with a great hostile fleet, but only to discharge the police duties. After a good deal of negotiation, the experiment was actually tried from May 1406 to September 1407. The merchants appointed two admirals, Richard Clytherow for the south and west, and Nicholas Blackburn for the north, who were endowed with large powers of impressment. This curious attempt to discharge the duty of the State by contract was not satisfactory, and the arrangement was not renewed. It is chiefly worth mentioning as showing to what shifts the Crown was driven in its times of weakness.

In an introduction which aims only at giving an outline account of the mediæval navy, further details of warlike operations, which were always of the same general character, are unnecessary. There was a revival of efficiency with Henry V., not, however, marked by any single events of the brilliancy of the battle of Sluys, or "Les Espagnols [30]sur Mer." Then came another period of collapse in the dreary reign of Henry VI. With the close of the fifteenth century the mediæval period in the history came to an end. The establishment of the Tudor dynasty has been described as marking the beginning of the new monarchy. This is perhaps a somewhat arbitrary description, but it is certainly the case that the anarchy of the Wars of the Roses had converted Englishmen, or had brought them back, to a high conception of the need of a strong royal authority as the one effectual security for the safety of the subject against disorder. The administration was centralised in the king's hand. Increase of wealth in the nation supplied him with a larger revenue, and the formation of a Royal Navy in the modern sense became at last possible.

Before leaving the mediæval navy, the picture may be completed by one example of that brutal violence which has been mentioned as a feature of the sea life of the time. I have spoken of the feuds between the different towns, and of complaints of excesses committed on the coast by armed forces appointed to protect them. One concrete example is better than any amount of general statement. Here is an instance of sheer devilry taken from the unhappy years of the minority of Richard II., when the State was weak, and Englishmen had been brutalised by the savage wars of France.

In 1379 Sir John Arundel was appointed to the command of a force of archers and men-at-arms, which was to go to the help of the Duke of Brittany. It was to sail from Southampton. As the weather was unfavourable, there was some delay in starting, and Arundel quartered his soldiers in a nunnery. The house, according to a common practice of the time, contained, in addition to the nuns, many married women whose husbands were absent, widows, and unmarried girls, who were sent there for safety and education. Arundel's soldiers violated these women, and pillaged the chapel. Disregarding all complaints, he not only went to sea without punishing the offenders, but allowed them to bring their booty and several of the women with them. There were also, it appears, prostitutes [31]in the ships. The ecclesiastical authorities fell back on the only revenge then within their power. They formally cursed Arundel and his thieves with bell, book, and candle as the ships sailed away.

To men accustomed to the licence of the French wars, this doubtless appeared a very impotent form of retaliation. But they soon had occasion to change their minds. A violent storm burst upon them, apparently, since it swept them out of the Channel, from the east or north-east. To lighten the ships, these savages threw overboard all the women they had carried to sea. The danger might have been avoided if Arundel had listened to the advice of his sailing-master, John Rust, a sailor of the now very much decayed little town of Blakeney in Norfolk, who warned him that a gale was coming on. But Arundel, though a good soldier, as he showed when defending Southampton in 1377, was neither a seaman himself, nor sufficiently a man of sense to listen to those who were. Having first incurred disaster by his obstinacy, Arundel sealed his own fate by persisting in again overriding the opinion of Rust. He had been driven to within sight of the coast of Ireland, and, in his frantic desire to escape the misery of his position on shipboard, insisted that an attempt should be made to land. It was in vain that the sailors pointed out to him that it was far safer to keep at sea. In an explosion of sheer fury, largely excited, we may presume, by fear, Arundel killed some of them. Then Rust and the others made the hopeless attempt to land the madman whom they had the misfortune to be compelled to obey. Seeing a small island near the coast, the sailing-master attempted to get under its lee, but found the water too broken. Then, as a last resource, he tried to beach the ship, but she struck on the rocks, and went to pieces. Arundel, to whom every opportunity seems to have been given by fate to display his folly, was one of those who contrived to reach the shore. He might have escaped if he had not stood within reach of the waves, shaking the water out of his clothes. Rust, who had also come through alive, seeing his peril, ran forward to drag him [32]back, and both were beaten down and dragged under by the next wave. An uncertain number of other vessels, with many knights and men-at-arms, perished in the same disaster. This may stand as sufficient example of what was possible when the brutality of the Middle Ages coincided with the licence of the sea. We may hope that the details of the story were heightened in the telling, but there is no reasonable ground to doubt its substantial truth, and the mere fact that such a tale could be told shows what was believed to be possible.



Authorities.—Much information concerning the navy during the earlier Tudor period will be found in Charnock's Naval Architecture, vol. ii. cap. 2 and 3; but the chief authority now is Mr. Oppenheim's recently published Administration of the Navy, 1509-1660. This may be supported by numerous passages in the Calendar of State Papers for the reign of Henry VIII., prepared by Mr. Brewer. The details of the fighting in Conquet Bay are given in Echyngham's letters to Wolsey in the Calendar. The collection called "State Papers," edited by Mr. Haines, 1831-1852, contains Lisle's letters during the operations of 1545. The memoirs of Martin du Bellay and Blaise de Montluc give the French side. The early history of the Trinity House has been investigated by Mr. C. L. Barrett, The Trinity House of Deptford Strond, 1893.

The Tudor dynasty filled the throne of England for a hundred and eighteen years. A hundred and six years of that period belong to the reigns of Henry VII., Henry VIII., and Elizabeth, three rulers of consummate ability. No other reigning house has maintained so high a level of governing faculty during so large a proportion of its existence, and it is not the least part of the wonderful good fortune of England that her destinies should have been directed, at a time of change and growth, by sovereigns of eminent capacity. She passed in those years from an old world to a new, and, however high we may rank the faculty of the race, it is impossible to doubt that the transition must have been far less successful than it was if there had been weakness or folly in its rulers. The two Henrys and Elizabeth, it must be remembered, were, in the fullest sense of the word, rulers. They had to submit to necessity, to abstain from much, to accept much which was [34]by no means pleasing to them, but it was because they could do this, and did not persist in endeavouring to drive the world where it would not go, in the fatal fashion of the Stuarts, that they succeeded. The great men who served them, and the qualities of the English people, were not made by the Tudors, but it was they who chose the servants, and used the qualities of their subjects.

The foundation of the modern navy was a great and vitally important part of their administrative work. It must not be supposed that there was any sharp-drawn line dividing the Middle Ages from the later times. The new monarchy itself cannot be said to have differed formally from the old. Henry VII. claimed to reign by the same right and authority as his predecessors. The difference was in the method and the spirit. From the end of the fifteenth century till the beginning of the seventeenth, Englishmen looked to the sovereign as the representative on earth of that law whose "voice" is "the harmony of the world." To the great mass of Englishmen, to all, in fact, except a few nobles, and the poor and martial northern counties, the king was the divinely appointed ruler who stood between them and anarchy. They expected him to govern by the law, but they also recognised his commission to pronounce and enforce it. In later times the authority of the Crown became an object of hostility, but from the day that Henry VII. put on the circle of gold which had fallen from the helmet of Richard III. on the field of Market Bosworth, till Elizabeth sank to rest, old, weary, and half broken-hearted, there were few Englishmen who would have drawn any distinction between the State and the King. On the Continent of Europe the same influence was at work, turning the mediæval king into the modern despot.

So, too, in regard to the navy, there is no deliberate break with the past, no express beginning of any new thing. The ships are still the king's, commanded by his captains, manned by his mariners, administered by his servants. Even in matters of detail the old usages lingered far into the seventeenth century. The captain continued for long to be more soldier than sailor, the man whose business it [35]was to fight, not to sail the ship. In Boteler's "Dialogues," published in the reign of Charles II., though probably written in the reign of his father, it is proposed, as if there were some novelty in the suggestion, that no man should be appointed captain until he had been at least one voyage to sea. The attempt to form a regular corps of naval officers dates from the Restoration, and must be put to the credit of James II., then Duke of York and Lord High Admiral. The crews were still collected for each voyage, and disbanded at its end. This applies not only to the men, but to the officers, though the king might keep a certain number of captains about him, by putting them on the footing of gentlemen of his household. It was not until the time of the Commonwealth, and then through the exertions of the Council of State, that the navy was raised to a strength which made it possible to dispense with the service of pressed or hired merchant ships when a great fleet had to be fitted out. On the face of it, in fact, and if we look to the mere letter, there was no change at all. The admiral was still a great officer of State, who acted as king's lieutenant in sea affairs. There were king's ships managed by the king's servants, and in time of need the old calls were made on the ports to provide their quota for the defence of the country.

Yet for all that there was a change, and the beginning of something new. The same causes which were leading to the formation of professional standing armies on the Continent, were at work to induce the Tudors to pay attention to their navy. English kings had done so before them. When the Duke of Norfolk told Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V., in 1535, that it was a good thing for a king of England to be provided with ships to inspire awe in those who wished to attack him, he was saying nothing which was not well known to John or Edward III. The difference lay in the continuity of attention paid to the navy by the Tudors, in the proportion of their revenue which they spent on it, and in the formation of a department expressly devoted to the work of maintaining the king's ships. In former times so much [36]of the king's navy as was his personal property bore a close resemblance to those bands of mercenaries which he raised for a particular war, and disbanded when he had no further need for their services. From the time of the Tudors his ships became a permanent establishment. It is from them that the Royal Navy descends, not from the sea militia of the Cinque Ports. The British army began with the regiments of Charles II., not with the host which was called out on the summons of our ancient kings.

From the very necessity of the case, a permanent fighting force calls for the attention of a no less permanent civil administration. Throughout nearly the whole of the reign of Henry VIII. the work continued to be done under the supervision of the Clerk of the Ships, but by an increasing staff of subordinate clerks, called for by its growing needs and the establishment of a dockyard at Portsmouth. The office, in fact, grew, as has been commonly the case with our administrative machinery, by adaptations to meet needs. At last, in 1546, in the year before his death, the king formed the first regular Navy Board by letters patent dated April 24. It consisted of a Lieutenant of the Admiralty, a Treasurer, a Comptroller, a Surveyor, a Clerk of the Ships, and two officials who had no special title. A "Master of the Ordnance of the Ships" was created at the same time, but this was a separate office. This organisation was subject during its history to suspensions and modifications, as will be seen further on; but four of the officers here named, the Treasurer, Surveyor, Comptroller, and Clerk of the Ships, or of Acts, or of the Navy, continued with brief intervals to be the chiefs of the civil administration of the navy till 1832. Upon them fell the duties of buying stores, building and taking care of ships, managing the dockyard, distributing provisions, paying wages, and what we should now call the compassionate allowances given to wounded men. This body existed, with temporary suspensions, but little permanent modification, till 1832, when it was merged into a body from which it must always be carefully distinguished—namely, the Admiralty.


The Admiralty, which has now absorbed the whole administration of the navy, originally only exercised the higher military control. It was, in fact, the representative of the Lord High Admiral, and is still technically described as the commission named to discharge the duties of his office. This office descended to the Tudors from earlier times. The Lord High Admiral was, to repeat a phrase already used, the king's lieutenant for sea affairs. He exercised a large jurisdiction, gave commissions to the military officers of the navy, the lieutenants, that is to say, and captains, issued the orders, and commanded in war. The non-military officers, the masters and their mates, whose duty was the navigation of the ship, the doctors and pursers, fell under the Navy Office. This department was subordinate to the admiral, and bound to execute his orders, but he did not sit in it. In earlier times he discharged the duties of his office in his own house. Even at later periods, when there was an Admiralty Office at Whitehall, the Navy Office had its own quarters in Seething Lane, or, later on, in Somerset House, until the great reform of 1832 welded the departments together.

By the end of the reign of Henry VIII. the navy was, in so far as the main lines are concerned, organised pretty much as it was destined to remain for three centuries. The chief change introduced during this long period was the formation of the regular corps of naval officers, which dates from the Restoration. Until that time there was no organised body of fighting sea officers, as we may call them, in order to avoid the confusion which arises from the use of the word "military" as applied to the naval service. Individual men were habitually employed, and, when not on service, provided for by being put on the footing of gentlemen of the royal household, but they had no general commission as naval officers, and no claim to pension. The Lord High Admiral gave commissions when a fleet was fitted out, issued instructions, and commanded in person. The Navy Office, or Navy Board, did the civil work. On this side of the administration the necessity for taking care of ships and stores early led to the formation [38]of a regular staff of pilots, boatswains, and gunners, who belonged to the navy, and were not merely attached to this or that ship for as long as she was in commission.

The growth of the ship itself had much to do with bringing about the formation of a permanent Royal Navy. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was no longer possible to rely on such resources as could be found in the Cinque Ports, even if they had not been silted up by the action of the currents of the Channel. Little vessels built for the coasting trade had neither the size, the strength, nor the armament which had now become necessary for the work of war. The larger merchant ships of the great ports were, indeed, better fitted for the purpose. In those times of insecurity at sea they generally went armed, even in peace. Accordingly, we find that until the middle of the seventeenth century pressed or hired merchant ships were always to be found in great fleets. But their inferiority to the vessel built for war was early recognised. Queen's officers were found to declare that the merchant ships were of little use, except to make a show, in the fight with the Armada. The special warship early became a necessity to a power which was bound to keep up its strength at sea. It could only be provided by the State, which at that time meant the king. Henry VII. saw that truth clearly, and so did his successors on the throne. If they did not build vessels enough to render them independent of all other sources of supply in war, it was because of the poverty of the Crown. From the time, indeed, when vessels of any size began to be required for purposes of war, the State was compelled to rely on those it built for itself. The great bulk of our trade was conducted in vessels of small size. Even at the end of the first quarter of this century, a merchant ship of 500 tons burden was thought large. The great majority ranged from 150 to about 250 tons for the most distant voyages. But as early as the reign of Henry VII. warships were built of 1000 tons. Such vessels could not be supplied by the trade. Neither were [39]the trading craft, being built as economically as possible, equal in strength to those constructed for war.

The great ships of the early Tudors were an exaggeration of the cogs of the Middle Ages. They were longer, broader, and built much higher in the sides. But they had the same towering castles at bow and stern. The word forecastle preserves the memory of the species of fort which once cumbered the fore part of ships. These fortresses were shut off from the rest of the ship by barriers, called, in later times at least, cobridges, and defended even when the enemy was in possession of the waist. Small guns, called "murdering pieces," were mounted on them, to clear the deck on emergency. As parts of a castle they had their merits, but they were very dangerous top hamper for a ship. The fate of the Mary Rose, which will be mentioned later on, shows how easily vessels of the time were upset. Their instability was exaggerated by the nature of the rigging. In the largest vessel there were four masts—one at the prow, another at the stern, and two between. They were apparently complete spars, not divided, as in later times, into lower mast and topmast. Each carried a great square sail or course of excessive height, to which a topsail could be added. The strain thrown on the hull by these great sails must have been severe. It was aided by the castles, which had a constant tendency to tear away when the ship was rolling. As the structure was weak, and the caulking alone was trusted to keep the ships watertight, it is easy to understand that a very short cruise or a very moderate spell of bad weather was enough to reduce the noblest of them to the condition of a sieve. Indeed, the unfitness of the "capital ships" of the sixteenth century for winter cruising was recognised by everybody. Even a hundred years later, when many improvements had been introduced, naval officers were reluctant to keep large vessels at sea after summer was over. As late as the reign of William III., at the end of the seventeenth century, a council of officers declared that the heavier line-of-battle ships could not be safely kept out after the first days of autumn. In the [40]earlier Tudor times they were of use only in fine-weather months. The smaller vessels, being less built upon, and not subject to the same amount of leverage tending to tear them to pieces, were more seaworthy. As they must also have sailed very badly, there is no apparent reason for the confidence inspired in our ancestors by the presence of one of these "capital ships." They must be supposed to have trusted it to bear down opposition by its mere weight, just as a very fine corps of mail-clad horsemen would sweep lighter opponents before them on the field of battle.

Their armament consisted of a multiplicity of guns, ranging from very small pieces mounted on the castles up to the "cannon royal," a 68-pounder, on the main deck. Guns of different sizes were mounted on the same deck. Experience gradually showed the unwisdom of this variegated armament. In the following generations the cannon royal was given up as too heavy, and the very small pieces as too light, while the batteries were made uniform.

The subsequent progress of the navy is better understood when we remember from what it was that it started. The early Tudor warship was absurdly over-hampered with superstructures, rigged in a fashion which was inefficient, and yet exposed the vessel to a dangerous leverage, and armed as if the aim had been to produce confusion. It was still so little fitted to struggle with the forces of the sea and wind, that it could not meet winter weather. From that point the Royal Navy advanced to the stage at which Nelson could keep his watch off Toulon for two years, and at the end of them be still ready for the pursuit of Villeneuve. The story is one of continual simplification and adaptation. The towering over-built castles were cut down, the long complete mast was subdivided into lower, top, and top-gallant. These two last named could be lowered in case of need to relieve the ship. The unwieldy course was reduced, and the topsails and top-gallant sails added to the power of the ship, while remaining themselves perfectly handy. The upright mast in the prow [41]was lowered till through successive stages it became the bowsprit. The armament was brought into a comparatively few classes of guns.

The method in which the ships of the Tudors were manned and fought is better known than their construction. During his first war with France (1511-1514) Henry VIII. provided for the equipment of his fleet very much after the fashion which continued to be followed in the raising of regiments till the end of the eighteenth century. He entered into a contract with his admiral, Sir Edward Howard. The king, on his part, undertook to provide ships, guns, and a sum of money. The admiral, on the other hand, bound himself to do his sovereign service, and to give him one-half the prizes. The business of collecting the crews was apparently left to the admiral, who was armed with the power to press, and was entitled to command the service of local officials for the purpose. It shows how far a fleet was looked upon as a temporary force, that this contract was only to last for three months, and to be renewable for periods of the same length. If the desired purpose was effected, or peace was made, the whole force would be dissolved. Hired or pressed ships would be paid off, and allowed to go. The king's ships would be returned to his own docks, which were then in the Thames, there to remain under the care of his officials of the Navy Office (or, since we are speaking of 1512, it would be more accurate to say, the officials who in the course of the ensuing years were to be organised into the Navy Office) until they were again wanted. The men would be disbanded. There would be left the admiral, who was a great officer of State, ready to command when called upon, the civil officers, the caretakers of the ships and stores, and the ships themselves,—the materials, in short, out of which a fleet could be formed when required.

This was the method in its main lines. The details will be best understood by taking a single ship, and seeing how she was manned. For example, let us take the establishment of the Gabriel as she was in the month of March in the fourth year of the reign of Henry VIII. (1513). It [42]gives the disposition of the crew, that is, the classes into which it was divided, and their rates of pay. The statement, which is taken from Charnock, does not agree with the list of the navy in 1513 as quoted in the Calendar of State Papers of Henry VIII., but it supplies us with an account of the crew of a great ship of the time which is substantially accurate as a model. How little confidence is to be placed in the details of the lists of "the king's army on the sea" which are preserved from this reign may be shown by a single fact. In one "book," or, as we should say, "return," corrected by Wolsey, the Gabriel is described as of 800 tons, having two captains, Cortney (Courtenay) and Cornwall, with 600 men, of whom 250 are mariners. In another she is said to be of 700 tons, with one captain, Sir Will. Pirton, and 500 men.

Number of Men. Wages of Men.
Sir William Trevellian, captain, at 18d. a day 1 42/-
His retinue, every man 5/- a month 420 £105
The town of Gloucester, every man 5/- a month 25 £6 15/-
John Clerk, master 1 5/-
Mariners, every man 5/- a month 240 £60
Dead shares, that is to say, the master, 6; his mate, 2; the pilot, 3; four quartermasters, 4; their mates, 3; the boatswain, 2; his mate, 1; the coxswain, 1; his mate, ½; the carpenter, 1; the caulker, 1; the steward, 1; his mate, ½; the purser, 1 = 27½, £6, 17s. 6d.
Gunners, every man 5/- a month 20 100/-
Rewards to the gunners, that is to say, the master gunner, 3/- a month; his mate, 2/6; the four quartermasters, every one of them 2/6 apiece, 10/-; fourteen gunners at 20d. apiece, 23/4 40/10
Sum of the men, 602; of the dead shares, 27½; of the money, £187, 10s. 4d.

No lieutenant is named, and an officer of that name only appears later, but he probably had an ancestor in the gentleman who was captain of the retinue of Sir William Trevelyan. This gentleman was a soldier appointed to fight, and not to attend to the navigation and seamanship, which was the duty of the master. From the fact that the mariners are given as a separate class, we may confidently conclude that the retinue consisted of soldiers, whom the captain brought [43]with him. It will be seen that they greatly exceeded the sailors in number, and this was for long the rule. There is, in truth, no greater mistake than to suppose that the crews of the great warships at any time contained a majority of real seamen, but in Henry's reign the proportion of soldiers was larger than was commonly the case in later times. The indenture made in 1512 with Sir Edward Howard provides that of the 3000 men to be raised over and above the crew of the Regent, which is mustered by itself, 1750 were to be soldiers, and 1233 sailors. It is probable, however, that under the name of soldiers were included many men who afterwards would have been entered as "waisters" and "landsmen," parts of the ship's company who were only expected to work on deck or below, and were not in the proper sense "sailormen." The gunners also were a separate class, and we may safely conclude in their case also that they were not—at least not necessarily—sailors, but rather marine artillerymen.

"Dead pays" is an odd expression, which, however, almost explains itself. They were imaginary men, whose pay was applied to the purpose of providing a sufficient salary for the warrant officers. In theory every member of the crew received the same allowance of 5s. pay and 5s. rations for a month of twenty-eight days. The captain, who drew eighteenpence a day, was the only exception. It was a manifestly insufficient salary, but a gentleman in his position was probably a man of means, who expected to serve at his own charges, and looked to prize and ransom money, or to the king's favour, for his reward, as also for the means of rewarding the volunteers of good family who followed his banner. The system was one which obviously lent itself to abuse. A poor or unscrupulous captain would be tempted to enrich himself by making false musters, that is, by misstating the number of men actually present in his ship, and pocketing the money paid for wages. He would always have the help of subordinates who were bribed, or were afraid to offend a great man when he wished to deceive the king. This absurdly roundabout way of remunerating the officers was finally given up, but it left a [44]curious representative in the so-called "widows' men" of quite recent times. They also were imaginary sailors, and the pay allowed for them was handed over to Greenwich Hospital, to form a fund for the pensions of women whose husbands were killed in action. The twenty-five men of the town of Gloucester mentioned in the list of the Gabriel's crew may be supposed to have been contributed by the town to the king's navy as its quota of the levy. In the crews of other ships we find mention of the men of Exeter, or of the county of Devon, or the Earl of Arundel, or some other great noble, who were similarly mustered apart. These are traces of the mediæval organisation which survived into and overlapped the new time.

The manner of fighting of the time is sufficiently well known. Of strategy, in the proper sense of the word, the sea-captains of Henry VIII. knew the essential. They could harry an enemy's coast and commerce for the purpose of provoking him to fight, or lie in front of any port where his ships might be at anchor, and wait till he came out. The actual management of ships when engaged with the enemy was decidedly rough and ready. It does not appear that there was as yet any formation of a fleet. One great number of ships advanced in a swarm against another, and each individual vessel got into action as speedily as the seamanship of her master and the spirit of her captain allowed. In one of the letters of Sir Edward Echyngham to Wolsey we have a spirited account of the preparations made to meet some hostile French ships. He reports that on a certain day in April 1515 he spied three French men-of-war "that made unto usward; and then I comforted my folk and made them to harness, and because I had no rails upon my deck I coiled a cable round about the deck breast high, and likewise in the waist, and so hanged upon the cable mattresses, and dagswayns (a species of coarse, shaggy blanket used by the poor), and such bedding as I had within board, and setting out my marris pikes, and my fighting sails all ready to encounter these three French barks, with such poor ordnance as I had, and [45]then they saw that I made unto them with so good a will, and would not shrink from them, then they put themselves to flight, and then I chased them till they came to the Abbey of Fécamp, which lies hard by the seaside, and so they gat them under the walls of the haven, and we followed them until they shot their ordnance into us." From Sir Edward Echyngham's despatch, it is clear that his ship had no bulwarks between the fore and after castles, and the protection for the men fighting on deck was secured by making a temporary barrier of bedding, blankets, and sails. It was here that the enemy would naturally attempt to enter, and the men stationed in this part of the ship, commonly called the waist, would be most exposed to the fire of the enemy's tops and castles. The practice of concealing this, the most vulnerable part of the deck, by hanging up what were called waist-cloths, continued until the next century. They were, however, a very poor substitute for bulwarks, being exceedingly inflammable. Well-painted wood will resist fire for a long time, but canvas sails, bedding, and blankets are much more easily set blazing. An accidental explosion in the ship herself, the wads from the guns on the cobridge heads, or, worst of all, the flames of a fireship alongside, would cause all the canvas and rigging to burn up like a bonfire. A frightful instance of the facility with which a disaster of this kind could be produced was given in the very first naval battle of Henry VIII.'s reign. The mention of pikes proves that Sir Edward Echyngham calculated that a considerable part of his fighting would consist in repelling boarders or in attempting to board. Indeed, until it got to hand-to-hand fighting, there was little decisive result to be expected from the sea battles of that time. The guns were, as has been said above, often heavy, but the artillery practice of the crews was very rough. The allowance for windage was absurdly large, and it was consequently a matter of chance in what direction a bullet would go. Besides, the use of cartridges had not yet been introduced, [46]and the powder was ladled out of a barrel—a very slow and very dangerous practice. It seems to have been thought that a great fleet had maintained a fire of wonderful intensity if it discharged three hundred shot in one day's work. This is far less than the total amount of the fire of either the Victory or the Royal Sovereign at Trafalgar.

By firmly establishing the royal authority, and by filling his treasury, Henry VII. had prepared the way for his son's work as an organiser of the navy. He certainly left his son a navy of no contemptible strength, according to the standard of that time. The Statute-book of his reign contains several acts meant to encourage shipping. The comparative obscurity of his navy is probably mainly to be accounted for by the fact that he looked upon war with dislike, and never pushed a quarrel with his formidable neighbour, the King of France, beyond the point at which Louis XI. was prepared to offer him a bribe to keep quiet. But, however much Henry VIII. may have received from his father, he certainly exerted himself strenuously to increase his inheritance. He not only built ships, but he improved the naval architecture of his subjects by inviting workmen from the great Italian ports. He not only built and improved ships, but he took a very keen and intelligent interest in the organisation of his fleet and in the performances of his vessels. He extended his establishments on the Thames, and to him belongs the credit of setting up the dockyard at Portsmouth. And we know that in March 1513, in the fourth year of his reign, he issued a "Licence to found a Guild in honour of the Holy Trinity and St. Clement in the Church of Deptford Strond, for reformation of the navy, lately much decayed by admission of young men without experience, and of Scots, Flemings, and Frenchmen as loadsmen." Loadsmen were those who were considered capable to throw the lead, and were the skilled seamen from whom the masters and pilots, or, as we now say, mates, were chosen. This was the Trinity House, which still exists, and still continues to perform the duty assigned to it by Henry VIII. [47]of examining those who wished to be accepted as fit to navigate or pilot a ship, besides taking care of the lights and buoys all round the coast. Its connection with the navy was much closer in Tudor times than it came to be later on; for not only did it supply the masters and pilots of the king's ships, but it was entrusted with the supply and transport of many kinds of stores.

A letter written by Sir Edward Howard on the 22nd of March 1513 gives a very pleasing instance of the minute personal interest which the king took in his ships. The document has been so damaged by time and accident that a large part of it is illegible, but from what can be deciphered we learn that Sir Edward gave the king a minute account of the performances of all the vessels in his squadron, during a cruise from the mouth of the river to the Channel. Fragments of sentences tell how the one sailed very well, and how "your good ship, the flower, I trow, of all ships that ever sailed," did something which the damaged state of the paper conceals, and then "came within three spear-lengths of the Kateryn and spake to John Fleming, Peter Seman, and to Freeman, master, to bear record that the Mary Rose did fetch her at the tail." "The flower of all ships that ever sailed" was apparently the Mary Rose herself, Howard's own flagship, the same which was destined to come to such a disastrous end in the Solent some thirty years later. Sir Edward tells how she "fet" the Mary George, and in all ways proved herself "the noblest ship of sail ... at this hower that I trow be in Christendom." When they came to anchor, the admiral noted down the order in which the vessels forming his squadron came up to the Road: "The first after the Mary Rose was the Sovereign, then the Nicholas, then the Leonard of Dartmouth, the Mary George, the Harry of Hampton, the Ann of Greenwich, the Nicholas Montrygo, called the Sancho de Garra, and the Katherine and the Mary." That the king's officers were encouraged to keep him so minutely informed of the performances of his [48]ships is proof enough of the interest Henry took in his navy.

Although the new time had begun, the change from the Middle Ages was not yet very perceptible in so far as the general direction of a war was concerned. It was still a matter of raids and casual battles. The first naval action of Henry's reign was in pursuit of the old standing war against the pirates. A Scotchman named Andrew Barton had been robbed by the Portuguese, and had received letters of marque from his own sovereign, authorising him to indemnify himself for his loss out of any Portuguese property he could find upon the seas. In much later and more civilised times it was never difficult to turn a privateer into a pirate, and in the early sixteenth century the distinction between them was fine in the extreme. Barton betook himself to considering that everybody he came across on blue water was a Portuguese, or would serve the purpose very well. He plundered Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Flemings indiscriminately, and without the slightest regard to the embarrassments he cost his own sovereign. At last he became such a nuisance that ships had to be fitted out to pursue him. According to a story which is not very well founded, they were sent out at the expense of the Earl of Surrey, and were commanded by his sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward. The two vessels belonging to Barton, called the Lion and the Jenny Perwin or Bark of Scotland, were overtaken by Surrey's two cruisers, and captured after a fight of a most determined and picturesque character, for which, however, the chief authority is a spirited ballad of much later date. There is no doubt, however, as to the death of Barton, who was one of the numerous Scotch pirates of the time.

The same year which saw the capture of these skimmers of the sea saw also the beginning of a much greater naval war. In 1511 Henry entered into the first of his wars with France. As he had then been only two years upon the throne, the fact that he was able to despatch a considerable naval force against the French [49]coast at once, shows that he must have inherited a large force of ships from his father. Four-and-twenty vessels of his own, which he reinforced by ships hired from the Hanse Towns and of the Spaniards, represented the, for that time, very respectable naval power of the kingdom. The war was carried on in the barbarous mediæval style. In 1511 Sir Edward Howard, to whom the king gave the command as Lord High Admiral, ravaged the coasts of Brittany. The devastation of his dominions stung the King of France into making counter exertions, and a fleet was collected at Brest under the command of an officer of the name of Primauguet, which our historians, availing themselves of the licence of the age, corrupted into Sir Pierce Morgan. In 1512 King Henry's fleet was collected at Portsmouth, to be prepared to repel the French if they made any attack, or to fall upon them first if their coming was delayed. The king himself rode down to Portsmouth and reviewed the soldiers, who formed the larger part of his crews on the Downs. Then the fleet sailed, standing over to the coast of France. What exactly followed it is very difficult to say on the evidence we possess. The fleets certainly met somewhere in the neighbourhood of Brest. The historians on either side contradict one another flatly, both as to the respective strengths of the combatants and as to the result of the fight, each asserting that his own countrymen were outnumbered, and that the enemy ended by flying away in a scandalous state of panic. The one point on which all agree is, that somehow or other, and in consequence of manœuvres which are perfectly unintelligible as they are narrated, the great English ship the Regent, of which Sir Thomas Knevet, the King's Master of the Horse, was captain, and the still larger French ship named the Cordelier, fell on board one another, caught fire, and blew up. Knevet and the French admiral, Primauguet, whose flag was flying in the Cordelier, both perished, and from one thousand to fifteen hundred men with them. Whether, as the French assert, this disaster had such a terrifying effect on the English ships that they all ran away, or [50]whether, as our authorities maintain, the French were completely cowed, and took refuge in Brest, the fact that the battle came to an end with no very decisive result is well established. The terrible circumstances of the loss of these two ships produced a profound impression. We notice in ensuing years a marked disinclination among French and English to come too close. It is a feeling easy to understand. There was little use in destroying your enemy if you perished with him; and when both were so inflammable, and the danger of fire was so great, it was always likely that flames would break out somewhere, and if they did, it was nearly certain that they would spread from one to the other. The substantial fruits of victory remained to the English, for their enemies attempted no retaliation. King Louis XII. was plainly convinced of the inferiority of his forces, for he prepared for the struggle of the ensuing year by sending for a reinforcement of galleys from the Mediterranean. They were brought round by a French Knight of Malta of the name of Pierre Jean le Bidoulx, which was abbreviated into Pregent by his countrymen, and corrupted by us into Perye John, and Preter John.

The winter months put a stop to the movements of ships between 1512 and 1513. In this year the operations began as before, that is to say, the English fleet sailed over to the coast of France for the purpose of making plundering raids, and then there was a fight between the two fleets. In this case, however, the end was disastrous to England. In spring Sir Edward Howard had his fleet collected at Plymouth. The total strength was of ships 24, of tons 8460, which gives an average of some 350 tons each. The statement as to the strength of the crews drawn up for Wolsey illustrates the superiority of the soldier to the sailor element in the fleets of the time. It is recorded that the captains were 26 in number, and the soldiers 4650, while of masters there were 24, and of mariners 2880. From this method of arranging the different elements of the crew, it is obvious that the captain and his soldiers were not looked upon as naval men in our sense of the word, but purely as fighting men, and were [51]altogether considered as as much superior in dignity as they undoubtedly were in numbers to the sailors. It will be seen that these vessels must have been crowded to what would now be thought a dangerous extent. There were no less than two hundred men per ship. It was no doubt for this reason that the fleets of that time were attended by a swarm of small vessels called victuallers. There was, in fact, insufficient room to store the provisions required for such considerable bodies of men in such diminutive craft for any length of time. These victuallers were of course a serious hindrance to any fleet. They were slow, and, being only merchant ships, employed wholly as transports, were perfectly incapable of offering any resistance to an enemy. Thus the naval force which they were meant to feed was not only kept back from movements of any rapidity, but was constantly compelled to employ a large part of its strength in protecting its own food against attacks by even insignificant ships belonging to the other side. One short cruise out, an attack on some part of the enemy's coast, and a prompt return home, was all that could be expected from fleets pestered by so many obstructions.

It is said that Howard was so well pleased with the force under his command that he urged the king to come down and take part in the attack on France himself, for which he was soundly rebuked by the Council as having shown an insufficient regard for the safety of His Majesty's sacred person. Yet King Henry might have made this voyage with very little risk, and Howard himself might have returned from the coast of France in safety but for his own headlong courage. On reaching the neighbourhood of Brest, which he seems to have done on the 12th of April, the admiral found the enemy in no humour to give him a meeting. Their ships fled back into Brest on his approach, not, as it appears, into the actual harbour, which lies at the end of the very appropriately named Goulet or Gullet, but into Bertheaume Bay, which lies just outside on the north. Here they took refuge under the protection of forts, and refused to be enticed out. Howard [52]had, in fact, made his appearance on the French coast at a very inconvenient time for the enemy. Pregent, who was on his way with the galleys from the Mediterranean, had not yet been able to join the French ships at Brest. The English were placed between the two divisions of the enemy, and, being apparently superior in force to either of them, could have crushed them in detail if once they could have been got out of the protection of their forts. But to come out was just what the French would not do; nor could Howard by any insults, or even by the damage he inflicted on the coast villages, sting them into giving him battle. Provoked by the shyness of his enemy, and perhaps sore from the rebuke inflicted on him by the Council, Howard made two successive, and, as the result shows, very rash attacks on the enemy. He first endeavoured to sail in and attack the French at anchor in Bertheaume Bay, but, being very ill supplied with pilots, he speedily came to grief. One of the largest of his vessels, commanded by Arthur Plantagenet, a natural son of Edward IV., ran on the rocks, and became a total wreck. It does not appear that Howard blamed "Master Arthur" for the loss of the ship. In a letter to the king on the 17th of April he praises him for his courage, and says that he had given him leave to go home. "For sir, when he was in extreme danger ... he called upon our Lady of Walsingham for help and comfort, and made a vow that, an it pleased God and her to deliver him out of the peril, he would never eat flesh nor fish till he had seen her." As Master Arthur Plantagenet would have been reduced by his hasty vow to the sad necessity of living upon dry bread, it was humane to let him get home as quickly as might be. The Middle Ages were not yet quite over, but the years were at hand when any officer of King Henry's who had pleaded a vow to our Lady of Walsingham as the excuse for retiring from the presence of the enemy would have soon found himself in another and even a worse form of peril than shipwreck.

After the failure in Bertheaume Bay, Howard turned to attack "Pery John," as he calls him. The Knight of [53]Malta, finding himself cut off from Brest, had taken refuge in Conquet Bay, which lies just round the point San Mathieu, the extreme western end of the north side to the approach to Brest. Le Conquet is a little island, one of several which stretch south-east from Ushant, and the bay is just opposite on the mainland; the channel between them is called the Passage du Four. The French commander had drawn his galleys up on the beach. It was one of the advantages of these long, narrow, and in stormy waters unseaworthy craft, that they could be beached with ease, and so escape larger and heavier vessels which dared not follow them so near the shore. If Howard could have landed men and guns, he might very soon have made an end of the galleys. And it does appear that he had a scheme of the kind in contemplation, but, whether because he feared interruption by French ships coming out of Brest, or whether only because his buoyant courage ran away with him, he took another course. The story is told by Sir Edward Echyngham in a letter to Wolsey dated the 5th of May. "The news of these parts be so dolorous," he begins, "that unneith I can write them for sorrow;" and it was indeed a sorrowful story. Sir Edward Howard, so we make out, finding that the enemy would not give him a fair meeting, and that, while he was subject to interruption from Brest, he could not safely land his soldiers to attack Pregent, had at last despatched part of his fleet into what we then called the Trade, which is now known as the Passage de l'Iroise, and had decided to make a front attack on the enemy in Conquet Bay with the others. It was, in fact, a cutting-out expedition; and once more we note that the Middle Ages were lingering on, for the admiral led himself, as Sir John Chandos might have done, on a piece of work which in later times would have been more appropriately left to a subordinate officer. The object, as Sir Edward Echyngham reported, "was to win the French galleys with the help of boats, the water being too shallow for ships," and he goes on to describe what followed in words which it would be hardly possible to better.


"The galleys were protected on both sides by bulwarks, planted so thick with guns and cross-bows, that the quarrels and the gonstons (gunstones) came together as thick as hailstones. For all this the admiral boarded the galley that Preyer John was in and Charran the Spaniard with him and sixteen others. By advice of the admiral and Charran they had cast anchor into [word illegible] of the French galley, and fastened the cable to the capstan that if any of the galleys had been on fire they might have veered the cable, and fallen off; but the French hewed asunder the cable, or some of our mariners let it slip. And so they left this [word illegible] in the hands of his enemies. There was a mariner wounded in eighteen places who by adventure recovered unto the buoy of the galley so that the galley's boat took him up. He said he saw my Lord-Admiral thrust against the rails of the galley with marris pikes. Charran's boy tells a like tale, for when his master and the admiral had entered, Charran sent him for his hand gun which before he could deliver the one galley was gone off from the other, and he saw my Lord-Admiral waving his hands and crying to the galleys, 'Come aboard again, come aboard again,' which when my Lord saw they could not, he took his whistle from about his neck, wrapped it together and threw it into the sea."

So died Sir Edward Howard, deeply lamented. "For there was never nobleman so ill lost as he was, that was of so great courage, and had so many virtues, and that ruled so great an army so well as he did, and kept so good order and true justice." Sir Edward was the first of the short list of our admirals who died in battle, and it may be said that he was the last knight in the old sense of the word—that is to say, a valiant man of his person, thinking more of the point of honour than of beating an enemy by good management—who commanded an English fleet. Although it has been the custom to speak of the valour of this attempt as honourable to the whole force engaged, the truth seems to be that Sir Edward Howard was not well supported. This small English galley in which he boarded the Frenchman appears in sober fact, to have been seized with a panic. No sooner had the knights and gentlemen leapt on to the Frenchman's deck than their mariners left them to shift for themselves. Nor was it only the sailors who were somewhat deficient in spirit. Sir Edward Echyngham reports that "Sir Henry Shirborne and Sir William Sidney boarded Prior John's galley, but being left alone, and thinking the admiral safe, returned." These two, though brave men, satisfied themselves hastily of the safety of their leader, and it is [55]not easy to understand how they could have failed to see his peril, considering that the whole body was crowded on the narrow space of a galley's deck.

The loss of Sir Edward Howard most certainly had the effect of depriving his command of all spirit. Within ten days they were back in England, and Echyngham's account of the repulse was written from Hampton. The excuses given for this hasty return were that the fleet did not know to whom the command ought to fall upon the death of the admiral, and the want of victuals. They are more plausible than convincing, and the fact probably is that the fleet was dispirited on finding that the French were too strongly posted to be attacked. The discipline, too, was probably not very good at a time when all forces were raised for temporary expeditions. The death of a leader whose rank and character secured the respect of his followers, was not infrequently followed by the disbanding of his whole force.

The short remainder of this war, which speedily came to an end, was filled by a mere repetition of the old raids by English ships on the French coast, and by French on the English. Pregent plundered the coast of Sussex, while the English ships were refitting, till he had an eye knocked out by an English arrow. English captains in revenge plundered the coast of France, and so it went on with much brutality and no decisive effect till the war died a natural death.

For thirty years there were no further events in the history of the navy which call for particular notice. Henry entered into several wars with Francis I., the successor of Louis XII., and his navy was used to good effect; but little would be gained by a barren recital of the number and strength of the fleets fitted out to transport our armies across the Channel, or harass the French coast. The superiority of Henry during all these years was very marked. He had, in fact, no serious enemy at sea, for Scotland was too poor to send out any naval armament above the level of a casual pirate or semi-pirate, while Charles V., whose dominions included both our rivals at [56]sea in the coming generations, the Spaniards and the Hollanders, was generally at peace with the King of England. Francis I. might have been a most formidable enemy if he had applied himself to developing his navy. He did not indeed actually neglect it at any time, and towards the end of his reign he made one strenuous attempt to get the upper hand at sea. But he had too much to do elsewhere, not to be forced to sacrifice his fleet. His rivalry with Charles V., both in the contest for the empire and in the struggle to obtain possession of the duchy of Milan, made it absolutely necessary for him to devote his resources mainly to the maintenance of armies on land.

In this as in other cases England owed a great deal to the geographical position which saved her from the temptations and necessities besetting her rival. It is enough to say that from 1514 to 1544 the English fleet carried troops across the Channel or escorted the armies marching into Scotland, practically unresisted. This interval was, however, of great importance in the history of the navy. The establishment of the Navy Office was not completed till 1546, but the dockyards were more thoroughly organised, and were greatly extended. There was still very much to be done in the formation of a permanent service. A certain lingering confusion between the Navy Royal and the general shipping of the country probably accounts for the king's decision to leave the management of Deptford Dockyard in the hands of the Trinity House. But the tendency was always towards the formation of special services to be employed for definite ends. Although no regular naval service was as yet formed, the foundations were laid. Even when there was no expedition to be carried out against the French or the Scotch, the king took care never to leave the seas without their winter or their summer guard—small squadrons of vessels appointed to patrol the Straits and the Channel. This force was very small—in quiet times hardly exceeding six or seven little vessels, and the crews were hired only for the summer or winter commission. The fact that a man had commanded a ship in one or other guard did not give him any right to [57]continued employment, but from the very nature of the case a certain continuity of service would arise. Officers who proved satisfactory, or had good friends at court, were employed again and again, and the king's captains began to be a recognised body; while it is safe to presume that there were some soldiers and mariners who found his service more acceptable than that of private employers, and who volunteered into it with regularity. It was during these years, too, that the first efforts to improve the construction of ships were made by the introduction of skilled shipwrights from the Italian ports. Of these Henry must have had a respectable staff in constant employment. When the Mary Rose was sunk at St. Helens, the efforts made to raise her were mainly directed by Italian workmen.

After neglecting, or if not actually neglecting, then subordinating, the naval strength of his kingdom to his armies, and to much less worthy purposes, for thirty years, Francis I. was at last driven into making a desperate effort at sea by the capture of Boulogne in 1544. When the King of England had appeared in France at the head of an army of 30,000 men, and had added another defensible position to the fortress he already possessed at Calais, the unwisdom of leaving him the command of the Channel was borne in upon Francis with a force which aroused him to efforts really worthy of the occasion. In the spring of 1545 (the operations of the previous year had merely been the transport of the army, and a few plundering expeditions) preparations were made on both sides for something deserving to be called war. The King of France built ships in batches, and brought from the Mediterranean not only his own galleys, but large numbers of vessels hired from the Ragusans, whom our ancestors called the Aragoozes. The superiority of the fleet which he was soon able to command might have taught a French ruler how very possible it was for his great monarchy, then certainly more than twice as populous and rich as England, to excel her in the number of her fleets. The English were outnumbered from the first, and knew it. In the [58]spring of 1545, Lord Lisle, then Henry's admiral, and the famous or infamous Duke of Northumberland of the next reign, made his appearance on the coast of France with a scheme for attacking the French in the Seine; but he did not carry it into effect, and the explanation that he found his enemy too strong is at least the most plausible. When the French put to sea, the English certainly acted in a manner to be expected of men who felt themselves overmatched. They retired into Portsmouth harbour, and allowed the French admiral, D'Annebault, to advance to the anchorage of St. Helens, and establish himself there unopposed. The real strength of the French fleet was by no means in proportion to its numbers. A large part of the ships were galleys, which were of little or no use except in a dead calm. It seems, too, that the spirits of the French fleet had been a good deal damped by a disaster which happened before they left Havre. A great vessel, the Philippe, the most beautiful in the world according to the French writers, caught fire in the harbour of Havre, and burned to the water's edge. Blaise de Montluc, who saw the disaster, immediately formed the conclusion that no good would come of the enterprise; and if he, who was the most intrepid of mankind, had come to this gloomy conclusion, we may be sure that there were plenty more in the fleet who were not in a more confident spirit.

A much more trustworthy indication of the little result to be expected from the enterprise would have been the want of spirit of the officers chosen to command by the French king. They had, in reality, an immense superiority of strength. One hundred and fifty "great ships," and at least a hundred smaller vessels, were collected under the command of D'Annebault, and the troops amounted to eight or ten thousand men under the command of Marshal Biez. The force was amply sufficient to strike such a blow to England as would have very rapidly compelled Henry to restore Boulogne, if it had been used with any degree of resolution, but the French leaders were from the beginning on the outlook for difficulties. They left Havre on the 16th of July, and two days later made their [59]appearance on the coast of Sussex, where they spent some time in plundering insignificant fishing villages. No attempt to molest them was made by the English fleet, which lay quiet in Portsmouth harbour. After doing just enough on the coast of Sussex to arouse the whole countryside, the French fleet came on to the Isle of Wight, and anchored at St. Helens. Here they remained, apparently for about ten days, neither attacking with determination, nor being attacked to any purpose. The fine July weather and the prevailing calms were wholly in favour of the French, whose fleet consisted largely of galleys. On the English side, a number of the smaller vessels had been fitted with sweeps, in order that they might act against the rowing vessels of the enemy. But neither did they show any particular zeal to attack. The king himself had come down to Portsmouth to survey the fortifications, and if courtly historians did not praise him too much, it was at his suggestion that the English vessels were provided with oars. Henry did not stay to witness the fighting (if it deserves that name) which ensued, but returned to London, leaving the command of the fleet to Lisle, and of the garrison to Suffolk. The operations were of a very monotonous description, and leave us under the impression that each side was reluctant to fight till it had the other at a hopeless disadvantage.

On the first day the French admiral sent forward sixteen galleys under the command of the Baron de la Garde, for the purpose of drawing the English admiral out to St. Helens, where he might be overpowered by numbers. Lisle was resolute not to be tempted to put himself at a disadvantage. Indeed, the plan was rather a futile one, which it hardly needed any great display of skill on the part of the English admiral to defeat. The galleys were not able to face the king's ships when any wind was blowing. They were very lightly built, and carried only one gun in the bow. If the English ships were able to manœuvre, they could either overpower their enemy by the fire of their broadsides, or, better still, run into them and sink them. Such a vessel as the Great [60]Harry running before a good breeze would probably have gone over a galley without suffering any material damage herself. Therefore the vessels sent by D'Annebault could not, without extreme rashness, come within striking distance of the English fleet, except in a dead calm. When, however, the weather was of this kind, the English ships were unable to move, and could not sail into the French fleet even if they had been disposed to do so. The fight, then, between the two resolved itself into something like this. During the calm hours of the morning, the Baron de la Garde and his colleague Strozzi, the Prior of Capua (the same who afterwards took the castle of St. Andrews from the Scotch Reformers, and had John Knox for his prisoner), came near enough to Lisle's ships to open an exasperating fire. So long as the wind did not get up, the English vessels lay helpless, and could only reply to the fire of their enemy with the few guns they could bring to bear. In such a case, the galleys at all times took care, as far as possible, to station themselves right ahead or else astern of their opponent, in order to avoid the fire of the broadside, though this, considering the rude gunnery of the early sixteenth century, was almost an excessive precaution, since the narrow, low-lying galley, when end on, must have presented a mark much more likely to be missed than to be hit. When the breeze got up, the English ships stood toward the enemy, who thereupon incontinently fled, and was not followed for any considerable distance. This moment was dangerous for him, for if he did not turn quick enough and get away before the English were quite close, he was likely to suffer very severely, for the galleys carried no guns astern. La Garde and the Prior of Capua were expert officers, and when, after some hours of long bowls, the wind got up and the English ships began to bear down, they extricated themselves very smartly from danger.

The first day having thus passed in a species of fighting which might have been prolonged for weeks with little material damage to either side, the French went on for a second, but not apparently for a third day. Yet, on [61]this occasion, they were encouraged by the conviction that they had really inflicted a severe loss on the English fleet. There had been a loss, but it was due, unless all contemporary Englishmen were in a conspiracy to conceal the truth, to something more discreditable to us than the enemy's cannon. The king's ship, the Mary Rose, had been thrown away by pure mismanagement. This was the vessel so ardently praised by Sir Edward Howard in the words quoted already. She capsized as she was coming out of Portsmouth harbour, owing, as it would seem, partly to defects in her construction, partly to neglect of precautions on the part of her crew. The lower-deck ports are said to have been only sixteen inches above the water-line, which is certainly dangerously low. As her crew were tacking her, or altering her course in some other way, she heeled over. If the ports had been shut and the guns made fast, no great harm might have followed, but the ports were open and the guns cast loose. When the water rushed in, the additional weight caused the vessel, overburdened as she was with the weight of her fore and after castles, to heel still further, and then the unfastened guns fell in a rush on the lee-side, probably breaking through wherever they fell against the planking. The Mary Rose filled and sank with such amazing rapidity, that of the 400 soldiers and 200 sailors, more or less, who formed her crew, not more than 40 were saved.

The pardonable conviction that they were entitled to credit themselves with the destruction of the Mary Rose had no very inspiriting influence on the French. M. d'Annebault even gave up making any further attacks to draw the English ships out by the use of his galleys, and adopted the alternative course of landing small parties of men in St. Helens Bay, at Shanklin, and the Blackgang Chine, for the purpose of plundering the country. None of these landing-parties seem to have been of any strength, and several of them were roughly handled by the militia of the island. D'Annebault has been severely criticised by his countrymen for want of energy, and on the whole with justice. He excused himself, partly by pleading that if he [62]had landed a great number of men, he would have so weakened his fleet that the English at Portsmouth could have fallen upon him with every prospect of success, and partly by the opinion of a council of war. The first of these excuses is very lame, for at a later period D'Annebault could afford to put four thousand men on shore in France, and yet be strong enough to give battle to Lisle at Shoreham. He could certainly have landed three thousand in the Isle of Wight, and if he had done so he might have retaliated very severely for the damage done by the English in France, while the ships at Portsmouth must have incurred deep discredit if they had lain idle while the houses of their countrymen were being burned before their eyes. The council of war is only technically a better excuse. He did indeed call a council of all the pilots in his fleet, to ask them whether it was possible to attack the English at Portsmouth with success. The pilots, as might have been expected, magnified the dangers and the difficulties—the shoals, the narrowness of the entry, the currents, the tides, the risk that the first vessels entering would be overpowered, and block the way for those following, the chance that a ship anchoring in a tideway would swing stern-on to the English fire, and, in short, all the topics of dissuasion which are usually advanced by subordinates on such occasions. If the expert knowledge of pilots had been listened to by Nelson, he would never have fought the battle of the Baltic. Fortunately for King Henry VIII., D'Annebault does not seem to have reflected that you can hardly hope to inflict serious injury upon an enemy who possesses some effective strength, except at the very serious risk of being hurt yourself. He wanted, to judge by his actions, to win without running any serious risk; and as the enemy with whom he had to deal was not one likely to give him a victory upon these easy terms, he had finally to retire without delivering an effective stroke. His timidity and want of resource are strikingly illustrated by the fact that he made no use of his galleys for the purpose of towing his great ships into Spithead, which they could easily have done. On the other hand, it must be confessed that no [63]very great enterprise was shown by the English in the use of their own row-boats. We neither hear of them as being employed to tow the big ships into action, nor of any really serious attack made by them upon the galleys. Perhaps the fate of Sir Edward Howard was too fresh in the recollections of our officers to allow of any repetition of his attempt in Conquet Bay.

Whether any considerable number of men were either killed or wounded in these very languid operations is doubtful, but both fleets certainly lost heavily from a cause which, throughout the whole of this and the following two centuries, was far more destructive than the sword. Hardly had King Henry VIII. left Portsmouth when his generals began to report to him the prevalence of sickness in his fleet; while the plague broke out amongst the French at St. Helens, even if it had not begun before they left Havre. Overcrowding, dirt, and salt food were universal in old fleets, and they produced their natural effects. We are probably well within the mark in supposing that for every man killed in action, or mortally wounded, fifty died of fever or the plague, and this continued to be the rule until well past the middle of the eighteenth century. What between disappointment at the obstinacy of the English in not fighting him on his own terms, the timidity of his pilots, and want of enterprise, D'Annebault, after spending several days in this futile manner, sailed away from St. Helens, coasting along Sussex, and making, as before, small plundering attacks, which even seem to have been very badly conducted, and could in any case serve no purpose except to embitter the already sufficiently savage hostility of the two countries. After a few days of this, he stood over to the coast of France, and near Boulogne landed not only four thousand soldiers, but three thousand pioneers, who had been supplied to him for the purpose of erecting the fortifications in the Isle of Wight. Even after this he still thought himself sufficiently strong to return to the English coast, and he reappeared accordingly in a few days.

On their return to the coast of England, the French made no attempt to renew the attack on the Isle of Wight. [64]They prowled along the shores of Sussex and of Kent in what reads like a very aimless manner. If they had any definite object, it was to prevent the English from sending reinforcements to Boulogne. On the whole, it does appear likely that they had some such purpose, for the general direction of their cruise was towards the narrow seas. So soon as they were relieved from their fears at Portsmouth, the English ships were ordered out to observe the French. It appears, from a letter of Lisle's to Paget, that he had been instructed by the king to remain at Spithead.

"Havyng received your letters, this morninge, wherein I do perceyve the Kinges Majesties plesser, as concerninge the settinge forwardes of His Majesties navy towardes the Narro Sees, wher, as it aperith, the Frenche men doo tryhumphe, I truste ther shalbe no tyme forslowyde in the advauncement and settinge forth of His Majesties plesser in that behalfe; and I moste humbly thanke His Majestie, that it hath plesed the same to gyve me libertye to look towardes theyme, for I never thought my selfe in prisone tyll now, syns the tyme of our lyinge here, and doe no servis. I truste in God that we shall departe hense uppon Tusdaye, yf the wynde will serve us."

When they did depart hence, some time was spent in finding the exact whereabouts of the triumphing French. Lisle sent vessels to look into Havre, who reported that a great part, if not all, of the French fleet had returned. This, however, must have been a mistake, for D'Annebault had certainly come back to the north side of the Channel immediately after landing his men at Boulogne. Between the 9th of August, the date of the letter quoted, and the 15th, Lisle found the enemy somewhere in the neighbourhood of Shoreham. The orders he had taken in view of the expected battle are particularly interesting, not only for what they tell of the sea fighting of the time, but because they contain the first mention of much which appears continuously during the succeeding centuries of our naval history.

The fleet under Lisle's orders consisted in all of 104 vessels. He had divided them into three squadrons, respectively called the Vanwarde, the Battle, and the Wing. All three terms were taken from the military language of [65]the time. The Battle was the usual name of the main or central division in the army, the Vanwarde needs no explanation, and we may suppose that the Wing was used to describe the third division, later called the Rear. This is the division into Red, White, and Blue squadrons, which became established in the naval wars of the seventeenth century. These titles were taken from the flags which finally came into use. In 1545 the only flags shown were the Royal Standard or "Banner of the King's Majesty's Arms," and the Cross of St. George or English Ensign. Lisle provided for distinguishing his own flagship from those of his subordinates by ordering that she should bear the Royal Standard at the main, and one flag of St. George's Cross at the fore. The ships of his division were to carry the St. George's Cross at the main. The admiral of the Vanwarde was to carry two flags of St. George—one at the main, and the other at the fore. The ships of his division were to carry their St. George's Cross at the foretopmasthead. The admiral of the Wing was to carry the English Ensign at the mizen, and every ship of his division was to do the same. It does not appear that the ships in this division were distinguished in any way from the flagship. By night the admiral carried three lights—one great lantern on the poop, and two smaller lights in the midst of the bonaventure mizen shrouds. The bonaventure mizen was a very small mast at the extreme end of the ship, where the smaller mast of a yawl is now placed. The admiral of the Vanwarde carried two lights, and the admiral of the Wing one light, on the bonaventure shrouds. The last articles of the sailing orders were, "The watch wourde in the night shalbe thus, 'God save King Henrye'; thother shall aunswer, 'And long to raign over us.'" This has been supposed to be the germ of the National Anthem.

In strength the fleet was divided as follows:—The Van consisted of 24 ships, carrying 3800 men, the Battle of 40, with 6846 men. Lisle himself was in this division, with the flag in the Henry Grace à Dieu. The Wing was of 40 smaller vessels, carrying only 2092 men. Perhaps [66]the most interesting of the admiral's fighting orders is the third—

"Item, when we shall se a convenient tyme to fight with thenimies, our Vanward shall make with ther Vanwarde, if they have any; and if they be in one compenye, our Vanward (takyng thadvauntage of the wynde) shall set uppon ther foremost ranck, bryngyng them oute of order; and our Vice-Admirall shall seake to bourd their Vice-Admirall, and every capitaign shall chose his equall, as nere as he maye."

In the thirty years which had passed since the death of Sir Edward Howard, some progress had been made towards establishing a recognised order of battle. Practice, helped no doubt by speculation, had brought our admirals to see the necessity of a regular method. In this disposition to stretch all along an enemy, and engage him from end to end, we have the first indication of that line of battle of which so much will be heard. It was the natural formation of a fleet relying on its broadside as its means of offence. But the line of battle may be left to grow a little more clearly defined before we discuss it. What is for the present of interest is to point out that the principle upon which the great majority of our naval battles have been fought, was present, not in germ, but fully developed, in this third item of Lisle's orders. It contains, in fact, the whole of the famous Article XIX. of the Fighting Instructions. The van was to steer with the enemy's van, the centre with his centre, and the rear with his rear, and the captains were to take "every man his bird." In time this became a sheer pedantry, and a burden under which the ablest officers of the navy chafed for a generation, until a happy accident encouraged them to throw it off. But in 1545 it was a progress, since any kind of order was in advance of none at all, and there was no hope of finally attaining a good system except by a series of experiments,—in other words, by successively trying everything that was wrong, and rejecting it.

The correspondence of the Lord Admiral was otherwise interesting. There was, for instance, admirable sense in the reasons he gives for not appointing two captains to the vessels fitted as galleys.


"And wher as His Majesties plesser ys to have to capitaynes and leaders of His Highnes rowyng peces, I do think, yf it may so stande with His Highnes plesser, that one shall do His Majestie better servis then too. For if theyr be too rulers, one will have his mynde, thother wil have his; if any thinge frame a mys, thone will excuse him by thother; the resydue under theym will excuse theym by two comanders; 'he bed me do that, and tother this.' Yf theyr be butt one, having chardge, nether he that hath the chardge commytted only to him, nether thos which be under one, hath any soche excuse."

Lisle's correspondence contains also several incidental notices of the ships under his command, which are valuable as showing the unseaworthiness of even the best vessels of the time. Thus, for instance, he writes on the 20th of August to Lord St. John: "This shall be to advise you that the King's Majesty's new ship called The Mistress is in such case with labouring in this foul weather, that she is not able to keep the seas, without spoiling of her masts, and tackle overboard. Her mainstay is loose in the partners, and the cross-trestles both of her foremast, and also of her mainmast are broken." The foul weather of which Lisle complains must have been experienced between the middle of July and the latter half of August. At that season it would certainly have been thought extraordinary, in the eighteenth century, that a new ship should have been so strained by weather alone as to be under the necessity of returning immediately to port. It does not appear that Lisle made any complaint of the work done on the Mistress, or that he attached any blame to her officers. He rather accepted this instant disabling of this vessel, which, be it observed, was the flagship of the Wing, as a dispensation of Providence to be borne with patience. Nor was the Mistress by any means the only ship of his fleet which had broken down under the strain of a few weeks' cruising in summer.

On the 21st Lisle writes again to St. John—

"I trust your Lordshipp have advertised the Kinges Majestie of the state of the Mystres, and of the Gallye Subtill, and the foyste, which I suppose wooll be hable to do no more sarvice, until they be amended. And if the French armye shuld retourne agayne this yere to the sees, which verilly I rather thynck they wooll not, we shuld have no small mysse of those three peeces. There be allso in this armye dyvers shippes, which, after another storme, wooll be hable [68]to loke no more abroode this yere. And I thynck our enimies be in as evill cace, or worse. For emonges such a nomber of shippes, as they have, and as we have, all cannot be strong, nor all cannot be well tackled."

If it appears, as on a bare narrative of the facts it must, that both fleets showed a singular languor during their movements in this summer campaign, it is only fair to take into account the quality of the instruments with which the admirals had to deal. It was not possible to do anything very rapid with clumsy, ill-balanced vessels, which were overstrained by a summer breeze. Moreover, both leaders were in reality hampered by what they no doubt considered an element of strength. The numbers of their fleets alone would have made any kind of combined action impossible. At a time when the vessels were incomparably better, and our seamen had a far larger experience, Nelson considered it impossible to manœuvre more than thirty ships in a line of battle. That is to say, he thought it beyond the power of the most skilful and practised body of captains ever collected under one command to combine the movements of more than thirty well-constructed ships in such a manner that they could be brought to bear upon an enemy all together. If this was impossible with so small a number of very superior vessels, we can imagine how hopeless must have been the attempt of D'Annebault or Lisle to direct the movements of a hundred and a hundred and fifty inferior vessels of all sorts and sizes. With the best will in the world, they could not but straggle in the variable summer breezes and the tides of the Channel. Besides, the system of signals was hardly yet in existence. There were, and indeed at all times must have been, a few arbitrary signals, to anchor or to get up anchor, to fight or leave off fighting, and so forth, but there were no means by which an admiral could communicate an order to make a particular movement, except by sending a boat with an officer. Of course this implies that the movements of fleets must have been very slow, or else a messenger who had to row could not have overtaken the captain to whom he was sent. Even so, to send orders to the ships ahead of the admiral must have required [69]an amount of time which made any rapidity of movement impossible, besides leaving an interval for accidents which would render the order improper by altering the whole circumstances. In fact, no battle, in the sense the word had in even the seventeenth century, could well be expected to take place between these two fleets in 1545, even if there had been a more manifest desire on the part of the admirals to bring one on.

The truth is, that neither D'Annebault nor Lisle showed any such inclination. The Frenchman returned from his own coast to ours, and began to stretch along it from west to east. Lisle followed, with the intention of making a stroke at the enemy if a particularly tempting opportunity presented itself. On the 9th of August he wrote to Paget: "If we chance to meet with them, divided as it should seem they be, we shall have some sport with them." From the French account in the memoirs of Martin du Bellay, which is both full and fair, it is clear that D'Annebault was no more adventurous than Lisle. On the coast of Sussex he showed the same incapacity to understand that, in war more than in most enterprises, he who will nothing venture shall nothing have. The English fleet came in sight of the French near Shoreham on the 15th of August. D'Annebault had drawn his vessels as close to the beach as was safe, with his galleys to the west, under a small headland, and therefore between his great ships and the English, who were advancing from Portsmouth. The galleys had been hauled into very shallow water, where the larger of Lisle's ships could not reach them. D'Annebault's calculation was, that the English admiral would not care to run the risk of passing the galleys, for the purpose of attacking the great ships beyond, lest they should fall upon his rear, and so put him between two fires. According to Lisle's statement to the king of the plan on which he intended to fight, he would not have been deterred from attacking by the dispositions of the French admiral. He had made counter arrangements which were skilful in intention, and might have been effective. His plan was to fall upon the great ships of the [70]French fleet, with the Vanwarde and the Battle, leaving the smaller craft which formed the Wing to stay behind, or to windward, and ward off the French galleys. A shift of the wind from the west to north-east rendered it impossible for him to carry out his intention. The change in the wind had transferred the weather-gage to D'Annebault, and if he had been as eager for battle as according to Martin du Bellay he asserted himself to be, he had now an admirable opportunity of fighting. But D'Annebault again found insuperable difficulties in the way of coming to close quarters. All the use he made of his chance was to fight a tardy, inconclusive battle. Martin du Bellay and Lord Lisle substantially agree, but we may give the preference to our own countryman.

"After my right hartie commendacions. Theis shalbe tadvertise you, that the Kinges Majesties navie ys arrived twhart of Beauchif; where, for lack of wynde, we be at this present comme to ancker, to stopp this ebbe, and with the nexte fludd, which wooll be aboute foure of the clock in the mornying, we entend (God willing) tapplye towards Dover. I had thought the French fleete wold have been here before me, to have stopped us at this place, for uppon Saturdaye night last, both they and we came to ancker within a leage togethurs; and all the same daye, frome noone untill night, they assailed us with ther gallyes, but ther hole fleete approached us not, untill it was after son settyng; before which tyme ther gallies were repulced, and then both they and we came to ancker, within a leage one of an other: and yarly in the mornyng they were dislodged; for by the tyme yt was daye, they were asfarre unto the wynde of us, as we might escrye them oute of my mayne topp, halyng into the seawarde, the wynde beyng somewhat fresshe; so that, if they had taried, ther gallyes could have doon them letill pleasour. And wheras, the daye before, they came togethurs, like an hole wood, they kepte now, in ther removing, noon order; for some of our small boates, which could lye best by a wynde, (whome I dyd purposely send to se what course they helde, and what order they kept) brought me wourde, that they lay est with the sailes, as though it shuld seame that they mynded to fetche the Narrow Sees before us. Ther was five myles in lenght (as they thought) between ther foremost and ther hyndermost shippes. And seyng that they be not here in this baye (which we have alredy seane) I cannot perceave, howe they can be before us in any part of the Narrow Sees. Wherefore I have thought good to desyer you to send me some of your intelligence, and allso that you wold gyve knowledge to Rye, that all the shippes, which be there with the Kinges Majesties victualles, may comme and mete with me to morowe at the Nasse (Dungeness), as I goe towardes Dover; where, (God willyng) if the wynde wooll suffer me, I wooll be with thole flete to morowe at night. Herof I requier you, with diligence, tadvertise the Kinges Majestie. And if ther armye, or any parte of them, remayne in any parte of the Narrowe Sees, whethur it be uppon ther owne quoast, or uppon oures, I doubt not but I wooll have some knowledge of them, [71]ones ere to morowe night; wherof allso (God willyng) I wooll not faile to signifye unto His Highnes. And thus I byd you right hartilly well to fare. In the Harrye, under Beauchif, this Mondaye, the 17th of August, at 9 of the clock in the night."

Your assured loving Frende,
(Signed) John Lisle.

To this lame and impotent conclusion came the great attempt of Francis I. to punish Henry for the capture of Boulogne. When every allowance is made for the insufficiency of the tools with which the French admiral had to work, it is impossible to acquit him of having shown a remarkable want of spirit. It would appear, if we are to trust Blaise de Montluc, that his countrymen did not expect much. "Our business is rather on the land than on the water, where I do not know that our nation has ever gained any great battles," is the sentence in which he dismisses the expedition. Montluc, for his part, did nothing that was worthy to be written about. But it was perhaps because the French did not expect much, then or at later periods, that their admirals have so commonly shown the timidity of D'Annebault.

The war contained no further naval operations of any importance. Both fleets were worn out by operations which for the time were lengthy and trying. The Governments, too, were exhausted, and all but bankrupt. Both Francis and Henry VIII. were at the end of their lives; and although peace was not actually made till after the death of both of them, the war was not pushed seriously. Only a very detailed history of the navy could find place for an account of the reigns of Edward VI. and Mary Tudor. Much could not be said, however anxious the historian might be to pass over absolutely nothing. The only achievement of Edward VI.'s Government with regard to the navy was to employ it for the purpose of assisting the Protector Somerset's invasion of Scotland. This effort appears to have exhausted the energies of King Edward's Council, as far as the navy was concerned. In fact, all the members of that body were far too busy intriguing against one another, to attend to the defences of the realm. The resources of [72]the country had been taxed to the utmost during the reign of Henry VIII. A sum of over £3,600,000 was calculated to have been spent on wars during the reign of father and son, and to get the equivalent of that outlay in our generation we must not only multiply the sum spent by 20, but divide the existing wealth of the nation by some much larger figure. During the few years of confusion which make up the reign of Edward VI., the navy was reduced to half the numbers attained by Henry VIII. Seventy-one vessels, of which thirty were of respectable size, was the strength of Henry's navy. Queen Elizabeth never had quite so many ships; and although those of James and Charles I. were on an average larger, they were never more numerous. Mary Tudor inherited the diminished navy of her brother, and she could do little to bring it back to the former standard. Her marriage with the King of Spain established a firm alliance, for the time being, with what was then the most considerable naval power in Europe, while the entire exhaustion of France in the reign of Henry II. made the possession of a powerful fleet less necessary. But though little was demanded of the navy at that period, it was allowed to become too weak to do even that little. When Calais was attacked by the Duke of Guise in the winter of 1559, Mary's navy was so unprepared that it could not be got ready in time to give the least assistance to the garrison. A few of our ships, which had been fitted out too late to be of any service at Calais, did make their appearance on the flank of the French troops, which were defeated on the sands at Gravelines, by the Count of Egmont, and that was about the sum of the service they rendered during Mary's reign. There was indeed something stirring among the seamen of the west of England, which was to have great consequences in the next reign, but it will come to be dealt with more appropriately in our account of the navy of Queen Elizabeth.



Authorities.—Charnock continues to be of value for this reign, and indeed for the history of the navy till the end of the eighteenth century. Derrick's Rise and progress of the Royal Navy gives useful official lists. Mr. Whateley gives the substance of the rules established for the Navy Office by Elizabeth in 1560, at pp. 131-134 of his Samuel Pepys, and the World he lived in. The original is in the S. P. Dom. Elizabeth, vol. xv. The Calendars of State Papers of the reign contain much information as to the navy. More is in the great collection of Hakluyt. The Navy Record Society has published the papers referring to the Armada, while the Spanish side of the story is told in La Armada Invencible of Don Cesareo Duro—so admirably extracted and combined by Mr. Froude in his Spanish Story of the Armada. Drake's first notable cruise to the West Indies is told in the Drake Redivivus.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne, in 1559, she found the navy in the same state of weakness and confusion as all other parts of the administration. Its downward progress from the high level at which it had been left by Henry VIII. was rapid. In 1548, at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI., it had consisted of 53 vessels of 11,268 tons, carrying 237 brass guns and 1848 of iron. The crews were then estimated at 7731 men. In the sixth year of Elizabeth's reign, even after her government had begun its efforts to restore the naval forces of the country, the number of vessels was only 29. From that point it gradually returned to something more like the position it had occupied under Henry VIII. In one respect, indeed, it may be said to have remained permanently inferior to his. It never reached the same number, but numbers afford only one, and not necessarily the surest, test of strength. The size and armament of the ships are often far more trustworthy indications of power [74]than the number of vessels. During the queen's reign the average size of ships was much greater than it had been in her father's. In 1578 the navy contained 24 ships of 10,506 tons, manned by 3760 mariners, 630 gunners, and 1900 soldiers. The total force is put in Derrick's list at 6570 officers and men. If these figures are accurate, or even only approximately correct, it would appear that the staff of the navy, that is, the officers and their immediate personal attendants, must have numbered 280. Ten years later the navy had increased to 34 ships of 12,590 tons, with 6279 men. At the death of the queen the number of ships was 42, the tonnage 17,055, while the crews amounted to 8346 men, divided into 5534 mariners, 804 gunners, and 2008 soldiers. On comparing these figures with those of the navy as it stood in 1548, it will be seen that the ships of Elizabeth were on an average rather more than twice as large as those her brother had inherited from their father. The changes which had taken place in the constitution of the crews are somewhat different. The little vessels of King Edward carried nearly as many men as the much larger ships of Queen Elizabeth. No doubt, where there were more ships to man, many men were necessary, but, scattered among small vessels averaging 212 tons or thereabouts, they cannot have exerted the same power as they would have done in the better and heavier warships of Elizabeth. It is interesting to see the great change which had come over the constitution of the crews in the course of the century. In Henry's reign the soldiers were always more numerous than the sailors. During Elizabeth's the proportion was entirely reversed, and at the date of her death the mariners were almost twice as numerous as the soldiers in her sea service. In fact, the navy was becoming necessarily a more seamanlike force. The development of the ship had been steady. The mere barges of King Henry's reign had given place to vessels which were already approximating to a modern standard. Seamanship itself had grown far beyond the humble standard of the early sixteenth century. Then the seaman, at least the [75]English seaman, was a mere coaster. When the great queen died, he was already accustomed to far-ranging voyages, and the navy was no longer expected only to carry soldiers across the Channel, and fight a force no more expert than itself, but to invade the West Indies, and at need to circumnavigate the globe. It followed that the sailor became relatively more important, and as his skill grew to be the most essential element of strength, his numbers had to be increased. Sir Walter Raleigh in the following reign summed up the changes which had taken place in his time.

"Whoever were the inventors, we find that every age has added somewhat to ships; and in my time the shape of our English ships has been greatly bettered. It is not long since the striking of the topmasts, a wonderful ease to great ships, both at sea and in the harbour, hath been devised, together with the chain-pump, which taketh up twice as much water as the ordinary one did. We have lately added the bonnet, and the drabler, to the courses; we have added studding-sails, the weighing anchor by the capstern. We have fallen into consideration of the length of cables, and by it we resist the malice of the greatest winds that can blow. Witness the Hollanders, that were wont to ride before Dunkirk with the wind at north-east, making a lee shore in all weathers; for true it is, that the length of the cable is the life of the ship in all extremities; and the reason is, that it makes so many bendings and waves, as the ship riding at that length is not able to stretch it, and nothing breaks that is not stretched."

When we speak of the greater size of Elizabeth's vessels, it must be remembered that the increase of tonnage had been among the smaller, not the greater warships. Some of King Henry's had been as large as, if not larger than, any of Queen Elizabeth's, but then she did not have the same swarm of mere cockboats. The navy was, in fact, tending to become a more uniform as well as a more seaworthy force.

The armament of these ships was still very heterogeneous, and the names of the pieces curiously fantastic. The following list gives the mere denominations of the guns:—


There is some uncertainty as to the weight of the shot fired by these various pieces, and the following list must be taken with some reserve, but it no doubt gives the calibres of the guns with substantial accuracy.

Sir William Monson's Account. According to some other Accounts.
Sorts of Ordnance. Bore. Weight of the Shot. Weight of the Shot.
inches. lbs. lbs.
Cannon 8 60 60 or 63
Demi-Cannon 33½ 31
Cannon Petro 6 24½ 24
Culverin 17½ 18
Demi-Culverin 4 9
Falcon 2 2
Falconet 2 ...
Minion 4 4
Sacar 5
Rabinet 1 ½ ...

The quality of these guns was good. Down to the middle of the sixteenth century they were made by welding together bars of wrought iron little inferior in tensile strength to that used in very recent times for Armstrong guns. About 1550 the use of cast iron, which made it possible to turn out large numbers of guns, came in. All the changes which have taken place in the construction of weapons of war have not been in the direction of what we should consider progress. When in our own time the guns which had been sunk at Spithead, in the wreck of the Mary Rose, were dredged up, it was found that they were breech-loaders, and there is evidence that experiments in the rifling of cannon were made very early. The difficulty of making a trustworthy breech-piece accounts for the triumph of the muzzle-loader, which drove its rival out of the field for centuries. The distribution of the guns in the ships remained very much what it had been during the reign of Henry VIII.; that is to say, cannon of the most various sizes were mounted side by side on the same deck. A few specimens taken from a list attested by the auditors [77]of the Prest and the officers of the Ordnance in 1599, printed by Derrick, will show how far this practice was carried.

Names. Arke White Bear Triumph
Cannon. 4 3 4
Demi-Cannon. 4 11 3
Culverins. 12 7 17
Demi-Culverins. 12 10 8
Sakers. 6 ... 6
Mynions. ... ... ...
Falcons. ... ... ...
Falconets. ... ... ...
Port-piece Halls. 4 2 1
Port-piece Chambers. 7 ... 4
Fowler Halls. 2 7 5
Fowler Chambers. 4 ... 20
Curtalls. ... ... ...
Total Number of Pieces of Ordnance 55 40 68

A large proportion of the pieces named here were very small, and it is doubtful what is to be understood by some of the terms. They apply doubtless often to small "murdering pieces," of about the size of a duck-gun, mounted on the cobridge heads and bulwarks, for the purpose of repelling or driving out boarders. Therefore we must not suppose that the 68 guns of the Triumph represented anything like what that figure would have meant two hundred years later. It must not be forgotten that if Elizabeth did less to increase the strength of the navy than her father, she did not inherit a treasure as he did, and neither had she the spending of the plunder of the Church. He spent his capital. She had to confine herself to income.

No administrative changes in essentials were made by Elizabeth in the organisation of the navy. The function of the officers of the Navy Office, which had not as yet been strictly defined, were settled by instructions issued by the queen in 1560. What her Government did do was to attend to the navy with enlightened care, and to select the officials with judgment. It is known that for years the business of building, refitting, and taking care of the ships of the navy, and of superintending the purchase of stores, was carried on by Sir John Hawkins, who held the posts [78]of Treasurer and Comptroller of the Navy. Hawkins was the successor of his father-in-law, Benjamin Gonson, in the office of Treasurer. It appears that he held his post under an agreement with the queen, by which he undertook to discharge the ordinary duties of caretaking for £5714 a year, he meeting all the common charges and supplying part of the stores, while heavier and exceptional expenses, whether for building new ships or for fitting out the fleet for sea, fell to the Crown. His remuneration for the work was apparently to be derived, in addition to the fees of his offices of Treasurer and Comptroller, from what remained over and above after paying for the work, and from the privilege of disposing of condemned ships and stores. The openings for fraud in such a system are many and obvious. If his enemies are to be believed, Hawkins did not miss the opportunities afforded him. It is said that he robbed the queen directly, and that, being partner in a shipbuilding yard on the Thames, he made use of his official position to forward his private interests. But Lord Howard of Effingham bears witness that Hawkins had the ships of the queen's navy in admirable order in the Armada year, and he is undoubtedly entitled to the credit of having done much to introduce into the navy the improvements in construction and rigging detailed by Sir Walter Raleigh.

Such in its main outlines was the instrument of which the great queen, her ministers, and her captains made magnificent use. It was but modest and even weak in itself; but in truth the Royal Navy was only part of the naval force at the disposal of Elizabeth. During the forty-four years of her reign, we constantly find that the vanguard in all actions, and a great part of the main body of the queen's sea power, was formed of adventurers. In the following century, and from the time of the first Dutch war, it is possible to tell the history of the navy with rare references to the action of those volunteers who fought for their own hand as privateers. But this was by no means the case with the navy of Queen Elizabeth. The most famous of her captains gained their [79]reputation by privateering voyages, and were only taken into her service when they were already known leaders. To the end of her long war with Spain the private ship is found fighting alongside the queen's. The most successful of her expeditions against the Spaniard, whether in Europe or in the New World, were carried out by what, according to modern practice, would be a very strange partnership between the Crown and speculators, who, no doubt, had patriotic motives, but who had also very direct interest in the pecuniary results of the campaign. In fact, the word adventurer in the language of Elizabeth's time was commonly applied, not to the sea-captains, mariners, and soldiers who assailed the Spaniard in the West Indies, but to the shipowners and capitalists who found the money for fitting out the expedition, and who claimed two-thirds of the prize as their reward.

The privateer may be said to have made his first appearance during the last naval war of the reign of Henry VIII. The king had issued what were called letters of marque, that is, a species of commission authorising anybody who could fit out an armed ship to plunder the French and to keep a large share of the booty. His invitation to this form of private enterprise was eagerly accepted, especially by the seamen and country gentlemen of the West of England. They fitted out ships in large numbers, and cruised with profitable results against the French trade. The experience of 1545-46 seems to have thoroughly established the taste for privateering in the western counties, and it endured without any visible sign of abatement for generations. During the reigns of Edward and Mary and the early years of Elizabeth the western sea rovers continued as busy as ever, even when the country was at peace. They had an excellent pretext in the religious dissensions which were now beginning to swallow up, or at least to colour, the political conflicts of the European powers. In Mary's reign, Devonshire gentlemen of strong Protestant sympathies betook themselves to the pious work of plundering Spaniards and the other subjects of the queen's husband. The considerable traffic between [80]Flanders and the Basque Ports of Spain supplied them with an irresistible motive for embracing the cause of pure religion. When the Low Countries revolted against the persecuting despotism of Philip II., the Protestants, who had been for a time crushed on land, appeared on blue water under the well-known name of "The Beggars of the Sea." These landless and desperate men found sympathy and help in the west country. For many years no small part of the duty of every Spanish ambassador consisted in making unavailing protests against the outrageous piracy of the queen's subjects. In this school were trained the men who manned the ships of Hawkins and Drake.

At the same time, another influence was at work to turn the energy of Englishmen to the sea. Until the death of Mary Tudor put an end to the Burgundian alliance, that is, the close community of interests which had for long united England with the House of Hapsburg, there had been few signs of distant commercial enterprise in England. The trade to the Levant had indeed been extended, and attempts had been made to open a route by the north-east to the Spice Islands, but England seemed to be reluctant to break in upon the Portuguese monopoly of the route by the Cape and the Spanish tenure of the route by the West, until she had clearly learned by experiment that there was no third way of access she could acquire for herself. France, which was at open war with the sovereign of Spain and the Low Countries, had sent out swarms of adventurers to attack the Spaniards in the New World, but we had, when Elizabeth ascended the throne, taken no part in this warfare. No sooner was Elizabeth well settled on the throne than a great change took place.

The persecutions of Mary's reign, if they had not made England Protestant, had at least made it bitterly anti-Roman Catholic; and this, at a time when the King of Spain was the recognised protector of the Pope, meant anti-Spanish. This served to remove any disinclination to attack our old ally. At the same time, Englishmen began to be much more effectively desirous of sharing in the wealth to be obtained by trade with the New World [81]They were impatient at the thought that they were to be for ever shut out from the commerce of the East and the West Indies by a decision of a Pope of the previous century, who had given the Spaniards everything to the west of the famous line drawn from north to south, a hundred leagues to the west of the Azores, and had left the Portuguese the exclusive right to everything in the East. We did not recognise the Pope's right to dispose of what did not belong to him, and were minded to have our share of the good things lying beyond the line. The Spaniards would hear of no such pretension, and, though they were ready enough to trade with us in Europe, insisted upon treating all seamen of other nations whom they found in America as pirates. According even to the principles of some of their own thinkers, this refusal to trade was a fair justification for a war. Elizabeth was, however, by no means prepared for open hostilities with Spain. All she would do was to refuse to recognise the right of the Spaniards to exclude her subjects from trading with the Indians. Therefore they were free in her opinion to go to the New World, and if the Spaniards refused to recognise their trade as legitimate, Elizabeth for her part was not inclined to forbid her subjects to defend themselves against what she considered unfair interference. The causes of dispute between the queen and King Philip, apart from this, were many and various. Thus it got to be known among enterprising Englishmen that if they could make their hand keep their head from the blow of the Spaniard, they had nothing to fear from the queen when they came home from poaching expeditions on his preserves. For men who had, or who only affected to have, religious motives, and who had the most genuine desire to gain riches, this hint was enough, and so the third year of the queen's reign saw the first voyage of Hawkins to the West Indies.

In 1562, Hawkins, who was the son of a prosperous Plymouth merchant and shipowner, and had been bred to the sea in his father's ships in voyages to the Canaries, made the first recorded slaving venture carried through by an Englishman. He had learned enough in the Canaries to [82]know that slaves were valuable in the West Indies, and that the Spanish planters, who were very ill supplied under the system of monopoly which prevailed in Spain, would be ready to buy negroes smuggled among them by an English trader. With the help of his father-in-law Gonson, Sir William Duckett, Sir Thomas Lodge, and Sir William Winter, all merchants and seafaring men, and some of them very directly connected with the queen's Government, he fitted out three little vessels and made a most profitable all-round voyage. First he went to the coast of Africa, where he kidnapped slaves, then he went to the Antilles and smuggled them. The second voyage, carried out in the last months of 1563 and the first of 1564, was a repetition of this on a much larger scale. Hawkins had now done so well that every confidence was felt in his capacity. Lord Robert Dudley, better known as the Earl of Leicester, became his patron. He was allowed to hire a queen's ship, the Jesus of Lubeck, an old vessel built in Germany. With a larger force Hawkins visited the coasts of Africa once more, after touching at Teneriffe, probably to make arrangements with the Spaniards associated with him in his smuggling speculations. On the coast of Senegambia he plundered Portuguese slavers who had already secured a full cargo, and then he burned, murdered, and kidnapped among the native villages until his hold was full of what in the cant of later times was called "ebony." With this cargo he made his way to the mainland of South America, after a trying voyage, in which both the kidnapped blacks and their captors suffered severely. Hawkins was borne up by a conviction that the "Lord would not suffer His elect to perish." At Borburata and Rio de la Hacha he sold the greater part of his cargo, partly by the help of the planters, who were glad enough to get the slaves, and partly by threatening to do them a displeasure if his trade was forbidden. From Rio de la Hacha, Hawkins sailed northward across the Caribbean Sea. The force of the westerly current, which is permanent in those waters, was not then known, and the smugglers were carried to the westward of the island of San Domingo. Owing to the mistake of a [83]Spaniard whom they had among them, either as a prisoner, or, as is at least equally probable, as the agent of their associates among the Spanish planters, they fell to leeward, which in the West Indies means to westward both of San Domingo and of Jamaica. As the season was far advanced, and his vessels foul from being long at sea, Hawkins decided to make no further attempt to touch at the Spanish Antilles, which he could only have reached by beating to windward against the trade winds. He returned home by the Straits of Florida and the Banks of Newfoundland. On his way he relieved the French colony established in Florida by Ribault. It is one of the best-known events in the history of the time that this colony was not long afterwards exterminated by the Spaniard Pedro Menendes de Aviles, by methods which have, in the opinion of Protestant writers, covered his name with the infamy of extreme cruelty.

Although there had been no actual fighting in Hawkins's two expeditions, they were considered by the Spaniards as hostile. That they should have taken this view is not unreasonable, for the English rover had undoubtedly forced an entrance into their ports by threats. He himself must undoubtedly have been aware that his occupation was illegal, for on his own showing he excused his presence in Spanish ports by a tissue of lies. It was his regular practice to assert that he was sailing with a squadron of the queen's ships, and had been driven into harbour by bad weather or the want of stores. It is easy to understand that the manifest falsity of this excuse was not so obvious to the Spanish Government as it is to us. King Philip would not unnaturally believe that although the queen disavowed the actions of Hawkins publicly, she was encouraging him in private. In a sense this was true; for if the queen did not actually send Hawkins to the West Indies, she not only refused to punish him for going there, but allowed him to enjoy the fruits of his voyage, and shared in them largely herself as owner of the Jesus of Lubeck. If the sovereigns had been disposed to go to war, the excuse for hostilities was ready to their hands. But Philip was entangled in heavy expenses by the revolt in the [84]Netherlands and his wars with the Turks, who were then at the height of their power. So he preferred to remain patient under the provocations inflicted on him by Elizabeth; and she, who had abundant troubles of her own, was equally little disposed to incur a war if it could be avoided. The struggle was left to be carried on by the subjects of both rulers in unavowed warfare, and from the nature of the case very soon took the form of piracy on one side and of savage repression on the other. Hawkins had been exasperated on his return from his second voyage by what he considered a private wrong. Ships which he had sent to Spain from the West Indies laden with colonial produce had been confiscated by the Spanish Government. At a later period he succeeded in getting back a part at least of the value of his forfeited goods by pretending to betray the queen. But between 1564 and 1567, when he sailed on his third voyage, he had other schemes for righting himself. He would have sailed sooner than he did if the queen, who was in danger from the intrigues of Mary Stuart, had not had particular reason to refrain from offending Philip too far. But in 1567 Mary had ruined her own cause by the murder of her husband, and her marriage with his murderer. The need for Philip's neutrality was not what it had been, and so Hawkins was allowed to sail, and was again permitted to hire the queen's ships. That his expedition was of the nature of an act of hostility to Spain was a matter of public notoriety. The Spanish ambassador protested against it as against other acts of piracy, but to no kind of purpose. So little was Hawkins restrained, that he was allowed to combine with some of the "Beggars of the Sea" for the purpose of plundering some Spanish ships which took refuge in Plymouth Sound while he was lying there with his squadron. In high hopes, and with the sense that, however the queen might refuse to justify his actions in form, she would certainly afford him effectual protection, Hawkins sailed on his third voyage, which ended so disastrously, in October 1567. The earlier part of the voyage was spent in the usual round of kidnapping on the coast of Africa and smuggling in the Spanish ports of the [85]West Indies and the Main. When only a remnant of his cargo of slaves remained, Hawkins departed from his previous course and steered for the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to the little island of St. Juan de Ulloa, which forms the harbour of La Vera Cruz, then, and now, the port of Mexico. He excused himself for sailing into this harbour by his customary fiction, alleging that his ships had been injured by bad weather, and must be refitted before he could venture to return to Europe. But this story can hardly have been told with the slightest expectation that it would be believed. Indeed, Hawkins was so thoroughly well aware that the Spaniards would see through his very transparent defence, that on his way across the Gulf of Mexico he captured a Spanish vessel, and held her crew and passengers as hostages. This was an act of undeniable piracy, and would have been so considered at any period of the world's history. In truth, it can only have been for form's sake that Hawkins put himself to the trouble of repeating his stock invention. It had come to this, that if the Spaniards were to make good their claim to keep the English from trading with their American possessions, they must show themselves strong enough to do it. For the present, Hawkins believed that the strength was on his side, and, but for an event which he cannot be blamed for not foreseeing, he might very well have turned out to be in the right.

The squadron Hawkins took to La Vera Cruz on the 16th of September 1568 consisted of some ten or a dozen vessels, for he had been joined in the West Indies by French rovers. With this force it would have been easy for him to overpower any resistance the Spaniards could offer. There was at that time no fortress on the island of St. Juan de Ulloa, and the town of La Vera Cruz was not yet built. A few sheds, used only during the time that the yearly convoy of merchant ships from Spain was in the harbour, was all that stood upon the beach. When Hawkins made his appearance outside the harbour, he had no difficulty in frightening the local officials into letting him anchor. But in the course of negotiations with them [86]he learned a piece of news which caused him well-grounded anxiety. On his first appearance off the harbour, the Spaniards had mistaken him for a convoy expected from Spain, bringing the new Viceroy, Don Martin Henriquez: of course, if this appeared, the position would be disagreeably complicated. But it was now too late for Hawkins to go back, so he took up his place in the harbour. In a few days the fleet from Spain made its appearance. It consisted almost wholly of merchant ships, but there was one heavy galleon of war which served as the flagship of the Spanish admiral, Francisco de Lujan. Hawkins could probably have kept the Spaniards out of the harbour easily enough, but in the autumn months the coast of Mexico is liable to furious gales of the nature of hurricanes, called Northers. If one of these had burst while the Spaniards were outside the island of St. Juan de Ulloa, the whole Spanish squadron must have perished. As it was estimated to be worth £1,850,000, and carried hundreds of his subjects, including so great an officer as the Viceroy of Mexico, this would have been an outrage King Philip could not possibly have endured. Hawkins must have been very well aware that if the queen did not happen to wish for a war with Spain at the moment when he returned to England after such an exploit, she would hang him without the slightest scruple for causing her the trouble. On the other hand, if he once allowed the Spaniards to get inside the harbour, there was every probability that they would cut his throat with the least possible delay. In the dreadful fix in which he now found himself, Hawkins hit upon a middle course. He allowed the Spaniards to come in, after exacting from them a promise that they would suffer him to trade in safety and depart in peace. It is hardly credible that the Englishman can have supposed that a promise extorted in such a fashion would have been observed. If he did, his confidence did not last long, for, in his own narrative of what our ancestors called "the treachery of the Spaniards," he confesses that he was extremely nervous. From the day after Don Francisco de Lujan had moored his ships beside the English on the island of [87]St. Juan de Ulloa, he was in constant expectation of a sudden attack, and on the third day it came. The English had insisted upon keeping possession of the island, but the men who had been appointed to stand on guard broke into a panic and fled, leaving the guns mounted for the protection of the English ships to be turned upon them by the Spaniards. The panic spread to the ships. The crews cast off their moorings and endeavoured to fly, but, attacked as they were by the battery on the island and by the Spanish ships, they were all destroyed except two—the Minion, in which Hawkins made his own escape, and the Judith, commanded by his cousin, Francis Drake.

This, the treachery of the Spaniards, makes a great epoch in the history of the naval adventures of Elizabeth's reign. It killed for ever the hope of establishing a peaceful trade with the Spanish possessions in the West Indies. It showed our men that if they were to have their share of the wealth of the New World, it must be got sword in hand. Hawkins, in whom there seems to have been very much more of the fox than the lion, did not again appear in the West Indies, till he came there to die in the disastrous failure of 1594. But the work was taken up by other hands. The strongest and the most famous were Francis Drake's. After two small voyages, probably smuggling ventures with slaves, in 1570 and 1571, Drake boldly entered the West Indies to plunder in 1572 with two very small vessels, the Pasha of Plymouth, of 72 tons, and the Swan, of 25. This was a pure-and-simple buccaneering venture, conducted with spirit and skill, and finally with success. He was, indeed, beaten off at Nombre de Dios, which the historian of his voyage mendaciously asserts to have been a town as big as Plymouth. It was, in fact, a mere temporary trading station, consisting of a storehouse and twenty or thirty wood huts in a very unhealthy position, and was afterwards given up by the Spaniards in favour of Porto Bello. But after this check, and some months of cruising on the coast, made melancholy by the loss of a brother and nearly half his crews in scuffles with the Spaniards or by [88]fever, Drake had the good fortune to capture a recua, the Spanish name for a string of pack mules laden with gold. The profits of the voyage were immense, and the audacity of it, not unnaturally somewhat exaggerated by his countrymen, gained Drake great renown. But the real fruits of his invasion of the West Indies were seen in the voyage of circumnavigation which followed in 1577 and 1578. A detailed history of this famous enterprise would be out of place here. It belongs, properly speaking, to discovery, and such feats as the capture of Spanish merchant ships and of the galleon Cacafuego hardly entitle it to rank among the exploits of the navy. The importance of the voyage lies mainly in the immense stimulus it gave to the enterprise of the whole nation, and in this, that it was an unmistakable proclamation to the whole world that England had both the will and the power to set at nought the pretensions of the Spaniards and the Portuguese to debar all rivals from the free use of the ocean.

After Drake's return from ploughing a furrow round the world, we need not treat the actions of the adventurers as standing apart. Although open war with Spain did not come for several years, it was known to be inevitable by both countries. The most famous leaders among the western seamen were retained for the queen's service. Throughout the years in which the maritime strength of England had been growing by its own intrinsic strength, and her seamen had been gaining both in skill and confidence, the Royal Navy, in the strict sense of the word, had played a subordinate part. It was not yet expected to afford protection to English traders beyond the four seas of Britain. Of what was its proper work, it had had little to do.

In 1560 Sir William Winter had been despatched to the coast of Scotland to aid the Lords of the Congregation in their struggle against the French regent, Mary of Guise. In 1562-3 another English squadron had been employed to help the French Huguenots by conveying the detachment of English soldiers who were sent under command of Ambrose Dudley to Havre. In 1573 it was found necessary to [89]employ the queen's ships against our late allies, the Huguenots, Sea Rovers, and the Beggars of the Sea, who, having pretty effectually destroyed Spanish commerce in the Channel, were driven to plunder their Protestant friends as an alternative to starvation. But as the struggle with Spain grew nearer open national war, the navy found more perilous work than this. In 1579 a squadron of the queen's vessels did good service by capturing the Spanish ships which had landed the soldiers of the Pope at Smerwick in Ireland. Even yet the queen shrank from making a direct attack on Spain, and preferred to injure her enemy by assisting his rebellious subjects in the Low Countries. At last, when, under the sting of multiplying provocations, Philip was known to be making ready in his own slow way for a decisive attempt to crush England for good, Elizabeth and her Council decided upon delivering a direct blow.

The manner of the doing of the thing was a curious example of the partnership between the queen and her subjects. In 1585 an expedition was organised to sweep the West Indies. The calculation was, that an invasion of this part of his dominions would cause the King of Spain more harm than a direct attack at home, since he drew by far the best part of his revenue from the American mines. The English seamen were not yet sufficiently acquainted with the details of the Spanish establishments in America to deliver their stroke in the most effectual manner. For one thing, they altogether over-estimated the importance of the towns in the West Indian Islands. Yet, in principle, the policy of the expedition was perfectly sound. To cripple the King of Spain before his invading fleet was under way, was a far more effectual course than to wait for him in the Channel; and there is no doubt that the five-and-twenty ships put under the command of Drake in the autumn of 1585, to attack the island of San Domingo and Carthagena, did delay the sailing of the Armada, besides inflicting great discredit on the King of Spain.

In this fleet only a minority of the ships actually belonged to the queen, the others being the property of men [90]in business, who entered into this warlike operation as a speculation. Unity of command was provided for by the appointment of Drake, both as the queen's admiral and as the privateer admiral, if such an expression is to be admitted. Martin Frobisher, chiefly known hitherto as an explorer who had attempted to discover a North-West Passage, was appointed vice-admiral. The command of the troops was given to Christopher Carleill, an officer of much experience both at sea and in the wars of the Low Countries. The fleet sailed from Plymouth on the 14th of September, and touched on the coast of Spain on the way out. It was characteristic of the time that we did not profess to be at war with the King of Spain in Spain, but only in America. Therefore there was a good deal of rather polite negotiation between the English leaders and the Marquis of Zerralbo, the King of Spain's governor of Galicia. This did not prevent our seamen from plundering a Spanish ship in which they discovered a tempting consignment of church plate; but casual acts of piracy of this kind were too much in the habits of the time to be counted an unpardonable infraction of the peace. From Vigo the English fleet sailed to the Canaries, and from thence to Santiago in the Cape de Verd Islands. At this place it made a too prolonged stay, in the hope of extorting a ransom, but the Spanish authorities took refuge in the hills of the centre of the island, and could neither be threatened nor cajoled into giving themselves up. This was no doubt a serious disappointment to Drake in his character of agent for the adventurers, and it was not the last; for though the political results of the cruise were great, as a financial speculation it proved to be a failure. From Santiago the fleet stretched across the Atlantic to the island of San Domingo, and captured the city of the same name with very little difficulty. The Spanish towns had not hitherto been subject to any attack more formidable than that of native Indians, and were not seriously fortified. They fell easily before the assault of the 1200 well-appointed soldiers Carleill could land from the ships.

San Domingo proved a great disappointment to the [91]captors. It had at one time been the seat of a considerable export trade of bullion from the mines of the island. But, though our men did not know it, these had been long exhausted or deserted in favour of the far richer mines of Mexico and Peru.

The well-to-do inhabitants of San Domingo were planters who had little ready money, or the lawyers of the Court of Appeal. After several weeks spent in haggling, and in burning part of the town, the English were constrained to accept of 25,000 ducats of 5s. 6d. each as ransom for the town, a much smaller sum than they had hoped to obtain. From San Domingo they went on to Carthagena on the mainland of South America, at that time a small unfortified town of a few hundred inhabitants. Entering the land-locked harbour by the Boca Grande, the English made themselves masters of Carthagena, after storming its only defence—a wooden stockade. Here their experience at San Domingo was repeated. The Spaniards had received warning of the approach of a hostile expedition, and had had time to remove their bullion into the country. After a good deal more haggling, 110,000 ducats were extorted as the ransom of the town. The results of the expedition had been disappointing, but the fleet had nothing for it but to return home without further delay. A fever had broken out at Santiago, and the health of the crews had suffered still more severely from the tropical malaria of the coast. Including those who fell in action, it was calculated that more than half of the men forming the expedition lost their lives. The total product of the cruise was £60,000. Of this, £40,000 was due to the adventurers, and the remaining third was to be divided between the soldiers and sailors who manned the ships. This can have given only about £6 a head to those who had risked their lives and had survived the fevers and the weapons of the Spaniards. The adventurers cannot have done much more than cover the expenses of fitting out their ships.

We are now approaching perhaps the most famous passage, and certainly the most picturesque, in the naval [92]history of England. From the beginning of 1586 England was threatened by invasion from Spain, throughout 1587 she was taking measures to avert the danger, and in 1588 the great Armada, which has been baptized in sarcasm with the name of Invincible, actually approached our shores, and then passed away to destruction without having as much as burned one sheepcote in this island.

It was the habit of Philip II. to be very slow in his preparations. His flatterers, knowing the kind of praise that would give him pleasure, described him as thorough and prudent. In point of fact, the course he followed was singularly inefficient and practically rather rash. It would have cost Philip less, and would have redounded much more to his glory, if he had armed three or four well-appointed squadrons of active ships to protect his galleons on their way across the Atlantic, and to keep the West Indies clear of invaders. It must be obvious that if fifteen or twenty Spanish warships had made their appearance in the neighbourhood of San Domingo while the English soldiers were disembarked for the purpose of attacking the town, the squadron could hardly have escaped destruction, and in that case the soldiers must sooner or later have shared the fate of those members of Hawkins's crew who were left behind in Mexico in 1567, to the "little mercy" of the Spaniards. But when a small active squadron would have been of immense service to Philip, he had nothing but the first beginnings of the raw material of the great fleet with which he intended one day to exterminate the power of Elizabeth. His admiral, Don Álvaro de Bazan, the Marquis of Santa Cruz, told him, when the news of the sailing of the expedition of 1585 came, that there was nothing to prevent Drake from sweeping the West Indies, or from entering the Pacific, and there doing as he pleased with the ill-armed and unprepared Spanish settlements. King Philip had ships and guns and men enough among his subjects, but when they were wanted, the guns were not in the ships and the crews were not collected. Thus the "potent" King of Spain, as he was called, and as he might have been with better management, had to sit helpless [93]while a privateering fleet ranged at will through his possessions and plundered his subjects. As it was in 1585, so it was in 1586 and 1587: Philip was toiling laboriously to collect his armament, but as he would not put the various parts together till he had collected all he wanted, no portion of his inchoate fighting forces was ready on a sudden call.

There are few more ludicrous passages in history than the cruise of Drake in 1587. Queen Elizabeth and her ministers were aware that preparations were being made for an invasion of England. Although the queen's passion for intrigue induced her to keep up a laborious show of friendly negotiations with the Prince of Parma, Philip's viceroy in the Low Countries, she did not in practice forget that she was at war. In the spring of 1587 she decided to despatch Sir Francis Drake for the purpose of looking into the preparations reported to be making in the Spanish ports. As in 1585, the queen bore only a part of the expenses. Of the thirty ships despatched, four, the Bonaventure, the Lion, the Dreadnought, and the Rainbow, with two pinnaces attached as tenders, belonged to the Royal Navy; the others were "tall ships" of London, not hired by the queen, but joined in partnership with her for the purpose of making what profit they could by plundering the Spaniards.

Drake sailed from Plymouth early in April, and in the 40th degree of latitude he learned from two German merchant ships that great quantities of naval stores were being collected at Cadiz to be transported to Lisbon, where the King of Spain's "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," Don Álvaro de Bazan, had his headquarters. Portugal, it may not be superfluous to remind the reader, had been annexed a few years before by Philip II., who claimed to be the heir of Dom Sebastian, slain at the battle of Alcázar el Kebir, and it continued to be joined to the many other crowns of the King of Spain till 1640. Drake immediately made for Cadiz, where he found the outer harbour crowded with ships. These were the vessels which were designed to take part in the invasion of England. But, by a piece of [94]ineptitude of a kind not at all rare in Philip's reign, they were for the most part unmanned. It was easy work for the thirty efficient ships to capture, burn, sink, or drive on shore such of these vessels as were not able to make a timely escape into the inner harbour. The work was done thoroughly, and to the no small profit of the adventurers. Enormous quantities of booty were transferred from the Spanish to the English ships; and although they were subject to an irritating fire from the distant Spanish batteries, and to attack by the galleys, the English sailors met with little difficulty in the discharge of their task. The work was hard, and the men are said to have been really glad when the Spaniards set fire to the vessels which had not yet fallen into our hands, and thereby put a stop to the toil of collecting more plunder. Nothing more disgraceful to the management of Philip II., nothing which more fully revealed the essential weakness of his power, could well have happened. From Cadiz Drake stretched along the coast to Lisbon, landing as he pleased, and plundering as he thought fit. At the mouth of the Tagus he anchored and sent in a challenge to the Marquis of Santa Cruz. But the king's admiral, though he was a man of great natural courage and of an enterprising character, could not accept it, for his vessels were in no condition to take the sea without the stores burned at Cadiz. From Cascaes Drake stood across to the Azores, and lay there undisturbed on the track of the carracks, the great merchant ships employed by the Portuguese at that time in the trade with the East Indies. One of these, named the St. Philip, fell into his hands. She was the first of these ships ever taken by us, and the sight of her cargo must have had a good deal to do with arousing the desire of English merchants to share in the trade of the East. This capture, added to the plunder taken at Cadiz, secured the profits of the voyage, and therefore Drake made sail for England with his fleet and the prize, where they all arrived "to their own profit and due commendation, and the great admiration of the whole kingdom."

This check did not make Philip any wiser than before, [95]but neither did it in any way damp his determination to collect such a fleet as should make an end of the English pirates. He began the work of getting his stores together again with imperturbable patient industry. Drake described his feat in the outer harbour of Cadiz as the singeing of the King of Spain's beard, and the phrase was accurate as well as humorous. He had insulted the enemy, and had done him as much injury as would compel him to abstain from action for the time being, but he had not seriously crippled his power. By the spring of the following year the Spanish fleet was ready for service, and if Don Álvaro de Bazan had lived, it might have sailed sooner than it actually did. The old man's own plan, communicated to the king some years before, had been to embark a sufficient army in Spain, and sail direct to the coast of England, but the resources of King Philip were not adequate to a scheme of the scale proposed by his admiral. He had to maintain an army under the Prince of Parma in Flanders, and could not meet the expense of organising another. He had therefore decided to make the fleet he was collecting in Spain co-operate with the army he already had in the Low Countries. It was indeed to carry reinforcements to the Prince of Parma, but it was on him that the task of providing an army for the invasion of England was to be laid. The Spaniards have always counted it fortunate for England that the Marquis de Santa Cruz died on the 9th February 1588. Perhaps it was, though it may be doubted whether the very complicated task set by the king could have been successfully performed even by him. To bring a fleet from Spain into the Channel, to carry it to the Low Countries, to embark an army there and transport it to the coast of England, would have made a long and complicated operation, to be conducted in difficult seas, of which the Spaniards had little knowledge, and in the face of the most determined opposition from Dutch and English seamen. However that may be, the Spaniards were deprived of such chance of victory as they might have had under the command of the "Iron Marquis" by his death; and then the king, acting on motives which are not a little mysterious, [96]selected from among his subjects as leader of this great enterprise perhaps the gentleman who was more fitted than any other then living to lead it to ruin. This was Don Alonso Perez de Guzman, Duke of Medina Sidonia. He was a youngish man, small, of a swarthy complexion, and somewhat bandy-legged, who, according to his own candid and somewhat pitiful confession to the king, knew nothing of war by land or sea, was always sea-sick when he went in a vessel, and never failed to catch cold. What qualification he had, beyond his illustrious lineage and his great estates, for a high command nobody has ever been able to discover. These were no doubt to be taken into account at a time when obedience was more readily rendered to a gentleman of great social position than to others; but there were men of the duke's own rank among Philip's subjects who had served, and were at least not manifestly unfit for the post. But the king chose the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and, overcoming his manifest reluctance to take the command, sent him to succeed the Marquis de Santa Cruz. It was in reality consistent enough with the duke's first unwillingness to take the post, that, once in it, he had not the smallest hesitation in contradicting the advice and overruling the decisions of his veteran predecessor. He declared that what had seemed enough for Santa Cruz was not enough; he wanted more ships, more men, more stores; and thus the fleet, which ought to have started in February, did not leave the Tagus till May. During all this time the stores already collected began to go rotten and had to be replaced. The pressed-men ran, and others had to be found; and so delay bred delay, and the months passed in mere waste alike of time and material.

On our own side there were also defects of management, not, however, attributable to the officers in command, but partly to the poverty of the queen's Government, and partly to the vacillations of the queen. Elizabeth, it must not be forgotten, was a very poor sovereign, and the maintenance of a great fleet was a heavy drain upon her resources. Moreover, she had an artistic love of tricks. She could not be thoroughly persuaded that it was hopeless to expect [97]to avert the Spanish invasion by artful diplomacy. Therefore, between her impatience under the expenses of the fleet and her profound belief in her own cleverness, she vacillated all through the spring of that eventful year. Her ships had been brought into excellent order by John Hawkins. Her subjects were full of zeal; and although the smaller ports met the demand for ships with loud complaints of poverty and of the ruin of their trade by war, yet London freely offered twice as many vessels and men as the Crown asked for, while the nobles and those adventurers of the stamp of Drake and Hawkins, who had grown rich at the expense of the Spaniards, were active in fitting out vessels and collecting crews. The queen's Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard, Lord Effingham, was as fit a man for the place as could have been found. He had, it is true, no experience in war; and it does not appear, from anything recorded of him, that he was a man of much ability. But he had character and tact, and the happy faculty of allowing himself to be guided by his abler and more experienced subordinates, without suffering his authority to be diminished.

By the mouth of Howard, Elizabeth's captains implored her for leave to repeat the cruise for 1587. They pointed out that, if we must fight the Spaniard, it was better to fight him on his own coast than ours, and, moreover, it was safer, since, even if we were to be beaten, defeat would be less dangerous a long way off than at home. But Elizabeth would not part with the hope that her diplomacy, which had stood her in such admirable stead during the twenty-eight years of her reign, would serve her again, and she would not allow her fleet to sail for an attack upon Spain, which must necessarily have broken off the negotiations of peace. Still, the preparations for war were not neglected. The Admiral of England, Lord Howard, with Drake as Vice and Hawkins as Rear Admiral, had his headquarters at Plymouth, while Lord Henry Seymour commanded the ships of London and the East Coast, in the Thames. On the approach of the enemy, his station was to be in the Downs, where he was to watch the Duke of [98]Parma, who was collecting the army of invasion in the Flemish ports. In this work Seymour had the help of a squadron of Dutch vessels, commanded by Justinus of Nassau, a natural son of William the Silent.

At the end of May the Duke of Medina Sidonia did at last sail. All his demands had been supplied by the king. His banners had been solemnly blessed by the Cardinal Albert—the cardinal who was Viceroy of Portugal; all his officers and men had taken the Communion and confessed their sins; and at last the Armada was on the way, with assurances from the king that "it must succeed, since God would not fail to help it on an enterprise so much for His service as this was." When Cromwell told his soldiers to trust in God, he also added the order to keep their powder dry; in other words, not to allow their reliance on divine assistance to tempt them into neglecting ordinary human precautions. King Philip was lavish in good advice and intelligent direction, but he was neither so practical as Oliver Cromwell, nor would he take equally good care that what he directed his men to do should be within their power. It was worthy of a king who, throughout the whole of his life, was endeavouring to achieve vast ends with very insufficient means, that Philip sent his fleet out with the knowledge that it suffered from a great cause of inferiority, but without making the slightest effort to remove the defect. He knew that the gunnery of his crews was altogether inferior to the English, and that his guns were not so good. Therefore, as he warned the Duke of Medina Sidonia, it was to be expected that the English ships would endeavour to engage at a distance, and would avoid coming so close that the Spaniards would have a chance of boarding them. It was also not unknown to Philip that the English ships sailed better than his own, and that therefore it would be in their power to choose the distance at which they would engage. Yet, instead of providing quicker ships and better guns, and of training more skilful gunners, he could only advise his admiral to come to close quarters with the English fleet without telling him how the feat was to be achieved. The very first experience [99]of his fleet after leaving Lisbon ought to have shown him how little hope there was that the unlucky Duke of Medina Sidonia would have it in his power to engage the English except on their own terms. By a curious coincidence, Lord Howard and the duke left port at about the same time; the Lord Admiral sailing from Plymouth to the south and west in order to meet the coming Spaniards, and Medina Sidonia sailing from Lisbon towards England. Had no accident intervened, they would probably have met in the neighbourhood of the Scilly Isles. A few days after the duke had left Lisbon, a gale broke out from the south-west. It affected both fleets,—the Spaniards, who had just rounded Cape Finisterre, and the English, who were at the mouth of the Channel. But whereas these latter were only hindered, the Invincible Armada was completely scattered. The duke had given his fleet only one rendezvous in case of an accident of this kind, and that was the neighbourhood of the Scilly Isles. The squadron of urcas, or storeships, which accompanied his fleet held on to the appointed place, and there remained. But the heavy galleons were so maltreated by the wind that they were scattered along the coast. The duke himself anchored at Corunna, and there collected his ships after some days of confusion. A whole month passed before he was ready to go to sea again. He himself was so dispirited that he actually proposed to advise the king to give the enterprise up altogether, and was only restrained from writing to that effect by the strenuous efforts of a council of war. Meanwhile, Lord Howard, after being driven back by the gale, had taken to the sea again, and had despatched a squadron to reconnoitre towards the coast of Spain, while the bulk of his fleet was stretched across the mouth of the Channel, in order to be the better able to catch sight of the enemy if he endeavoured to pass. Nothing was seen of the Spaniards, and Lord Howard returned to Plymouth. Although undoubtedly better fitted than the Invincible Armada, the English ships were not without wants of their own. In the hope of diminishing expenses, or perhaps rather from the difficulty found in collecting provisions, it was thought [100]necessary to put the men "six on four," that is to say, that each set of six men received the rations of four. It is doubtful whether the gaol fever, which broke out later on, had already appeared, but the health of the fleet was not good. From Cecil there came incessant appeals to keep down "charges," and complaints that, no matter how much money was sent, he was worried out of his life by appeals for more, to the no small aggravation of the gout, from which he suffered cruelly. This idle hope to diminish expense, at a moment when England had need to spend every man and every penny, led the Treasurer, and perhaps Elizabeth, to propose a measure of enormous practical folly. It was actually proposed to the Lord Admiral to pay off four or five of his biggest ships on his return to Plymouth. Howard, with patriotic indignation, professed that he would rather pay the expenses out of his own pocket. The proposal was never carried out, for the Spanish fleet appeared off the Lizard.

Medina Sidonia sailed from Corunna on the 12th of July. This date and all the others must be understood to be in the old style used by us, and not in the new or Gregorian employed by the Spaniards. The strength of the Spanish fleet is put at 132 ships of 59,120 tons, carrying 29,287 men, of whom 21,621 were soldiers and 8066 were sailors. It is doubtful whether all these vessels were actually present after the various disasters the Armada had already experienced. The four galleys must be deducted from its strength. They proved perfectly incapable of facing the winds and currents of the Channel, and were compelled to take refuge in French ports. Nearly a third of the others were urcas, and of no use for fighting purposes. The whole was divided into ten squadrons. The first in dignity—for it included the flagship of Medina Sidonia—was the squadron of Portugal, consisting of ten galleons. Then followed the squadron of Castile, of fourteen sail, under the direct command of Diego Flores de Valdes. This officer had commanded the yearly flota, or convoy, which went to and fro between Spain and its American possession, carrying the trade; on account of his experience as a [101]seaman, Diego Flores had been especially recommended to Medina Sidonia as his adviser, and sailed with him in the flagship. His character seems to have been envious, and, whatever he may have done to supply the duke's deficiencies as a seaman, he proved an indifferent military adviser. Pedro de Valdes commanded the squadron of Andalusia, of ten ships. The squadron of Biscay was of the same strength, and the flag officer in command was Juan Martinez de Recalde, who was also senior admiral of the whole fleet, by which we may perhaps understand that he was the officer responsible for the navigation, subject to the directions of Medina Sidonia. Miguel de Oquendo led the ten ships forming the squadron of Guipuzcoa. The squadron of Italy, under Martin de Bertendona, was of the same force. Twenty-three urcas or storeships were under the command of Juan Gomez de Medina, while a miscellaneous swarm of other small craft were under Antonio Hurtado de Mendoza. Four galleasses, great overgrown galleys, formed a squadron apart, under Hugo de Moncada. The four galleys under Diego de Medrado proved, as has been said above, useless from the first, and never took any share in the fighting in the Channel. They were driven by the weather to seek refuge in French ports, and were able, later on, to return in safety to Spain. Although the names of the various kinds of ships forming the Armada are strange, the vessels themselves, with the exception of the galleasse, described above, were not essentially different from our own. The "galleon" was, for instance, only our "capital ship." Although it has been customary to speak of the Spanish ships as exceeding ours in bulk, it does not appear that any of them were larger than the best of the queen's—the White Bear, for instance, or the Triumph, or the Ark. Some twenty or twenty-five of our largest were equal to eighty or ninety of the Spaniards in average size, and far superior in seaworthiness. The smaller ships were equal to their smaller in size, and vastly superior in number.

In the number of guns, also, the superiority of the Spaniards was much more apparent than real. There is a [102]doubt as to the actual excess in the number of the Spanish cannon over the English. On the other hand, modern Spanish writers have endeavoured to show that the English had the advantage in the point of weight. It is, however, easy to make too much of this. The number of cannons royal, and even of demi-cannon, in the English navy was not great. The large majority of our guns were culverins and demi-culverins of about the same calibre as the guns carried by the Spaniards. For practical purposes, however, the English had really a greater number of cannon, for it is beyond doubt that the fire of our gunners was both more rapid and better directed. The Spaniards themselves confessed that we fired three to one. It is self-evident that a gun which is fired three times in five minutes is, for the purpose of doing damage, quite as effectual as three guns which are fired once each in the same space of time. The Spaniards, indeed, looked down upon the use of artillery as being somewhat ignoble. The management of the guns was left entirely to the sailors, who were a despised and subordinate element in the crews of their ships. It does not seem that they had any class of gunners. When, then, we remember that the Spanish ships were ill fitted for the navigation of the Channel, and that their seamen had no knowledge of its waters, it will be seen that even with good leadership they would have been at a disadvantage.

When we turn to our own fleet, the conditions are completely reversed. In mere material force, that is to say, in the number of capital ships and of guns, we were inferior, but in every other respect we had the superiority. We had experience, familiarity with the waters in which the fighting was to take place, and a far higher level of skill in gunnery. The value of the fleet, the fighting instrument, must depend on the skill of the men by whom it is used, that is to say, of the seamen. Now, whereas the Spanish sailor was, as has been said above, subordinate and despised, the English seaman had conquered his due place of superiority in the fleet. But, after all, the greatest element of superiority on our side was to be found in the quality of the leaders. Lord Howard of Effingham, without being a [103]man of extraordinary ability, had a valuable mixture of intellectual docility and vigour of character. And his subordinates, Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, were all in various degrees capable men. The subordinate leaders among the Spaniards were not unworthy to compete with our own. Pedro de Valdes, Martinez de Recalde, and Miguel de Oquendo, not to mention many others, were able officers, but they were not listened to by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, whose conduct presented a familiar combination of vacillation and obstinacy. He alternately allowed himself to be earwigged by his official adviser, Diego Flores, or insisted upon having his way when the advice of any seaman would have saved him from committing a blunder. The number of ships with Lord Howard at Plymouth was about a hundred, including all the best of the queen's. The other vessels, which altogether amounted to nearly another hundred, were either still in the ports along the Channel, or were collecting, under the command of Lord Henry Seymour and Sir William Winter, in the Thames and the Downs.

The orders the Duke of Medina Sidonia had received from his king were both intelligent and explicit. He had been told that his first duty was to cripple or destroy, if he could, the English fleet, and that the transport of Parma's army was only to be a secondary object. A large discretion was very properly left him in the carrying out of his duties, while the general principles upon which he was to act were made quite clear. How the duke contrived to disobey at once the letter and the spirit of his orders will be seen from the following narrative.

On the 20th of July his fleet reached the Lizard, after eight days of easy navigation from Corunna, which he had left upon the 12th. As not infrequently happens in the case of a long-expected danger, the actual crisis was a surprise. When the Spaniards were reported to be in the neighbourhood of the Lizard, Lord Howard was lying with the whole of his fleet in Plymouth Sound. As the Spaniards came up with a good south-westerly breeze, they had, if they had known how to use it, a great opportunity [104]to strike with advantage. The same breeze which brought them up made it extremely difficult for the English to get out, since the wind was blowing across the Sound. If, then, the duke had kept straight on and had steered boldly into Plymouth Sound, he might have forced the English to battle under circumstances highly favourable to himself, for in a confined anchorage the English ships could not have manœuvred, nor would it have been within their power to choose their distance. The heavy Spanish galleons could have run them aboard, and then the fight must have been conducted in conditions which it was the interest of the Spaniards to seek. From the report of one Captain Vanegas, a military officer serving in the flagship, it appears that the proposal to sail in and attack the English in Plymouth Sound was actually made to Medina Sidonia by Alonso de Leiva, but it was rejected with the advice of a council of war, on the ground that the Spanish fleet could not attack in a line abreast, because of the shoals at the mouth of the Sound (those upon which the breakwater now stands); while if they entered in line ahead, that is to say, one ship following another through the channels on either side of the shoal, they would be destroyed in detail by the fire of the English ships and forts. This was a line of reasoning, and these were dangers, which, fortunately for us, were destined to have a powerful influence with our enemies, both French and Spanish, for centuries. In reality, the perils of an attack in line ahead were greatly exaggerated, and, even if it had been necessary for the Duke of Medina Sidonia to sacrifice a few ships, the results would have repaid the cost. But the Spanish leader, who could over-ride his professional advisers roughly enough when he pleased, was on this occasion slavishly obedient to the advice of the mere seamen, when it would have been better for him to have listened to the bolder council of the military officer. He stood on past Plymouth, and by that action he decided the fate of the Armada.

From the moment that his approach had been reported, the most strenuous efforts had been made on the part of the English fleet to get to sea. Working all through the night [105]of the 20th and the morning of the 21st, they had warped out a large part of the ships. While they were carrying out this movement, undeterred by the Spaniards, Medina Sidonia was rolling slowly up Channel. On the 21st July, so soon, in fact, as he was out of harbour, Howard stood after the Spaniards and sent them in the old chivalrous fashion a solemn defiance to battle. He despatched a pinnace appropriately named the Defiance, with orders to fire a gun at the Spaniard as a symbolical announcement that it was open war. Then a confused action began between the two fleets. The Spaniards were advancing along the Channel in a long half-moon, or concave line abreast, stretching seven miles from north to south. This formation, which was copied from the galleys, was absurdly ill fitted for vessels carrying a broadside of guns, since it is clear that he who is between two ships of his own side can fire neither to right nor to left without injuring his own friends. Such a blundering arrangement almost dictated to Lord Howard the course it was most convenient for him to adopt. He attacked the two extremities of the Spanish line. It is probable that the English ships more or less roughly carried out the method of attack which has been described as "concentration by defiling"; that is to say, they ran down from windward till within easy gunshot, then they fired into the stern and quarter of the galleons at the extremity of the Spanish wing, and hauled to windward so soon as there was any danger of coming too near, or of heading, and therefore falling to leeward of, their enemy. Under the pressure of such an attack as this, the extremities of the Spanish half-moon would naturally flinch inwards, and the danger of collision between the ships thus thrown out of their order of sailing would be very serious. We know as a matter of fact that the ships at the extremity of the Spanish line did suffer very severely. One, the Sta Catalina, was very much cut up. Oquendo's flagship was crippled by an explosion of gunpowder, said to have been caused by a Flemish gunner in revenge for some ill usage. But the most serious loss to the Spaniards, both materially and in honour, occurred in the squadron of Andalusia. [106]The Nuestra Señora del Rosario was the flagship of Pedro de Valdes, one of the best and ablest officers in King Philip's service. In the confusion produced throughout the Spanish fleet by the English attack, the Rosario had been run into and crippled by another ship of the squadron. Her bowsprit was carried away and the foremast brought down. In this state Valdes was incapable of keeping up with the fleet unless he was towed. But no help was afforded him. At sundown, apparently immediately after the accident had happened, the duke signalled to the fleet to hold on its course, and stood up Channel before the westerly wind. Pedro de Valdes was left to his fate, which not only might have been, but was, foreseen by every ship in the Armada. There is a general agreement among the witnesses on the Spanish side, who are many and circumstantial, that the desertion of the flagship of the squadron of Andalusia spread a profound discouragement. There was not a man in the fleet who did not say to himself, "If so good an officer as Pedro de Valdes is deserted, what can the rest of us expect if we are disabled?" During the night Lord Howard followed the Spaniards close, but was not himself accompanied by the rest of the fleet. Drake had been ordered to carry the guiding light for the night, but, tempted by the sight of some vessels passing him to the westward, he had turned back, thinking, or professing to think, that they formed a part of the Spanish fleet endeavouring to escape out of the Channel. Lord Howard mistook the light of the Spaniards for that of his own vice-admiral. Meanwhile the rest of the English fleet, having lost the guiding light, lay to. Thus when day broke we were all scattered, though fortunately all to windward, and the different parts of our force were most characteristically placed. The gallant and disinterested Lord Howard was in dangerous proximity to the enemy, the bulk of the English fleet was lying off some distance in safety, but Drake, the ex-slaver and buccaneer, was close to the crippled Spaniard—a prize which he could seize at no great cost of danger or trouble to himself. Pedro de Valdes, being surrounded on all sides, had no resource but to surrender at discretion, and the Rosario was sent into [107]Weymouth. The remainder of the 22nd passed without any incident of note. By the following day the Spaniards had rolled slowly along to Portland. Here they seemed about to enjoy a change of fortune. By this time, indeed, they had begun to understand that it was upon fortune they must depend for a chance of bringing the English to battle on terms fairly favourable to themselves. The operations of the 21st had convinced them of the great superiority of the English fleet in weatherliness. When, then, on the morning of the 23rd the wind shifted to the N.E. and thereby gave the Spaniards an opportunity of securing the weather-gage, they were flattered by a prospect of taking their revenge. A part of the English were between them and the shore. The Spaniards turned in the confident hope of catching their slippery enemy between the "sword and the wall," to use their own expressive idiom. But they were not to enjoy any favour of fortune on this campaign. Just when a close engagement seemed to be inevitable, the wind again swept round to the west, transferring the weather-gage once more to the English. The duke resumed his course to the east, and the English fell back a short space, and then again followed their lumbering enemy, looking keenly for every chance to strike him with advantage.

Nothing of note is recorded to have happened on the 24th, unless it be that complaints were heard of want of powder in the fleet. In the meantime the country had become thoroughly aroused. The Spaniards had seen the beacon fires blazing on the hills of Devon on the night of the 20th, and before daylight those flames had leapt from hill-top to hill-top—

"From Eddystone to Berwick bounds, from Lynn to Milford Bay."

Volunteers swarmed down to the fleet. As English and Spaniards rolled heavily along the Channel, ships slipped out from the different ports to reinforce Howard. To the eastward, Lord Henry Seymour and Sir William Winter were concentrating their squadrons in the Downs, while the squadrons of Holland and Zeeland, united under the command of Justinus of Nassau, were blocking [108]every port in Spanish Flanders. It was one of the most fatal of the misconceptions of the Spaniard that he had hoped to draw help from those very harbours which the son of William the Silent was blockading. On the 25th of July, Medina Sidonia despatched a quick-sailing ship in advance to the Duke of Parma, informing him of his own approach, and begging him to come out, in order that they might combine their forces. The Spanish fleet was then off the Isle of Wight. It was the day of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order, and a member of the house of Guzman. The Duke of Medina Sidonia, as was only natural in a Roman Catholic, and a gentleman of a family which had produced so eminent a saint, was in expectation that the anniversary would be marked by some signal manifestation of divine assistance. But none came. Lord Howard was so little disturbed by his enemy, and, we may add, was so little anxious to force on a battle with him, that he spent some part of the day in conferring the honour of knighthood on Lord Thomas Howard, Lord Sheffield, Roger Townsend, Hawkins, and Frobisher. There was indeed some fighting, but the day was calm, with very light breezes from the west, and the engagement was a mere artillery duel, which in times of rude gunnery meant a great waste of powder and shot. On the 26th there was no action, and next day the Spaniards anchored in the Roads of Calais.

In his own belief and in that of most of his contemporaries, the Duke of Medina Sidonia had now carried out one main purpose of his expedition. He had come to a place at which, if distance and their own relative position were alone to be considered, he could effect his meeting with the Duke of Parma. From Calais, therefore, he sent another officer, urging the prince to come out at once with his seventeen thousand soldiers. As a matter of fact, however, the Duke of Parma was unable to move. The vessels he had been building to serve as transports were in no state to go to sea, and if they had been they could not have moved, for the prince had few sailors, and the Dutch squadron, numerous and well appointed, was waiting for him [109]outside. Alexander Farnese, who does not seem ever to have had any effective belief in the advisability of invading England, made a show of embarking his men, but until the Dutch blockading squadrons were cleared away this was a mere parade, and there was no naval force at hand to drive them off. As on a famous occasion in our own later history, the Duke of Medina Sidonia waited for the Duke of Parma, while the Duke of Parma, for his part, stood waiting for the Duke of Medina Sidonia. So the 27th and the 28th of July wore away.

Meanwhile, Howard had been joined by Lord Henry Seymour and Sir William Winter, and a council of war was held on the flagship, the Ark Royal. At this council it was decided to do some service against the Spaniards at anchor by fireships. Seven vessels were filled with combustibles and primed with powder. These preparations did not pass unperceived by the enemy, and it was at least suggested to the Duke of Medina Sidonia to prepare pinnaces with grappling irons for the purpose of towing off any fireships the English might send among them. Ever since a weapon of this kind had been used against them at the siege of Antwerp, the Spaniards had regarded the fireship with considerable fear. But measures of precaution were either not taken at all, or were taken very ill. After dark, and when the tide was flowing strongly, the fireships were sent in before the westerly wind. An instantaneous panic broke out in the Spanish fleet. The whole swarm of ships hurried to escape their assailants by getting up anchor and running away to leeward. The better disciplined ships, in which the officers of experience and volunteers of noble birth were numerous, weighed anchor, and moved off in some order. The others cut their cables, and ran for it in great confusion. Collisions were common. One great galleasse, the flagship of Don Hugo de Moncada, had her rudder unshipped, and was stranded while endeavouring to get into Calais harbour. Here the greater part of her crew deserted her. The remainder, under the command of Don Hugo, made a gallant fight for it against the swarm of English boats, till [110]Moncada fell shot through the head with a harquebus bullet, when the others surrendered. Wild confusion prevailed throughout the rest of the now beaten fleet. The vessels which had cut their cables drifted away to leeward, for, as the Spaniards at that time carried no anchors on deck except those at the catheads, they could not hoist others out in time from the hold, and had no means of bringing themselves up. Thus, when the day broke, such of Medina Sidonia's vessels as were in a position to anchor were separated by miles from the great majority, which the tide had carried far to leeward. The duke got under way, and ought to have run down to leeward. But, having been yielding when he ought to have been firm, he was, after the not uncommon habit of timid men, obstinate when he might very well have yielded. He stood out to sea with the galleons immediately about him, and signalled for the rest of his fleet to join him. As they had to tack against the wind, this movement could not be executed by most of them in less than many hours. The isolated position of the Spanish commander was at once obvious to the English admirals, and their whole force fell upon the part of the Spanish fleet nearest them. This was the hottest day's fighting of the whole campaign. The English were confident, and threw aside some of the caution they had hitherto displayed. They came to close quarters, and their artillery did heavy damage to their enemies. No Spanish ship was actually taken, but one was seen to sink, and others were so crippled that they drifted out of action and sought refuge in the Flemish ports held by the Duke of Parma. These, with few exceptions, became prizes to the Dutch.

When the battle of Gravelines was over, the Armada was beaten. It had not suffered very severe loss in numbers, but it had become convinced both of its own inferiority in manœuvring power to its opponents, and of the utter incapacity of its chief. He, for his part, was thoroughly sick of his command, and was already in a humour to tell the king, as he did on his arrival in Spain, that he would rather have his head cut off than meddle with the command of fleets again.


In truth, neither fleet was in a condition to continue the action. The English had exhausted their gunpowder, and the gaol fever was extending with dreadful rapidity. There was also a want of provisions, for which the queen's Government has been severely, and perhaps not altogether justly, blamed by historians. If the queen and Lord Burleigh were eager to keep down expenses, it must be remembered that the Crown was very poor. The resources required to keep a great fleet on foot for any length of time could only be obtained by an appeal to Parliament. The political difficulties of her position made Elizabeth at all times unwilling to put herself in the position of having to make a bargain with the House of Commons, which was certain to exact concessions in return for supplies of money. At such a time, indeed, nothing ought to have been allowed to stand in the way of the defence of the country, or to prevent the fair treatment of the officers and men serving in the fleet. Yet there is no reason to suppose that Elizabeth and her Lord Treasurer were careless of their duty; but the Government of the time had very little experience in the maintenance of great military forces. The naval administration was in a rudimentary condition, and it may very well be that the want of powder and provisions and the very irregular payment of wages were due rather to awkwardness and ignorance, helped perhaps by dishonesty on the part of subordinates, than to meanness in Elizabeth. The fleet which in the following year was sent to the coast of Spain to retaliate for the Spanish invasion suffered much from the want of food and from pestilence. Yet it was organised not by the queen, but by a committee of adventurers, who had every motive to fit it out well, since they must needs rely upon its efficiency to repay them by the capture of Spanish prizes. However the blame must be divided, the fact remains that within a few days after the battle of Gravelines the English fleet was in danger of being paralysed by the want of necessary stores, and by the unmanning of the ships through sickness and desertion.

The English fleet had the resource of retiring to its [112]own harbours, but there was no such escape for the Spaniards. There was no port of their own available for the heavy ships nearer than the Bay of Biscay. Parma did indeed advise the duke to betake himself to the free city of Hamburg, where, as he was well provided with money, he would have no difficulty in finding stores, and from whence he could issue later on for the purpose either of renewing the attack on England, or of co-operating in a serious effort to reduce Holland and Zeeland. Whatever the worth of the advice may have been, and whether it was physically practicable or not, the Duke of Medina Sidonia was in no condition to act upon it. He had become completely cowed. Indeed, he had just had a demonstration of the utter unfitness of his fleet for the work his master the king had sent him to perform. The battle of Gravelines was followed by strong breezes, for they do not seem to have attained to the dignity of a storm, from the S. and S.W. Under the impulse of these winds, the heavier ships of the Armada began to drift on the shallows of the coast of Zeeland. By the confession of the Spaniards, their vessels were wholly at the mercy of the wind and the currents. They drifted along quite unable to help themselves, and only a lucky shift of the wind saved them from going ashore. When the wind did turn to a point more favourable to them, the Spanish ships, still very little diminished in number, but entirely broken in spirit, straggled out into the North Sea, and then, by the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, all stood to the northward for the purpose of making their way back to Spain by the west of the British Isles.

When the Armada was seen to be in retreat, Howard told off Lord Henry Seymour to remain in the Downs for the purpose of operating with Justinus of Nassau in the blockade of Parma's ports. He himself followed the Spaniards as far north as the Firth of Forth. That he made no attack upon them, shows either that his own vessels were wholly destitute of stores, or that the enemy still inspired him with an amount of respect not [113]justified by their real condition. At the Firth of Forth, Howard left the enemy and returned to the mouth of the Thames. For a time there was a belief that the Duke of Parma might still sally out, and there was even in the opinion of some of our leaders a fear that the Armada might return. It was not, indeed, until months afterwards that the world began to know what had been the fate of the King of Spain's great fleet. It had stood to the north until the pilots, by whose advice the Duke of Medina Sidonia acted, thought it safe to turn to the west, and up to this period it had apparently not suffered much. Nine vessels had in all been lost by capture or abandonment to the enemy. But on the way home fifty-four perished by shipwreck. Almost from the very day in which the galleons and urcas of the King of Spain turned the north of Scotland on their way home, they were subjected to a succession of storms of extraordinary violence for the season of the year. Being ill provided with pilots and charts, as well as essentially unseaworthy, they were quite unable to struggle with the violence of the weather. Nineteen vessels were wrecked on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Those of the Spaniards who were wrecked within the dominions of Queen Elizabeth were massacred by orders of her officers, many of them being put to death in cold blood, after they had been received to quarter. About one-half of the King of Spain's ships were lost. Those which reached his ports were almost unmanned, for the scurvy broke out during the miseries of the return home, and, as the provisions were exhausted, the crews died from actual starvation. Few of the leaders lived to return home. Alonso de Leiva perished in the wreck of the Rata. Oquendo and Martinez de Recalde did indeed live to cast anchor in Spanish waters, but they died almost immediately afterwards from the effect of the sufferings they had endured, and the shame of the great disaster. The Duke of Medina Sidonia spent his time, while returning to Spain, sitting in his cabin with his face buried in his hands, in complete prostration and stupor, while Diego Flores and Don Francisco de Bobadilla [114]carried on the duties of commander. The duke had left Spain a very prosperous gentleman; he returned a white-haired old man.

The failure of the Armada was naturally a very conspicuous event in the opinion of that and succeeding generations. It was the visible deliverance of England, and with her of the Protestants of Europe. The piety of the time accounted for the failure of the mighty armament by saying that God had blown upon it, and it had been scattered. This verdict has not always been accepted by the rationalism or the patriotism of modern times, and yet it may be said to be essentially true. The Armada failed through its own weakness and the incapacity of its chief. With the single exception of their use of the fireships in Calais Roads, the English leaders did nothing to force the Duke of Medina Sidonia into a disadvantageous position. He put himself into the worst position by his own acts. When he did decide to retreat, the material strength of his fleet was hardly impaired. It was the moral strength that was gone, and that partly through the discovery that the ships were very ill fitted for their work, and partly because the Spaniards had discovered the hopeless incapacity of their leader. Even at the last moment, when the Spaniards had been saved by a mere shift in the wind from destruction on the banks of Zeeland, Lord Howard showed no wish to come to close quarters with them. The supposition that he left them at the Firth of Forth because he foresaw they would perish on their way home, is inadmissible. Lord Howard cannot have known that the latter part of the month of August would be beyond precedent stormy. If the weather had been what it might have been expected to be, the loss of the Spaniards would probably not have gone beyond a very few more vessels than those which had already been taken or driven on shore, or had fallen into the hands of the enemy in the Channel. In that case, they would indeed have failed to effect an invasion of England; but the ships might have been refitted, and the Armada would not have been considered to have suffered severely. Thousands of men would no doubt have died from [115]scurvy and want of food, but that was usual even with the successful naval expeditions of the time. As the English were then not familiar with the seas north of the Firth of Forth, it is possible that if Lord Howard had pursued the Spaniards, his own ships would have suffered much, if not quite as much as the enemy. The storms did not cause the failure of the Armada in the Channel or the North Sea, but they did produce its destruction.



Authorities.—In addition to the books quoted at the head of the last chapters, Sir William Monson's Naval Tracts, to be found in vol. iii. of Churchill's Voyages, are of great value for the later part of the great queen's reign. Sir Richard Hawkins's account of his own voyage to the South Seas contains much most valuable information as to the naval life of the time. It has been published by the Hakluyt Society. Linschoten, printed in English by the same Society, is valuable for the loss of the Revenge, and for the picture it gives of the Spanish and Portuguese methods of conducting trade, and of their disasters. The accessible evidence for the voyages of the Earl of Cumberland is in Purchas. Southey took the cream off the narratives of Elizabethan sea adventure in the Lives of the Admirals, written for the Cabinet Cyclopædia.

Being now delivered from all fear of an attack by Spain, and at the same time persuaded that there was no hope of peace with Philip till he was thoroughly broken, Elizabeth's Government retaliated for the Armada by a vigorous raid on the coast of Spain. In theory, the expedition was intended to do much more than merely harass the King of Spain's coasts. There was an avowed intention to help the Prior of Ocrato, who claimed the throne of Portugal, to recover the kingdom out of the hands of King Philip. But the forces provided were quite insufficient for such a serious undertaking as the reconquest of Portugal, although they were very large in proportion to the resources of England and her Dutch allies. The Dutch, in fact, who were threatened by a serious attack at home, were compelled to withhold a great part of the forces which they had promised to contribute. Still, the expedition contained 11,000 troops and 1500 seamen. The command at sea was given to Sir [117]Francis Drake, and the command of the troops to the officer who had then the greatest military reputation in England, Sir John Norris. It did not, on the whole, prove successful. The withholding of the old English troops in the Low Countries made it necessary to rely wholly on new levies. They, as usual, proved untrustworthy. Upwards of one-third of the men are said to have deserted before the expedition sailed at all. Finding that if they delayed much longer they would probably be weakened to a much more dangerous extent, Drake and Norris put to sea on the 15th of April, and five days later landed in the neighbourhood of Corunna, with the intention of taking the town. They had no difficulty in burning the suburbs, and in scattering a body of country militia brought down by the king's governor to attack them. But the upper town beat off all their attacks; and in the meantime the soldiers had broken into the stores of wine collected for export, and had drunk so freely that illness began to infest the squadron. Corunna having beaten it off, the fleet now went on to the coast of Portugal. Her partners' desire for booty had once more hampered the execution of the queen's political purposes. Every day wasted on the road to Portugal gave King Philip more time to prepare for defending his conquest, but the adventurers had need of the plunder of the town in order to cover their expenses, and therefore time was wasted in futile attempts to take a strongly fortified place without a battering-train. After the failure at Corunna, Drake and Norris anchored at Peniche, and there landed the troops who were still in a condition to render service. According to the plan, they were to march overland to Lisbon, while Drake promised to enter the Tagus and meet them at the town. But the scheme broke down entirely. Norris did indeed march to the gates of Lisbon, but he found it far too strongly held to be attacked by him. The profuse promises made by Dom Antonio, the pretender, were completely falsified by experience. The crowds of partisans on whom he relied for help did not appear. Drake found it impossible even to enter the Tagus, a river with a very swift current, [118]heavily fortified at the mouth. At last, Norris, finding that he was in danger of attack by the troops collecting in the interior of the country, re-embarked his men, and the expedition returned home. It hung about on the coast for a time in the hope of picking up a few prizes, and it had a brush or two with the King of Spain's galleys at the mouth of the Tagus. In one of these, the galleys, aided by a dead calm, succeeded in cutting off and setting on fire one English vessel which carried a company of soldiers. But the Spanish trade had been so completely frightened that it had no longer any ships at sea. The provisions began to run out. Disease had made so much progress in the squadron that barely two thousand men were left fit for service. It finally returned home in the midst of very bad weather, having failed of its main purposes, but having also shown how entirely the destruction of the Armada had prostrated the naval strength of the King of Spain.

An equally convincing proof of Spanish weakness was given in the following year. A squadron of ten ships, all belonging to the queen, were sent out to the "Isles," that is to say, to the Azores and Canaries, under the command of Sir John Hawkins and Sir Martin Frobisher. This was a regular military expedition designed to interrupt the trade of Spain with America, and if possible to cripple King Philip by capturing his treasure-ships on their way home. So far as interrupting Spanish trade was concerned, Hawkins and Frobisher were completely successful. So feeble was the great King of Spain at sea, that he forbade his flota to return home this year lest it should fall into the hands of the English cruisers. The loss to him was immense, as also to his subjects, but to us the stoppage of the Spanish treasure-ships was a disappointment. It was not enough for Elizabeth, who had great expenses to meet, to prevent the King of Spain from receiving his silver. She had cherished the hope that at least some portion of it would fall into the hands of her officers. When, therefore, they cruised for seven long months without taking a single prize, great or small, the queen was in a very bad temper. It was on this occasion that Sir John Hawkins, when giving [119]an account of his ill success, attempted to justify himself by use of his favourite biblical language. "Paul," said the old sea-rover, "planteth and Apollos watereth, but it is God who giveth the increase." This attempt to console her for the loss of her money, in the style of the Puritans, whom she loathed with a peculiar detestation, was more than enough to provoke an explosion from the great queen. It is said that she broke out with "God's death! this fool went out a soldier, and is come home a divine."

Although Queen Elizabeth consoled herself for her disappointment by snubbing the unctuous piety of Hawkins, she did not cease sending out these expeditions to the "Isles." They were indeed the main course of the naval war of the rest of her reign. The object was to reduce Philip to impotence by cutting off his supplies of treasure. As the ships which carried out the trade from Spain and returned with the cargoes and bullion from the New World were under the necessity of stopping at the "Isles" to water and refit, it was good policy to wait for them where they might be expected to be met with tolerable certainty. In order to make doubly sure, it was much the practice for the English ships to divide, some of them taking their station off Cadiz, and others cruising near the Azores. Thus, if the Spaniards missed the ships at the "Isles," they might fall into the hands of the others at the mouth of the Straits. The squadrons employed on this work did not consist wholly of the queen's ships. A large part of them belonged to private adventurers—either men of business who fitted out vessels as a commercial speculation, or gallant gentlemen of the stamp of the Earl of Cumberland, whose voyages are among the most brilliant made in the great queen's reign. None of these voyages to the "Isles" proved as fully successful as the queen could have wished, but they did do enormous damage to the King of Spain, and indirectly they had important permanent consequences for England.

The voyage of 1591 was rendered extremely memorable by the famous last fight of the Revenge. In this year the queen sent out her squadron under the command [120]of Lord Thomas Howard. It consisted of six ships, and it took up the cruising ground occupied to so little purpose by Hawkins and Frobisher in the previous year. By this time it had become impossible for the King of Spain to delay his flota again. Orders had therefore been sent to come on at all hazards. Foreseeing that his vessels would be in danger from the English at the Azores, King Philip had prepared another armament which was to sail from Cadiz to meet the flota in mid-voyage and escort it home. While Howard was cruising at the Azores, the Earl of Cumberland was on a private venture on the coast of Spain. He sighted the Spanish fleet on its way out from Cadiz, and despatched a quick-sailing pinnace called the Moonshine with a warning to Howard. The Moonshine found the English admiral at anchor in Flores Bay, with a great part of his men on shore watering, and some sick with the scurvy. The warning had barely been delivered to Howard before the Spanish fleet under the command of Alonso de Bazan, the brother of Don Álvaro, was almost upon him. The roadstead of Flores opens to the N.W., and the Spanish fleet came round the western side of the island, tacking against the westerly wind. It would have been extremely rash in Lord Thomas Howard to allow himself to be caught with his little handful of ships by so superior a force of the enemy in a position where he could not avoid attack. He therefore very properly prepared to stand out to sea without delay.

It was of course impossible to desert the men on shore. They were provided for by leaving the Revenge, the flagship of Sir Richard Grenville, the second in command, which was esteemed the best sailer of the queen's ships, to pick them up and then to join the flag outside. Before the men were collected, the Spanish fleet was opposite the roadstead. Apparently Lord Thomas Howard had stood out to sea, so that the fleet of Don Alonso de Bazan was between him and the Revenge. When Sir Richard Grenville stood out from the anchorage, he had an easy means of rejoining his admiral. All he had to do was to put before the wind, to run to leeward of the Spaniards, and join Lord Thomas on [121]the other side. As a matter of fact, this course was actually followed by a small transport, or victualler, left behind with the Revenge. But although this was the safe and sensible course, it had about it an air of flight. Flight in the circumstances would not have appeared discreditable to an ordinary officer, but Sir Richard Grenville was not an ordinary officer. He was a man of a passionate nature, with a large share of what we may with all due reverence describe as the swaggering courage of the Elizabethans. We must not judge him as a man of to-day, but as a gentleman of Devon, with a mediæval spirit on the point of honour and a superb valour, who had probably been fed upon tales of chivalry, and was very capable of acting after the manner of a knight-errant. It was, in fact, exactly as a knight-errant that he behaved. His sailing-master advised him to put before the wind and trust to the speed of his ship, but Grenville refused. To understand what exactly was the point of honour upon which he fought, it is necessary to remember that at sea the windward position is the place of honour. He who makes way for another, and passes to leeward of him, acknowledges the superiority of the ship for which he makes way. If, then, Grenville had put before the wind, and had run to leeward of the Spaniards, he would in his own opinion have confessed that they were his betters. Now this he would not do, and he therefore decided that at whatever hazard to himself, his ship, and his crew, "he would pass through the two squadrons in spite of them, and enforce that of Seville to give him way." This, it seems, if the English version of the story is to be believed, "he performed upon divers of the foremost who sprang and fell under the lee of the Revenge"; that is to say, in the modern phrase, they bore up and made way for the Revenge. It is probable that these were small vessels, perhaps urcas, for a large proportion of the fifty-three ships under the command of Don Alonso de Bazan were certainly transports employed to carry soldiers, and not provided with a battery of guns. However that may be, the St. Philip, the first of the great Spanish galleons in a position to bar his way, did not bear up for Grenville. On the contrary, she ran into him to [122]windward, and, being much the bigger and higher ship of the two, took the wind out of his sails and immediately stopped his way. From that moment the fate of the Revenge was settled. Other vessels joined the St. Philip, and the Revenge was shut in. In that position she maintained a defence so long and so desperate, that it is only to be accounted for by the very bad gunnery of the Spaniards, and by the fact that the action began shortly before dark, and was prolonged through the night. The want of light had unquestionably a great deal to do with preventing the Spaniards from overpowering the crew of the Revenge by mere numbers. Lord Thomas Howard did not desert his fiery second in command. He did, on the contrary, all that was possible for him with a handful of undermanned ships. He attacked the Spaniards from windward as closely as he could without allowing himself to be entangled in the midst of their superior numbers. More he could not have done without manifest folly; and it is even said that when he did show a disposition to sail into the midst of the Spaniards, his master threatened to throw himself overboard rather than have any share in the destruction of the queen's ships. It was probably during the night that Lord Thomas Howard left his knightly colleague to his fate, and sailed away. At daybreak the Revenge was completely battered to pieces, forty of her men were killed and a number wounded. Grenville himself was mortally hurt. If he could still have had his way, he would rather have blown his ship up than allow her to fall into the hands of the enemy, but his crew were not disposed to be sacrificed any further. They insisted on being allowed to surrender, and the Spaniards gave them quarter. Grenville himself was carried still living onto the flagship of Don Alonso de Bazan. He declared in his last breath, in Spanish, if Linschoten is to be believed: "Here die I, Richard Grenville, with a joyful heart and a quiet mind, for that I have ended my life as a good soldier ought to do, who has fought for his country, queen, religion, and honour. Wherefore my soul joyfully departeth out of this body, and shall always leave behind it an everlasting fame of a true [123]soldier, who hath done his duty as he was bound to do. But the others of my company have done as traitors and dogs, for which they shall be reproached all their lives, and leave a shameful name for ever."

Linschoten was at that time a resident in the Islands, and may very well have had at least the substance of this speech from the Spaniards who actually heard it. It is too consistent not only with the character of the man, but of that of the type to which he belonged, to be wholly false. There was in the action as well as in the literature of the Elizabethan time a strain of rodomontade. The death of Sir Richard Grenville was emphatically what the sixteenth century described as a rodomontade in act. The capture of the Revenge was much boasted of by the Spaniards, and is still remembered by them with some complacence. Even, however, if we allow for a large element of exaggeration in our own accounts of the battle, it was not a feat which redounded much to their glory. Nor was the end of this effort to protect the return home of the trade from America fortunate. Lord Thomas Howard was indeed driven off, and two days after the action the galleons on their way home from America joined Don Alonso. They represented only the remains of the convoys which had sailed from the ports of New Spain. The ships stopped by Philip's orders in the preceding year had suffered much from the teredo or boring worm, and numbers went down before reaching the Islands. Of the remainder few ever lived to see Spain. Shortly after they had joined Don Alonso, a violent gale, which lasted for seven days and blew in succession from different quarters, burst on the hundred and forty ships now collected under the command of the Spanish admiral. More than a hundred went down or were wrecked on the Islands. The loss was greater than that of the Armada, and the blow sustained by the naval power of Spain even more irreparable.

The next two years saw a repetition of these voyages to the Isles, distinguished by the usual features of active enterprise and seamanship on the part of the English, and of helpless adherence to routine on the part of the Spaniards. [124]In 1594, however, the queen's policy was changed. Although these voyages to the Islands were sound in policy, and had done immense mischief to the Spaniards, they had not proved profitable to the queen. In 1594 she listened to the advice of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, and decided to revert to an older method of striking at the wealth of the King of Spain. "These two generals," says Sir William Monson, "presuming much upon their own experience and knowledge, used many persuasions to the queen to undertake a voyage to the West Indies, giving much assurance to perform great services, and promising to engage themselves very deeply therein with the adventure of both substance and life." The plan was, in fact, a repetition of the scheme partially executed in 1585. It was to sail to the West Indies and there seize the King of Spain's treasure at its port of departure. The plunder of the Islands and of Spanish ships would, it was calculated, at any rate cover the expenses of the expedition. It was late in sailing, owing to fear of an invasion by the Spaniards from the Low Countries.

The Cardinal Archduke Albert, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands since Parma's death in 1592, had made himself master of the great part of Brittany, and one small expedition did actually come out of the little port of Blavet and burn the town of Penzance. So soon, however, as it was known that the invasion would be limited to this trumpery raid, Drake and Hawkins were allowed to sail. As was usual in the case, the squadron consisted only in part of ships belonging to the queen. Of these there were six—the Defiance, in which Sir Francis Drake had his flag, and the Garland, the flagship of Sir John Hawkins, the Hope, the Bonaventure, the Foresight, and the Adventurer. There were, besides these, twenty vessels belonging to private adventurers. Two thousand six hundred soldiers were embarked to serve on shore in the proposed capture of Panama. They were under the command of Sir Thomas Baskerville, a gentleman of Devon.

The old kinsmen and fellow-adventurers, who had [125]begun the brilliant epoch of Elizabethan naval achievement, sailed, on what was destined to be their last voyage, from Hawkins's native town of Plymouth on the 28th of August 1594. They began by following the usual route to the West Indies by the Grand Canary. Here, according to precedent, they spent time in attempting to plunder. Hawkins is said to have been in favour of pushing on at once to the West Indies in obedience to the queen's orders. Information had been received in England to the effect that a Spanish treasure-ship had put into Puerto Rico disabled. It was obvious that the sooner the English squadron appeared before the port, the better would be its chance of finding the treasure-ship still there, and of taking the town unprepared. But although Hawkins's advice was unquestionably sound, it was overruled by Drake and Baskerville, who had the support of public opinion in the squadron. The sailors, under pretence of seeking provisions, were in fact eager for plunder. It was therefore decided to land and pillage, but the fleet had overshot its mark. The town of Gran Canaria could not be attacked before the Spaniards had time to put it into a defensible position. Finding La Gran Canaria too strong to be taken, the English commanders were constrained to be satisfied with landing a few men at an out-of-the-way place for fresh water. Even this did not in the end succeed with them. Some stragglers from the watering parties were attacked by the native herdsmen, who killed most of them, and took the others prisoners. From one of the men taken the Spanish governor learned the destination of the fleet, and immediately despatched a quick-sailing vessel to put the towns of the West Indies upon their guard. They had, however, been already warned by the King of Spain, who was well supplied with information from England. Finding that there was nothing to be done at the Canaries, Drake and Hawkins stood on to the Leeward Islands, and stopped to water at Dominica and Guadaloupe. On entering the West Indies they were scattered by a storm. While they were rejoining one another and trading with the natives of the islands for food and water, the Spaniards were actively [126]at work to defeat the purpose of the expedition. King Philip had not been careless of the safety of his treasure-ship. He had despatched from Spain a squadron of eight zabras, under the command of Don Pedro Tello, with orders to bring the bullion home. By a piece of extraordinary bad fortune for us, five of the vessels under Tello's command captured a little bark of thirty-five tons belonging to Hawkins's squadron. This misfortune happened in the sight of a larger English ship, which escaped and brought the bad news to Hawkins, who is reported to have sickened at once as foreseeing the inevitable consequences. Don Pedro Tello did what any English commander of the time would have done without scruple. He put his prisoners to the torture, and compelled them to tell him where the expedition was bound. Then he hurried on to Puerto Rico. The English commanders delayed for some days longer at Guadaloupe, and then continued their route in what seems to have been a very leisurely fashion. Dissensions are said to have broken out between Drake and Hawkins, and there is certainly in the whole history of their proceedings a want of the promptitude and resolution they had shown when younger men. Before they reached Puerto Rico, Hawkins died, and was buried at sea.

Though released from a colleague with whom he had not worked happily hitherto, Sir Francis Drake was not more successful when left to himself. He attacked Puerto Rico in vain. The Spaniards had had time to land the treasure and to put the port into a state of defence. The English lost upwards of a hundred men in the repulse. This experience seems to have convinced the surviving leaders that it was hopeless to waste more time at Puerto Rico. They therefore proceeded to carry out the remainder of their instructions. But for once we were doomed to failure and to find fortune everywhere against us. As is so often the case, bad fortune meant mistaken calculation. Drake and Hawkins had not realised that a great change had come over the West Indies within the last ten years. The smaller Spanish posts had been harried out of existence, and the larger had been fortified by the King of [127]Spain's engineers. Thus there was no such opportunity for plunder as had been presented a few years before to forces incapable of undertaking a regular siege. After one or two unsuccessful attempts to extort ransom from towns along the coast, which were deserted at their approach, Drake and Baskerville decided to make the long-delayed attack on Panama. Drake himself remained with the ships at Nombre de Dios, while Baskerville with seven hundred and fifty men attempted that overland march which in after times was triumphantly executed by the buccaneers of Sir Henry Morgan. But in 1594 the Spanish Government was far stronger than it was in the later seventeenth century. Baskerville met with very serious resistance. He was harassed while marching through the bush, and repulsed with heavy loss in attacking a stockade erected by the Spaniards across the road. Finding his enterprise hopeless, even if he and his comrades were prepared to "cloy the jaws of death," he returned to Nombre de Dios. The Indians, who had been friendly when Drake was formerly on the coast, were now hostile, perhaps because of the excesses of the meaner adventurers who had followed Sir Francis. A detachment of English were cut off by them in an ambuscade. It began to be borne in upon the mind of Sir Francis Drake that his life of daring and success was to end in failure. "Sir Francis Drake, who was wont to rule fortune, now finding his error, and the difference between the present state of the Indies and what it was when he first knew it, grew melancholy upon this disappointment, and suddenly, and I hope naturally, died at Porto Bello, not far from the place where he got his first reputation." So says Sir William Monson; but there is no reason to suppose that the death of Drake was due to any other cause than the action of disappointment and the evil climate of the coast on a constitution tried by long and hard service. After the deaths of the two seamen leaders, Sir Thomas Baskerville brought home whatever fever and the sword had spared in the most unsuccessful of all the fleets of Elizabeth's reign. He returned by the Straits of Florida, fighting an indecisive action with the [128]squadron of the King of Spain's ships at the west end of Cuba on his way.

Neither of the voyages to the "Isles" nor this attempt to revert to the attacks on the West Indies had answered the expectations of Elizabeth and her Council. In spite of his many failures and disasters, Philip was indefatigable in refitting his fleet and in organising constant renewed attempts to invade England. By land, the excellence of his troops, and the capacity of his military officers in Flanders, gave him some compensation for his disasters at sea. The Spaniards had established themselves on the coast of Brittany, and even succeeded in capturing Calais. In 1596, then, the queen seemed in almost as much danger as she had been in 1588. This time, however, Elizabeth took the course which had then been pressed upon her by her captains. She decided to make a formidable attack on the King of Spain at home. Acting on the earnest advice of Lord Howard, and of the Earl of Essex, who was now at the height of his favour, she took part in a great combined expedition to Cadiz. A fleet of 150 sail was got together. The queen contributed 17 ships of the Royal Navy, a very large proportion of the whole at that time, and the sum of no less than £50,000, which was about one-eighth of her regular revenue; her Dutch allies contributed 18 ships of war and 6 storeships; the others were vessels either levied in the seaports by the Crown, or belonging to adventurers. This fleet carried 1000 gentlemen volunteers, 6368 troops, and 6772 seamen, exclusive of the Dutch. It was most carefully organised, and sailed with precise instructions to do the utmost possible amount of damage to the King of Spain's men-of-war in his havens, to his magazines of victuals and munitions for arming his navy, without hazarding men or ships on merely foolish or rash undertakings. In sharp contrast to the campaign of 1594, this was extraordinarily successful. The fleet sailed on the 1st of June, and swept down to Cadiz in twenty days, capturing everything it met on the way. So thoroughly was this work done that not a single one of the caravels which the Spaniards had at sea for the [129]purpose of scouting was able to escape into harbour with information of the approach of the allied fleet. Its appearance before Cadiz on the 20th of June was a complete surprise to the enemy.

The town rises out of the sea from a mass of rock joined to the mainland by a long narrow spit and a bridge. This isthmus, natural and artificial, runs from S.E. to N.W. Between it and the land to the east lies the harbour of Cadiz, which is divided into outer and inner by a tongue of land thrust out from the island of Cadiz itself, towards the mainland, called Puntal, or the Point. It has a fort at the extremity. The inner harbour stretches eastward into the mainland of Spain. Puerto Real and the great arsenal called the Carraca lie respectively on the northern and southern sides of the eastern end of this harbour.

When the allied fleet was seen outside, the outer harbour of Cadiz contained a number of richly-laden galleons and a squadron of the King of Spain's galleys. The galleons were drawn up across the mouth of the harbour, while the galleys were stationed on either side, with their prows turned inwards for the purpose of flanking any attack. The appearance of resolution which this disposition of their forces was calculated to give was not borne out by the steadiness of the Spaniards under attack. The allied fleet had no difficulty in forcing its way into the inner harbour, and then the galleons, except two which were taken, and two burned by the Spaniards, fled up to Puerto Real, while the galleys escaped to sea, through an opening in the spit connecting the town of Cadiz with the mainland. It was the belief of some of the officers present, that if the allies had contented themselves with merely cutting Cadiz off from the mainland by occupying some point on the connecting road, they might have followed the galleons and merchant ships which took refuge at Puerto Real with the certainty of securing an enormous booty, and with every probability that the town of Cadiz would fall whenever they returned to attack it. This judicious plan was rendered impossible of application by the headlong zeal of the Earl of Essex. Having attacked, and silenced, the [130]fort at the end of Puntal, he landed and marched on to storm the town itself. His example aroused the emulation of Lord Howard, of Lord Thomas Howard, and of Sir Walter Raleigh. They hastened to land and join in the assault upon the town. Cadiz, being destitute of a regular garrison and ill-fortified, fell without much difficulty before the attack of the allies, though not without sharp fighting in the streets and marketplace, in which one distinguished English officer, Sir John Winkfield, was shot dead. Cadiz remained in the possession of the allies for a fortnight. To the honour of their commanders be it said, they behaved with a moderation very seldom shown at that time after the storm of a city. Strict order was maintained, and the allies were content to levy a moderate ransom on the city, though they might easily have sacked it as brutally as the Spanish armies of the time had sacked the cities of the Low Countries.

On the Spanish side nothing more effectual was performed than the burning of the ships which had taken refuge at Puerto Real. This was done by the orders of the same Duke of Medina Sidonia who had commanded the Armada. He was still Captain-General of Andalusia, by the undeserved favour of his king, and he once more had an opportunity of covering himself with ridicule. After retaining possession of Cadiz for as long as they pleased, the allies set it on fire, and retreated with less booty than they had hoped to obtain, but certainly with immense honour, and after dealing the heaviest blow to the dignity of the King of Spain it had as yet had to endure. On the way home the fleet plundered the little Portuguese town of Faro in Algarve, when they carried off the library of Bishop Osorio, "which library," says Monson, "was brought into England by us and many of the books bestowed upon the newly erected library at Oxford." It was counted the most remarkable proof of the good fortune and good management of this armament that it returned in health.

Successful though the expedition had been, it had not satisfied the queen. Honour had been gained in [131]abundance, but the material results were not what Her Majesty and her Council had been led to expect. No sooner had the Lord Admiral and his colleague, the Earl of Essex, reached home than they were importuning the queen for money to pay the wages of their men. Now this was not what the queen had looked for. She had been induced to advance so great a sum of money as £50,000 by the eager assurances of Howard and Essex that an attack on the King of Spain's harbours, made with sufficient force, must needs be extremely lucrative. It was commonly reported that many of those who took part in the "Cadiz Voyage" had returned with a comfortable sum of plunder. Yet there was nothing due to Her Majesty capable of covering the expenses of the campaign, still less of leaving her a margin of profit on her £50,000. Therefore the generals were subjected to very searching inquiries why they had nothing more to produce, and were compelled to justify themselves as well as they could. The real explanation was that they had been in such a hurry to seize the town that they had neglected to take possession of the ships before the Spaniards had time to burn them. For this postponement of the more profitable to the less there were two reasons. Of these, one is to be found in the difference between the meaning of the words "prize" and "plunder." Prize meant whatever had to be thrown into a common stock and divided pro rata. It included an enemy's ships, with their cargoes and ordnance, and the ransom of towns, or whatever was paid for the release of goods afloat from capture. In this the common sailor and soldier only took his share when the whole was divided on the return home. Plunder meant whatever the men were entitled to take possession of at once. It included small arms, cabin furniture, the personal ransom paid for prisoners, whatever loose cash they had in their pockets when they were taken, their clothes and jewellery. A civilised enemy was accustomed to exercise a certain decency in the exercise of this right of war. It was thought more becoming not to strip the prisoners actually naked, and, in some cases at least, it was made a rule [132]that the women were not to be deprived of their earrings. At Cadiz the chiefs protected "the better sort of merchants' wives." They were allowed to go off unmolested to the number of two hundred or so, under an escort provided by the Earl of Essex. They availed themselves of his courtesy to put on all their best dresses at once, together with all their rings and necklaces. But although Essex and Howard kept the pillage of Cadiz within exceptionally close limits, it is certain that the town must have afforded a great deal of miscellaneous plunder. The women who did not have the good fortune to be included among "the better sort of merchants' wives" were probably left with little enough of whatever finery they may have possessed. As for the men, nobody would stand on much ceremony with them. Such portable property as plate, or the goods in the shops, would be taken as a matter of course, every man seizing for himself whatever came in his way.

On the ships there was much less of this promiscuous plunder than in the town, and the men, whether soldiers or sailors, were perfectly well aware of the fact. Essex excused himself for not seeing that the ships were taken possession of, by saying that he had instructed the sailors to follow up the galleons to Puerto Real, while the soldiers of the expedition were engaged in occupying the town. But the sailors were extremely unlikely to accept a division of labour which would have thrown a good deal of work, with a prospect of remote reward, on them, while it left the soldiers the exclusive enjoyment of the plunder of Cadiz. They were the less likely to do so, because experience had shown them that when the final division of the prize came to be made in England, Her Majesty would take very good care that the lion's share of it should fall to the Crown. Therefore, when once the example of attacking Cadiz was set by the Earl of Essex, the whole combined force, military and naval, hastened to the place where lay the largest and the most immediate share of profit.

Another explanation of the failure to make a thoroughly successful commercial speculation of the capture of Cadiz, is to be found in the rivalry between the chiefs. To this [133]there was a chivalrous side. The eagerness with which Howard and Essex, Raleigh and Lord Thomas Howard, strove to outstrip one another for the foremost place in driving back the King of Spain's galleons, and storming his city, makes a very gallant story. They behaved much after the manner to be expected of spirited sixth-form boys. In that there was nothing dangerous to the interests of the service. But this emulation had another side, which is only to be accurately described by the less honourable name of rivalry. Essex and Raleigh were both courtiers who were endeavouring to excel one another in the favour of the queen by outdoing one another in the flatteries Elizabeth loved. They had come to open hostility already, and having been reconciled, they of course hated one another mortally. At Cadiz the evil consequences of their hostility were hardly apparent. But there was enough of it to prevent the campaign of 1596 from being as fully successful as it might have been. There was in the greater Elizabethan enterprises unity of sentiment and a vigour of energy which produced success in the main, but there was hardly what in the full sense of the word is called discipline. In addition to the rivalry between the leaders, there was a rivalry between the different types of men. The sailor and the sailor officer were opposed to the soldier. The latter grew impatient when the former endeavoured to overbear him by appeals to seamanship, and the conditions of war at sea which the military man only vaguely understood, while the sailor was apt to think himself sacrificed to the soldier.

Each of these forms of rivalry had a share in producing the failure of the next considerable naval effort of Elizabeth's reign. In 1597 Philip was still threatening England with attack, this time from the Basque Ports. After the loss of so much money in the previous year, Elizabeth was by no means disposed to renew the voyage to Cadiz. Indeed it is doubtful whether she could have repeated that attack without straining her popularity to a dangerous extent. Not she only, but London and the smaller ports, had been put to heavy expenses for small profit. If the [134]queen had attempted to press ships from London and the out-ports, there would certainly have been a considerable outcry, and it was never her policy to give her subjects any excuse for being discontented, when it was in her power to avoid it. She therefore fitted out a moderate squadron of fifteen ships. It was put under the command of the Earl of Essex, and despatched to sea, with orders to look into the King of Spain's harbours. It was driven back by bad weather, but discovered enough to show that Philip's threats were not serious. Although the year was far advanced, it was decided to make another attempt to get possession of the Spanish plate-ships by one of the usual voyages to the "Isles." The greater part of the soldiers, recruited earlier in the year, were disbanded. A thousand seasoned men belonging to the old Low Country regiments were retained, and the squadron sailed a second time. It touched the Spanish coast near Ferrol, in the hope of drawing out the King of Spain's ships to action. But they did not stir. Essex then continued his voyage to the Azores, but the whole campaign was a failure. The ships separated; they either did not sight the Spaniards at all, or if they did, were unable to catch them. Ill luck was as usual pleaded as an excuse, but the true explanation of the failure of the expedition is to be sought elsewhere. Sir Walter Raleigh accompanied the expedition. He had taken to adventure at sea ever since he had deeply offended the queen's vanity, which expected all her courtiers to fall in love with herself alone, and had more reasonably offended her dignity by seducing her maid of honour, Miss Throgmorton. But he did not renounce the hope of regaining her favour, and was bitterly angered at finding himself supplanted in the queen's good graces by the Earl of Essex. Essex, for his part, had no love for Raleigh, and had already accused him of spoiling the full success of the Cadiz voyage for his own ends. Consciously or unconsciously, the two men were engaged in counteracting one another throughout the whole cruise. In such circumstances nothing effectual was likely to be done. The squadron finally returned without prizes. During [135]its absence, a Spanish squadron had sailed against England, but had been driven back by storms from the neighbourhood of the Scilly Isles.

After 1597 the war began to die down. In 1598 the Royal Navy was idle, and in 1599 it did little beyond show how rapidly a squadron could be fitted for sea by the Navy Office when the queen called upon it to exert itself. A squadron of twenty vessels was "rigged, victualled, and furnished to sea in twelve days." Sir William Monson records that the feat excited the surprise and admiration of foreigners. In 1600, again, nothing was done. Spain and England were, in fact, both becoming exhausted. War had put a stop to what was then our most lucrative branch of commerce, and it had been found by experience that privateering did not compensate for the want of peaceful industry. Negotiations for peace were begun, and continued throughout the years 1599 and 1600. In the latter year three ships were sent to the Isles under the command of Sir Richard Levison, but the King of Spain took care to provide the flota with a powerful escort, and Sir Richard returned home without so much as a single prize. The negotiations for peace ended for the time in failure, but the naval war did not revive with any energy. In 1601 a Spanish squadron landed three thousand five hundred soldiers in Ireland for the purpose of co-operating with the Earl of Tyrone, who was then in full rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. This invasion of her dominions roused the queen to fresh exertions. She despatched a squadron under the command of Sir Richard Levison to the coast of Ireland, to prevent the Spaniards from reinforcing the detachment they had already landed. He had with him only five ships, but they proved sufficient for the work. The Spanish fleet had returned home after disembarking Don Juan del Aguila with his three thousand five hundred men, but a squadron which had followed with a reinforcement of seven hundred men was attacked in Kinsale harbour with success; and although the failure of the Spanish invasion was mainly due to the want of co-operation on the part of Tyrone, and the energy of the [136]Lord Deputy Mountjoy, the navy rendered material assistance by cutting the communications with Spain.

The exhaustion of both parties now began to be shown by the small scale of the armaments on either side. The three thousand five hundred soldiers of Don Juan del Aguila, and the fleet that carried them to Ireland, were a great fall from the standard of the Spanish expeditions of earlier years. The squadron Queen Elizabeth sent in revenge to the coast of Spain was trifling. It consisted only of nine vessels under the command of Sir Richard Levison as admiral, with Sir William Monson as his second in command. Sir William in his Naval Tracts, which are the best authority for the history of the navy in Elizabeth's reign, has given a very prominent place to the cruise of this year, and in particular to his own very remarkable display of courage, energy, and sagacity. Sir William was no doubt an excellent officer, and the capture or destruction of the Portuguese carracks in the roadstead of Zizembre was a creditable bit of service, but it is hardly entitled to be told at length in a general history of the navy. In the following year the same two officers commanded the squadron in the Narrow Seas, but the war was over. Queen Elizabeth herself died in this year, and was succeeded by the peace-loving James I. Philip II. had been dead for four years, and his successor was a feeble prince, under whom the power of Spain went rapidly to decay. In France, Henry IV. had established his right to the throne at the point of the sword. Everywhere, except in Holland, which would not make peace unless its independence was secured, and except in the minds of the men of the stamp of Sir Walter Raleigh, to whom war was a source of income, there was a longing for the end of hostilities. The great Elizabethan epoch was over, and when England was next to be engaged in serious warfare at sea, it was with a very different enemy, and in quite another cause.

In telling the naval history of the great queen's reign from the Armada year forward, I have thought it better to leave aside the action of the adventurers except where they are found combined with those of the Royal Navy. But [137]from 1588 to the end of the century these champions of our power on the sea were numerous, and in some cases brilliantly successful. There were, indeed, far more of them than are recorded. In the general suspension of trade, privateering voyages became a very important resource of merchants and seafaring men. Commerce with Spain did not indeed altogether come to an end. Although we did not, like the Dutch, keep up an open trade with the enemy, English merchant ships were not infrequently to be found in Spanish ports both in Europe and in the islands of the Atlantic. The West Indian harbours were indeed jealously closed to foreigners. But English merchant ships which adopted the simple precaution of flying the Scotch flag seem to have found little difficulty in trading with the Spaniards. Yet this resource had its dangers, and the temptations to seek a profit by pillaging the Spaniard were very great. Thus there were always swarms of now forgotten English privateers at sea. Sir William Monson assures us that the great majority of these adventures proved disastrous, or at least barren, and we can well believe it. Small privateers, measuring often no more than forty or fifty tons, were incapable of attacking not only the large and well-protected Spanish flotas, but even of dealing with a single fairly-armed galleon. They had not only their want of material strength against them, but also their want of discipline, and the fact that they were frequently fitted out by owners who were too poor to equip them properly. Their crews were largely composed of men who fled to them to escape the stricter discipline, and more limited opportunities of plunder afforded by the queen's ships. Such vessels, so equipped and so manned, would, in the ordinary course, come frequently to grief, and it is not likely that Sir William Monson was exaggerating when he said that a large proportion of them either perished unheard of at sea, or returned without so much as seeing a Spaniard.

Among these obscure men there were, however, a few whose achievements are memorable. Of these, by far the most brilliant was George Clifford, third Earl of Cumberland. He has not in modern times had that measure of reputation [138]which is his due. In truth, no man more fully illustrated what was most brilliant in the adventures of the Elizabethan epoch. Of some of the others—Drake, Hawkins, or Raleigh, for instance—we may doubt whether the hope of gain was not their main inducement. But the earl was a great noble, who did not indeed deny that he hoped to take prizes from the Spaniards, and make his profit by them, but who certainly was mainly influenced by a chivalrous love of adventure, and the feeling that it became a man of his rank to set an example. Certainly, his ten voyages undertaken between 1586 and 1597 will compare with the deeds of any of the seamen of his time. It is true that he did not sail in all the expeditions fitted out at his expense, but he did in many of them. Three are particularly interesting. In 1592 the earl's ships were at the taking of the great carrack Madre de Dios, which fell into the hands of a squadron of English privateers belonging, some to Cumberland, some to the Hawkins family, and some to Sir Walter Raleigh. It was a misfortune of the adventurers that one of the queen's ships was present at the capture. It was a very small vessel, and had very little share in the merits of the enterprise. In fact, but for the strenuous exertions of the privateers, she would have been carried off by the carrack. Her captain, Sir Robert Cross, ran the big Portuguese on board, who thereupon "lashed his ship fast by the shrouds and sailed away with her by her side." Hereupon Captain Norton, Cumberland's commander, boarded the carrack to save the queen's ship, and, being well supported by the others, carried her after a prolonged struggle. The Madre de Dios was brought to England, and her capture proved a fruitful event. She had come from the Portuguese possessions in the East Indies, and carried a cargo of "spices, drugs, silks, calicoes, quilts, carpets, and colours." The sight of it is said to have stimulated strongly the desire of the merchants of London to share in the trade of the East, and to have had a direct influence in the formation of the East India Company. The earl's profit was not in proportion to his hopes; for the queen, taking advantage of the fact that one [139]of the least of her ships had had the smallest possible share in the capture, contrived, by a very characteristic mixture of force and fraud, to secure the lion's share for herself. She indeed was robbed by her own agents, but she forced Cumberland to put up with £36,000 as a free gift from her, in place of the greater sum he had expected to receive. The eighth voyage, which took place in 1594, was marked by two actions of extraordinary ferocity with Portuguese carracks. One, the Cinco Chagas, was burnt in action, after a scene of great horror. Another beat off the attack of the privateers. But the most memorable of the earl's enterprises, and indeed the most brilliant achievement of any subject in the queen's reign, was the earl's voyage to the West Indies in 1597, the year in which Essex and Raleigh were wrangling and failing at the Azores. His experience in 1592 had shown Cumberland the disadvantage of sailing with the queen's ships. Elizabeth was known to be very tender of her vessels, so that whoever sailed with them had to be in continual anxiety lest they should come to grief, while the queen was most apt to take advantage of their presence to deprive her partners of a fair share of the booty. The unsuccessful attack on the carracks in 1594 had also shown Cumberland the need for large vessels of considerable strength. He therefore built one for himself at Deptford. She was of 800 tons, at that time the burden of a ship of the first rank, and was named by the queen, who christened her at the launching the Scourge of Malice. In 1597 the earl raised a force of eighteen sail, and took the command in person. He sailed on the 6th of March, intending, if possible, to capture the Portuguese East India ships on their way out, but, failing that, to proceed to the West Indies, and there capture some island or town "that would yield him wealth and riches, being the chief end of his undertaking." The first part of his plan failed. After cruising for a time on the coast of Portugal to very little purpose, he sailed to the Canaries. Here, also, no booty was to be found, and the earl then told his men that he intended to go on to the West Indies, hoping to make profit, "by first the sacking of Margarita, [140]which they knew was rich, then Puerto Rico, after that, San Domingo, then in July the outward-bound fleet would be in the Acoa, where we could not miss them, and if these gave us not content, in the end of July or August we should meet the fleet at Cape St. Antonio."

The earl did not seriously intend to attempt the execution of all parts of this extensive plan. In the fragment of a history of the voyage written by himself he confesses very candidly that he spoke "more to carry the men with good liking thither, than for any thought he had of them himself." But at that time it was never necessary to spend much pains in persuading Englishmen to sail to the West Indies. Cumberland's crews entered with "greedy desire and hopeful expectation" into his schemes. He therefore stretched over from Lanzarote, one of the Canaries, to Dominica in the Leeward Isles, where he cast anchor on the 23rd of May. A week was spent in recruiting the health of his men. The English traded with the Caribs, and bathed in the hot springs. They found the Caribs friendly, and the tropical luxuriance of the vegetation filled at least the more educated of them with delight. Cumberland would have wished to make use of the time for the purpose of drilling his men, who were still very raw. But the hillsides of Dominica are so steep, and the tropical forests were then so dense, that no convenient drill ground could be discovered. After a week's rest they went on, refreshed by food and hot baths, and reached the Virgin Islands in the course of three days of sailing to the north-west. Here at last Cumberland was able to set about turning the men he had collected into something approaching soldiers. A large proportion of them had no doubt served before, but as yet there were many who had no practice, and the whole body was still undivided into companies. What little could be done in the course of a few days was done, and the earl took occasion to make his men a speech. The burden of it was that the play was over, and the work going to begin. Hitherto he had borne with the many "gross faults committed among you, suffering every man [141]to do what he would, and urging no man further than he listed." For this leniency the earl had several reasons, but now all were to understand that discipline must be maintained, and that no man should be allowed to infringe it. Having delivered this harangue "standing under a great cliff of a rock, his prospect to the seaward, stepped upon one of the greater stones, which, added to his natural stature, gave him a pretty height above the other company," Cumberland sent his men back to their ships, and prepared to carry out his attack on Puerto Rico. His social rank and his power to pay wages out of his ample revenue combined to give him a "pretty height above the other company," and he was able to introduce a degree of good order among his followers, which few plebeian adventurers could have attained. Therefore his capture of San Juan de Puerto Rico was a fine orderly operation of war, conducted with no less humanity than gallantry.

The island of Puerto Rico lies directly to the west of the Virgin Islands. The town of San Juan is on the northern side, about thirty miles to the west of the headland of San Juan, which is the easterly limit of the land. The coast runs almost due east and west. The town stands upon a little island of some two and a half miles long by a quarter wide, which itself lies parallel to the coast. At the eastern extremity of this little island it is connected with the mainland of Puerto Rico by a spit on which a bridge has now been built. At the south-east corner, the space between the lesser and the greater island is very trifling, and at this point there is a ferry. The town of San Juan de Puerto Rico lies at the western end of the little island, some slight distance away from the spit and the ferry. The small island is very rocky, particularly towards the sea front. The place is naturally strong, and only three years before had beaten off an attack by Drake. But at that time it was occupied by a strong detachment of soldiers sent to protect the treasure. At the time of the Earl of Cumberland's attack, it was left to its own resources, which, however, were not contemptible.

Standing over from the Virgin Islands, the earl sailed [142]past the precipitous northern coast of Puerto Rico, till he came to the place where the hills turn inland, and the coast begins to afford landing-places. Here he sent forward two pinnaces under the command of one Captain Knotsford, an old seaman trained in Hawkins's service, with orders to choose a landing-place. Knotsford, being apparently in fear lest he should be carried to leeward of San Juan, lay-to too soon, and waited for the earl, who joined him by night. The choice of a landing-place was thus thrown upon Cumberland himself. He pitched on one, which seamen who had been there with Sir Francis Drake declared to be unmanageable, because the surf was at all times beating on the beach. They had probably judged too hastily from a single experience. The earl found the sea calm, and landed his men without the least difficulty. They were in number "not so few as a thousand." A day's march "through most unpassable rocks and cliffs" brought them to within sight of the island of San Juan at the east end. Their march had been observed by a handful of Spanish horsemen, who did not offer any effectual resistance, and who disappeared into the forest as the English approached the end of St. Juan.

When they saw the place they had come to attack in front of them, the earl and his companions learned for the first time that they could not get across without boats, and, as the Spaniards had a fort at that point, there would have been great danger in attempting the use of that method. It seemed then, as the earl's chaplain puts it, that "we were at a flat bay; even at our wits' end." Cumberland, however, was not so soon at the end of his wits as the chaplain. He argued very justly that the Spanish horsemen whom they had just seen ride off into the woods must have some means of getting into the island, and he fairly concluded that where the Spaniards could cross, so could the English. The difficulty was to find the passage. On their march, Cumberland's soldiers had captured a negro, by whom they had been guided so far. The man spoke little Spanish, or, as we can well [143]believe, English either, and was moreover in extreme terror between the probability that the English would kill him if he refused to guide them, and the prospect that the Spaniards would hang him for acting as guide. At last he was made to understand that the English were in search of some ford at which they could walk into the island. He led them to a point where there was a causeway, probably that where the bridge now stands. It was now late, and the whole force was very tired, so Cumberland gave his men a few hours' rest before making an attack. They all slept in their armour on the bare ground, the earl among them with his target for a pillow. Two hours before daybreak they were called quietly under arms, and prepared to rush the causeway. The earl would have led himself, but was persuaded to leave the command of the van to his lieutenant, Sir John Berkeley. The attempted surprise was a failure, though well planned and gallantly executed. The Spaniards had a stockade at the end of the causeway, and, being on the look-out, they opened a hot fire at the English as they came on. Cumberland, though he had left the leading of the storm to Berkeley, would not keep out of the fight, and his zeal led him into danger in a fashion which, to us, is not without a certain absurdity. As he was cheering his men on along the causeway in the dark, his shield-bearer stumbled and fell against him. Cumberland was thrown off his feet and pushed into the water, falling on his back, so that, being encumbered by the weight of his armour, he could not get up, and would infallibly have been drowned if two of his followers had not fished him out after several unsuccessful dives. When rescued, it was found that he had swallowed so much salt water as to be very sick. He spent the rest of the action sitting in complete prostration by the side of the causeway. When the first signs of daylight were visible, the English were called off, and retired with the loss of some fifty men.

It was obvious that there was no getting into the island by that entry, and therefore the earl went back to the point at which he had first touched St. Juan; and, bringing [144]round one of his ships, battered down the fort at the landing. His vessel was stranded and became a wreck, but an entry was made into the island. A march of a mile through wood and rocky ground brought the invaders to the town, which is described, probably with great exaggeration, as being of the same circuit as Oxford. It had been deserted by all except the women, children, and old men. The men capable of bearing arms had shut themselves up in the fort called the Morra, which it was necessary to reduce by a regular siege. As very frequently happened in the ventures of that time, there was more honour than material profit made at San Juan de Puerto Rico; but in this case the leader aimed chiefly at honour, or at least something altogether beyond the mere ransom. It was Cumberland's intention to retain possession of San Juan de Puerto Rico for the Crown of England, and he actually remained there far longer than was wise, if he had considered only his immediate interests. His intention to antedate the establishment of the English in the West Indies by more than half a century was altogether premature. His force, already weakened by sickness and inaction, was not strong enough for the undertaking. After losing nearly four hundred men by fevers, the earl took to his ships and returned to England.

I have told the history of the Earl of Cumberland's capture of San Juan de Puerto Rico at what may appear undue length if it is judged by the intrinsic importance of the feat; but it stands here as the representative of a score of others which could not be told without swelling this book to irrational proportions. The naval war of Elizabeth's reign was, above all, a war of adventurers. Cumberland was only the richest, the best born, and, it is not unjust to add, the most high-minded, of a large class which included Cavendish, Grenville, Preston, Sommers, Dudley, Shirley, Lancaster, and a score of others whose names meet us here and there as commanding ships in fights and captures, but who came out of and returned to obscurity. The regular naval war did not differ materially from the enterprises of these sea-rovers. The capture of Cadiz was [145]only the taking of San Juan de Puerto Rico on a great scale, and the cruises to the Isles were very much like the earl's cruises to the Canaries. It is this adventurous quality, the touch of romance and knight-errantry, which gives its peculiar charm to the Elizabethan time. There is a youthfulness about the epoch which is lost by the next generation. England was "mewing her mighty youth," springing from a small power to a great, and from a little trading nation to one whose sails were on every sea. When Elizabeth ascended the throne, the English flag had only once or twice gone farther than to Archangel in the north and Scanderoon in the Levant. Before her death, ships bearing her flag and manned by her subjects had "prowled with hostile keel" in all the seas of the world; and her merchants were preparing to open a permanent trade with the East Indies, while English colonists had established a footing on the continent of North America. In this great work the Royal Navy was not the only instrument. It is seldom that we find it acting alone, and never when a great display of power was required. Yet the Royal Navy was the steel of the lance, the model of discipline and warlike efficiency. The city of London, or so great a subject as the Earl of Cumberland, might show a few ships not inferior to the queen's, but that was quite the exception. The Royal Navy was already as distinctly marked from the other shipping of the country as it was in later generations.



Authorities.—Sir W. Monson's Naval Tracts continue to be the leading authority for the early years of King James. The narratives which illustrate the adventures of our seamen with the Algerine pirates and the expeditions of 1620 have been collected by Lediard in his Naval History. The report of the Commission of 1618 is given in substance in Charnock's Naval Architecture. The original is in the Record Office. The Navy Record Society has printed Holland's and Ilyonsbie's Discourses on the Navy, edited by Mr. Tanner. For the later years included in this chapter and for the whole time of the Civil War and the Commonwealth, the collection of documents miscalled the Life of Sir W. Penn, by Granville Penn, is of great value.

In the summer of 1604 Sir William Monson was appointed to command the squadron in the Narrow Seas. In the course of his duty he had occasion to speak with the officer commanding the Dutch ships then engaged in the blockade of Dunkirk. "At my coming thither," he writes, "I went on board the Admiral of Holland, who had been my old and familiar acquaintance by reason of many actions and services we had been in together. I told him that after twenty years spent in the wars, I was now become a watchman with a bill in my hand to see peace kept and no disorder committed in the Narrow Seas." The image which Monson applied to himself might, with equal justice, have been used of the Government he served. After a long and stormy reign, divided into nearly equal periods of conflict without open war and then of undisguised hostilities, England had settled down under a sovereign whose dearest wish it was to see peace kept and no disorders committed in the Narrow Seas or elsewhere. It could hardly be said that King James [147]was a watchman with a bill in his hands. This king would, in fact, have been a more effectual guardian of the peace, if he had taken better care to have his weapon ready, and shown a greater faculty for using it. Yet he chose the part of the peacemaker, and his decision inevitably had its effect on the navy.

With the exception of one deplorably ill-managed expedition against the pirates of Algiers in 1620, the king's reign was barren of warlike enterprises at sea; but it is not, on that account, without great interest in naval history. In the first place, it is during the reign of King James that we first get a good opportunity of seeing the navy engaged in its regular work of keeper of the peace, or protector as the Church Service words it, of all those who go upon the sea upon their lawful occasions. Then it was a time of great advance in shipbuilding and of great experiments in naval administration.

The same Sir William Monson, whose name has appeared so often already, has left an account of his services as admiral in the Narrow Seas, written for his own justification at a time when he was accused by the Dutch of showing partiality in the discharge of his office. The exact merits of this accusation are hardly to be settled now, nor does it very much matter whether Monson leant too much to one side or the other, in the chronic disputes between Dutchmen and Spaniards which were then disturbing the Channel. It would have been beyond the power of any officer to convince both parties that he was fair, and we have his word for it that he cordially disliked the Dutch. Even if he had felt more kindly towards them, it would have been difficult for him not to come into collision with their officers. There were pretensions on both sides which it was clearly impossible to reconcile. The King of England not only claimed the absolute sovereignty of the Four Seas, but made claims to a general superiority on the ocean which were irksome to the rising naval power of Holland. The stolid good sense of the Dutch, who always thought more of substance than of form, and the sagacity which showed them the folly of quarrelling with England while their [148]conflict with Spain was not yet ended, could alone have availed to keep them from resenting pretensions which almost seemed to have been designed to provoke our neighbours into war. The officers of the King of England not only claimed the right to exact the salute within the Four Seas, but they absolutely insisted that no flag was to be shown in the presence of their own, even far beyond the limits of the jurisdiction claimed for England. Sir William Monson recalls with pride how he once rebuked the insolence of a Dutch officer who, after making the salute, had rehoisted his own flag in Irish waters, by telling him that it was only out of the condescending politeness of Lord Howard that the Dutch admiral had been allowed to display his colours in the expedition to Cadiz.

The Dutch, though they bore the lordly arrogance of England tamely enough, when all that was at stake was the matter of the salute, were pertinacious in insisting on their own way on points of material advantage. Thus, for instance, they insisted upon prohibiting all trade by English vessels to the ports of Flanders held by the Spaniards, though they themselves never suspended their lucrative commerce with Spain at any period during the war. In pursuit of their belligerent rights, they did not hesitate to attack Spanish vessels, or those belonging to the Spanish Netherlands, even in English waters. Sir William Monson recounts the difficulty he found in preventing two Dutch cruisers from attacking a vessel belonging to Dunkirk, in the very roadstead of Sandwich. His task was made harder by the fact that the men of the English seaports sympathised openly with the Dutch. The hostility to Spain had grown strong during the great queen's reign, and had not yet given place to the hatred of the Hollander. The great change produced by the accession of the House of Stuart is forcibly illustrated by the fact that one of Monson's first duties, during the reign of King James, was to contrive the smuggling over from Dover to Flanders of some thousands of Spanish soldiers, who were driven to take refuge in our ports. They had come up Channel with eight war galleons, the largest force [149]which by the terms of the new treaty was allowed free entry to an English harbour. It seems difficult to believe that the Spaniards would have risked so small a squadron in the Channel in face of the naval power of Holland, unless they had assurances that it would not only be protected, but helped to make its way into Flemish ports. Sir William Monson has not told by what artful management he contrived to pass the Spaniards, who had taken refuge at Dover, across the Channel. The story might have cost him some ill-will, and he thought it better to keep silent. But if the Dutch learned, as they not improbably did, that he had been giving so much zealous assistance to an enemy who was endeavouring to conquer their country, it is not wonderful that they doubted his impartiality. Not the least important part of his duty consisted in escorting "such princes, ambassadors, and others, as were entitled to the honour." Of these he convoyed no less than thirty-two in eleven years, with all their servants and followers, who, on some occasions, reached the figure of three hundred, all of whom Sir William had to feed. One of these guests, the Count of Villa Mediana, was confined for five days by foul weather in Monson's ship, having with him a train of two hundred persons, who consumed, in all, ten meals each. The honour of discharging such a dignified function as that of protector of princes and ambassadors was embittered for Monson, and indeed for naval officers, as late as Nelson's time, and later, by the meanness of the Government, which left them to bear the expense of entertaining these guests of the State. Monson has left it on record that at the end of his service he was "as yet unsatisfied" for no less a sum than fifteen hundred pounds spent in this way. Five or six thousand pounds would probably be the modern equivalent. But Monson, who took a pension from Spain, had ways of making the loss good. These, varied by an occasional raid on foreign fishermen engaged in poaching on our waters, represented the usual duties of the officer commanding the Channel squadron, or, to use the language of the time, the Winter and the Summer Guard, in the early seventeenth century.


Sir William Monson had a piece of work to do at the very end of his active service of a much more lively character than any of these, and one too characteristic of the time, and the conditions of sea life, to be passed over.

In 1614 the king's Scotch subjects petitioned him for help against the pirates who were infesting the coasts. The call was pressing, and was favourably received by the king. Sir William Monson and Sir Francis Howard were despatched at once with four ships in such haste that the "victuals and other things" they needed were to be sent after them. The little squadron left Margate on the 14th of May, and reached Leith on the 23rd of the same month. Here Monson applied to the "Lords of that Realme," for information concerning the pirates, desiring "to be furnished with able pilots, for His Majesty's ships were of greater burden and value than usually had been employed on these coasts, and besides, that the navigation to the northward of that place (Leith) was not frequented by our nation, and therefore unknown to us." Able pilots were duly supplied, and information was forthcoming. From the Frith of Forth Monson sailed to the north, to Sinclair Castle, the house of the Earl of Caithness, by whom he was informed that the number and powers of the pirates had been much exaggerated in the petition to His Majesty. Instead of twenty, there were but two, and they men of "base condition." From the expression it appears likely that Monson would have not been much surprised to learn that his pirates were gentlemen of good birth, and indeed there would have been nothing wonderful in it at a time when a member of the distinguished Buckinghamshire family of Verney was a noted leader among the Algerines. Monson's pirates were very small deer. One of them hardly deserved the name, being only a trader who had been terrified into joining his captors. This man had seized the first chance to escape, and had just rendered up himself and one of the two vessels to the Earl of Caithness. The other pirate turned out to be one Clarke, who had formerly been a boatswain's mate with Monson in the Channel. From Caithness the English officer [151]sailed to the Orkneys in pursuit of Clarke. Here "he found more civil, kind, and friendly usage than could be expected from such kind of creatures in show." Leaving Sir Francis Howard to guard the coast, he sailed in pursuit of the runaway Clarke to Shetland. From Shetland he went on to the Hebrides, where he intended that his consort should join him. "The brutishness and uncivility of those people of the Hebrides exceeds the savages of America," is the rude description given of the islanders by Sir William Monson. Clarke was not to be found in the Hebrides, but Monson obtained information of a certain gentleman, Cormat by name, living in Ireland near Broadhaven, who was known as a favourer and protector of pirates. To Broadhaven, then, Monson sailed, meeting on the way with such weather as is "fit only for a poet to describe." In the great storm and ground seas the squadron was scattered. Of the four ships Monson had with him, one went down, and the three others were separated, "and saw one another no more till they met in England." On the 28th June Monson reached Broadhaven, a place which would have been unknown to him, if he had not had with him a pirate whom he had taken out of the hands of the Earl of Caithness. This man guided him into the haven, and then was of material assistance in carrying out a stratagem which Monson had devised for the more effectual discovery and punishment of Cormat (whose real name was probably Cormac) and his lawless associates.

So fine was the distinction between the lawless and the law-abiding on the seas at that time, that Monson had no difficulty in picking out from his crew a number of men who had formerly been pirates. "These men he sent in his boat to the gentlemen of that place, and took upon him to be a pirate and the name of Captain Manwaring." The ex-pirate, whom Monson trusted, acted so as to prove the truth of the adage touching the wisdom of employing a thief to catch a thief. He entered into the plot with almost scandalous zest. Mr. Cormac had three daughters, all of whom, it appears, had pirate sweethearts. "These silly women" were cruelly deluded with stories to the [152]effect that Captain Manwaring was very rich with plunder, and very generous, also that he was acquainted with all their sweethearts. Misled by this fiction, Mr. Cormac and his belongings were at once consumed with a desire to make the acquaintance of Captain Manwaring. He put cattle at a convenient place on the coast with their ears slit, in order that the supposed pirates might take them in a "warlike manner, that it might appear their cattle were taken by violence." Next day Monson sent for the cattle, sending fifty armed men under Captain Chester in a "disorderly manner like pirates." Captain Chester was civilly received by the Misses Cormac, "whose desire was to hear of their sweethearts, but all in general coveted to see Captain Manwaring, who they confidently believed would enrich them all." In the course of the day Mr. Cormac sent two "ambassadors," who "delivered a friendly (though in a rude manner like their country) message of their love." It was an invitation to a dinner and dance.

Monson now began to put his stratagem in force. He laid the two messengers by the heels in the hold of his ship, after cruelly asking them whether they thought she looked like a pirate. Then he landed himself with more men in a disorderly manner. He was received on the beach by a large crowd with an effusive welcome. One of the crowd was an English trader, another was a merchant from Galway. Both of these made a trade of buying plunder from pirates. A third noted character in the hospitable mob was Cormac's schoolmaster; for an Irish gentleman, however lax he might be in the matter of piracy, was never indifferent to learning. Surrounded by cheers and enthusiasm, the imaginary Captain Manwaring made triumphant progress to Mr. Cormac's house. A royal entertainment had been prepared. The harper, a recognised member of every Irish household, played to welcome him, and the Misses Cormac proposed a dance. Monson would not himself dance, but he allowed his followers to amuse themselves. In the meantime he talked with Cormac and his daughters, "laughing and jeering at their two messengers aboard who [153]they did not suspect were detained prisoners, but drinking and frolicking in the ship, as the use was upon the arrival of pirates." Then he had some talk with the trader, of whom he draws a most engaging picture. Believing that he had in truth to deal with a pirate, the man was completely candid. He explained how he treated the sheriffs, showing "a pass procured upon false pretences from the Sheriff of that county, authorising him to travel from place to place to make inquisition of his goods, which he falsely pretended he was robbed of at sea; he laughed at the cheat he had put upon the Sheriff in getting his pass, and urged the advantage that might be made of it in sending to and fro in the country without suspicion.... His antic behaviour was enough to put the melancholist man in good humour, sometimes he played the part of a Commanding Sheriff; then he acted his own with many witty passages as to how he deceived the Sheriff." Sir William Monson pumped this clever fellow, of whom he was making a dupe, and in particular got a letter from him to certain mariners in the county who were the regular associates of pirates.

So soon as he had this useful document in his pocket, Sir William sprang his mine on this innocent Irish family. He told them who he was, and that they were all prisoners. "Here was seen the mutability of the world; their mirth was turned into mourning and their dancing into lamenting, each bewailing and repenting as is the custom of offenders." The inexorable Sir William returned on board, leaving them all under guard, and his carpenter busy in setting up the gallows, but the end was not tragic for the family of Cormac and their guests. After giving them "four-and-twenty hours' fright" in irons, and receiving a solemn promise that they would never connive at pirates again, Monson pardoned them. He was perhaps the more readily induced to be merciful by the fact that in the meantime another vessel had turned up outside Broadhaven, and had at once stood off to sea on finding the anchorage occupied. Rightly judging that the new-comer was a pirate, Monson compelled Cormac to give help in bringing him to justice. The old rogue was perfectly prepared to save his own neck, [154]and wrote letters which induced the new-comer to remain on the coast and send a large part of his crew ashore for cattle. Monson, who watched his compulsory allies with sleepless vigilance, seized the opportunity to board the pirate while a large part of his crew were on shore. Hauling his boats over a strip of land between Broadhaven and the place where the pirates were, he dropped during the night on the deceived malefactors and captured them without difficulty. His new prisoners were treated with less tenderness than the Cormacs. "Examining the behaviour of all the pirates, of many he picked out the worst, who had tasted twice before of His Majesty's gracious pardon." This time they tasted of His Majesty's justice, being duly hanged as a terror to evil-doers. If Monson is to be believed, this severe example cleared the Irish coast of pirates, but he undoubtedly overrated the efficacy of the remedy. Years afterwards, when Strafford came to Ireland as Lord Deputy, the coast was still infested with pirates, and very stringent measures had been taken to re-establish security for trade.

This story, though it may seem somewhat out of place when told at such length in a history of the Royal Navy, has appeared to me to be worth repeating. One concrete example will do more than any number of general statements to show what the condition of a country was. All through the reign of Elizabeth and the first two Stuarts piracy was common on the coast of Great Britain and Ireland. Sir William Monson's experiences show why it could flourish. The number of ships kept in regular commission by the king was small, and much of their time was taken up in carrying princes and ambassadors between England and the Continent. In outlying districts there were always persons of the stamp of Mr. Cormac and his "hackney daughters," who were prepared to give the pirates a friendly welcome in consideration of a share of the booty. Traders were ready to buy their stolen goods. And it is even obvious, from Monson's casual mention of members of his crew who had been pirates, that nobody thought very much the worse of a man for having followed the trade once in a way. The sea was still very lawless, and the Royal [155]Navy had hardly yet taken its police duties firmly in hand.

The improvement in shipbuilding which took place in this reign was mainly the work of the most able member of a remarkable family of shipwrights, sea-captains, and navy officials who are found engaged in and about the royal dockyards from the reign of Edward VI. to close on the end of the reign of Charles II. Phineas Pett, who was born in 1570 and died in 1647, was the son of Peter Pett, master shipwright at Deptford in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He received a better education than had probably been given to any previous member of his family. After preliminary schooling at Rochester and Greenwich, he entered the famous Puritan college, the "House of Pure Emanuel," at Cambridge in 1586. The death of his father, in 1589, left him destitute, and Phineas was for some years compelled to pick up a precarious livelihood in the dockyards or in sea voyages. In 1597 he entered the service of Lord Howard, which no doubt means his service as Lord High Admiral, but not in any domestic capacity. His foot being now well down, Pett kept his place, and very considerably bettered it before long. Having been employed by Howard to build a miniature ship for Henry, eldest son of James I., he attracted the favourable notice of the prince, who in his short life certainly proved that he possessed a remarkable eye for men of brains and character. Pett's favour drew upon him a great deal of jealousy in the dockyard, and he was at last openly accused by his rivals of incompetence. But he stood his ground stoutly, and finally justified himself in an inquiry held before the king at Woolwich. James, like all the house of Stuart, had a taste for clever scientific men. He was mainly a scholar and a theologian, as his son Charles I. was a judge of pictures and of literature, and as his grandson Charles II. had a taste for natural science and chemical experiments. But he could understand the merits of such a question as was debated before him at Woolwich, and his inclination would be to support an educated man against the merely practical men who were accusing him of bungling because he departed [156]from their familiar old rules of thumb. The whole house of Stuart, indeed, had a liking for ships and sea affairs, which they showed even before they became kings of England. Under royal protection, Pett was able to bring about great improvements in construction by reducing the amount of timber used and relying on better proportion for strength. The great ship called the Prince Royal, designed by him, and launched in 1610, was the finest yet built for the Crown, and he surpassed her in the Sovereign of the Seas, launched in 1637, during the reign of Charles I. He established his family so firmly in the dockyards, that they overran all the offices in them by the middle of the century.

The labours of this skilful shipbuilder would have been of little avail but for the exertions of others among the king's servants who in 1618 prevailed over the interested opposition of the Lord High Admiral to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the state of the navy. Even in the great queen's reign all had not been perfect in the dockyards. During her later years, when they had lost the vigilant supervision of Hawkins, a good deal of corruption had begun to creep in. Under the lax government of James I., and when there was no longer a permanent state of war to brace the energies of the admirals and captains, and to apply a perpetual check on the execution of work, the naval administration fell rapidly into an inefficient condition. As early as 1608 there had been talk of an inquiry. But Lord Howard of Effingham, or, to give him his later title, the Earl of Nottingham, used his influence to put a stop to the proposal. He no doubt considered that he was personally insulted when the conduct of the department under his command was called in question. Yet inquiry was certainly needed. We cannot believe that the hero who led the English fleets against the Armada, and was joint commander with Essex in the triumphant expedition to Cadiz, was himself guilty of corruption. The truth is, that he looked upon the minute examination of accounts as work beneath his dignity, and fit only for subordinate officials, whom he [157]regarded as his servants. He managed the navy, in fact, very much as a profuse, easy-going noble would have conducted the affairs of his own house. Of course he was robbed by his servants, and, when they were accused of misconduct, he resented the interference as implying a reflection on his judgment. So fraud and peculation flourished under the protection of his honourable name.

The corruption at the Admiralty was so flagrant that another attempt to set going an inquiry was made in 1613. It went so far that a Commission was actually drafted, but Nottingham, thoroughly aroused at this second insult, consulted lawyers as to the legality of the document, and threatened a constitutional opposition. Again he succeeded in staving off inquiry. Four years later, however, a third, and this time a successful, effort was made to overhaul the Admiralty. The Howard family were in conflict with the rising favour of George Villiers, afterwards Duke of Buckingham, and the admiral suffered with the rest. In this case there can be no question that the interests of the nation were on the side of Buckingham. The Commission which took the work in hand contained some excellent men of business. Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, was one, and another was Sir John Coke, a model public servant, though a somewhat mean-spirited man, who continued in the service of the Crown far into the reign of Charles I.

The report issued by this body in September 1618 gives a sufficiently lamentable account of the condition into which the navy had fallen during the fifteen years since the death of Queen Elizabeth. It was to little use that Pett was building finer ships, when they were allowed to go to decay, through mismanagement in the dockyards, from the very day they were built. As to the scandalous defects which had been steadily increasing under the lax supervision of Nottingham, there can be no sort of question. The Commissioners, to begin with, found that no accounts had been prepared for the last four years, and they were driven to discover what the expenditure of the navy had been by the laborious process of going over all the warrants issued during that period. After what appears to have [158]been a very fair and careful examination, they came to a decision that the money spent yearly on an average during the last four years had been £53,004, 7s. 11d. It was far more than Elizabeth had spent to maintain an efficient sea force in war-time, and yet it could not keep the navy from decay. Out of a nominal force of forty-three ships, sixteen were either non-existent or absolutely rotten. The others, though they were capable of being repaired, were in so bad a condition as to need a thorough refit, and this although the cost of the navy had been increasing rapidly. The report of the Commissioners is a model of good order and explicit convincing statement. It leaves no doubt on the mind why it was that the strength of the navy decreased as its expenses grew. The Commissioners give an account of the administration, which is now of great historical interest.

First, they draw up a list of the officers to whom the government of the navy was entrusted, showing us the whole establishment as it stood in 1618, distinguishing between the old order created by Henry VIII. and the recent additions:—

The ancient Patentees and their payments are these—
The Lord High Admiral of England £ 133 6 8
The Lieutenants of the Admiralty, which was not bestowed all Queen Elizabeth's time 322 18 4
The Treasurer of the navy for his fee, travelling charges, boat hire and clerks 220 13 4
Comptroller of the navy, the like 155 6 8
Surveyor of the navy for the like 145 6 8
Surveyors of victuals for the like 159 10 0
Clerk of the navy for the like 100 3 4
Keeper of the stores-general for the like 78 5 10
Keeper of the stores at Portsmouth 20 0 0
Three assistants to the officers 60 0 0
A master for grounding the great ships 9 2 6
Three master shipwrights (at first but two) 66 18 4
A pilot or master for the black deeps 20 0 0
£1491 11 8

The new erections since His Majesty's reign—

A captain-general of the Narrow Seas for his fee at 20s. per diem, one clerk at 8d. and sixteen servants at 10d. per mensem—£481, 3s. 4d. Besides £663, 18s. 8d. paid to him by the Treasurer and victualler of the navy.


A vice-admiral of the Narrow Seas for his owne fee at 10s. per diem, and eight servants at 10s. per mensem, the later by Privy Seal only, £234, 12s. 8d., besides £182, 10s. paid by the Treasurer of the navy.

Another for service at the Narrow Seas at the like rate of 10s. per diem, £182, 10s. 0d., besides 10s. per diem when he serveth at sea.

A surveyor of tonnage, £18, 5s. 0d. The charge that groweth hereby is per medium, £1888, 1s. 5d.

A storekeeper at Woolwich, £54, 8s. 4d. The store not worth 40s.

Clearer of the roads, £30. Besides £182, 1s. 8d. paid by the Treasurer of the navy.

A captain and twenty soldiers in Upnor, £243, 6s.

Total, £1244, 6s. 0d.

Other new patents granted by His Majesty and paid by the Treasurer of the navy.

A keeper of the outstores at Deptford, a new office, £66, 13s. 4d.

Clerk of the check at Deptford }
Clerk of the check at Woolwich} Old offices and fees.
Clerk of the check at Chatham }

The Commissioners, after pointing out in general and in particular that the condition of His Majesty's ships was very bad, give nine "causes" why it was no better. Eight of these are chiefly of the nature of illustrations of the ninth and last, which in itself is a masterly summary of the causes and consequences of bad administration.

"We find the chief and inward causes of all disorder to be the multitude of officers, and poverty of wages, and the chief officers commit all the trust and business to their inferiors and clerks, whereof some have part of their maintenance from the merchants that deliver in the provisions which they are trusted to receive, and these men are also governed by the chief officers' verbal directions, which the directors will not give under their hands when it is required; and which of all is the most inconvenient, they are the warrants and vouchers for the issuing of all His Majesty's moneys and stores, who are most interested in the greatness of his expence.

"And therefore the business ever was and is still so carried, that neither due survey is taken of ought that cometh in, nor orderly warrant given for most that goeth out, nor any particular account made, nor now possible to be made, of any one main worke or service that is done."

The officials could not live on their pay, and were driven to cheat; and as this was nearly as much the case with the seniors as with the juniors, there was no supervision. Some of the cheating took the form of downright lying; thus, of the forty-three ships on the list of the navy, three were not in existence, even in a rotten condition. The Bonaventure was broken up seven years before the [160]Commission was formed, and yet the king had continued to pay £63 a year for her keep. £100, 4s. 5d. was still charged for the Advantage, burnt five years before, and £60, 10s. 10d. for the Charles. Small pilferings were the rule, and the system upon which the men were paid almost invited fraud. Thus the boatswains, whose regular allowance was £10, 17s. 3d., when engaged as caretakers of the king's ships in harbour, were allowed to make a profit by buying what were known as "old mucks" and "brown paper stuff" at a cheap rate. These striking names were applied to cables, moorings, and cordage generally, which were supposed to be too worn out for the king's service. Of this refuse the officials were allowed to make what profit they could. The reader will perceive at once with what delightful facility this system could be worked at the king's expense. Much larger quantities of cable were used than were necessary, and so soon as any part was slightly damaged, the boatswains were allowed to take the whole as "old mucks" and "brown paper stuff." Then they resold it at a very handsome profit. If the little men behaved in this way, it was because their chiefs not only condoned, but shared their malpractices. The king was charged too dear even for the stores he did receive, and he was made to pay for articles never purchased and for work not done for him. As might have been expected, his establishments swarmed with useless servants, the hangers-on of his higher officials. A pathetic interest attaches to the names of some of the useless officials who were detected by the Commissioners. We read, for instance, of John Austin, master, aged and blind, of John Avale, boatswain, aged and blind, of Thomas Butler, gunner, aged and heretofore a man of great service, and may still be an instructor of others, and of John Causton, gunner, maimed in service. These, we may safely believe, were aged men, worn out in the wars of Queen Elizabeth, who were suffered by charity to retain offices for which they were no longer fit. The Commissioners recommend them for reasonable pensions. Though such cases as these were pardonable, yet the system was bad. [161]The fact that one aged seaman or soldier who well deserved a pension had been suffered to retain a post long after he had become unable to perform the duties, was sure to be made an excuse for putting in incompetent persons who had never seen any service at all.

Having drawn this picture of the navy as it was, the Commissioners went on to draft a scheme by which it could again be put on a more creditable footing. They undertook to meet the ordinary and extraordinary expenses for £30,000 a year, to refit the ships which were still capable of being made serviceable, to build new ones, and to do the whole work of re-establishing the navy within five years. Their method was one adopted at all times by administrators who have had to deal with such a state of affairs as is described above. They dismissed superfluous officials and raised the salaries of those that were retained. They set themselves a definite scheme to carry out, and made a careful calculation of the sums of money required to execute it. The establishment of the navy, according to the plan of the Commissioners, was to consist of no more than thirty vessels, but then they were to be, taken together, larger by three thousand and fifty tons than the navy of Queen Elizabeth "when it was greatest and flourished most." The average size of the ships was therefore very much increased. Taking one with another, they measured a little over five hundred and seventy tons. By 1624 this scheme had been fully carried out.

The execution of the reform was accompanied, and indeed we may say was secured, by a change in the administration. It had become impossible that Nottingham should remain any longer Lord High Admiral. His retirement in 1619 was soothed by pensions, and he received the sum of £3000 from his successor as the price of his office. One of the evils of which the Commissioners had to complain was the sale of offices, but the practice continued long, especially in the case of the great men. Nottingham's successor was the showy Duke of Buckingham, one of the best abused personages in English history. [162]It is, however, to his credit that under his administration a great deal was done in the interests of the navy. If he did not do it himself, he at least did not interfere with Sir John Coke and other hard-working subordinates. Nor was the change of Lord High Admiral all. A complete organic change was carried out. The old offices of Treasurer, Comptroller, Surveyor, and Clerk of the Acts were suppressed, and the members of the committee were entrusted with the whole administration of the navy, under the title of Commissioners.

In spite of this vigorous cleansing of the dockyards and the Navy Office, maladministration was by no means at an end with the navy. During the reign of Charles some at least of these evils reappeared. King Charles took a keen interest in his navy, and did much to increase its strength, but there were permanent conditions during all the existence of the Stuart dynasty which militated against efficiency. These kings were always aiming at more than they had the resources to execute. They were at all times on bad terms with their Parliament, and so could not raise a great revenue. Thus they were for ever short of money, and were compelled to connive at malpractices on the part of servants whom they could not pay. Dishonest men were not satisfied with robbing the king of just so much as would make good their own arrears of salary. They repaid themselves with interest, and very often by defrauding the soldiers and sailors of their food and poor wages. There was also a defect in the character of the Stuarts which Lord Dartmouth defined to Pepys very forcibly as they were talking together before dinner on their way home from Tangier. "He," Pepys writes, "besides observed something Spragg had said that our masters the King and Duke of York were good at giving good orders and encouragement to their servants in office to be strict in keeping good order, but were never found stable enough to support officers in the performance of their orders. By which no man was safe in doing them service." This was not less true of the first James and Charles than of the second, and therefore it was that in [163]spite of cleverness, of a distinct understanding of the conditions which made for efficiency, and of the best intentions, their navy was for ever ill supplied, ill fitted, and manned by discontented men. The sailor who starved in the king's service, and saw those who robbed him in the enjoyment of the royal favour, ended by laying the blame on the king.

If all the promises made to them had been kept, neither men nor officers would have had reason to complain. The sailors' wages had risen steadily from the 5s. a month at which they stood at the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. They rose to 6s. 8d. under King Edward, and in 1585 they were increased to 10s. Fourteen shillings were given to the crews of the ships sent against Algiers in 1620, and Charles I. fixed 15s. as the regular wage of a sailor. At a time when the purchasing power of money was greater than it is now, this was fair pay. The old system of compensating the officers by "dead pays" disappeared in the reign of Elizabeth. In the reign of Charles I. the captain received from £4, 6s. 8d. to £14 a month, according to the size of his ship; the lieutenant, who was only carried in vessels above the third rate, from £2, 16s. to £3, 10s., and the master from £2, 6s. 8d. to £4, 13s. 9d. Warrant officers were paid from £1, 3s. 4d. to £2, 4s. The allowance of provisions was ample in quantity. Seven lbs. of biscuits, four lbs. of beef, two lbs. of pork, one quart of peas, three pints of oatmeal, six oz. of butter, and twelve oz. of cheese, besides all the fresh fish which was caught, without any deduction for it, were supposed to be served out to the men every week. They were also entitled to an ample allowance of beer. But when a large force was collected for service during any length of time, it was the common rule to divide four men's food among six. At all times, too, the quality of the provisions was liable to be bad. Complaints were particularly common in regard to the beer. The badness of the stores was often largely due to the difficulty of keeping them sweet during prolonged cruises in small wooden vessels, ballasted with sand, into which all the leakage of the beer-barrels [164]drained, and which was soaked in bilge water; but the stores were often bad to begin with.

During this reign we first hear of the division of the king's ships into classes, called rates. At a later period they were classified by armament, but in the reign of Charles I. the division was made by the number of the crews. First rates carried 500 and 400 men, second rates 300 and 250, third rates 200 and 160, fourth rates 120 and 100, fifth rates 70 and 60, and sixth rates 50 and 40.

The long peace which began with the accession of James I. had the effect of throwing back the development of the navy for some time. During the later years of Queen Elizabeth, a separate class of sea officers was beginning to be formed. Sir William Monson, for instance, was as much a naval officer as Lord Hawke. He went to sea young, he passed through all grades of the service, he was a trained seaman, and yet a gentleman who had received the education of his class. Constant war had begun to teach Englishmen that the business of commanding a fighting ship at sea required something more than a knowledge of military discipline and the habit of carrying arms. If King James had pursued the policy of constant hostility with Spain advocated by the small party whose best-known representative was Sir Walter Raleigh, it is probable that a corps of naval officers would soon have been formed by the mere necessities of the case. But when peace was signed with Spain, the necessity for maintaining a great naval force came to an end. The ships were laid up, the crews were disbanded, the officers either retired into private life, or were employed by the king in other ways. The seamen among them betook themselves to the service of the East India Company, to trade, or to colonising ventures in America. Thus, when the time came again to fit out great fleets, no progress had been made in the formation of a body of sea officers. In the reign of James I. and his son, it was not much less the rule than it had been with Henry VIII., that the captain of a king's ship was a gentleman with little or no knowledge [165]of sea affairs, and that the seaman was confined to the inferior position of master. There were exceptions to this rule. Sir John Pennington, who was much employed by Charles as admiral in the Narrow Seas, was a seaman bred, but even he was commonly superseded by some noble whenever the king made a serious effort to fit out a great fleet.

The one important naval expedition of King James's reign was directed against the pirates of Algiers in 1620. The despatch of this force was of the nature of an innovation on the usual policy of James's Government. It had not hitherto been the custom even to try to afford English traders effective protection beyond the Narrow Seas. There was no such permanent naval force as could have done the work, even if the Government had been disposed to make the attempt. According to the establishment drafted by the Commission of 1618, the guard to be maintained at home was to consist of only four vessels, of which the largest was 120 tons. This trifling squadron was not to be expected to do more than cope with such pirates "of base condition" as the ex-boatswain's mate Clarke, whom Sir William Monson hunted in the Shetlands and the Hebrides. It was utterly unable to afford protection to English traders beyond the Narrow Seas, nor indeed did they expect to be protected. Trade to the East and the Levant was conducted by great privileged companies, who sent their ships out well armed, and maintained agents at foreign courts. As regards the East Indies, it was long before a king's ship made its appearance in the waters frequented by the Company's squadrons. But the Turkish Company, which traded to the Levant, was less strong, and was also subject to attack by more formidable enemies. The Algerine pirates were then, in even a greater degree than was the case later, a standing menace to all ships trading in the Mediterranean, and even in the more accessible parts of the Atlantic. On one occasion they carried off a great part of the population of the Canary Islands, on another they sacked Baltimore in the south of Ireland. The vessels of [166]the Turkey Company were to a certain extent able to protect themselves, and on several occasions they beat off the attacks of the pirates. But the smaller traders fell easy victims. To the disgrace of Europe, a large proportion of the pirates were renegades; one of them was an Englishman of the name of Ward, formerly a boatswain in the navy. The seaports of the time were full of stories of Englishmen who had been carried off by these rovers, and had in the majority of cases remained in slavery, unless they were ransomed by their relations. Now and then some English sailors who had been taken would escape by turning the tables on their captors. Thus, for instance, the Jacob of Bristol, a ship of 120 tons, was recaptured by four of her men who had been left on board with the prize-crew. They took the opportunity of a storm, when they were called upon to help the Moslem pirates, who were clumsy sailors. As the prize-master was lending a hand to strike the sails, the four Englishmen deftly gave him "a toss overboard." As he tried to clamber up again by the help of a rope which was trailing alongside, he was knocked down "by the handle of a pump." The prize-crew were then overpowered in detail, and the vessel carried into San Lucar in Spain, where the captive Mohammedans were themselves promptly sold for slaves. A somewhat similar story is told of one John Rawlings, skipper of a small vessel of forty tons, named the Nicholas of Plymouth. He was taken prisoner outside the Straits of Gibraltar and carried to Algiers, where he was sold as a slave to an English renegade of the name of John Goodall. Goodall employed him in the crew of one of the various pirate craft he owned, and Rawlings had the good fortune and dexterity to organise and carry through a conspiracy among the Christian slaves, who overpowered the Mohammedan masters and carried the ship into Plymouth. These, however, were exceptional cases, and of those who fell into the hands of these pirates there were few who ever saw an end to their captivity, unless they had friends to ransom them or were prepared to become renegades.


In 1620 a fleet was at last fitted out against these enemies of the human race. King James acted at least as much under the influence of the Spaniards, to whom Algiers was a perpetual menace, as in the interest of his own subjects. Neither the Spaniard nor the English trader profited by this solitary example of King James's naval enterprise. The expedition was too futile to deserve detailed notice in the history of the English Navy, when so many and such very different events lie close ahead of us. Yet the constitution of the squadron is interesting, as showing within a moderate space how the fleets of that time were composed.

His Majesty's Ships.
Ships. Tons. Men. Brass Guns. Commanders.
The Lion 600 250 40 Sir Robert Mansel.
Vanguard, Vice-Admiral 660 250 40 Sir Richard Hawkins.
Rainbow, Rear-Admiral 660 250 40 Sir Thomas Button.
Constant Reformation 660 250 40 Captain Arth. Manwaring.
Antelope 400 160 34 Sir Henry Palmer.
Convertine 500 220 36 Captain Thomas Love.
Merchant Ships.
Iron Guns.
Golden Phenix 300 120 24 Captain Samuel Argall.
Samuel 300 120 22 Captain Chr. Harris.
Marygold 260 100 21 Sir John Fearn.
Zouch Phenix 280 120 26 Captain John Pennington.
Barbary 200 80 18 Captain Thomas Porter.
Centurion 200 100 22 Sir Francis Tanfield.
Primrose 180 80 18 Sir John Hamden.
Hercules 300 120 24 Captain Eusaby Cave.
Neptune 280 120 21 Captain Robert Haughton.
Merchant-Bonaventure 260 110 23 Captain John Chidley.
Restore 130 50 12 Captain George Raymond.
Marmaduke 100 50 12 Captain Thomas Harbert.

The command of the squadron was given to Sir Robert Mansel, an old officer of the Elizabethan time, who had fought against the Armada, and had seen much service. He was a cousin of Lord Howard of Effingham, had been a greedy if not corrupt official, and had taken an active share in supporting the Lord Admiral in his opposition to the Commission of 1613. The second in [168]command, Sir Richard Hawkins, was the son of the more famous Sir John. He had in the former reign been taken prisoner by the Spaniards in the South Seas after a gallant fight. During his captivity he had been converted to Roman Catholicism. His account of his voyage to the South Seas is, next to the Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson, the best contemporary account of the sea life in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Captain John Pennington who appears among the commanders of the merchant ships, is the Sir John Pennington of later years. Although not a man of great ability or considerable achievements, he is interesting as a type. He belonged to a family of Puritan tradesmen, who came originally from Henham in Essex, but were settled in London. The seaman did not share the politics of his family, but was, in the fullest sense of the word, a king's servant, making it his boast that it was his one rule to obey his master's orders. He began life as a merchant's skipper, and sailed in the employment of Raleigh in the last voyage to Guiana. He had endeavoured to enter the service of the East India Company, without success, although (if it ought not to be because) he had the patronage of Buckingham. The same patron probably obtained for him the command of the Zouch Phenix on this voyage. From this time forward he was regularly in the employment of the Crown, and generally in command of the Narrow Seas. The qualities which made his fortune lie on the surface. He was, as has already been said, the king's servant and nothing more, ready to fight or to run away, to tell the truth or to lie, even to tell manifestly incompatible lies, upon the order of anybody whom the king told him to obey. Such a man was invaluable. The combination of perfect loyalty with a total absence of scruple is never very common. Charles appreciated Pennington's qualities to the full, and, when the Civil War was about to break out, even inclined to give him the great office of Lord High Admiral.

The expedition against the Algerine pirates left England on the 12th October 1620. In June of the [169]following year it turned homeward, having done nothing in the interval except make one futile attempt to defraud the Dey of Algiers, by sending a sham consul, who was, in fact, a common sailor dressed up for the occasion, and another no less feeble effort to burn the pirate ships in the harbour. It spent a great part of its time at Alicante, or in the Balearic Islands. It went aimlessly to and fro between these places and Algiers. It was in harbour when it ought to have been cruising against the pirates, and was at sea when the pirates were safe back in Algiers. It finally returned, having done much more harm than good by encouraging the Algerines in their belief of their own strength.

King James died on the 27th of March 1625. The navy which he left his son was still at the strength fixed by the Commissioners of 1618. As compared with the navy of Queen Elizabeth, it shows a decrease of either nine or eleven, for there is some doubt as to the exact number of the king's ships, and an increase of about 2350 in tonnage. The work before the navy in the new reign was, to judge by appearances, very serious. The failure of the negotiations for a Spanish marriage, and the wounds inflicted on the vanity, both of Charles and of Buckingham, during their journey to Madrid, had provoked a war. It was not long before the management of the new favourite added a war with France to the existing struggle with Spain. Formidable as the task looks, there is no reason to doubt that the Royal Navy, aided by the levies of merchant ships always made when a great fleet was fitted out for sea at that period, would have been amply sufficient. Spain was already exhausted, and was only too happy to be able to repel attack, while France had, as yet, no navy at all. But in order that the strength of England on the sea could be fully exerted, there was need for good management, a full treasury, and hearty zeal on the part of the nation. All these three conditions were wanted. Therefore the enterprises of one kind or other which went on from 1625 to 1629 were little less languid, and were even more [170]disgraceful, than Mansel's useless demonstration against Algiers. Their political history is of immense interest, but it is unnecessary to be told here. The miserable business of the surrender of the seven English ships to the King of France, to be used against Rochelle in 1625, tells us much about the character of Charles, of Buckingham, and of Pennington, who executed his part of a discreditable transaction stolidly, though not without reluctance; but it is of no interest in the history of the navy proper.

The expedition to Cadiz in 1625, the despatch of the Earl of Denbigh with a fleet to cruise in the Channel in 1626, the attack on the Ile de Rhé in 1627, then the two equally useless cruises of Denbigh in April and May and of Lindsey in September and October of 1629, were indeed all either in whole or in part naval undertakings. But they were so languid, so barren of incident worthy to be remembered, and so wholly without result, that to do more than mention them very briefly would be to rob passages of our naval history, which really deserve to be recorded at length, of their due space. The expedition to Cadiz was a mere parody of the great foray of Queen Elizabeth's reign. The fleet was raised in the same way, consisting partly of ships of the Royal Navy, and partly of vessels levied on the maritime counties. The command, too, was in the hands of men of the same classes, that is to say, nobles and soldiers, with their subordinate council of seamen. But the men and the times and the spirit were very different. The commander, Sir Edward Cecil, Lord Wimbledon, was a commonplace officer of the English regiments of the Low Countries, and he had no associate of marked authority or experience. The young Earl of Essex, son of Elizabeth's unhappy favourite, and later on the Lord General of the Parliament in the Civil War, repeated his father's gallantry in the attack on the fort of Puntal. The rest of the history of the voyage to Cadiz is made up of divided councils, vacillation, drunkenness, and failure. The share of the fleet was confined, apart from the attack on the Puntal fort, to carrying the troops there and bringing them back. In 1626, when war had [171]broken out with France, we had some success in capturing French prizes in the Channel, but there was no enemy to fight, which, as the fleet were very badly equipped, was fortunate. The expedition to the Ile de Rhé in 1627 was the Cadiz voyage over again, but worse. Here the fleet had little more to do than to carry the soldiers out at the end of June, and bring back all that remained of them at the end of October. In 1629 two fleets were sent to succour Rochelle, where the Huguenots were making their last stand against Richelieu. They went out, they came back, and they did nothing.

A large part of the discredit of this four years of failure must be thrown on the flighty incapacity of Buckingham, but some share of it is due to the conditions in which the King's Government was working. Charles I. disagreed with his Parliament from the beginning. Therefore he never had enough money, and his armaments, fitted out by makeshifts, were maintained from hand to mouth. Efficiency was hardly to be expected in such circumstances. The unpopularity of the wars reacted on the king's forces. The navy was still in a state of transition, being neither altogether a regular force nor altogether sea militia, but a combination of the two. A regular navy, properly officered, well disciplined and paid, will always fight well. A sea militia will, in favourable circumstances, do very fairly. When there is a great national enthusiasm, a sense of the need for exertion, the hope of booty, and capable leaders, it will render good service, as was shown both in the fighting against the Armada, and at Cadiz in 1597. But in the early years of Charles I. all these conditions were wanting. The merchant ships, when pressed for the service, came unwillingly. Their owners and crews were uncertain of getting their pay from the Crown. The spirits of the men were damped when they saw the destitution of the king's soldiers. Their wish was to get through as soon as they could, to suffer as little damage as might be, and to return at the earliest possible day to their ordinary peaceful and profitable avocations. At Cadiz they behaved with actual cowardice, and at the Ile de Rhé they certainly showed no [172]zeal, whereas the royal ships did the trifling fighting which had to be done very creditably. The deduction that the Crown must make itself independent of their feeble aid was obvious, and, when next England was engaged in a serious naval war, measures were taken to arm a force solely belonging to the State.

This was not, however, to be done by the Government of Charles I. The king never had the revenue needed for the maintenance of a really great navy. His efforts to obtain one were among the causes of the disasters which finally overwhelmed him. Charles was very conscious of the need for a fleet. Indeed, a less intelligent man must have seen the necessity. The naval power of Holland was increasing with great rapidity, while Richelieu was supplying France with an effective navy. The relations of England with her neighbours were always uneasy, and at one time the French and the Dutch were talking of an alliance, which was to end in dividing the Spanish Netherlands and the sea between them. In the presence of this danger Charles I. made serious efforts to raise the strength of the navy. He built no less than 19 vessels. Ten of these were of about 120 tons each, and were known by the odd name of the Whelps, numbered consecutively from one to ten. The great Sovereign of the Seas was one of the ships built to bring the navy to its proper strength. In 1633 the navy had reached the figure of 50 ships of 23,695 or 23,995 tons, carrying in all 1430 guns. When the Civil War broke out, it numbered 42 ships of 22,411 tons, of which 5 were first rates, measuring on an average 1060 tons each. The difference was due to the shedding of small ships.

The means which the king took to find money for all this building are famous in English history. The constitutional aspects of the writs of ship-money do not concern our subject. It is of course obvious that if the king could tax the whole country for the support of the fleet, if he alone was to be the judge of the amount demanded and of the use to be made of it, he could raise any revenue he pleased. In view of the constant attempts made by [173]Charles I. to escape from the control of his Parliament, it is not wonderful that the Country Party, as the Opposition was called, suspected him of some such scheme. Yet, as a matter of fact, it appears that when the king took to calling in peace on the service of the coast counties, which had as yet only been demanded in war, when he commuted the actual service of men and ships for money payments, when he extended the assessments to the inland counties, he was unaffectedly resolved to spend the fund thus raised on his fleet. The administrative defects of his reign are undeniable, and have been pointed out already. Yet, when the Civil War began, the ships and the guns were there. The service they rendered to his domestic enemies throughout the Civil War may be taken as satisfactory evidence that both were good. We possess an elaborate description of the most famous of the ships built by Phineas Pett for King Charles, written by Thomas Heywood.

"This famous vessel was built at Woolwich in 1637. She was in length by the keel 128 feet or thereabout, within some few inches; her main breadth 48 feet; in length, from the fore-end of the beak-head to the after-end of the stern, a prora ad puppim, 232 feet; and in height, from the bottom of her keel to the top of her lanthorn, 76 feet; bore five lanthorns, the biggest of which would hold ten persons upright; had three flush decks, a forecastle, half-deck, quarter-deck, and round-house. Her lower tier had ... 30 ports for Cannon and Demi-Cannon,

Middle tier 30 for Culverines and Demi ditto
Third tier 26 for other Ordnance
Forecastle 12

and two half-decks have 13 or 14 ports more within-board, for murdering pieces, besides 10 pieces of chace-ordnance forward, and 10 right aft, and many loopholes in the cabins for musquet-shot. She had eleven anchors, one of 4400 pounds weight. She was of the burthen of 1637 tons. She was built by Peter Pett, Esq., under the direction of his father, Captain Phineas Pett, one of the principal officers of the navy. She hath two galleries besides, and all of most curious carved work, and all the sides of the ship carved with trophies of artillery and types of honour, as well belonging to sea as land, with symbols appertaining to navigation; also their two sacred majesties badges of honour; arms with several angels holding their letters in compartments, all which works are gilded over, and no other colour but gold and black. One tree, or oak, made four of the principal beams, which was 44 feet of strong serviceable timber in length, 3 feet diameter at the top, and 10 feet at the stub or bottom.

"Upon the stem-head a cupid, or child bridling a lion; upon the bulk-head, [174]right forward, stand six statues in sundry postures; these figures represent Concilium, Cura, Conamen, Vis, Virtus, Victoria. Upon the hamers of the water are four figures, Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, Eolus; on the stern, Victory, in the midst of a frontispiece; upon the beak-head sitteth King Edgar on horseback, trampling on seven kings."

According to an ancient custom which at last, when it had outlived its time, became a nuisance, the Sovereign of the Seas was profusely ornamented. Yet she was a strong ship, and under a variety of names, dictated by the principles of her successive masters, took part in all the naval wars of England until she was accidentally burnt at Chatham in 1696.

The method of administering the navy underwent successive modifications during the reign of King Charles. When he ascended the throne, Buckingham held the post of Lord High Admiral, and the work of administering the navy was done in his name by the members of the Commission of 1618. When Buckingham was stabbed in the passage of the little house in the High Street of Portsmouth, which he occupied as his headquarters in 1628, the king had recourse to a method of governing his navy curiously similar to the system now in use. He put the office of Lord High Admiral in Commission. The persons entrusted with the duty seem to have also discharged the work of the Navy Office. The military and the civil functions of the navy were, in fact, joined in the hands of the same body of persons, very much as is the case now. There was, however, one important difference. The Commissioners appointed by Charles also held other great offices. They were Jackson, Bishop of London, who was also Lord High Treasurer; the Earl of Lindsey, the Great Chamberlain; the Earl of Dorset, Chamberlain to the Queen; Lord Cottington, Chancellor of the Exchequer; the elder Sir Henry Vane, Comptroller of the King's Household; and the two Secretaries of State, Sir John Coke and Sir Francis Windebanke. This Commission, with certain changes in the persons, held office until 1638.

Under this interregnum it was that the two naval demonstrations known as the Ship-money Fleets were [175]fitted out in 1636 and 1637. The object was to make an effective assertion of the King of England's right to the sovereignty of the seas of Britain. They were to put a stop to all warlike operations on the part of Spaniards, Dutch, or French, to compel all fishermen to pay for a licence from the King of England, and in a general way to produce an effect both imposing and terrifying on the minds of all foreign rulers. The fleet of 1636 was perhaps in real power the greatest sent forth by a ruler of England. The command was given to Algernon Percy, tenth Earl of Northumberland, who succeeded the Earl of Lindsey on the Commission of the Navy. Northumberland was a magnificent specimen of a great noble. According to Clarendon, if he had thought the king as much above him as he thought himself above all other considerable men, he would have been a good subject. As it was, he was mainly a great noble who held himself apart, and who lived through a very stormy time without incurring any serious misfortune—a feat, perhaps, partly to be accounted for by the fact that at times of crises he was a little apt to follow the example of the young man who went away sorrowful because he had great possessions. As admiral commanding the Ship-money Fleets, Northumberland had little opportunity to render service. The utmost he could do was to extort the price of a licence from a few unlucky Dutch herring fishermen. The abuses of the navy attracted his attention, and he proposed a scheme for their reform. When it met with no attention, the pride of the noble got the better of the zeal of the reformer. Northumberland declined to put himself again in the way of being snubbed, declaring that he would make no more suggestions till his opinion was asked for. In fact, the abuses of which he complained arose from the very nature of the king's government. Charles, by the help of ship-money and the other devices elaborated by his lawyers, was able to raise money enough to build ships and equip an occasional fleet, but he had not the revenue required to maintain a permanent force. His efforts were necessarily sporadic. His fleets were equipped by fits and starts, and there was no order [176]or coherence in the efforts. In the confusion, the pilferers of the dockyards saw their opportunity, and did not fail to take advantage of it.

In 1638 the king made the second change of his reign in naval administration. In the March of that year he appointed Northumberland Lord High Admiral. It had been intended to keep the office vacant for the little Duke of York, now a boy of five years old. But in 1638 the difficulties of his position induced Charles, who was anxious to please a man so powerful in the North of England, to name Northumberland Lord High Admiral. The commission was, however, only during the good pleasure of the king, and not for life, as in the case of Nottingham and Buckingham. The navy now reverted to the old system of government by an Admiral and the officers of the Navy Board, the Treasurer, the Comptroller, the Surveyor, and the Clerk of the Navy, with their subordinate officers.

The administration of Northumberland, which lasted till June 1642, when he was dismissed by the king in bitter wrath, is of great importance in the history of England. It contains nearly, if not quite, the most discreditable incident in naval history. In the September of 1639 the Spaniards sent out a great fleet with reinforcements for their garrisons in Flanders. It arrived at the mouth of the Channel on the 7th of the month, and was at once attacked by the Dutch. A running fight took place along the Channel, in which the Dutch, who were constantly reinforced, soon gained the advantage. The Spanish admiral, Don Antonio de Oquendo, the son of the Don Miguel de Oquendo who had served in the Armada, took refuge in the Downs. His Government was acting by arrangement with the king's, and he had reason to believe that he would be helped, or would at least be protected from attack, in English waters. As a matter of fact, King Charles made an effort, which no Englishman can think of without shame, to turn the necessities of the Spaniards into ready money, by alternately offering to let the Dutch destroy them, or to afford them protection, according to which of the [177]courses he happened to think would prove most profitable. Northumberland, in London, could not make out what the king would be at, and said so to Pennington, who was at Dover with a squadron far too weak to inspire any respect in the Dutch. They, again, were encouraged by the great French Minister Richelieu, who was now triumphantly carrying out his anti-Spanish policy, and were commanded by a man for whose courage no risk was too great, the indomitable Martin Harpertz (Herbertson) Tromp. The peddling vacillations of the unlucky English king were all cut short, and his hopes of profit blown to the four winds of heaven, when Tromp on the 11th of October fell upon the Spaniards, and destroyed at least three-fourths of them, with the most absolute and insolent disregard of Pennington's squadron. The great Ship-money Fleet, for the sake of which the poor king had strained his prerogative and had forfeited so much of the confidence of his subjects, had proved totally incapable of defending the honour of England when it was seriously attacked, though no doubt it had been able to extort a few fees from the skippers of Dutch herring busses.

Whether the anger which Northumberland undoubtedly felt at being made to play the poor figure he had cut in this shameful transaction had anything to do with the course he followed four years later, must necessarily be a mere matter of guess-work. Certainly, if he meant to be revenged on his master, he could not well have taken a course more effectual than that which he actually adopted. It was this representative of the great feudal house of Percy who did more than any other single man to seal the king's fate by putting the fleet into the hands of his domestic enemy. In the Long Parliament, Northumberland sided with the Opposition. He had been loaded with favours by the king, and was always profuse in declarations of loyalty. Yet he put the fleet into the hands of the king's enemies, by an act which no sophistry can show to have been one of other than deliberate hostility to his master. When Parliament made its demand on the king for the control of the "militia," that [178]is to say, of the whole armed force of the nation, it naturally included the fleet. The command of the sea was vital to it. If the king could have obtained help from abroad, his position would have been far stronger than it was. For this very reason, the king was eager to retain possession of his ships. While they were at the orders of Northumberland, the king could hope to make little use of them. The obvious course would have been to dismiss the earl and put the fleet into trustworthy hands. But in the summer of 1642, on the very eve of the Civil War, and when the last despairing efforts were being made to arrange a compromise, this would have been an act of open hostility against the Parliament. The king shrank from it, and adopted an alternative which seemed to offer him some reasonable prospect of obtaining the same practical result without provoking an immediate conflict. The Lord High Admiral was not necessarily what we should call the executive officer in command of the fleet. The direct command of a squadron might be given, and pretty commonly was given, to a vice-admiral, acting on the commission of the Lord High Admiral. A devoted vice-admiral would have served the purposes of Charles very well. There was some talk of selecting the veteran Sir Robert Mansel for the post, but the king rejected him as too old. The officer whom he finally decided to direct Northumberland to appoint, was Sir John Pennington. Parliament in the meantime had called upon the earl to appoint Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick. Northumberland referred to Parliament to ask whether he should obey the king's orders, and was immediately instructed to appoint the Earl of Warwick. He obeyed, and the nominee of Parliament was duly accepted by the fleet as its admiral. The care the king had taken to provide England with a naval force turned against himself. The loss of the fleet was one of the main causes of the final defeat of the Crown in the approaching struggle with Parliament.

There can, of course, be no doubt that this revolutionary measure—for it was no less—could never have been carried [179]out if the sympathies of the seafaring classes had not been largely with the Parliament. There is no question that they were. The bulk of the seamen belonged to the southern and eastern counties, where the Puritans were strong. They shared the opinions of their neighbours. The sailors had been conspicuous in the excited mobs which collected to protect the privileges of Parliament after the king's futile attempt to arrest the five members. London was very Puritan, while the baseness of Goring, who spent his life in disgracing or betraying both sides, had thrown Portsmouth into the hands of the Parliament. It therefore held actual possession of the dockyards both in the Thames and Channel. Yet, in spite of the advantages of its position and the sympathy of the population, it is very doubtful whether Parliament could have obtained such complete command of the naval resources of the kingdom if it had not had the assistance of Northumberland. The evil fortune of King Charles spared him nothing. He had formed a strong fleet to maintain his power, and it was made a principal instrument of his ruin. He had, in his own bitter words, courted Northumberland like a mistress, and that haughtiest of nobles repaid him by striking him a cruel blow. When it was too late, the king dismissed Northumberland from his post. It would have been better for the king if he had thought less of what Northumberland might do if he chose, and more of what Sir John Pennington would certainly do when he was ordered, and had named him Lord High Admiral in 1638.



Authorities.—The general history of this time has been exhaustively told by Mr. Gardiner in his history of the Civil War. Mr. Granville Penn has collected the Parliamentary orders, pamphlets, and proclamations relating to naval affairs in his Life of Sir William Penn. The Royalist side is told by Clarendon, and in the papers printed by Mr. Warburton in his Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers.

In so far as his control over the navy was concerned, the reign of Charles I. came to an end with the appointment of the Earl of Warwick as vice-admiral by the authority of the Parliament in defiance of his wishes. From that time forward the fleet became a docile instrument in the hands of his enemies, and so remained throughout the whole of the first Civil War. The king did indeed dismiss Northumberland from his post as Lord High Admiral, and the order was obeyed. It may very well be that the Parliament was not sorry to be rid of an officer whose powers were so great. Even in the midst of armed rebellion the Englishmen of the seventeenth century were great sticklers for the letter of the law, and the Lord High Admiral, the legality of whose appointment could not be questioned, might have caused the Houses at Westminster considerable trouble if he had thought fit to act against them, or even only to abstain from acting energetically on their behalf. With the minor officers there was not the same probability of trouble. The king did order them to render no obedience to Parliament, and a few acted on his command. Others, however, had no scruple in accepting the doctrine that the order of the king meant his order as expressed by Parliament—a convenient [181]sophistry by which many men at that period contrived to reconcile the reality of rebellion with the profession of loyalty.

Among those who actively assisted Parliament to obtain possession of the fleet was William Batten, the Surveyor of the Navy. He is described by Clarendon as an "obscure fellow," who obtained his post by dint of a bribe. This account of him has been somewhat heatedly contradicted by modern writers. But it agrees very well with the rather off-hand account of his appointment given by Northumberland. If Batten belonged to the Somersetshire family of that name, he was a man of strong Puritan connections. However that may be, he had passed his life as a merchant skipper, trading on his own account, or as master in the navy, till he became Surveyor in 1638, when the Commission of 1628 was dissolved and Northumberland was appointed Lord High Admiral. There is a pretty general agreement of authorities that he paid for his post, which at that time does not necessarily mean that there was anything corrupt about his nomination. His assistance had a good deal to do with Warwick's success in bringing the fleet to obedience in July 1642.

Parliament had taken measures to arm a considerable naval force in the very first days of March, on the plea that the Lords and Commons had "received advertisement of extraordinary preparations made by the neighbouring princes both by land and sea; the intentions whereof have been so represented as to raise an apprehension in both Houses that the public honour, peace, and safety of His Majesty and his kingdom cannot be secured unless a timely course be taken for the putting of this kingdom into a condition of defence at sea as well as land." Orders were issued that "all and every the ships belonging to His Majesty's navy which are fit for service, and not already abroad, nor designed for this summer's fleet, be with all speed rigged and put in such a readiness as that they may soon be ready for sea." At the same time Northumberland was requested "to make known to all masters and owners of such ships as now are in or about any the harbours of [182]this kingdom, and may be of use to the public defence thereof, that it will be an acceptable service to the King and Parliament if they likewise will cause their ships to be rigged, and so far put in readiness, as they may at a short warning set forth to sea upon any emergent occasion, which will be a means of great security to His Majesty and his dominions."

The king had left London, and was either at Royston or at Newmarket when he heard of this order for the "speedy rigging of the navy." Northumberland was suffering from an accident which befell him more than once at a critical moment. He was ill, and could not take the command in person. It was now that the king endeavoured to secure the appointment of Sir John Pennington as Northumberland's deputy in actual command. But Parliament, in pursuit of its policy of laying hands on the militia, insisted on seeing a list of the officers in command. It was presented on the 10th of March. Parliament confirmed most of the names, but expressly voted "that the Lord Admiral shall be desired by this House that the commander-in-chief of this summer's fleet under his lordship may be the Earl of Warwick." At the same time Sir Harry Vane was instructed to "carry unto the Lord Admiral the list of those commanders that are not allowed of by this House, and desire his lordship to supply others in the place of those, and to send the names of them to the House with all convenient speed."

The anger of the king was unavailing, except to deprive Northumberland of his official rank. The ships in the Downs submitted themselves with little or no opposition to Warwick's orders. It is possible that if Sir John Pennington had been a man of more energy, he might have caused the Parliament considerable trouble. But his virtues were those of a docile, trustworthy servant. When called upon to act for himself, he could do nothing effectual. When the king forbade his servants to submit to the orders of the officers appointed by Parliament, Warwick boldly put his authority to the test by calling [183]upon the ships in the Downs to accept his commission. A few only of the captains hesitated, and of these no more than two made any serious appearance of resistance. Even they were ill supported by their men, for the unarmed boats' crews of other ships were allowed to board and take possession of their vessels. The sympathies of the navy were plainly with the Parliament. It has been said recently that the navy was mainly neutral between the king and his enemies in this great struggle. I do not clearly understand what meaning is attached to the word neutral when it is used to describe the actions of men who give the most effective armed help to one party in a Civil War. From 1642 until a part of the fleet revolted in 1648, the navy never failed to do the king all the harm in its power. It attacked the garrisons held for him, and helped to defend the coast towns which his troops were besieging. It captured ships sailing on his service, and it fired on his wife. It is difficult to conceive what less neutral line of conduct it could possibly have followed. A more simple explanation of the action of the navy is, I think, that which has been given above. It supported the Parliament because it was Puritan, and this it was partly by choice, and partly of necessity. The seafaring population came from the more Puritan parts of England. The same causes which made the other inhabitants Puritan acted on the sailor. Then, until Prince Rupert took Bristol, every considerable seaport was in the hands of the Puritans, and a sailor who would not serve the Parliament would have found some difficulty in following his trade at all. Writers who have been very anxious to make out that the navy played an important independent part have been at some pains to show that it held some weighty constitutional doctrines, and in particular that it combined a disinterested love of liberty with an enlightened loyalty to the king's person. It is, however, possible to feel admiration and respect for the seamen of the seventeenth century without going so far as to credit them with what there is no reason to believe they possessed. Like many other Englishmen at that period the sailors may have thought it possible to [184]coerce the king, to take the command of the militia out of his hands, to beat his soldiers, to kill his friends, to make him a prisoner, and, at the end of all this, to establish his authority. In other words, they entered upon a revolution without seeing more clearly than the average Presbyterian member of Parliament what its inevitable consequences must be. They had been brought up to have an awful reverence for the "Lord's anointed," and were glad to have a good legal-looking excuse before laying unhallowed hands upon him. Therefore, with the most loyal intentions in the world, they applied themselves with much courage and zeal to the work of bringing His Majesty to the mercy of the root-and-branch men.

The administration of the navy was put into the hands of a Parliamentary Committee of both Houses, under which it worked with more energy than had ever been shown during the reign of the king. The Houses could pay, if not with unfailing regularity, at least much better than the king; moreover, Parliament, with its power of naming committees of its own body, was able to exercise an amount of supervision which had not been possible for the Crown. The work which the navy had to do was partly on the coasts of England and partly on those of Ireland, but it was everywhere the same. In both cases the object was to prevent help coming from abroad to the enemies of Parliament. This was to be done partly by capturing ships coming in with stores, and partly by getting, or keeping, possession of the coast towns. It was a kind of duty which required rather vigilant cruising than much actual fighting. Although mention of the action of the fleet is common, the number of achievements performed by it of which memory remains is small. The majority of them are of the nature of the relief given to the town of Lyme when besieged by Prince Maurice. The ships brought reinforcements of men and stores when the need for them was great. In this way, and on all parts of the coast, they helped the cause of the Parliament. One of the feats the navy did, it is true, made no inconsiderable noise in the world, and has been the subject of much heated rhetoric. The [185]Queen Henrietta Maria, who had left England just when the Civil War was beginning, had been busy abroad purchasing military stores for her husband. The Parliament learned early in 1643 that these military provisions were about to be sent over to Bridlington on the coast of Yorkshire, where the army of the Marquis of Newcastle would be ready to receive them. Whether it was also known that the queen was coming with the stores is not certain. If it had been, the principal effect of the knowledge would have been to induce Parliament to strengthen Batten, who was cruising in the North Sea. The capture of the queen would have been an immense advantage, and her death by a cannon ball a satisfaction. The Parliamentary officer had with him a small squadron of four ships. He missed the queen. The weather was stormy, and Henrietta Maria had to go through the unpleasant ordeal of nine days' tossing about in the North Sea. At last she reached Bridlington, and was able to land. Here a new danger, and a worse, assailed her. Batten discovered that the transports had reached harbour, and were landing their stores. He immediately took measures to prevent these from reaching the king. Bringing his ships close in, he opened fire on the transport and the houses on the quay, and continued to discharge cross-bar and other shot for some hours. The Royalists raised a great outcry over this "obscure fellow's" barbarous want of respect for Her Majesty's royal person. It is certain that she was in considerable peril. Batten's shot crashed into the house in which she was sleeping, and the queen with her ladies had to take refuge in a ditch, where they lay under the shelter of the bank for some time. It was reported, to the no small glee of the Parliament's partisans in London, that the queen had fled out of the house "barelegged" and almost undressed, so sudden had been her flight. However that may be, the daughter of Henry IV. had gone through the perils of storm and battle with cheerful courage. She comforted her terrified ladies-in-waiting on board the transport by telling them that queens of England were never drowned. As she fled from the house at Bridlington, [186]she remembered that her favourite lap-dog had been left behind, and, in spite of the terrors of her attendants, she went back to bring it out. The Cavalier writers were more indignant for the queen than she was for herself. Both then and since they have denounced Batten in no measured terms for the unheard-of brutality and want of chivalry in his behaviour. Yet it is very hard to see what the Parliamentary commander could well have done except what he did do. The king's officers could not have expected to be allowed to march into London only because they put the queen at their head, and yet that would have been almost as rational as to ask that they should be allowed to transport and land munitions of war unmolested because a great Royalist lady travelled in company with them.

These years of the first Civil War, though they would be tedious to tell in detail, are of great importance in the history of the navy. They formed the first period in which a considerable naval force was continuously maintained. Even during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the larger fleets had been armed only for particular expeditions, while during the reign of James there had been but one large armament, and, though the considerable displays of naval force had been comparatively numerous during the first fifteen years of Charles I., still they were intermittent. But the Parliament kept continually on foot what would in former times have been called a Royal Fleet. In 1642 there were 18 men-of-war and 24 hired merchant ships in commission. In 1643 this force was raised to 28 warships, 23 merchant ships, and 8 colliers for service on the coast of England, besides 8 men-of-war and 13 hired merchant ships for service on the coast of Ireland. This makes a total of 80 vessels; and when we consider the average tonnage and weight of broadside, it represents a much greater force than was ever under the command of the officers of the great queen. The mere habit of continual cruising together in fleets must have had an instructive effect, of which the English Navy was to reap the benefit in the approaching struggle with Holland. Regular men-of-war crews must have been gradually [187]formed, and the Parliament secured the services of a trained body of officers.

Before the value of this practice was to be put to the test, the nation, and the navy with it, were destined to pass through the sharpest convulsion in the whole course of our history. The first Civil War came to an end, having practically settled nothing except that the Parliament had proved itself strong enough to beat down the king's partisans. King Charles did not, however, consider himself completely defeated. Indeed he was incapable of understanding that utter overthrow was possible for the king who held his place by Divine Right. Wicked rebels might prove too strong for him for a time, but it was his firm conviction that in the long-run no party could do without him. Thus, even before he was delivered by the Scots into the hands of his Parliament, he began the desperate game of playing off one party of his conquerors against the other. The Presbyterians remained of the opinion, as when they had begun the war, that they could beat the king utterly, and yet leave him not only king, but prepared to co-operate with them. One of the purposes for which they expected his aid was the suppression of the Independents, who were fully as offensive to the Presbyterians as the Presbyterians were to the Church of England. But the Independents were the commanding element in the New Model Army, which represented the whole armed force of the Parliament, since its other troops had been disbanded on the conclusion of the war. The Independents were thoroughly resolved that, after fighting to be free from the Church of England, they would not submit to dictation by the Presbyterians. The king began trying to set them by the ears; and out of these rivalries and intrigues, with the help of a Presbyterian army from Scotland, there arose the second Civil War.

In this struggle the navy was more visibly affected by the divisions of the nation. Its leaders had begun to discover that it was not so simple a business as they had thought, to beat the king and yet leave him uninjured. Moreover, professional rivalry affected them to no small extent. [188]The sea officers were offended when they saw the whole effective power of the nation in the hands of the New Model Army. Their loyalty to the king was vigorously revived when they found that not only the Crown, but they themselves, were at the orders of a committee of successful soldiers. So, during 1647 and 1648, the navy was agitated by dissensions. In the spring of 1648 the party which was now, by the help of the soldiers, supreme in Parliament began to be very uneasy about the spirit of the fleet. There was a great deal of dangerous talk as to the necessity for a personal treaty with the king; while ship's companies took to imitating the "agitators" who had organised the pronunciamiento of the soldiers at Triploe Heath and elsewhere. They also had their ideas as to the settlement of the nation. In view of this untrustworthiness of their naval force, Parliament decided to put the command of the fleet into other hands. Batten was removed from his place as second in command to Warwick, and Penn, who had served throughout the war on the coast of Ireland, and had finally been in actual command of the station, was put under arrest. A military officer, Colonel Rainsborough, was sent to take command of the squadron in the Downs and the river. This measure provoked a partial revolt in May 1648. The officers and men of the ships which were to have been under the command of Rainsborough refused to obey his orders, and put him on shore. This action was justified by a declaration of principles on the part of "the commanders and officers of the ship Constant Reformation with the rest of the fleet." These politicians stated their view of the best way for providing a settlement for the nation. They were in agreement with the Kentish petitioners, and their demands were grouped under four heads.

"First,—That the King's Majesty, with all expedition, be admitted in safety and honour to treat with both Houses of Parliament.

"Secondly,—That the army now under the command of the Lord Fairfax be forthwith disbanded, their arrears being paid them.

"Thirdly,—That the known laws of the kingdom may be established and continued, whereby we ought to be governed and judged.

"Fourthly,—That the privileges of Parliament and liberty of the subject be preserved."


In the following month this declaration was amended by the complaints that the Parliament had taken to issuing commissions without the name of the king; that several landsmen had been made sea-commanders, and that "the insufferable pride, ignorance, and insolency of Colonel Rainsborough, the late Vice-Admiral, alienated the hearts of the seamen." The political side of these pronouncements need not detain us long. If these were the aims of the seamen, they were trying, as the Presbyterian party in Parliament also were, to bring things back to the point at which they had been before 1638, with this difference, that the king was to show himself converted to their way of thinking by ten years of failure, defeat, and bitter indignity. Like the Presbyterians, they forgot to secure the co-operation of the king. The complaint that Parliament had taken to issuing commissions without the royal name shows that the sailors, or at least those who spoke for them, were immensely surprised at the result of their own efforts. When they made it a grievance that several landsmen had been made sea-commanders, they were inventing an entirely new grievance. Landsmen always had been sea-commanders, and were to be so again in the coming years.

It is hard to say how far the discontent of the seamen had anything to do with the revolt, if that can be called a revolt which was, in fact, a refusal to obey revolutionary authority. It was probably mainly the work of a few officers, and the men were carried away by the example of their commanders and by the contagious example of the Royalists in the county of Kent. The officers did in some cases belong to the Presbyterian Parliamentary party, which was now becoming Royalist under the stimulus of rivalry with the Independents.

In any case this revolt against the predominant party in Parliament extended such a very little way in the fleet, and proved so thoroughly impotent, that we can hardly suppose the bulk of the seamen to have been seriously discontented. The defection of the navy was stopped by the use of a very moderate degree of ingenuity on the part of the dominant faction. They sent the Earl of Warwick, whose sympathies [190]were known to be with the Parliamentary Presbyterians, back to take command in place of Rainsborough. The City was very Presbyterian, and it presented a petition on behalf of Batten, to which no attention was paid. Warwick was successful in keeping the bulk of the fleet steady, but the insurgent ships helped the Kent Royalists to obtain possession of the castles of Deal, Walmer, and Sandown. No active measures were taken against them by the Lord Admiral Warwick. He was too busy in new-modelling the fleet. The process of new-modelling consisted in removing all officers and men whose loyalty was doubtful, and in replacing them by others whose principles were trustworthy, or who belonged to that useful class of fighting men who may be trusted to return an equivalent of service for their pay and allowances. The mutiny of the fleet was, in fact, shattered by Fairfax, who in the early days of June swept through the county of Kent, dashing the Royalist forces to pieces, and driving the remnants over the river into Essex. As the Royalist seamen were deprived of all hope of obtaining fresh stores by the defeat of their friends on shore, and as the ships under Warwick remained steady, there was nothing for it but to stand across the North Sea to Holland and there put themselves under the command of the Prince of Wales. The Prince was at that time in France, whither he had fled from the Channel Islands. Encouraged by the news that the ships were beginning to declare for his party, he hurried to Helvoetsluys and there took the command on the 9th of June.

As far as the king was still master to decide who was to command either ships or soldiers, authority over his navy belonged to the young Duke of York, who, in theory, was Lord High Admiral. But the duke was a mere boy of fifteen, and not on good terms with his brother. By the decision of the Prince of Wales and his Council, the command of the squadron was given to Lord Willoughby of Parham. Under this new admiral, who, as the authors of the late protestation must have observed with disgust, was a "landsman," the Royalist squadron sailed from the Dutch harbour on the 17th of July, and, carrying with [191]it the Prince of Wales, stood over to Yarmouth. It appeared before the town on the 22nd of July, with the intention of favouring a Royalist rising, which might have disturbed Fairfax, who was now engaged in the siege of Colchester. But though the Royalists had a party in the town, the friends of the Parliament were strong enough to hold their ground. Finding that it was hopeless to endeavour to raise the county of Norfolk, and being, moreover, in dire want of money, the Royalist squadron sailed for the Thames. It found Warwick still engaged in new-modelling his fleet, and, although the sailors are said to have been eager to engage, made no attack upon him. Warwick reported that his men also were full of zeal and eager to fight, but no conflict took place. The Prince of Wales summoned the Parliamentary Admiral to take down the Royal Standard, which he flew as Lord High Admiral; and Warwick refused to make this submission, on the ground that he held his place by lawful authority, namely, by the will of the king as expressed through the Parliament. While these flourishes of summons and retort were passing between the two fleets, the prince's ships were busily engaged in capturing merchant vessels. One of these was estimated to be worth £20,000, and the prince demanded a ransom of that amount for her. The City, now longing for a reconciliation with the king, would have been well enough disposed to receive the prince. But Parliament was inexorable. The Independents had befooled the Presbyterians, always easy to deceive, by apparent concessions, and, in the meantime, the victory of Fairfax in Kent and the success of Cromwell against the Royalists in Wales were re-establishing their supremacy. They declared that the prince and all who were acting with him were guilty of high treason.

The prince remained in the river till the first days of September. He was reinforced by Batten, who escaped from observation in London, and contrived to carry over the Constant Warwick, one of the best appointed ships in the Parliament's service. But here his successes ended. [192]The rest of the fleet continued loyal, or at least consistent in disloyalty, and the stores began to run out. The Royalist ships remained, it would seem, on the north side of the Thames near Leigh, and Warwick remained at Chatham. While they were here, a number of vessels came round from Portsmouth to reinforce the Parliamentary squadron. It was made a subject of bitter complaint against Batten, whom the prince had knighted, and to whom he gave a large share of his confidence, that he allowed them to pass undisturbed. The Royalist who had denounced Batten for firing on the queen at Bridlington must have found this favour, shown by her son to such "a villain," somewhat hard to digest. Under the pressure of want of stores, the prince was disposed to return at once to Holland; but his fleet was eager for battle, and so, at least, a pretence of engaging Warwick was made. Upon the last day of August, when the two fleets were within striking distance, they were separated by a sudden gale. When the wind fell, the prince's fleet was within one barrel of pork of actual starvation; and the game being now clearly up, the most fire-eating of his followers saw that there was nothing for it but to stand over to Holland. The Royalists, therefore, retreated and anchored at Goree on the 3rd of September. The Royalist movement in the fleet had completely failed. It did nothing to avert the disasters of their party at Colchester and Preston, and only served to diminish the naval forces of the Parliament by a little, and for a short time. Indeed the immediate result was to make the navy far more anti-Royalist than it had been before. The navy joined in that Remonstrance of the soldiers, which was the preliminary to the trial of the king.

While that great tragedy was in preparation, Warwick was pursuing his successes against the Royalists. On the 19th of September he was off Helvoetsluys, and had established what was, in fact, a blockade of the prince's ships. Correspondence and negotiations passed between the two forces. There would probably have been blows also, if a squadron of Dutch ships, under command of Tromp, [193]had not dropped anchor between them. Each appealed to the other's men, but Warwick only was successful in withdrawing support from his opponent. The prince's squadron was indeed shortly in a deplorable condition. He was in utter want of money, and the loyalty of his followers was by no means equal to standing the strain of starvation. His men had tasted the pleasures of mutiny, and were much enamoured of them. They treated Lord Willoughby of Parham, and Batten, as they had treated Rainsborough. A large party of them refused to serve under Prince Rupert, on the ground that he was a foreigner, and insisted that they would obey nobody except their own Lord High Admiral, the Duke of York. In fact, all the dissensions at that time existing among the Royalists were repeated in the squadron at Helvoetsluys. The genuine Royalists looked upon the recently converted Presbyterians as rebels, only a very little less unpardonable than the Independents. The Presbyterians were by no means prepared to concede all the demands of the Royalists. The perplexities of this section of the prince's followers may be judged from the tone of the rather pitiable apology published by Batten. He confessed that he had been quite misled in supporting the Parliament, and this avowal of imbecility was not made more respectable by his unconscious betrayal of the discreditable fact that his eyes had not been opened till he had thought himself in danger of losing his pay and allowances.

While the leaders were wrangling with one another and were being put ashore by mutinous followers, a large proportion of the prince's sailors became tired of their tardy Royalism, when they found that it meant exile from home and choice of service with the Dutch, or a life of semi-piratical adventure with Prince Rupert. Several of the revolted ships were brought over by their crews to Warwick, and numbers of the sailors of the others followed the example. Among the officers not a few made their peace with the triumphant Parliament, and among them was Batten, who, after joining the Royalists because the Parliament [194]was not sufficiently loyal, went back to what remained of it after Pride's Purge, when it was manifestly ready to cut off the king's head. He was not again employed until the Restoration, but the new masters of England were not rigorous towards his fellow-insurgents.



The Authorities for this chapter are the same as for the last. By far the most valuable is the Life of Penn. This book is in reality a collection of authorities, with no other internal coherence than is supplied by the subject and chronological order, but the compiler has missed little indeed which is of interest. M. de Pontalis' Jean de Witt gives a luminous account of the political and military condition of Holland at the time of the outbreak of the war with England.

The Civil War came to an end, and the interregnum began with the execution of Charles, on January 30, 1649. The resolute men who had now laid their hands on power made their grip felt at once. Before the month of February was over, they had completed the work of reorganising the navy. The change was typified by an outward symbol which told its own tale to every sailor's eye. Warwick had carried the Royal Standard at the main, and his ships had worn the man-of-war flag of King Charles's reign. This was the Union in the old form, which lasted until the end of the eighteenth century; that is to say, the Red Cross of St. George and the White Saltire of Scotland. English merchant ships had carried the English Ensign, the Red Cross of St. George on the white ground, while Scotch ships used the national White Cross of St. Andrew on a blue ground. By order of the Council of State, now the executive governing body, the English Navy was to carry the Red Cross. The Royal Standard disappeared, and so did the Crown, from the device carved on the stern of the ships. In future they were to carry only two shields—one with the arms of England, and another with those of Ireland. The removal of the old [196]symbols was naturally followed by the dismissal of a commander who had of late been little more than a living symbol of the vacillations and political incompetence of his party. On the 22nd of February, Warwick was dismissed from his place of Lord High Admiral. On the following day three soldiers of the victorious party were appointed as joint commissioners for the command of the fleet, with the title of admirals and generals at sea. These were Colonel Edward Popham, Colonel Robert Blake, and Colonel Richard Deane. Popham and Blake were Somersetshire men of good birth. Blake, after serving in subordinate positions in the West, had held Taunton for the Parliament during the year between the battles of Marston Moor and Naseby, with signal advantage to his party, and great glory to himself. Colonel Richard Deane was of Gloucestershire by descent. His youth had been obscure, but he had risen rapidly to high command in the Civil War, and was known as one of the most able and trustworthy of the Independent officers. He had perhaps been at sea in some humble capacity in his youth. There is nothing to show that the other two had any experience in ships. All three were appointed because their loyalty was certain, and because they had shown themselves resolute fighting men.

At the same time, active measures were taken to secure both the devotion and efficiency of the fleet. According to the uniform practice of the Long Parliament, the administration was kept in the hand of an Admiralty Committee of members of Parliament. Under them there was a Navy Committee, consisting of officials who discharged the duties of the Treasurer, Surveyor, Comptroller, and Clerk. Both bodies were composed of able and zealous men, by whom the work of administration was excellently done. During the first years of the Commonwealth, the navy made great strides both in number and quality. Ships were so rapidly built that the effective strength was as good as doubled between 1649 and 1651. The work of building was largely done by the Petts, who were now so effectually established in the dockyards that it would [197]have been impossible to replace them by an equally competent body of officials. Nor, although their grasping spirit made them unpopular, was there any reason for getting rid of them. The Pett family served its successive masters with the undeviating loyalty of the Vicar of Bray. For them the commanding interest of the nation was that they should retain their places. During these earlier years the Commonwealth was also comparatively rich. It had not yet to bear the strain of the great Dutch war, and it had not exhausted the resources afforded by the confiscated estates of the Church, the Crown, and the Royalists, nor had it yet used up the fines levied on the king's party for the sin of Delinquency. Therefore it was able not only to build ships rapidly and well, but also to pay the sailor with a regularity to which he had not hitherto been accustomed. The wealth of the Government, and the need it had for his services, were, for a time, of immense benefit to the sailor. His pay had been raised from 15s. to 19s. a month during the Civil War. Under the Commonwealth it was increased to 23s. for able seamen, and 19s. for ordinary seamen. As much as 25s. a month were given to the men engaged on particular service, such as the pursuit of Rupert. Measures were also taken to give the men a fairer share of prize-money, and to secure its rapid and honest distribution. Government had hitherto looked upon prizes taken from the enemy as a resource. Being in chronic want of money, it had treated its men with scant generosity. The evidence both of Sir William Monson and Sir Richard Hawkins shows that Elizabeth's sailors expected little justice at the hands of her officers. The Commonwealth was soon beset by the same necessities as the Crown, and yielded to the temptation of throwing as many charges as possible on the Commissioners for prizes. Yet it did try to be handsome in its behaviour towards its servants, who for a time, before and after the establishment of Cromwell as Protector, profited both in pay and prize-money to a hitherto unknown extent. At no time do they seem to have been so badly used as they had been under Charles I., and were again to be under [198]Charles II. Pay and prize-money were not all. Care was taken to supply better food, and more of it. The observance of Lent, which had hitherto enabled the State to economise meat rations, was abolished; though this was probably mainly done by the Puritans from a religious motive. Better pay, more prize-money, and good feeding had the desired effect of securing the loyalty of the seamen. We may at any rate attribute to them at least as much effect in keeping the sailors steady to the Commonwealth as to their high conception of that duty of preventing foreigners from "fooling us," which is sometimes supposed to have supplied their main motive.

The work before the navy of the Commonwealth at the beginning of 1649 was sufficiently abundant and varied. The Royalists still held the Channel Islands, and Ireland was unsubdued. Besides this, the English settlements in America had not yet been brought to submission to the new Government. The Puritan colonies were indeed thoroughly in sympathy with the Commonwealth, but Virginia was Royalist, and Barbadoes, then our only footing in the West Indies, was held for the king. An even more pressing duty than the subjugation of Royalist strongholds in the Channel and the West Indies lay before the Commissioners who had succeeded Warwick in the command of the fleet.

When the Parliament's fleet retired from Helvoetsluys, carrying with it the revolted ships which had returned to their duty, it left a remnant of seven vessels in the service of the Prince of Wales. It was natural that he should endeavour to make use of these vessels for the cause. The manner of using them was imposed upon him by circumstances. They could not hope to meet the Commonwealth's naval forces in open conflict, but they could prey upon the commerce of the king's disloyal subjects. It might have been wiser not to yield to the temptation of using them in a species of warfare which could hardly help becoming piratical, but the need for money was great, the technical right of the king to fight for his crown on the sea was at least as good as his right to continue the [199]struggle by land, and the prince did what it would have required exceptional wisdom and virtue to restrain him from doing. He appointed Prince Rupert as his admiral, with the proviso that he was to vacate the place to the Duke of York if called upon, and issued commissions authorising him and his captains to make prize of all the king's English enemies, and all such foreigners as should give them help. It was one thing to appoint an admiral and give him a commission, and quite another to fit the ships for sea. The exiled king had no money. He expected his squadron to provide him with funds. The ships must be got to sea somehow. A resource was found by selling the guns of the Antelope, and with the money thus provided another of the ships at Helvoetsluys was armed for sea. A lucky privateering cruise brought in funds, and with them the remainder were armed.

Rupert left Helvoetsluys in January 1649, with a squadron of seven warships and one armed prize. This was the whole naval force which now supported the Royal Standard of England. It ran down Channel and made for Kinsale. The blockade of this port had been raised by Parliament on the recommendation of Colonel Edward Popham. Prince Rupert entered it with the ships which had accompanied him from Helvoetsluys, and perhaps with some prizes he had picked up on the way. From this harbour he began cruising against English commerce with such success, that whereas the remnant of His Majesty's navy had lately been in extreme distress, it was now able to boast itself rich. A further service was rendered to the Royalist cause by the relief of the garrison still holding the Scilly Isles for the king. Prince Rupert was struck by the advantages this group of islands seemed capable of affording to an enterprising leader engaged in harrying commerce. He thought they might be turned into another Venice. Another Algiers would have been a more accurate expression. His schemes for making the Scilly Isles a basis of operations against the commerce of England were nipped in the bud by the naval forces of the Parliament. One of his ships was captured after a hot fight by two [200]of the Commonwealth cruisers, and this misfortune seems to have been received as a sharp warning by its comrades. They returned to Kinsale, and, while engaged in getting ready for a summer cruise, were disagreeably surprised by the appearance of a strong blockading force under the command of Sir George Ayscue. Ayscue was soon called away to other service, but his place was taken by two of the new admirals and generals at sea, Blake and Deane. They held Rupert so closely blockaded until October, that not only were his raids against commerce entirely stopped, but great discontent arose among his men, who were reduced to idleness and threatened by want. Many deserted, and Rupert was compelled to disarm some of the prizes which he had been fitting for sea. After the first successes of Cromwell had made it clear that the king's cause was ruined in Ireland, the position of Rupert at Kinsale became one of extreme danger. If the blockade had continued until the Puritan army was upon the town, it is eminently probable that, unless Rupert had been slain in action, he would have followed Hamilton and Culpepper to the block. A heavy gale released him from this peril. It drove the forces of the Parliament off the coast, and gave Rupert an opportunity of escaping of which he did not fail to avail himself. With his original seven ships, but without his prizes, he sailed for Portugal. The overwhelming naval strength of the Parliament in the Channel had rendered his original scheme of holding the Scilly Isles impracticable.

On his way south he fell in with and captured some English merchant ships near the Berlings. Rejoiced by this booty, which he calculated would be worth forty thousand pounds to the king's service, he entered the Tagus. At Kinsale he had heard of the execution of King Charles, and had received a confirmation of his commission from the new king. He appealed to the Portuguese Government for a friendly reception. The King of Portugal owed his own throne to a successful revolt, but he was quite as much shocked by the iniquity of the English rebels as any of the longer established monarchs of the Continent. As the Commonwealth was [201]not yet fully established, the Portuguese acted as if they thought it safe to treat it with indifference. Rupert was openly received by the king, and was allowed to make profit of his prizes. Complaints of his depredations, and outcries from the merchants trading to the Straits, whose ships were endangered by his cruisers, assailed the Council of State. In December it began to take measures to send a squadron in pursuit. Blake and Popham were ordered to consult on the measures to be taken. Almost immediately afterwards it was decided that Blake should sail alone for Lisbon, while Popham remained in the Channel. Deane had been called off for service with the army in Scotland. The squadron appointed to go with Blake was first fixed at five vessels—the Tiger, the John, the Tenth Whelp, the Signet, and the Constant Warwick. Before Blake was ready to sail, his force was increased to twelve vessels. There was, however, an interval of nearly three months between the decision to send him to the southward and the sailing of his squadron. In spite of the efforts of the New Admiralty Committee, the navy was not yet in a condition to provide large squadrons at very short notice. The calls upon its resources were many. In April of 1650 thirty-nine vessels were required in the Downs, or on the coasts of Ireland and Scotland, in addition to the twenty which were then cruising to the southward under the command of Popham and Blake. The establishment which the Council of State thought necessary was sixty-five vessels in all. Blake spent the two first months of 1650 at Plymouth, getting his squadron ready for sea. Early in March he made his appearance off the mouth of the Tagus, with a fleet strong enough to be too much, not only for Rupert, but for the feeble kingdom of Portugal. He had explicit instructions, which were confirmed and extended when Popham joined in April, to treat Rupert as a pirate, that is to say, as an enemy of the human race, who was not entitled to receive asylum. His orders were to point this out to all princes in whose ports he might meet the Royalist admiral. If they refused to take the same view, then Blake was [202]authorised to attack Prince Rupert, even in the harbour of a State not at war with England—to act, in fact, on the principle that whoever treated Rupert as a friend was an enemy of England.

When Blake found Rupert at anchor in the Tagus, he made a demand for his surrender. A diplomatic agent was landed to represent the case of the British Parliament to the King of Portugal. King John was in a cruel position. He could not surrender Rupert without a certain amount of disgrace. Indeed he was so feeble that the Royalist adventurers would have been formidable enemies. Rupert had no scruple as to treating his host with scant politeness, and there was a party at the Portuguese Court in favour of helping the Royalists. On the other hand, the king had fair warning that if he did not treat Rupert as a pirate, the Parliament would ruin his commerce. While the king was vacillating, the two fleets remained at anchor not far from one another, and their sailors had frequent conflicts. An unsuccessful attempt was made by the Royalists to blow up Blake's flagship by a torpedo. When Blake found that the Portuguese Government was not yet ready to help him against the Royalists, he proceeded to prove to it the danger of the course it preferred. His station at the mouth of the Tagus enabled him to lay hands easily on all ships coming in or going out. When the outward-bound Brazil fleet put to sea, it was found to include several English vessels freighted by the Portuguese. These Blake pressed for the service of the Commonwealth, and sequestered their cargoes. The blow was a sharp one, and was not made more palatable by an intimation that it was only a warning, and that worse would follow if the Portuguese persisted in their ill-advised courses. The king was not unnaturally very angry, and appealed to Rupert to help him in driving off Blake's squadron. Nothing could have been more to the taste of the Royalist admiral, and if there had been any effective Portuguese fleet to help, he would have helped it. But there was not, and therefore when Rupert put to sea no battle took place. Rupert hoisted the Royal Standard and made a bold show. But in reality he [203]could not venture to do more than skirmish with the overwhelming force opposed to him. Blake had been joined by Popham, and their combined force was not less than twenty vessels. The three capital ships and four small frigates of Rupert's own following were no match for such an antagonist. Therefore, although Rupert came near enough to have his topmast shot away, he could not venture to do much more than skirmish at a moderate distance from the forts, when the wind blew from a direction which gave him security that he could get safely back again.

Shortly after this ineffectual effort to drive off the blockading squadron, the home-coming Brazil fleet appeared, and, being quite ignorant of the state of affairs, sailed into the hands of Blake and Popham. This was a second and a worse blow to the Portuguese. Once more King John was stirred up to make an effort. Again he appealed to Rupert, and again nothing came of it. The Royalist promised help, but Blake and Popham left him no opportunity of keeping his word. Their ships by this time must have been very foul. They had good reason to be satisfied with the punishment they had inflicted on the King of Portugal, and they sailed with their prizes for the Spanish port of San Lucar de Barrameda. By this time the Portuguese Government had been taught that it was not wisdom to fight with the keepers of the liberties of England. It took advantage of the absence of Blake and Popham to get rid of Rupert, not by driving him out, a feat beyond its resources, but by bribing him to be gone. His ships were refitted, his prizes were taken off his hands, and he was bowed out. Rupert himself was not loth to be at sea again, where there were prizes to be taken. He ran through the Straits of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean, with the intention of preying on English commerce.

This third stage of his career began in September 1650. It was a step downwards. By this time the ruin of the Royalist cause had been put beyond doubt. The Governments of the Continent were beginning to grasp the fact [204]that it would be wiser for them to make friends with the new power. A naval force, which no longer represented a Government in possession of even a part of its territory, was on the high road to fall into sheer piracy. It could live only by plunder, and was compelled to treat all who refused to allow it to sell its booty as enemies. In the Mediterranean, Rupert made haste to prove to all the world that he was not the man to stand upon trifles, or to consider those who were not strong enough to inspire him with respect. The extreme feebleness of the Spanish Government was a temptation to a man of his temperament. He took a bold and simple line with the Spanish authority in the southern ports. All English ships, he said, which obey the present revolutionary Government are the property of the rebels. No civilised State can be allowed to harbour such people. Therefore, when I find English ships in your harbours, I shall attack them, and, if you interfere with me, shall fire on you.

This declaration of policy was the answer of the exiled King's Lord High Admiral to the Parliament's declaration that he himself was a pirate. It was very natural, and as a matter of theory was perhaps equally accurate, but then it was not supported by the same effective force. When, therefore, Rupert insisted upon acting on the principle that his opponents were rebels, who were not entitled to enjoy asylum in the ports of foreign princes, he laid himself open to severe retaliation. As a matter of fact, he did just enough to inspire the Spaniards with a strong desire to see Blake's squadron make an end of him. At Malaga, at Velez Malaga, and again at Motril, he attacked English merchant ships, and made prize of all of them which did not run on shore, without paying the slightest respect to the neutrality of Spanish waters. Had there been any Spanish navy in existence, his career would have been short. But the Spaniards were too weak to defend themselves from insult. They were compelled to rely on the assistance of Blake, who was refitting his squadron at San Lucar, after the fatigues of the blockade at Lisbon.


Blake had not been able to prevent Rupert from running through the Straits, probably because his ships were all equally foul, and equally in need of scraping, and he was therefore unable to station vessels at sea to intercept the Royalists. So soon as he could get ready, he followed Rupert up the Mediterranean, and about the 7th of November came on the bulk of the Royalist cruisers at Carthagena. Rupert himself was absent. His ships had been scattered in a gale on the 5th of November, and he, with one other vessel, was cruising in the neighbourhood of Formentera, where he took a richly-laden merchant ship called the Marmaduke, after some fighting. With his prize, Rupert returned to the mainland of Spain, and, not finding his consorts, left a message informing them that he had sailed for Toulon. It was not till he reached the French port that he heard of the disaster which had overtaken the rest of his squadron. Blake had attacked at once. The Royalists complained that the Spaniards had suffered the law of nations to be outraged in their harbours. They had very little choice, but, from their point of view, the action of Blake cannot have appeared much worse than Rupert's. The Royalists made no resistance, many of the men were pressed out of the English prizes, and, even of those who were not, many were getting tired of an adventure which brought them little but danger and exile.

Rupert had been driven on to the coast of Sicily by bad weather, before he could make the coast of France. There he was well received, and allowed to sell his prizes—an act of compliance on the part of the French officers for which the commerce of France was severely punished. Blake, acting on his instructions, immediately retaliated by capturing French merchant vessels, and when he left the Mediterranean, as he did shortly afterwards, the same course was vigorously pursued by his successor, William Penn. Penn's cruise in the Mediterranean lasted till April of '52, and was fruitful in French prizes. He had been called from the coast of Ireland to command a squadron of eight frigates, designed to replace the heavier ships of [206]Blake's command. The Parliament was now using the naval forces of England with a vigour of which there had been no previous example. The necessity of proving to the country that it was capable of protecting commerce against the utmost Rupert could do, acted as a stimulus, even if there had not been a strong wish to make the monarchies of the Continent understand that the new Government was far too powerful to be treated with neglect. The measures taken were not inadequate to the work on hand. In the November of 1650 William Penn sailed with a squadron of eight frigates, and with orders first to make a cruise against the Portuguese on their own coast, and in the Western Islands, with the object of capturing their merchant ships on the way home from Brazil, and then to enter the Mediterranean, where he was to relieve Blake in the work of hunting down Rupert. The Council of State was so resolute not to delay the work, that it did not wait until the whole squadron was ready. Penn sailed on the 30th of November, with five of his frigates, for the Azores. The other three joined him there under the command of John Lawson. The whole force contained an exceptional proportion of men who gained distinction in the sea service: it consisted of the—

Ships. Men. Guns. Captains.
Fairfax 250 52 William Penn, vice-admiral.
Centurion 150 36 John Lawson.
Adventure 150 36 Andrew Ball.
Foresight 150 36 Samuel Howett.
Pelican 150 36 Joseph Jordan.
Assurance 150 36 Benjamin Blake.
Nonsuch 150 36 John Mildmay.
Star 80 22 Robert Sanders.

This squadron was in the Azores by the 17th of January 1651, and, after cruising with fair success between them and the Rock of Lisbon, entered the Mediterranean in March. In addition to Penn's squadron, another was fitted out under command of Captain Edward Hall, for [207]the purpose of convoying the trade to the Mediterranean. Hall's squadron consisted of—

Ships. Men. Guns. Captains.
Triumph 300 52 Edward Hall, vice-admiral.
Tiger 150 36 James Peacock.
Angel 150 30 William Rand.
Ant. Bonadventure 150 30 Walter Hopton.
Trade's Increase 160 44 William Jacob.
Lion 190 44 Jac. Birkdel.
Hopeful Luke 126 34 William Goodson.

There was thus a double protection. While Hall applied himself to the convoying of merchant ships, Penn was free to pursue Rupert. The Royalists gave no trouble, and the two squadrons of the Parliament had little to do beyond making reprisals on the nations which had incurred the hostility of England by showing favour to Rupert, and by endeavouring to put some check on the excesses of the Algerines. Yet the presence of two forces acting in the Mediterranean at once, so soon after the appearance of Blake, must have given the Southern nations a greatly enhanced opinion of the naval power of England. The officers in command were well aware that they were doing much more than merely chasing away a handful of Royalist cruisers. Their sense of the higher importance of their work is very well expressed in a letter written by Captain Hall from Cadiz, on the eve of entering the Mediterranean.

"Your fleets meeting here, so soon after the departure of the other fleet, is of no less admiration to other foreign kingdoms (into which reports fly of them daily) than to Spain; who much admire your quickness, in such strength and full supplies. So as I believe, in a short time, the Spaniards, between fear and love, will grow respectful to us. Though, hitherto, we have had little sign of it, more than compliments (only free access to the shore, where we are in nowise molested in our business), which we fail not to equalise them in."

Although Rupert vanished from the sight of Blake and his successors in the Mediterranean, and indeed did not again come in contact with the naval forces of the Parliament, we cannot ignore the actions of a gentleman who was Lord High Admiral, and who flew the Royal [208]Standard by commission of the rightful king. After the defeat at Carthagena he was now reduced to three vessels, and a large part of his crews was discontented. Only the high courage of the man, and the determination of the exiled Royalists who had accompanied him, sufficed to prevent wholesale desertion, or open resistance to his authority. Partly by good management, but more by force, Rupert kept his command together. With the proceeds of his prizes he purchased a fourth vessel, and started on certainly the most extraordinary cruise ever undertaken by a Lord High Admiral of England. It lasted for two years, and at the end there remained only one of the four ships with which it began. He had entered the Mediterranean with "poverty and despair as his companions, and revenge as his guide." These comrades attended him, and he kept this aim in view to the end. From Toulon he sailed to the coast of Africa, and there began avenging the wrongs of his master and uncle, Charles I., by capturing a Genoese carrack, partly on the pretext that the Republic had given him offence, and partly through the "clamour of the seamen," who, having entered on a voyage which had much the look of piracy, were minded to enjoy the privileges of the position. Then he took a Spanish galleon, making use of the Parliament flag as a device to throw her off her guard. Having now done his very best to arouse the whole naval forces of the Mediterranean against him, Rupert wisely roamed out into the Atlantic. He had a scheme for making a cruise on the coast of Africa, and thence over to Barbadoes, which was known to be still held for the king by Lord Willoughby of Parham. It may be that this scheme was not very definite, and that he in reality drifted about very much at the mercy of accident, and the pressure exercised on him by the hope of booty, or the constant mutinous conduct of his men. He first went to Madeira, where he was civilly received by the Portuguese authorities, who were subject to hostilities both from Spain and the Parliament, and could therefore not put themselves in a worse position by favouring Rupert. From Madeira he went to the Canaries, and then to the [209]Cape de Verd Islands, and then back to the Azores, always capturing what English and Spanish ships came in his way. On the coast of Africa he was actively helped by the Portuguese, and even by the Dutch, who were now themselves on the eve of war with England, and were not sorry to see the Lord High Admiral engaged in destroying the trade and settlements of the king's disloyal subjects. The Hollanders did not foresee that within a few years the knowledge gained in these cruises would be turned against themselves. Among the officers who followed Rupert was the Captain Robert Holmes who became an admiral after the Restoration and led a squadron to the coast of Africa for the purpose of sweeping out the Dutch.

In the September of 1651 Rupert's strength was sorely diminished. His flagship went down in a gale with three hundred and thirty men, although every effort was made to stop the leak, even to the thrusting of a hundred and twenty pieces of raw beef into it, and stancheoning them down. Rupert was saved by the devotion of his followers. Shortly afterwards another of his little squadron ran aground in the Azores and became a total wreck. He endeavoured to replace these losses by arming his prizes, but his resources diminished too fast. His men continued to desert, and he had no means of replacing them. After his disasters in the islands, he returned to the coast of Africa in May '52, and applied himself alternately to plundering the English at sea, and the Moors on shore in the neighbourhood of Cape Blanco. By this time his vessels had become strained, so that well-found merchant ships had less difficulty in escaping them. The Portuguese, too, had made peace with England. His refuges were being shut to him, and he could not sell his prizes. After failing to capture an English vessel, "very snug, with taut masts," which they took for a man-of-war (the fighting ship was already known by her greater smartness), Rupert deserted Africa and the Atlantic islands and betook himself to the Antilles. He had come too late to assist in the defence of Barbadoes against the Parliament, but the Dutch war had now begun. Rupert had not the smallest scruple in assisting the [210]enemies of England against the enemies of the king. He was busy near Nevis and other parts of the Windward Islands. In the course of his cruising he gave his name to Prince Rupert's Bay on the western side of the island of Dominica, very close to the scene of one of the most famous of English naval victories. At last, among the Virgin Islands, he was overtaken by the most destructive of the many storms he had experienced. His brother Maurice went down with all hands, and Rupert himself, being now worn out and overmatched, returned home with his only remaining ship. He reached Nantes early in 1653 in safety. His one surviving vessel was burned by accident, so that nothing was left of the force with which he had originally sailed, except a few of the adventurers.

While the small remnant of the king's naval forces was pursuing a course of adventures which hovered between piracy and privateering, the Council of State was making vigorous use of its navy for the purpose of stamping out what resistance to its authority still lingered on in outlying territories. In 1651 it armed, in addition to the Home Guards and the squadrons of Penn and Hall, a further squadron under the command of Sir George Ayscue. His mission was to reduce the royal garrison at Barbadoes, and to receive the submission of the plantations of North America. Barbadoes had passed into our hands by occupation as far back as the reign of Elizabeth. It had never been held by the Spaniards, who probably neglected it because it lay well out in the Atlantic to the eastward of the Antilles. Although of little direct value to them, its position made it desirable to a Power which wished to be able to attack the Spanish Indies. Being to windward, it supplied an excellent starting-point for a squadron intending to assail the Antilles. It has a good harbour and fertile soil. The early history of our settlement in Barbadoes is peaceful and obscure. The settlers appear to have included an exceptional number of capitalists, and few among them belonged to that class of emigrants who left England for religious reasons during the reign of [211]Charles I. By the middle of the century it is said to have contained fifty thousand inhabitants, over and above the black slaves and the remnant of the native Indian population. In the desperate state to which the king's fortunes were reduced, his desire to retain so valuable a fragment of his dominions was very natural. He could do little to defend it in the way of supplying men or money. It was, however, in his power to appoint a resolute governor; and this he did. The Lord Willoughby of Parham, who had been named Vice-Admiral by Charles at Helvoetsluys in 1648, had been displaced by the mutiny of his men when the squadron returned from its unsuccessful cruise into the Thames, was sent as governor to Barbadoes, and was well received by the planters. So long as they were not called upon to fight or suffer for the royal cause, these persons were perfectly prepared to recognise the king's authority. They had a militia apparently well armed, and forts in the principal settlement at Carlisle Bay, but the reality of strength was not in proportion to the show.

In spite of the ease with which Willoughby established his authority, the Barbadians were not undivided. There was a Parliamentary party among them. Some of the leaders of this section of the inhabitants thought it more prudent to desert the island on the arrival of Lord Willoughby. They had taken refuge in England, and had promised the Parliament support if it could send out a force for the conquest of the island. Several of them accompanied Ayscue. Sir George did not proceed at once to the West Indies, but began his campaign by a cruise on the coasts of Spain and Portugal. It was hoped that before crossing the Atlantic he might do something towards the final suppression of Prince Rupert. But Rupert had by this time given up even the appearance of struggling with the Parliament's navy, and had gone farther to the south. After searching in vain for an enemy who eluded him, Ayscue went on to discharge the second part of his mission. It is possible that he did not wish to reach the West Indies during the hurricane months of July, August, and September. In October that danger [212]is considered to be over. On the 16th of October he appeared off Carlisle Bay, on the western side of Barbadoes. There were several Dutch and some English ships at anchor, and these Ayscue seized, on the ground that they were trading with the enemies of the Parliament. Then he summoned Lord Willoughby to surrender. The Royalist governor made a stout answer, and the planters appeared for a time to be ready to support him. But in truth, as the result showed, they were not prepared to risk much for the cause. Ayscue established a blockade of the island, and put an entire stop to its trade. This threatened the planters with ruin, and a large party among them were soon converted to a conviction of the necessity of bringing Lord Willoughby to reason. A very active leader of this section of the inhabitants was a certain Thomas Modyford, colonel of one of the regiments of colonial militia, a man who had a very strange and varied career to run in the West Indies before he died. He had fought for the king in England, and was a new-comer in Barbadoes, where he had landed only in 1647, but he had brought with him the means of buying a plantation, and now he was not inclined to risk his possessions in the apparently desperate cause of his master's son. He therefore made his peace with Ayscue, and gave the Parliamentary leader assurances of support. Ayscue had but few soldiers with him, and would probably not have risked the landing unless he had been sure of help. In December, two months after his arrival, he received what he had the art to represent as a reinforcement. The West Indian Islands were commonly supplied with food for themselves and their slaves from Virginia. The ships bringing these stores arrived in the month of December. Trading fleets at that time, when the New World swarmed with pirates, preferred to sail together, for the sake of mutual protection. When they reached him, Ayscue made believe that he had received a reinforcement of men, and at once landed at Carlisle Bay. The resistance was so trifling that it is hard to believe the defenders to have been in earnest. Ayscue obtained possession of [213]the forts without the least difficulty. The occupation of the rest of the island would have been beyond his power if the planters had been unanimous in the support of Lord Willoughby. Colonel Modyford had done his work too well, and there were no doubt many other planters as little disposed as himself to lose all for loyalty's sake. They must have known very well that even if they beat off Ayscue, they would only bring a more formidable armament on themselves a little later, while their trade would be ruined in the interval. They soon made Lord Willoughby understand that he must not expect too much from their devotion, and the king's governor surrendered on terms which Ayscue had the generosity, or the good sense, to make liberal. From Barbadoes the fleet sailed to Virginia. There had been some fear that Prince Rupert might reach the Old Dominion, and give trouble; but the prince, as we have seen, was otherwise employed. Virginia, though partly Royalist in sympathies, had already submitted. The plantations farther to the north were thoroughly Puritan; and when Ayscue returned to England, he was able to report that the authority of the Parliament was peacefully acknowledged throughout the whole extent of the American colonies.

Whilst Sir George Ayscue was bringing the colonial settlements to obedience of the Parliament, the work of utterly extirpating the king's authority had been completed at home. Blake had returned from the Mediterranean in February, leaving Penn to take his place. He was well received by the Council of State, and rewarded not only by thanks, but by a grant of money. The Government had immediate need of his services again. Though completely beaten in England, the Royalists were still struggling in Scotland, and they held possession both of the Scilly and the Channel Isles. From these posts they carried on harassing privateering war against commerce. It was not only the damage they did to trade which made these garrisons highly inconvenient to the Government. They had not been very careful to distinguish between English and foreign property in their captures, and had [214]at least done enough to justify the Dutch in threatening to take the law into their own hands. The fear that Tromp, who commanded the naval forces of the States in the Channel, would seize at least upon Scilly was avowed, and was possibly not wholly unfounded. The most effectual way to put a stop to any enterprise of the kind was manifestly to eject the Royalist garrisons from these posts. In April Blake convoyed a military force sent to take possession of the Scilly Isles. The service was rapidly and effectively performed, with the help of Ayscue, who was starting on his voyage to America, and of Colonel Clarke, a military officer despatched by Desborow. Sir John Grenville, the Royalist governor, held out until the 24th of May, and then brought a resistance, doomed to be unavailing, to an end by surrender. The operations against the Channel Isles were suspended for a short time by the march of the Scots army under Charles II. into England. But after the "crowning mercy" of Worcester in September they were resumed. On this occasion Blake had the sole naval command, and his military colleague was Colonel Hayne. Sir George Carteret was helped to prolong his defence by the bad weather, which made it impossible to land the troops for days. But the end was inevitable. With an overwhelming naval force at their command, and the now completely victorious New Model Army to draw on for reinforcements, it was at best a mere question of time when the Parliament would obtain possession of the islands. So soon as he had done enough for honour, Sir George Carteret saved his estate from confiscation by surrendering his forts. In these operations the share of the navy had in a sense been subordinate. It had comparatively little to do with the fighting, and its work had been almost wholly confined to carrying the troops over and landing them. But in another sense these last Royalist garrisons were in reality taken by the navy. If it had not acquired such a commanding superiority of strength at sea as destroyed every Royalist hope of help, Grenville and Carteret might have held out for long. In this, as in the earlier stages of the [215]war with the king, it was the possession of the navy by his enemies which proved ruinous to him.

The revolutionary party had now done its work effectually in the domestic field of battle. Its enemies, as far as the navy was concerned, were in future to be foreigners. There was no doubt, even before the end of 1651, who the main enemy would be. At that time there was but one possible opponent at sea for England, the United States of the Netherlands. War had been preparing between them for some time, and very little was wanted to bring it on. The passing of the Navigation Act in 1651 was of itself an almost sufficient cause for hostilities. The policy which this law was designed to enforce was not in itself new. As far back as the reign of Henry VII., laws had been passed to support English shipping against foreign competition, but they had either been ill enforced, or ill calculated to secure their purpose. The Navigation Act of 1651 was directed against the carrying trade of Holland, with avowedly hostile intentions. It was drafted for the express purpose of ruining the Dutch shipping as far as we were concerned, by forbidding the importation of goods into England, except in ships belonging to the nation which produced them, or in English vessels. This of itself might not have led to open conflict between the two countries, but there were other causes of hostility. The rivalry of the English and Dutch at sea had not always been peaceful. In the early days of the century the East India Companies of the two countries had combined to assert their right of trading with the East in defiance of the Portuguese. When their feeble opponent had been overcome, a task very easily effected, they had fallen out with one another. The chief scene of their conflict had been in the islands of the Indian Ocean, and the victory had remained with the Dutch, who made these the seat of their Eastern Empire. The most notorious incident of the expulsion of the English from the region which the Dutch desired to reserve to themselves, was the massacre of Amboyna, an island near the Moluccas, in 1623. By the terms of a treaty made in 1619 between England [216]and the United Provinces, it had been agreed that the two nations were to live in peace in these regions, and that their respective factories were to share the trade. According to the English account, which is certainly supported by probability, the Dutch vamped up an accusation of treason against the English factors (i.e. commercial agents) at Amboyna. Under the pretence that they had entered into a plot with the Japanese to massacre their Dutch allies, they were suddenly attacked, thrown into prison, and tortured with abominable cruelty. Then, taking advantage of this supposed discovery of a plot, the Dutch made it a pretext to expel the English factories from the whole of the Spice Islands. During thirty years the memory of the massacre of Amboyna had remained fresh with the English. The Governments of James I. and Charles I. had made several attempts to obtain satisfaction by diplomatic means, but the States had either been unwilling or unable to compel the powerful East India Company to replace the English factories.

There were other causes of dispute between the Governments, such as the not unnatural favour shown by the Prince of Orange to the cause of his father-in-law, King Charles. The prince had indeed recently died in the midst of a constitutional conflict with the Republican party. His opponents were now masters in Holland, but even this served rather to promote discord. The Commonwealth took up with a fantastic scheme for a union between the two republics, and when it was coldly received, as might have been expected, was, not very wisely, angry. The murder of an English envoy at the Hague by Royalist refugees served to exasperate existing ill-feeling. Perhaps not the weakest motive with the Council of State was its knowledge that war with Holland would be popular. Revolutionary Governments have at all times the strongest possible motive for directing the energies of a nation into foreign war. Under the influence of these different motives, England undoubtedly forced a war upon the Dutch Republic. Trade rivalry, the memory of old wrongs, the hope of displacing the Dutch from their commercial supremacy, [217]and the natural instinct of all Governments to do what will tend to their own preservation, combined to make conflict inevitable.

The importance of the first Dutch war as an epoch in the history of the English Navy can hardly be exaggerated. Though short, for it lasted barely twenty-two months, it was singularly fierce and full of battles. Yet its interest is not derived mainly from the mere amount of the fighting, but from the character of it. This was the first of our naval wars conducted by steady, continuous, coherent campaigns. Hitherto our operations on the sea had been of the nature of adventures by single ships and small squadrons, with here and there a great expedition sent out to capture some particular port or island. When we now look back on the long and glorious story of England on the sea during the last three centuries, the grandeur of the later period is liable to mislead us in our estimate of the earlier. In 1652 England was far from enjoying that reputation for superiority in naval warfare she earned in later generations. In fact, the majority of operations undertaken by her fleets had been failures. The defeat of the Armada had always, and not unjustly (whatever our national vanity may say to the contrary), been accounted for by causes other than the strength of Elizabeth's navy. Since then, the Cadiz expedition of 1596, in which we had the co-operation of a Dutch squadron, had been our only signal triumph. The voyage to Portugal in 1589, the last voyage of Drake and Hawkins to the West Indies in 1594, the expedition against Algiers in 1620, the expedition to Cadiz in 1625, the attack on the Ile de Rhé in 1627, had all been either barren or disastrous. The valour and the seamanship of the English was not disputed, but there was nothing to lead the Dutch to believe that they would prove a specially formidable enemy on the sea. If the States hung back from war, it was not so much because they had reason to doubt the capacity of their fleets to contend on equal terms with ours, but because they were a commercial power having much to lose and little to gain by hostilities, because their long war with Spain had burdened them with a heavy national debt, and because the [218]obligation to defend a vulnerable land frontier made it impossible for them to dispense with the burden of a large standing army. This war caused a great change in the estimate of our power at sea. It proved that we could show ourselves superior to what was beyond all question the greatest naval power on the Continent, and thereby raised the position of England in the world.

The novelty of the war no less than its importance makes it convenient to take a survey not only of the material condition of our fleet, but of its moral and intellectual capacity for warfare at sea, before beginning an account of the operations. There is nothing to be added to what has been said at the beginning of this chapter as to the organisation of the navy of the Commonwealth. Experience led to some changes during the progress of the war, but at the beginning the fleet was governed and organised as it had been during the Civil War. It has already been pointed out that between 1648 and 1651 the number of ships fit for service had been substantially doubled, and the quality of the recent additions to the list was excellent. With the help of hired or pressed merchant ships, the Council of State was able to meet the Dutch with equal forces. The size of the squadrons maintained during the Civil Wars, with the nature of their recent service in the Mediterranean and America, had given the fleet practice, and the State the command of a body of proved officers.

There is more doubt as to how far the navy was prepared for a great war by the possession of a definite system or order of battle. According to the prevailing opinion, an English fleet was a collection of ships which fought pell-mell, each as it best could, and as the spirit of its captain caused it to be handled. This is a view which I find myself unable to accept. It has, in my opinion, both probability and direct evidence against it. In the first place, it is difficult to conceive that any force consisting of ships ranging in number from forty to nearly a hundred can possibly have been moved about, directed against an enemy, and led to victory, unless it had had some understood formation which the commander could use, and the individual [219]captains were familiar with. A fighting force which goes in no kind of order is a thing one finds it hard to imagine—provided, of course, that it is also supposed to be efficient. The most barbarous tribes of warriors have some method of marshalling a host. The most rudimentary common-sense will teach the most backward of mankind that they cannot fight at all unless they move together on the enemy, help one another, and put each individual of their body in such a position that he can use his weapons. The same experience must have taught the seamen of the middle of the seventeenth century the same lesson. Unless they had been incredibly stupid, they could not possibly think of rushing into battle with an enemy so formidable as the Dutch, without some more or less definite idea how they were to bring their whole power to bear upon him. It is true that they did not write essays on tactics, but this only proves that the time was not given to writing about the operations of war at sea, while the want of minutely precise fighting orders may, in the light of the later history of our navy, be considered as rather a proof of sagacity than of the want of knowledge.

We are not, however, left to draw our deductions as to the existence of a recognised formation of battle in the English Navy from probability only. There is direct evidence that the natural order of a fleet which fights with its broadside, the famous line of battle, was familiar to the generation of Blake. Fourteen years after this war, Penn, in speaking to Pepys, declared that the Dutch always fight in a line, "and we, whenever we beat them." As this was said at the beginning of the second Dutch war, it is impossible to believe that Penn was not thinking of the previous struggle. Then we had been repeatedly successful against the Dutch, and it seems to follow that it had been for the reason given by the veteran admiral, among others. His words in conversation to Pepys are not Penn's only contribution to the evidence of the existence of a line of battle. In a letter describing his share in the battle off the Kentish Knock, he says: "We ran a fair berth against the head of our general to give room for my squadron to be [220]between him and us." It is to be presumed that when the ships forming that squadron filled the place left vacant for them, they were understood to do so in such a way as to be able to use their broadsides. This implies that none of them were to be so placed as to get between a comrade and the Dutch; in other words, they were to be in "line ahead," i.e. one behind the other, the only position in which a number of vessels carrying their guns on their sides could all fire without running the risk of hurting one another. We hear, too, of fleets tacking together, which presupposes that they were so placed as to allow them freedom of movement, and that there was some system by which a general order could be conveyed. But there are two pieces of still stronger evidence which I cannot but think must be held to settle the question. The first is to be found in a letter from Captain Joseph Cubitt of the Tulip, and gives an account of the last battle of the war.

"The 31st, the weather being fair, and both standing to sea, we tacked upon them, and went through their whole fleet, leaving part on one side, and part on the other of us; and in passing through, we lamed several and sunk more. As soon as we had passed, we tacked upon them again, and they on us, and as we passed each other very near, we did very good execution on them, and some of their ships that had lost all their masts struck their colours, and put out a white handkerchief on a staff, and hauled in all their guns. My men were very desirous to go to them, there being two of them very close, but the fight being but then begun, I would not suffer it; they were fired by others after the fight was over.

"As soon as we had passed each other, both tacked, the Hollander having still the wind, and we keeping close by, we passed very near and did very great execution upon each other. In this bout we cut off some of his fleet, which could not weather us, and therefore forsook him, and some of them were sunk, and we had the Oak fired by one of their Branders. We again tacked upon them and they upon us, and in this bout we fought most desperately, almost at push of pike. A Flushinger was sunk close by the Victory. He intending to board the Victory, had entered three or four of his men with their pole-axes, but the Victory's carpenter's axe cut them down on the side of the ship."

The movements described by Captain Cubitt are not conceivable unless we suppose that the English fleet was in line ahead. When he says, "We went through their whole fleet, leaving part on one side and part on the other of us," and again when he says, "We cut off some of his fleet [221]which could not weather us," he describes the movement which was deliberately executed by Rodney on the 12th April 1783, and was unwittingly performed by all the ships of his fleet, counting from Commodore Affleck's to the rear at another breach in the French line. It could not have been executed except by ships in a line ahead, and we have therefore sufficient reason to believe that this formation was adopted by our fleets in the first Dutch war. The second piece of evidence is to be found in the "Instructions for the Better Ordering of the Fleet in Fighting," issued by Blake, Monk, Disbrowe, and Penn, in March 1655. Here it is distinctly ordered that, when the fleet prepares to engage, the vice and rear admirals are to place themselves respectively to right and left of the commander-in-chief, "giving a competent distance for the admiral's squadron"; that, when in action, every ship is to keep in a line with the chief of its own squadron, or, if he falls out crippled, then with the commander-in-chief; that, if one vessel falls out injured, the others are to "keep in a line" between her and the enemy; while signals are provided by which an admiral can order his van or rear, which are leeward or windward of him, to come into his "wake or graine," that is, into a line behind or ahead of him. It may be allowed that the order of line ahead was not very accurately preserved. It is as near impossible as may be to keep sixty to ninety ships of very different sizes and sailing powers manœuvring for any length of time without allowing them to fall into disorder. But the weakness of the execution does not prove the want of a system. We may therefore consider it as established that, however ill the plan may have been executed, our ancestors in the first Dutch war did endeavour to fight in that formation which experience has shown to be the most effective for a fleet of ships depending on their broadsides for their power of injuring the enemy. That the Admiralty of the time did no more than prescribe a method of engaging in general terms, and then order their captains to do their best, is to their honour. This is what Nelson did at Trafalgar, at a time when nobody supposes that the line was [222]unknown to our seamen. What the reticence of the Admiralty of the Commonwealth proves is, that the formation had not been degraded to the superstition which it became in the last quarter of the century.

The reason which made the line ahead the most effective formation for warships is implied in what has already been said. Their power lay in their broadsides, which could only be used when the vessels were in that order. The ancient galleys relied on their beak, and the later galleys carried a single great gun in the bows, and would therefore naturally be placed with their prow towards the enemy, since it was this that they relied on as their means of offence. When several of them were acting together, they would be placed side by side, as a matter of course, as this arrangement put them all where they would have an opportunity of striking the enemy, and of helping one another. This formation is called the line abreast, and for ships armed on the broadside is manifestly useless. It might be, and was, used when they were moving together to attack the enemy, but, from the moment that they came within striking distance, their natural course was to turn their side to him. In doing so, they would take care to turn in the same direction, since, if they did not, the fleet would be immediately split up into a number of discordant parts going in different directions, and in imminent danger of running into one another. But this movement of turning in one direction from the line abreast would inevitably bring them into a more or less accurately formed line ahead. There remains the alternative that the fleet attacking in line abreast—a course it could only follow from windward—might endeavour to steer through the enemy and engage him on the lee side. This was actually attempted by Lord Howe on the 1st of June 1794, and it has the obvious advantage of putting the attacking force on the enemy's line of retreat, which, in the case of sailing ships, is unavoidably to leeward. But this method of attack could only be employed against an enemy who remained passive, which it does not appear that the Dutch ever did in this war.


With two fleets both moving, it could hardly happen that they could engage except when sailing on the wind, that is, with the wind on one side and not behind them. In that position an admiral had a much greater control over the movements of his squadron. Thus the formation which gradually came to be accepted as normal was the close-hauled line of battle. In order that each vessel, while retaining the power of striking at the enemy, was also to have the necessary freedom of movement, a space had to be left between them in which they could turn when occasion arose, and which would give to each the time to avoid the ship immediately ahead of her, if it, by any chance, became disabled. As it was desirable to employ the greatest number of men in fighting, and as few as might be aloft, while it was obviously convenient to diminish to the utmost the surface presented to an enemy's fire, it was a practice imposed by the conditions of sea battles to go into action with a diminished spread of sail. It was further necessary that every vessel should have the power of increasing her rate of speed. If one vessel was crippled, the next behind her had to push up and take her place, which could only be done where there were some immediate means of increasing the rate of speed. This margin was secured by employing a detachment of men to spill the wind out of one of the sails, so that it did not produce its whole effect in dragging the ship on. Spilling the wind meant the keeping one corner of the sail loose, so that it flapped and did not hold the wind. When the speed of the ship had to be increased, the sail was sheeted home, or, in the old phrase, they "let everything draw." It follows, from what has been said, that a fleet was always compelled to regulate its speed by that of the slowest vessel in the line. The great majority of battles fought by ships under sail were conducted very slowly. It was seldom that the line moved at more than two and a half or three miles an hour.

In saying that the seamen of the middle seventeenth century knew the advantage of forming a line and attacking in that order, I do not mean to assert that they had carried the art of handling a fleet in battle to the perfection it [224]attained in later times, but only that they were not in the habit of endeavouring to fight in a mere swarm. Their ignorance of the refinements of the conduct of a fleet was perhaps in their favour. It is the defect of every formation for war, whether by land or sea, that it is capable of becoming, in the belief of dull and pedantic men, an end in itself. This did happen with the close-hauled line of battle, within about forty years of the first Dutch war. Every order is valuable only in so far as it enables a fighting force to bring its whole strength to bear. When it has done that, it has served its purpose. But it may happen that a generation of unintelligent leaders will get into the habit of endeavouring to avoid whatever disturbs the mere arrangement of their forces, and will aim at preserving that, even when, by so doing, they have to let slip the opportunity of damaging the enemy. In the first Dutch war this pedantry had not yet begun to be visible among the admirals on either side.

That the modern navy was beginning in this war is further to be seen in the fact that we now first meet with a general body of orders established for the maintenance of discipline by the authority of the State. Hitherto each admiral had drawn up his own code, and from among them there had been formed what may, without a fantastic abuse of words, be called a body of common law known as the Customs of the Sea. The brief pamphlet containing the regulations of the Council of State is the germ of the weighty volume, hardly smaller than a family Bible, which contains the Queen's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. There will be occasion to return to it when we reach the great organising period of Charles II.'s reign. It is enough to note at present that, while maintaining the old authority of the admirals and captains, it gave the seamen a security against the arbitrary will of their superiors by providing that they were not to be punished until after regular trial. One change in the internal economy of the ship was promoted by this war. Hitherto it had been the custom to carry lieutenants in ships of the third rate and upwards, and in them only one. Under the strain of a great and [225]serious war, it was found that this did not afford a sufficient supply of the higher rank of officers, and the number of lieutenants was increased. Admiral Penn, in a letter to Cromwell dated early in the war, argued they should be employed in all vessels.

"And if the charge of it be objected, it may be answered that, by taking off one man from each ship that shall have these lieutenants (which man's victuals and wages is 1s. 4d. per diem), the lieutenant receiving as common pay, which is 8d. per diem, makes him 2s.; and truly, 'tis a sad lieutenant that's not worth two common men in time of action."

The enemy with whom we were about to engage was strong enough to call for the exercise of the whole power of England. He was not, however, of such resources but that it was within our means to overcome him by sufficient exertions. In number of seamen and ships the United Provinces excelled us largely, but not in the number of men available for war, or of ships equal to the strain of battle. England was still mainly an agricultural and pastoral country. She could, if needful, take nearly all her seamen for her fleet, and suspend her trade for a time. The Dutch Republics could not do so without ruin. Three hundred and sixty thousand people depended on the herring fishery for their subsistence. Amsterdam, according to the old proverb, was built upon herrings. Unless this trade could be pursued, ruin stared the State of Holland in the face. The over-sea commerce and the carrying trade were no less vital. The Dutch were the carriers by sea, and the importers of tropical produce, for all Europe. If the fishery and the over-sea trade were even seriously interrupted, the loss to Holland was colossal; therefore even an inability to drive the English fleets off the sea, though it might stop short of complete defeat for themselves, would entail such loss on the States that they would be forced to make peace.

In view of the strenuous exertions of both Charles I. and the Long Parliament to strengthen the English Navy, the Dutch Government ought certainly to have taken proportionate measures to increase their own. But the [226]Dutch naval strength had been rather neglected. This error can be accounted for by more causes than one. The Republics had hitherto had to contend with Spain alone at sea, and she had long ceased to be a formidable enemy. In the meantime they had been called upon to maintain a constant land warfare, first against Spain alone, and then in the later stages of the European conflict called the Thirty Years' War. They had to keep on foot an army of 57,000 men, which was raised by voluntary enlistment and largely recruited abroad. It was therefore very costly, and to it the navy had been sacrificed. The princes of the House of Orange, though great soldiers and great statesmen, had not been uninfluenced by professional feeling. They had consequently devoted their attention mainly to the army by which they had won their own glory. Between economy and the want of statesmanlike military direction, the naval force had been treated in a somewhat peddling fashion. Its ships were slighter and smaller than the fine vessels constructed by the Petts. As they were also made flat-bottomed, in order to navigate the shallows of the Dutch coast, they were less weatherly than the English, and therefore liable to be out-manœuvred and out-sailed in the open sea.

The nature of the government of the United Netherlands was a cause of weakness to their fleet and of strength to us. Although we habitually speak of the Dutch Republic, there were, in fact, seven sovereign republics, each independent within its own borders, joined together by necessity, and common interests, in a very loose confederation. The authority of the Stadtholders of the House of Nassau, Princes of Orange, had given unity of direction to the armed forces of the Confederacy. They were Captains and Admirals General, and so Commanders-in-Chief by sea and land. They appointed to the higher posts, and could secure the steady combined co-operation of all the forces. But in 1652 there was no Stadtholder. William II., the successor of Frederick Henry, and son-in-law of Charles I., had died suddenly in the midst of a conflict with the State of Holland, and the reigning Prince of Orange was his [227]posthumous son, our own King William, after the Revolution of 1688. William II. had been aiming at welding the whole seven provinces into one strongly organised State, under the hereditary rule of his own house. He had made an unsuccessful attempt to seize Amsterdam and coerce the State of Holland. In the course of this adventure he had imprisoned a number of the magistrates in his castle of Loevenstein—from which the Republican party took their name. It is possible he might have succeeded if he had lived; and in that case we know, and the Long Parliament knew, that he had entered into an alliance with the King of France, for the double purpose of dividing the Spanish Netherlands between them, and upsetting the Republic in England. But he died before doing more than arouse the Republican Party in his own country, and convince those who now ruled England that their own safety was bound up with the destruction of the House of Orange Nassau.

In the absence of an Admiral-General, the control of the naval forces of the Low Countries was divided between five Boards of Admiralty,—that of the Maas, which sat at Rotterdam, that of Amsterdam, that of North Holland, and the Boards of Zeeland and Friesland. The States General, the only approach to a common government of the Confederacy, was a body in which each republic had one vote, though represented by a number of deputies. It was of more dignity than real strength, and exercised only the powers delegated to it by the different members of the Union. At a later period, the State of Holland, the most wealthy of the seven republics, was enabled to gain a supremacy which to some extent replaced the authority of the Stadtholder. It owed its success mainly to the statesmanship of the Grand Pensionary, John de Witt. But in the first Dutch war, De Witt was at the very beginning of his career, and the republics suffered from all the weaknesses of an ill-knit and jarring Confederacy. Even if all the inhabitants of the seven provinces had been united in sentiment, the defects in the construction of their government would have put them at a disadvantage in a conflict [228]with England. But it is notorious that this was far from being the case. The victory of the Republicans had been the victory of the moneyed classes in the towns, of a very able, very patriotic, but also very narrow and jealous oligarchy. The majority of the nobles and the mass of the poorer classes were devoted in sentiment to the House of Orange Nassau, and would, if they had had their way, have seen the Stadtholdership conferred at once on the young prince, with a regent drawn from his own family to administer for him until he came of age. Many of the army and navy officers had the same wish, so that the States General were in constant fear of domestic sedition, while the party feelings of the officers of the fleet are believed to have interfered with the discharge of their duty.

The condition of England was very different. Those who ruled might be a revolutionary party, governing by force, but they claimed to have inherited all the rights of the Crown, and it is beyond doubt they had effective possession of them. Thus, while on the side of Holland there was continual need for the co-operation of independent if not always mutually hostile bodies, there was on the side of England one central authority acting according to its own motives, and rendering an account of its deeds to nobody. This Government, too, was composed of men steeled against all risks by years of conflict in which their heads had been at stake, and trained by long practice to the rapid transaction of public affairs. The predominance of the commercial element in Holland prevented the development of a high military spirit among its seamen. The Dutch were skilful mariners, and valiant in a stolid, enduring way, but their officers in many cases showed a very unofficerlike reluctance to face risks. In our fleet something of the same kind was found among the merchant captains left in command of the hired or pressed ships, and no doubt the war, which tried men as by fire, revealed the weakness of individuals. Yet the evil with us was less, and the power to remedy it was far greater.

Not the least cause of the superior strength of England is to be found in her geographical position. Her coasts [229]stretched opposite those of Holland, while she herself was open to the west. Thus the Dutch trade, the very life-blood of the country, was compelled to flow either along the Channel, where it was subject to attack at every moment, or by the longer and stormier route round the north of Scotland, where also it was not safe, since the route ended in the North Sea opposite the naval station of Harwich.

On a general comparison, then, of the relative strength of the two countries, it will be seen that the advantage was on the side of England. There were numbers against her, and a somewhat greater experience. But she had unity of authority, better instruments of war, a more martial spirit, a stronger geographical position, and she was much less vulnerable. If, then, ability and energy were not wanted in the direction of her fleet, the probability was that she would win.



Authorities.—The Life of Penn is of the utmost value for this period, and is rivalled in worth by Brandt's Life of Michael de Ruyter. Admiral Colomb's Naval Warfare contains a very important critical examination of the war from the scientific point of view. Parliament began the practice, afterwards imitated by the Government of Charles II., of publishing official narratives of events. The best of these are given in the Life of Penn. The Calendars of State Papers for the years give the most important letters from the fleet in full, and the others in précis.

When in the beginning of 1652 war was seen to be inevitable, England had in hand a considerable force of ships already commissioned, manned by crews which had been long together. Ayscue had just returned from America, and Penn from the Mediterranean, where his place had been taken by Captain Badiley. The summer guard was being prepared in great strength under the sole command of Blake. Popham died about this time, and Deane was with the troops in Scotland. In March the Council of State was busy commissioning ships as fast as it could. It forbade the pressing of men from outward-bound merchant vessels, on the ground that this was a serious hindrance to trade, but it used every other available means to increase its naval force. The higher commands were filled by giving the place of Vice-Admiral to William Penn, and of Rear-Admiral to Nicholas Bourne, a soldier who was mainly employed during the course of the war as commissioner of the dockyard at Harwich. The States General made strenuous efforts to preserve peace, but the Council of State insisted on such terms as could not be accepted without the surrender of the national existence of [231]the republics. The Grand Pensionary, Pauw de Heemstede, was sent over to reinforce the ambassadors, but, while they were negotiating, exertions were made to collect a competent naval force at sea. The need for one was great. The Dutch convoys were coming up the Channel, and, in the humour England was in, there was no small probability that they would be seized before they reached home. To afford them protection, Tromp was sent into the Straits of Dover with a fleet of some forty sail. He appeared there about the middle of May, and found Bourne at Dover with eight ships. Blake was at Rye with fifteen or sixteen. A conflict had already taken place in the Channel, arising out of the historic quarrel as to the right to the salute. On the 12th of May, Captain Young, on his way westward to take command of the west guard, met a dozen sail coming from the southward near the Start. He took them at first for the fleet of Sir George Ayscue. They turned out to be a convoy of Dutch ships from Genoa and Leghorn, accompanied by three men-of-war. Young at once insisted upon the salute. It was yielded by one of the Dutchmen, but resisted by the second, a 42-gun ship; and a hot conflict followed, all six vessels taking active part. Young reported that he finally compelled the recalcitrant Dutchman to strike, but that, when he also wanted to carry him prisoner to England, the Hollanders declared that they preferred fighting again. Upon this Young sheered off, by the advice of his fellow-captains, Reynolds and Chapman. The action would appear to have been somewhat indecisive, but Captain Young was well pleased with his share. "For my own part," he wrote, "I bless God for it, I am very well. I do believe I gave him his belly full of it; for he sent me word he had orders from the States that if he struck he should lose his head; but at length he did strike, which makes me conceive he had enough of it." The States were indeed well disposed to resist the claim to the salute, and, at the pitch things had got to, may well have thought that there was little use in rendering a mark of deference which seemed to do them no good.

While the convoy attacked by Captain Young was making [232]its way up Channel, Tromp came into Dover Road, and there exchanged civilities with Admiral Bourne. The English were in a suspicious frame of mind, and disposed to see offence in all Tromp's acts. They may perhaps have remembered his high-handed attack on Oquendo at that very place fourteen years earlier. In any case, they knew that he was a loyal member of the Orange Party, that he had been knighted by Charles I., and that he was no friend to the English nation. Bourne sent word to Blake at Rye, and the English admiral at once got under way and came round to Dover. On the morning of the 19th he came in sight of Tromp at anchor in and near Dover Road. When Blake was within three leagues of him, Tromp weighed, and stood to the eastward with a north-easterly wind. The English did not come to an anchor, but continued lying to, watching Tromp, who held his course for some two hours. Then a small vessel was seen to speak to the Dutch admiral. Tromp immediately altered his course and bore down on Blake, he himself leading in his flagship, the Brederode. Blake also was at the head of his own ships. In this position he watched the Dutch admiral, whose action certainly indicated no unwillingness to provoke a collision. The right to the salute served to bring matters to an issue. When Tromp was within musket-shot, Blake gave orders to fire at his flag. At the third shot the Dutchman answered by a broadside, which may be considered as the effectual opening of perhaps the fiercest, though one of the shortest, of naval wars.

The place of this collision was somewhere between the South Sand Head, the most southerly point of the Goodwin Sands, and Cape Gris Nez on the coast of France. The time was the afternoon, and the action lasted until dark. Blake was lying to, with the heads of his ships probably pointing to the English shore. He in his flagship, the James, was at the head of his line. Tromp in the Brederode bore down with his squadron in line behind him. In this war it is not uncommon to find admirals leading their line, as Nelson and Collingwood did at Trafalgar, instead of placing themselves in the midst, as was the custom throughout the more [233]pedantic time of the eighteenth century. This is one of the resemblances between the earlier and the later periods in the history of the English Navy, which bind them together in distinction to the more dull and more formal age between. If Tromp had had to deal with Blake only, there could have been but one end to the conflict. The Dutch admiral directed his attack on the English flagship. As Blake was at the windward end of his line, this would have enabled the Dutchman to concentrate an overwhelming force on the James and the ships immediately about her, before the more leewardly of the English ships could come to their assistance. But there was a third combatant to be considered. Bourne had got under way from the Downs when he saw the threatening manœuvres of Tromp, and his position enabled him to attack the rear and northerly end of the Dutch line. Thus the combatants were curiously mingled. While Tromp with a superior force was attacking Blake, who was to leeward, he was himself attacked from windward by Bourne. We know little of the details of the battle, or of the conduct of individual ships. The James, attacked by the Brederode and other Dutch warships, was very severely handled. "All our rigging and sails," as Blake reported in his despatch, "were extremely shattered, our mizenmast shot off." The loss in men was severe: six killed, "and nine or ten desperately wounded, and twenty-five more not without danger; amongst them our master and one of his mates and other officers," is the number reported by Blake. A century later, a line-of-battle ship attacked at such disadvantage by enemies of equal quality would have been cut to pieces in half an hour. The wild gunnery of the time accounts for Blake's escape from utter destruction. The struggling mass of ships wrestled in the Straits until dark, cannonading one another to the best of their ability. When night came, they separated. Blake, with the advice of the captains, came to an anchor three or four leagues off Dungeness. Tromp stood over to the coast of France. One Dutch vessel remained in the hands of the English, so shattered that her captor, Lawson, did not think her worth keeping, but took her crew out, and forsook her.


The news of this encounter provoked an outbreak of popular feeling in London. The Council of State thought it necessary to send a body of troops to defend the house of the Dutch ambassador at Chelsea. Negotiations did not wholly cease, but they had become an idle form. The English Government insisted upon an apology, compensation, and the punishment of Tromp. This demand was naturally refused by the States General, and at last the mere appearance of negotiation was given up. Both sides prepared to exert their whole strength in an armed struggle. The English Government took vigorous measures to deal with the inevitable, orders were sent to the vice-admirals of the coast counties (the justices of the peace for maritime affairs), ordering them to hasten on the press of sailors. It was voted that forty sail of ships should be commissioned in addition to those already in the service of the Commonwealth. Letters were sent to Deane, who commanded the troops in Scotland, ordering him to make haste with the reduction of Dunottar Castle, where a forlorn Royalist garrison was still holding out, to take measures for the protection of the fisheries, and to make himself acquainted with the military value of the harbours of Orkney and Shetland. At the same time, the Council of State was concerned with the question of discipline. Two of the captains engaged on the 19th of May, Thoroughgood and Gibbs, were charged with not having behaved themselves well, and were called upon to answer for their "miscarriage." Here is the first of various mentions of the measure which had to be taken to establish a proper military spirit among the captains of the Commonwealth's fleet. Merchant captains entrusted with the command of hired or pressed ships were not as a class trustworthy, for reasons very excellently stated by Penn in a letter to Cromwell, written within a fortnight after the engagement in the Straits.

"My lord, it is humbly conceived, that the State would be far better served, if, as formerly, they placed commanders in all the merchant-ships so taken up; for, the commanders now employed being all part-owners of their ships (and fearing some not so clearly conscientious as they should be), I do believe will not be so industrious in taking an enemy as other men; especially considering, [235]that by engagement they not only waste their powder and shot, but are liable to receive damage in their masts, sails, rigging, and hull, and endanger the loss of all, when they may be quiet, and receive the same pay. If they should be oppressed, and forced, it is supposed they will fight for preservation and safety of their ships; which anyone the State shall think fit to employ would perform, and, I presume, upon better principles."

The men whose conduct Penn discusses were not necessarily cowards, they were only not fighters by profession. Shocking as it may seem in view of the traditional reputation of the two heroes about to be named, I doubt whether every word of this paragraph might not have been made to apply to Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake, neither of whom can be shown to have ever fought "longer than he saw occasion"; that is to say, longer than he had before him a clear prospect of immediate pecuniary results. But though their standard of conduct may have done very well for a time of plundering expeditions and private adventure, it was absolutely unfitted for a great war, which demands that all parts of the forces engaged shall always be ready to obey orders, and to do their best, or be punishable for failure. A more agreeable duty to the Council of State was to give their thanks to the mayor, jurats, and seamen of Dover who had volunteered to reinforce Blake's fleet during the late engagement with Tromp. They were duly thanked and encouraged to persevere by a promise of an advance of part of the £4000 required to build their new pier.

Neither England nor Holland were sufficiently ready for a war on a great scale to be able to dispense with time for preparation. The month of June was passed by both in equipping fleets. Ayscue had reached Plymouth at the end of May. He arrived, bringing with him numbers of Dutch prizes taken on the way, for the making of reprisals had been begun on our side long before the pretence of a treaty of peace had been given up. He was ordered to make ready at once to reinforce Blake, if the condition of his ships after their long cruise made it possible for him to keep the sea. Ayscue came on from Plymouth after a short stay. On his way he had a sharp brush with a Dutch convoy, which beat him off, and he reached the Downs about the middle of June [236]with eleven men-of-war. Blake had been in the meantime largely reinforced. His fleet at this time was estimated at forty-seven ships belonging to the State and twenty-six merchant ships, but it does not follow that he had this number actually with him. Indeed, with the still unsettled organisation of the time, when fleets were suddenly made up by additions from the outside, it was not easy for the State itself to discover how many vessels were ready, and there were apt to be curious discrepancies between the numbers returned by an admiral and by other officers reporting directly to the Government. By the end of June, or the first days of July, a sufficient force had been collected to make it possible to despatch Blake to the northward with "a gallant fleet" of sixty sail, while Ayscue was left in the Downs with fifteen or sixteen. The second-named squadron included the vessels Ayscue had brought back from the West Indies, with a few additions.

On the side of the enemy there had been no slackness. The States General, or, to speak with greater exactness, the five Admiralty Boards, exerted themselves to make up for the neglect of recent years by arming the greatest possible number of vessels. By the beginning of July a fleet of a hundred and two warships and ten fireships was ready to sail from the Texel under the command of Tromp. Behind him another fleet was in preparation, to be put under De Ruyter for separate service. The object of the Dutch was to secure the safe issue of the outward-bound convoys from the Narrow Seas, and to secure the home-coming of the merchant fleets. It was also incumbent upon them to afford protection to the great herring fleet which fished in the North Sea. All these ends would have been effected if Tromp had been ready in time to catch Blake in the Downs, and had then been strong enough to make a victorious attack upon him. With the main English fleet well beaten, the Dutch convoys could have gone out or come in, and their herring busses might have fished undisturbed. But Tromp was not ready in time, and when he came out he found his course by no means very clear before him. As he left the Texel, he was informed by the Grand Pensionary, Pauw de [237]Heemstede, who had just returned from England, that Ayscue was in the Downs with only sixteen ships. Whether Tromp knew that Blake had sailed for the north does not appear. If he did, he may still have thought that as he was by no means certain of meeting with the Parliamentary admiral, and that as he could not calculate on destroying his fleet, it would be better policy to fall upon the enemy whose weakness was known, and who was within striking distance. Very shortly after Blake had sailed, a portion of Tromp's force appeared at the back of the Goodwins. Ayscue was in manifest peril, but for this time it passed off. The Dutch officers did not feel confident enough to attack him where he had the support of the batteries of Dover. They retired for a few days, and then the whole fleet of Tromp made its appearance. That there must have been want of spirit on part of the Dutch was manifest, for in the interval Ayscue was allowed to sally and capture a merchant convoy. When the whole force of Tromp appeared off Dover, the peril in which Ayscue's ships stood was great. The Council of State sent hurriedly to Blake to inform him of the danger, leaving it, however, at his discretion to return or not, as he thought fit. Blake had passed Dunbar before he could be informed of Tromp's movement, and does not appear to have made great haste to return. On his way up and down he executed the duty for which he had been sent to the north. He fell upon the Dutch herring fleets, overpowering the squadron of fifteen frigates which was giving it protection against pirates, and seized the busses. The Dutch fishermen were not treated with what was considered inhumanity in the wars of that time. They were allowed to return to Holland after paying the tax of the tenth herring which England claimed to exact for permitting foreigners to fish within ten leagues, that is, thirty miles, of her coast. But the herring fishery was ruined for the year, and very serious injury inflicted on Holland. It can hardly be disputed that, though he may have been right purely from a military point of view, Tromp committed a mistake in directing his attack against Ayscue. Had he followed Blake, he would in all probability have saved the herring [238]fleet; and even if a few merchant convoys had been sacrificed, this was a loss Holland could have better spared than that which she was actually compelled to undergo.

While Blake was ruining the Dutch herring fishery for that year, Tromp did not even succeed in destroying the squadron of Ayscue. Light and baffling winds made it impossible for him to attack, and, after they had paralysed him for a time, a change of weather occurred which was still more to his disadvantage. He was blown off the coast by storms. The stroke he had hoped to deliver in the Downs having missed of its aim, Tromp sailed to the north, where Holland had also commercial interests to protect. The Baltic trade was of immense interest to her, and at that time some of her Indiamen were expected to be on their way back by the northern route. The Dutch admiral did not meet Blake, either on his way up or while in high latitudes. He collected his convoys, and turned homewards. But his fortune was destined to be bad throughout the campaign. He was overtaken in the North Sea by violent storms, and his convoy was scattered. The Dutch reached home in detachments, and several of their stragglers fell into the hands of English cruisers. The outcry against Tromp was loud. Popular judgment held him responsible for the loss of the herring fishery. The veteran admiral can hardly have been thoroughly satisfied with himself, for, though fortune had been against him, it cannot be denied that it had been helped by his own management. He had sacrificed the greater to the less, the more pressing to the more remote, and therefore ill-luck had smitten him, and through him his country, with the full force of its venom. He resigned his command as Lieutenant-Admiral of Holland, and was succeeded by two seamen of less reputation. One of these was Cornelius Witte de With, whom we, confounding his name with that of the famous Grand Pensionary, commonly called De Witt. He was a rough, stout-hearted, outspoken man, who, after bearing his part with honour during this war, died in battle with the Swedes. The other was Michael Adrianzoon de Ruyter (i.e. the trooper, a nickname taken as a name), a small, blue-eyed, pious, and [239]gentle man, who for the next twenty years was to fight with increasing glory for the protection of Holland.

Immediately, or very shortly after, Tromp had sailed for the north, Sir George Ayscue was despatched down Channel on a double mission. He had in the first place to protect our own trade against the Dutch attacks, and in the second to fall upon the convoys of the enemy. His fleet was reinforced to forty vessels and upwards. While he was on his way to the west, Michael de Ruyter had sailed from Holland on a similar mission. He had with him a great convoy which was to be seen safe beyond the Land's End. And then he was to wait for the home-coming ships, and bring them back. As by that time the bulk of the English force might be concentrated in the English Channel, he was probably assured that reinforcements from the main fleet at home would be sent to see him safely back. On the 16th of August a collision took place off Plymouth between Ayscue and De Ruyter. The Dutch were seen out at sea, and to windward. Ayscue stood out to the attack, and came into action with De Ruyter in the afternoon. The Dutch admiral, who was a man of good judgment, and therefore understood the advantages of attacking, discharged the duties of the commander of a convoy admirably well. Having the advantage of the wind, he bore down at once to attack Ayscue, leaving his convoy to make its way onward unmolested. He may have been the more readily induced to take the bold course by seeing that Ayscue's ships were not well in hand. The English admiral had only part of his vessels immediately with him, the others being some distance astern nearer the shore. With the usual boldness of the Commonwealth's admirals, and in reliance, as we may suppose, on the greater average solidity of the English ships, Ayscue had no hesitation in meeting attack halfway. The movements of the fight are vaguely reported. It is, however, said that Ayscue broke through De Ruyter's line and gained the weather-gage with part of his fleet. If this is so, we may conclude that the two fleets met on opposite tacks, that the Dutch weathered the head of the English line, that Ayscue himself was leading, that he held [240]his wind, and made, or found, an opening, through which he passed to windward. When this was done, he was not strong enough to push the battle with any prospect of advantage, as a large part of his squadron was unable to work up to his support. If this was the case, he was cut off, and in danger of being overpowered, but the strength of the English ships again stood them in good stead, and moreover the night came on. De Ruyter may not have thought it wise to do more than was sufficient to cripple the English admiral, so as to debar him from pursuing the convoy. If this was his purpose, he succeeded. The vessels which had followed Ayscue in his spirited movement were badly cut up in their rigging. When daylight came, the Dutch admiral had regained the weather-gage. Ayscue remained in expectation of another attack, but none was made. De Ruyter contented himself with carrying off his convoy. The conduct of Ayscue had not been on a level with his courage, and the Council of State was apparently persuaded that he was unequal to the command of a great fleet. They removed him shortly afterwards from active service, though they softened the severity of this measure by a grant of handsome pensions.

It was perhaps some suspicion of the insufficiency of their commanding officer in the west which induced the Council of State first to call upon Blake to reinforce him, and then to send their admiral and general into the Channel himself. The most effectual method of reducing Holland would have been to establish Blake on the Dutch coast with a force capable of maintaining a blockade. But the Council of State either did not understand this, or did not think their fleet powerful enough. They preferred to collect a strong force in the Channel, for the purpose of protecting their own commerce and strangling that of the Dutch. In the middle of September Blake was in the Channel, making his way westward with the main fleet. When his van, under the command of Vice-Admiral Penn, was as far westward as Bolt Head, stormy weather from the west and south-west made it seem advisable to Blake to bear up for Torbay with the bulk of his fleet. Penn, however, remained out with a part of the [241]ships. On the afternoon of the 15th he caught sight of two Dutch vessels to windward, which were seen to be making signals. The look-out men at the topmasthead saw behind the two Dutchmen, visible from the deck, a large fleet of ships still farther to windward. Penn, on his own showing, was prepared to engage in spite of the enemy's obvious superiority of numbers. He had the approval of Bourne, the rear-admiral, who advised that all the captains within call should be summoned to a council, in order that they might know that the enemy was at hand. The code of signals was in its infancy, or else Penn could have given his captains that information more rapidly than by the clumsy device of a council in his flagship. Penn was unwilling to act as Bourne wished, "lest any dirty mouth should say I called for counsel whether I should fight or no." After a decent reluctance, the council flag was hung out on the mizen shrouds, and the captains were duly summoned to learn the vice-admiral's intention of giving battle. He had in sight eighteen or twenty sail, with the merchantmen and fireships. By two in the afternoon the captains had ended their council, and were gone back, each man to his own ship. They lay to with their head to the offing, waiting for the Dutchmen to come down, for they could not work up to the enemy, and, if they had stood across the Channel for the purpose of tacking in his direction, they might have seemed to be opening a way for him to pass. The enemy was estimated at thirty-five or forty ships, but he made no attack. He came down to within three or four miles, and then hauled his wind and stood out across Channel. Penn stood after him till he was detained by an accident to Bourne's ship. In the meantime it had become stormy, with rain and mist, and the wind at S.W. by S. Towards midnight it cleared up, a stiff gale from the west blew off the mist, but it was dark and the moon did not rise until after midnight. So Penn alternately lay to and stood off in the darkness. About half an hour after midnight, the flash of gun-fire was seen far off on the weather quarter. Penn immediately made signals by firing guns and showing lights, summoning his squadron to follow [242]him in the direction of the fire. The fire ended within a quarter of an hour, and all was again in silence and darkness to windward. Next morning one of Penn's look-out frigates, the Assurance, Captain Sanders, bore under his stern, and let him know what had happened. The firing had been between Captain Sanders and a "lusty ship" which he saw bearing eastward somewhat to the north of him. Sanders "fired two guns to make her stay, but they would not; upon which Sanders hove out his topsail, and presently came up with him; asked him whence his ship? he answered, of Flushing. Sanders bid him amain (shorten sail) for the Commonwealth of England, who answered very uncivilly; upon which they began to fire on each other, and continued until Sanders had lost sight of all our lights, being about an hour, so left the Fleming, who all the time of the fight steered somewhat a southerly course; and about the time Sanders left him he saw to the southward of them several lights, and he was certain of one whereof had a light in his maintop; all which he clearly perceived to steer away to the eastward, and was confident it was the Hollands fleet, who made use of the darkness of the first part of the night to pass by us." Penn thought this "low and poor-spirited" in the bitterness of his disappointment. The truth was, that the English had been completely out-manœuvred. That light in the maintop was De Ruyter's. While Penn was lying to, waiting to be attacked, and Blake was at Torbay, he had taken a sweep out to the southward and carried his convoy up Channel before the stiff westerly gale.

Between the date when he returned to face Tromp and that on which he sailed westward to replace Ayscue, Blake had been called upon to dispose of a little war with France. The Commonwealth was not exactly in a state of open hostility with the French king, but it had grounds of complaint against his officers. They had helped Rupert, and, taking advantage of the supposed weakness of the revolutionary Government in England, they had plundered the ships of the Smyrna Company. On the other hand, Spain had on the whole been friendly. As it happened in the early days of September that the Spanish governor of [243]the Low Countries was endeavouring to regain possession of the towns of Dunkirk and Mardyke, then held by French garrisons, and as a French naval force, commanded by the Duc de Vendôme, was on its way to relieve the French soldiers, the Commonwealth saw an opportunity of delivering a blow at those who had attempted to harass England. Blake fell upon the Duc de Vendôme, took seven of his vessels, and scattered the others. The French Government complained, and the Council of State ordered an inquiry. But it gave no satisfaction, and for the present the incident passed over among the many other violent and irregular transactions of the time. The besieged towns surrendered to the Spaniards, and remained in their hands until, by a strange change of fortune, they passed into those of the Protector Cromwell.

A day or two after he had been disappointed of an encounter with De Ruyter, Vice-Admiral Penn rejoined Blake outside of Torbay. The reunited English ships followed the Dutch up the Channel, but failed to overtake them. De Ruyter effected his junction with Cornelius de With, and together they saw the convoys safe back into port; then, having provided for the trade, they returned to the coast of England to menace the English fleet.

On the 27th of September, Blake, who was at anchor in the Downs, was informed that the Dutch had made their appearance to the northward. He at once put to sea. On the following day the English fleet was very scattered. The van, under the command of Penn, and a part of the centre, including Blake's flagship, were together, stretching across the mouth of the estuary of the Thames. Part of the centre and the rear had not yet succeeded in getting clear out of the Downs. The wind was W. by N. While the English fleet was in this scattered condition, the look-out ships of Penn's squadron found the Dutch to the eastward, and leeward of the Kentish Knock, the farthest out of the shallows on the coast of Essex and Suffolk. The English ships had worked to windward, and had the weather-gage—that is to say, the power of bearing right down on the enemy with the wind behind them. Penn, as ready, if we [244]are to believe his own report, to engage a superior enemy as he had been a month before near Bolt Head, asked Blake's leave to attack. He was told to wait until the rest of the fleet came up, and therefore stretched ahead of his commander-in-chief, leaving a sufficient space for his division to fall into line between him and Blake. In the course of stretching out, he came too near the Kentish Knock, on which his own flagship and two others touched. He found it necessary to tack, and as he must have been standing to the N. before, this would bring him round so that he headed south. In the meantime Blake had been joined by the remaining ships of the centre and rear, and held on his course to the north, passing well clear of the Knock to leeward. The Dutch had been lying to in a line, stretched from N. to S. As Blake stood on to the north, they filled, and passed on his lee side, heading to the south. While the two lines were passing one another and cannonading as they went past, the van, under the command of Penn, was heading more or less in the same direction as the Dutch, but on the other side of Blake's ships. Thus, when the Dutch cleared the centre and rear of the English fleet, the van, which had been moving in the same direction, fell, in Penn's words, "pat to receive them," and stayed by them till night. We must suppose that the centre and rear of the English fleet either tacked or wore together and fell into line behind Penn.

The action was far from decisive. On the English side the leaders did nothing to lose the supposed advantage of the weather-gage, by endeavouring to break through the Dutch line, and so put themselves between the enemy and his refuge in Holland. They were content to remain to windward, cannonading, and perhaps attempting to make use of their fireships. On the other hand, the Dutch fighting was not worthy of its reputation. Their fleet was, if anything, rather superior in number to the English. But they were divided by violent party and professional jealousies. The friends of Tromp were hostile to his successors, Cornelius de With and Michael de Ruyter. It is said that the crew of the Brederode refused to allow De With [245]to hoist his flag in her. Some of the captains, who were probably merchant skippers taken into the war fleet, according to the custom which prevailed also among ourselves, showed downright cowardice, and Cornelius de With was provoked into saying that some of them would find there was wood enough in Holland to make a gallows. It is clear that only the late hour at which the action began, and the approach of darkness, saved the Dutch fleet from a serious disaster. If the English leaders had steered through the Dutch line from windward to leeward, and had put themselves on the enemy's line of retreat, a long list of prizes would have been brought into English ports. But though our admirals in this war were always ready to break the line from leeward to windward, they seem to have avoided the other and much more effective movement. When night fell, the Dutch were allowed to retreat with comparatively trifling loss. We asserted, indeed, that several of them had been sunk, but no reliance is to be placed on statements of that kind. Nothing is more common than to find men asserting that they had sunk an enemy, when in fact they had only lost sight of him in the smoke. Next morning the Dutch were in sight to the eastward, and, the wind having shifted in the night, they had now the weather-gage. Blake endeavoured to renew the action, but Cornelius de With and De Ruyter, having no confidence in their fleet, retreated to their own ports. The English followed till they had sight of the Dutch coast, and then, finding that the enemy was beyond their reach, returned to the Downs.

Our easy victory proved somewhat misleading. Thinking that the enemy was fairly beaten, the English Government relaxed its precautions. A considerable part of the fleet was despatched, under the command of Penn, to convoy the colliers who carried London's supply of fuel from the northern ports. During the whole of October and the greater part of November all seemed quiet, and Blake lay in the Downs with no more than forty ships. But the Dutch were preparing for a vigorous counter-stroke. Finding that Martin Tromp was the only man who could be trusted [246]to make their fleet do its duty, the States General decided to restore him to the command. At the same time, great efforts were made to collect a powerful force. There was, indeed, need for exertion. The outward-bound convoys had to be seen clear of the Channel, and, in order that this could be done, it was necessary to collect a force capable of dealing with the main English fleet. As November drew to its close, this had been achieved. On the 29th of the month, Tromp made his appearance at "the back of the Goodwins," that is to say, between the Sands and the coast of France, with eighty warships, and behind him a convoy of merchant vessels. With a reduced force under his orders, Blake was really incapable of preventing his enemy from carrying his convoy through the Straits, but, with the high spirit which the Commonwealth's commanders seldom failed to display, he made a resolute effort to do the impossible. He weighed anchor and stood out. The wind at first was at S.W., which gave the weather-gage to Blake, while making it impossible for Tromp to take his great swarm of men-of-war and merchant ships round the South Foreland. Then it chopped suddenly and violently round to the N.W., and both fleets anchored before night—Blake in Dover Roads, and Tromp some three leagues farther out. Next morning the wind was less violent, though still from the same point. Both fleets weighed anchor. Tromp steered to carry his convoy into the Channel, keeping his warships carefully between the merchant ships and the English. Blake followed, taking care not to lose the weather-gage, and the two fleets swept on together until they were in the neighbourhood of Dungeness. The odds against him were so great that Blake would have been well justified in avoiding action. But a council of war held in the flagship had decided that something must be attempted. Our fleet had not yet been cured of the rashness already shown by Sir George Ayscue in act, and by Penn in intention. The lesson they were about to receive was very much needed, and it was part of our fortune in this war that it did not prove more severe. In the course of the afternoon of Tuesday the 30th of November, the forty English ships under the command of Blake forced an [247]action with Tromp's eighty. As they held and kept the weather-gage, they escaped complete destruction, but they were severely cut up, and two, the Garland and the Bonaventure, fell into the possession of the enemy. These two vessels, commanded by Captains Axon and Batten, had the audacity to attach themselves to Tromp's flagship. They were promptly surrounded and overpowered. The attempt which Blake made to rescue them was unsuccessful, and as the English ships were unwilling to lose the weather-gage, they could do little more than look on and cannonade from a distance, while the two which had pushed into the midst of the enemy suffered for their excess of daring. Night again put an end to the battle. The English first anchored near Dover, and then returned to the Downs. Tromp saw his convoy out of the Channel, and then cruised up and down threatening our coast, and waiting for the home-coming merchant ships.

Blake returned to the Downs chastened and even a little depressed by the failure of his attempt to defeat Tromp with insufficient forces. He offered to resign his command. The Council of State did not take him at his word. On the contrary, they assured him of their continued confidence, and left him entire discretion as to his movements, while making every effort to strengthen his fleet. They began by taking measures to enforce discipline and a proper martial spirit amongst their captains. Blake had complained "that there was much baseness of spirit, not among the merchantmen only, but many of the State's ships," and he had asked for a committee of inquiry. This request was instantly complied with. Colonel Walton, Colonel Morley, and Mr. Chalmer were sent down at once, not only to make a general inquiry into the action and the condition of the fleet, but to order a trial of those captains whose baseness of spirit had provoked the anger of the admiral. Several of them were ordered for trial. Blake's own brother, Benjamin, was removed from his command. As Benjamin Blake was afterwards employed, and as the other three captains were only fined, it is to be presumed that their conduct had not been very bad. The truth probably is, that if all the captains [248]had been as headlong as Axon and Batten, more of them would have shared the same fate.

More effectual measures than the punishment of backward captains were the recall of Penn from the north, and the commissioning of fresh ships. It was not easy to find the men. Blake had complained in his first despatch that the great number of "private men-of-war," that is, privateers, allowed to cruise against Dutch commerce, served to draw men off from the fleet. The sailors preferred the licence of the privateer, and the opportunities for plunder it presented, to the sterner discipline of the man-of-war. In the out-ports, too, it was difficult to enforce the press. The magistrates were frequently shipowners, who were unwilling to lose the crews of their own vessels, and, when they were not, they had a fellow-sympathy with their townsmen, which made them languid in the discharge of their duties. In spite of the efforts made by the Commonwealth Government to tempt men by promises of better pay and a larger share of prize-money, it was compelled to make unsparing use of the old prerogatives of the Crown, to force all subjects to take a share in defending the realm. Even this did not suffice. Soldiers in large numbers had to be drafted into the fleet to serve as marines, although that word was not in use. There can be no doubt that these men were intended to make good the want of sailors, for it was especially provided that they were to be called upon to do the same work as far as possible.

Throughout the December of 1652 and January and February of 1653, Tromp rode unmolested in the Channel. It was at this time that, according to a legend for which there is not much foundation, he hoisted a broom at his mainmast top as the outward and visible sign of his intention to sweep the Channel. So little did the Council of State feel capable of opposing him with a sufficient naval force during the earlier part of these three months, that it sent off officers to the south coast to remove the lights and buoys, in order to make it dangerous for the Dutch to approach the shore. In fact, both the Government and its admirals had learned that if the Dutch were to be fairly beaten off, a [249]competent force must be collected, and it must act together. To strengthen the command, Deane was called back from Scotland, and Monk was named to fill up the vacancy left by the death of Popham. These two, with Blake, formed the Commission to discharge the office of Lord High Admiral commanding at sea. Penn was continued in his place as Vice-Admiral, but Bourne was removed from active service to direct the dockyard at Harwich, and his place at sea was taken by John Lawson, who had gained a high reputation for skill and courage as a captain. These two may be said to have served as Nautical Assessors to the three soldiers who were entrusted with the general military direction of the fleet.

Towards the middle of February the whole of the naval forces on both sides moved down Channel—Tromp to wait off the Land's End for the Dutch convoys, and the English to wait for and fall upon him as he came back to the eastward.

On the 18th of February the two fleets came in sight of one another some fifteen miles off Portland. The wind was from the west, and was light. Tromp had from eighty to ninety men-of-war with him, and behind them a great flock of merchant ships. The English, numbering from seventy to eighty ships, were to eastward and leeward, and were much scattered. Only the smaller part of them were together, under the immediate direction of the generals at sea—Blake and Deane. The major part were at some distance to the eastward. Seeing the comparative weakness and the isolation of the part of the English fleet nearest him, Tromp took the energetic and intelligent decision to fall upon them at once. Blake and Deane did not flinch, and a hot engagement, in which the English were roughly handled, took place in the early afternoon. Three of the English ships were taken by the Dutch, but the enemy was not able to carry them off. While the ships immediately exposed to attack were engaged, the rest of the fleet to leeward was working up. About four o'clock it had gained a position which would have enabled it to weather the Dutch line, and thus put Tromp between two fires. To avoid this danger, the Dutch admiral tacked [250]his fleet together, and worked to windward—a sufficiently clear proof that the fleets of the time did not fight in a disorderly swarm, but were perfectly capable of manœuvring together in obedience to signals. The three ships which had fallen into the hands of the Dutch were retaken, but a fourth vessel, the Sampson, was found to be so severely shattered, and had lost so many men, including her captain, that it was decided to withdraw the survivors and let her sink. During the evening the English were busy taking men out of the smaller ships to fill up the vacancies caused by death and wounds in the larger, and refitting their damaged rigging. During the night both made their way eastward, within sight of one another's lights, the English on the north side of the Channel, then next them the Dutch men-of-war keeping guard over the merchant ships, which sailed between them and the coast of France.

On the morning of the 19th this great assemblage of ships, largely exceeding in number and still more in tonnage the combined fleets of Medina Sidonia and Lord Howard of Effingham, was off the Isle of Wight. The wind was at W.N.W., which gave the weather-gage to the English, but it was very gentle, and the day was advanced before the English admirals could force an action. As his enemy had now his whole force in hand, Tromp applied himself solely to the protection of his convoy. He sent his merchant ships on ahead, and formed his men-of-war in a half-moon, or rather obtuse angle, with his own flagship, the Brederode, in the apex—that is to say, the other ships were formed in two slanting lines branching out to right and left of Tromp himself. Thus it was impossible for the English to attack the merchant ships, either from N.W. or from S.E., without breaking through the Dutch men-of-war. The action of this day began late, and led to no decisive results, though the English claimed to have taken a few small ships. It can easily be believed that they succeeded in disordering the formation of the Dutch—a very difficult one to maintain; and the bad conduct of several of the Dutch captains near the Kentish Knock makes it credible that some of them were also guilty of misconduct on this occasion. The States [251]General had not shown sufficient firmness in using the trees of Holland for the purpose indicated by Cornelius Witte de With.

The decisive day of the "Three days' battle" was the last. On the morning of the 20th the wind had increased, and the English fleet, not being hampered by heavily laden merchant ships, had no difficulty in overtaking the enemy. A close action was forced as early as nine o'clock in the morning. Both fleets were now approaching the entry to the Straits of Dover. The English were to the north of their enemy, and they steered so as, if possible, to head him before he reached Cape Gris Nez and so cut his road home. The Dutch ships either did not, or could not, serve as an effectual protection to the merchant vessels. Tromp formed his line of battle, and did his own duty with the utmost steadfastness and courage. But the English broke through. The credit of the movement belongs to Penn, who as vice-admiral had been leading the van. Between fifty and sixty merchant ships fell into our hands, and as many more men-of-war as made up the total of our captures to seventeen. Yet the English failed in their main purpose. They did not succeed in heading the Dutch before they rounded Cape Gris Nez, and by dark Tromp anchored his whole force, now in great confusion, in Calais Roads. Under cover of night, and by taking skilful advantage of the ebb-tide, which on that coast makes a north-easterly current, as also of the thick and squally weather which came on after sundown, he carried off all that remained of his convoy. In spite of our successes on the 20th, this was still the great bulk of his merchant ships.

These three days of fighting had cost the English fleet very dear. Both Blake and Deane were wounded, and the loss in captains and men was heavy. The victory had by no means been so complete as had been hoped, but it was not the less a subject of legitimate gratification to England. The general superiority of the English fleet whenever it was intelligently handled, and not hopelessly outnumbered, had been proved, and the country had good grounds for believing that if the war with Holland was pushed with energy, its [252]enemies would be driven off the sea. For the moment the fleet at the mouth of the Straits was in no condition to pursue the Dutch. When day broke on the 21st, the enemy had disappeared. The English fleet found itself alone, with some sixty prizes. It had suffered much damage to its masts and spars. With the wind at N.W. it was on a lee shore, and a gale, or even a very stiff breeze, would have put it in a position of some danger. The decision to make for an English port was both natural and proper. To put their prizes in a place of safety was the natural instinct of the men who looked to their prize-money for the larger part of their reward; and as Tromp had had time enough to carry his convoy into the dangerous shallows of the Dutch coast, there was nothing to be gained by pursuing him. The generals therefore returned to St. Helen's and anchored on the 23rd. Squadrons were sent out both to east and west of the Isle of Wight, but there was no longer any enemy at sea.

The "Three days' battle" was the turning-point of the war. Hitherto the Dutch had fairly divided the honours with ourselves, but from this time forward the upper hand passed decisively to the English fleet. The ships were stronger, and the crews in the main fought better. War is in the last result decided in favour of one combatant or other by power to win at the actual moment of contact. This power was with the English and not with the Dutch, and therefore all the skill and patriotism of Martin Tromp and his lieutenants, Witte de With and Michael de Ruyter, could do no more than postpone the final disaster, and provide that if the flag of Holland were to go down, it should at least sink with honour.

Before the final decisive struggle was fought out, there was an interval, during which active operations languished. Both fleets stood in need of repairs; for if the Dutch had lost severely, not a few of our own vessels had been compelled to drag themselves into Portsmouth so severely crippled that they were in need of a thorough refit. The work of getting the English fleet ready for sea once more was not discharged without difficulties and delay. The [253]Navy Committee had many obstacles to overcome before its squadrons could be put in order to continue the war. There was a great want of men. The sailors no longer volunteered in any large numbers, and the press was ill enforced. Colonel Overton, the governor of Hull, found the local magistrates so lax in their discharge of their duty that he was provoked into threatening to send them to sea in default of sailors. The unpopularity of the navy was due to causes of long standing. One of these, at least, endured throughout the whole course of our wars. It was discovered under the rule of the Commonwealth that the seamen had not lost that preference of the privateer to the man-of-war they had shown during the reign of Elizabeth. Blake had complained of the competition of these partisan fighters of the sea at the very beginning of the war. Government was constrained to put a severe check upon them, partly by limiting the issue of letters of marque to vessels of a certain size, and partly by giving men-of-war captains the right to press sailors from the privateers. There were also very genuine causes of discontent to deter men from volunteering into the service of the State. Under the pressure due to the immense demands made upon its treasury, the Commonwealth had become a bad paymaster. Not only were the salaries of officers and men in arrear, but the contractors were slowly paid, and, taking advantage of the power given them by the position of creditor to the State, they supplied their goods late, and of inferior quality. In the summer of 1653 one Captain John Taylor reported to the Admiralty that the men belonging to the ships at Chatham had refused to do anything towards taking the ballast in or getting it out, or, in fact, to put their hand to the work of fitting the ships for sea. Their excuse was the defective state of the victuals and beer. Captain Taylor had to confess that "they have brought me beer, bread, and butter, worse than I ever saw in the dearest times." The beer was particularly vile, and the brewer protested that he could not make it any better, because he was only paid three shillings and sixpence a barrel. The men found it so bad that they actually preferred to drink water. The [254]crews imputed their sickness to the state of the victuals, and there is every probability that they were right.

That the condition of the sick and wounded was deplorable is proved by the testimony of many witnesses. Thus Dr. Daniel Whistler, who was sent down to Portsmouth in March to attend on General Blake, gives a terrible picture of the state of those who, after being wounded in the "Three days' battle," were landed at Portsmouth. There was no hospital. The wounded men were left for hours in the streets before the Navy Commissioners could find lodgings for them in private houses. When they were lodged, the surgeons very often did not know where to find them, there was a want of linen and medicines, of wholesome food and good nursing. The houses were overcrowded, and nothing was done to protect men against the temptation to drink ardent spirits, which was especially strong at Portsmouth, where the water was brackish. Four months later, Monk himself drew a hardly less dismal picture of the condition of the wounded at Ipswich, Aldeborough, Southwold, and Dunwich. The payments due for their support were irregularly made, and the inhabitants, we are told, were weary of them. Monk was compelled to stand security at his own personal risk in order to raise money for the purpose of helping his unfortunate sailors, lying sick and wounded in the houses of people who in some cases were as poor as themselves, and in others were mere harpies.

These evils were no doubt primarily due to want of money, but they can also be accounted for by the utter want of any organisation capable of dealing with the demands of war on an unprecedented scale. The Council of State fought hard to meet the necessities of the times, and when it had been swept out of the way by Cromwell's expulsion of the Long Parliament on the 19th of April, the Council of the Protector continued these efforts. Thus, in December 1652, a number of proposals for the encouragement of seamen had been made and accepted. They were divided into three sections. The first dealt with the sick and wounded men. They were promised that their pay should be continued until their health was restored, and it was decided that a [255]general hospital should be erected at Deal. Some hospitals in London were to be given up wholly to sick and wounded seamen, and so were half the other hospitals in other parts of England. It was at this date that the wages of able seamen "fit for the helm and lead, top and yard," were raised from 19s. to 24s. a month, with a deduction of 1s. for the chaplain and surgeon, according to the ancient custom. This substantial benefit was accompanied by profuse promises of fairer treatment in future. Another section of the propositions was devoted to the shares in prizes. A bonus of a month's salary was offered to every man who, having served six months, or upwards, since the beginning of the war, would volunteer for the coming year. In order to remove "the many and great disappointments caused by the present way of sharing prizes," it was provided that in future 10s. per ton should be paid for every vessel taken, and £6, 13s. 4d. for every piece of ordnance, "this to be shared amongst them proportionately, according to their respective offices in the ship, and the custom of the sea." What was probably not less agreeable to the sailors was an order that they should have the pillage, that is to say, the right to appropriate at once, as booty, whatever was found on or above the gun-deck of a prize, while a reward of £10 per gun was to be paid for every vessel destroyed. If they could have been fairly carried out, these conditions would have done much to reconcile men to the navy, but, as has been already said, the chronic want of money both of the Council of State and, in later times, of the Protector, drove them to fail in their promises of payment, and to lay hands upon the money in the possession of the Commissioners of Prizes. Yet these Governments strove hard to make both ends meet, and did resolutely endeavour to stop pilfering in the administration of the navy. By expedients and hard work they contrived to keep powerful fleets at sea in an efficient condition.



The only satisfactory account I have met of the sea fights of 1653 and the transactions at Leghorn are given by the letters printed at length in the Calendar of State Papers of the Interregnum for this year. It is on them that this chapter is based, in addition to authorities named above.

During the pause in hostilities between the end of February and the end of May, the scene of operations of the two fleets was shifted from the Channel to the North Sea. It was well understood on the English side that the most effectual way of breaking the power of the Dutch was to attack them on their own coast. Our headquarters were fixed for the brief remains of the war at Yarmouth and Harwich. The violent measure by which Cromwell ended for the time the existence of the Long Parliament made no change in the conduct of the naval war. It was on the 19th of April that he suddenly burst in on the eloquence of Sir Henry Vane by declaring that there had been too much of this, put his hat on, and ordered Colonel Harrison's regiment of musketeers to turn the honourable members into the street. His action was accepted, and had no doubt been foreseen, by the officers commanding the fleet, and the men followed the lead of their superiors. At a meeting of naval officers held on board the Resolution at Spithead on the 22nd of April 1653, a general declaration of adhesion to Cromwell was drawn up. It leaves no doubt that the fleet was at least prepared to accept Cromwell as the effectual ruler of England. It was addressed to the Council of Officers, and is as follows:—

"Gentlemen,—There being certain intelligence come to our hands of the great changes within our nation, viz. the dissolution of this parliament; [257]we, the general, commanders, and officers here present with this part of the fleet, have had a very serious consideration thereof, as also what was our duty, and incumbent upon us in such a juncture of time; and find it set upon our spirits, that we are called and intrusted by this nation for the defence of the same against the enemies thereof at sea, whether the people of the United Provinces, or others. And we are resolved, in the strength of God, unanimously to prosecute the same, according to the trust reposed in us; and have thought good to signify the same unto you, desiring you will take the effectualest course you can for the strengthening and encouraging one another in this work; and doubt not but the Lord, who hath done great and wonderful things for His people that have trusted in Him, will also be found among us, His poor unworthy servants, if we continue firm and constant in our duties, walking before Him in faith, humility, and dependence; not seeking ourselves, but His glory; which that we may all do, is the desire and prayer of your affectionate friends and brethren."

This resolution was forwarded by Cromwell to the ships on other stations, and was everywhere accepted. Blake, indeed, did not sign it, for he was still confined on shore by his wound, but he continued to serve as admiral and general at sea.

Towards the end of May active operations were resumed. In spite of the losses suffered in February, the Dutch took the offensive. Their fleet, estimated at over a hundred ships, appeared in the Downs, and attacked the forts at Dover. On the day when the Dutch were insulting our coast for the last time in this war, Monk and Deane were at Yarmouth with the bulk of the English fleet. Eleven ships, very ill manned, were fitting out in the Thames under the command of Blake, who had returned to service, though still not cured of his wounds. It was known that Tromp was at sea, but great doubt prevailed as to his movements. Transports engaged in bringing stores from the Humber were warned to be on the outlook lest they should meet the Lieutenant-Admiral of Holland in the northern part of the German Ocean. Nimble vessels were despatched in search of him in every direction. On the 28th of May, on the day in which Tromp left the Downs for the north, the generals at sea were informed of his attack on Dover. They at once weighed, and fell down the coast to Southwold Bay. On the 31st of May they were at anchor off Dunwich, where a few fragments of brickwork and a disused church now mark [258]the site of what was once one of the busiest trading towns on the east coast of England. Here they were informed that Tromp's fleet had been seen at the head of the Long Sand. The Long Sand is, with the exception of the Kentish Knock, the farthest out of the belt of shallows stretching from the mouth of the Thames to Orford Ness. Monk and Deane immediately sailed in pursuit. On the 2nd of June they caught sight of Tromp to leeward. During the 1st they had waited for Blake to join them from the river with his eleven ships. This reinforcement would have raised their fleet to a total strength of 126. But Blake was not yet ready, and the weather was thick and hazy. On the 2nd it cleared up, and the Dutch were seen to leeward. The English had the wind, and immediately sailed for the purpose of attacking.

Tromp, conscious that he was outmatched in strength of ships and weight of broadsides, adopted a plan of action which became habitual to the French admirals of the next century. He accepted battle to leeward, and retreated in a slanting direction, or, according to the sea phrase of the seventeenth century, "lasking." As the English line came down from windward, its van would naturally come into action before the centre, or rear, were within striking distance of the enemy. This would expose the leading ships of the attacking line to the fire of a superior number of enemies, and there would be considerable danger that they might suffer crippling damage. It was at this that the French admirals habitually aimed, and the Dutch adopted this more timid method of accepting battle when, as on the present occasion, they felt overmatched. Its advantage lay in this, that, if several of the van ships of the fleet acting on the offensive were severely damaged, the total injury done might be sufficient to deter the admiral in command from pressing his attack home. In later times, when English admirals had become pedantically devoted to the maintenance of an orderly and precise line, this conduct of the battle by the enemy to leeward did avail, never indeed to win a victory, but frequently to avert a defeat. As against the fiercer leadership of the seventeenth century it was not equally successful.


On the 2nd of June the advancing English fleet forced the action early in the afternoon. The Blue Division, under the command of John Lawson, was in the van, and appears to have struck upon the enemy's line in his van, under the command of Michael de Ruyter. The Dutch, pursuing the evasive manner of fighting they had adopted from a sense of weakness, flinched from the attack, and filed away to leeward, firing high, to do the utmost possible amount of damage to the masts and spars of the English. Tromp, indeed, bore up to support De Ruyter, that is to say, lay close to the wind, so as to bring himself near the English fleets, and within the range of effective fire. While the Blue Division and a part only of the remainder of our fleet were engaged, a shift of the wind altered the relative positions of the two fleets. It turned to the east, and therefore gave the weather-gage to the Dutch. The more distant centre and rear of the English fleet were thus thrown to leeward of the Blue Squadron, now closely engaged with the enemy. Tromp, as ready to attack where he had a reasonable prospect of success, as he was skilful to retreat before a superior enemy, immediately assumed the offensive, and endeavoured to throw the whole weight of his fleet on the Blue Division. Lawson met the attack firmly, while the Red and White Divisions worked to windward to his support. Then the wind changed again, giving the weather-gage once more to the English. The fleets were now so close together that the Dutch could not, even if they wished to do so, avoid a general action. They resumed their movement of retreat towards the coast of Flanders, but they bore away almost yardarm to yardarm with the English. The battle did not cease until nine at night, when the long daylight of early June came to an end. If the claim made by the English officers was well founded, their enemy suffered the loss of several vessels burnt or sunk. On our side the loss of life was comparatively slight, but it included the general-at-sea, Richard Deane, who sailed in the Resolution with his colleague Monk. Deane fell cut in two by a cannon shot in the first broadside fired by the Dutch at the Resolution. His blood was splashed all over Monk, who saw the fall of [260]his friend and colleague with his usual imperturbable serenity. Fearing that the sight of Deane's body, mangled almost beyond recognition, might dishearten the men, and perhaps moved by a sense of decency, Monk took off his long cloak and threw it over the corpse.

When night fell, both fleets were in sight of Dunkirk. The Dutch, taking advantage of the shallow draught of their ships, ran close in shore, where the deeper-keeled English vessels could not follow them. The sound of the cannon had been heard by the ships under Blake's immediate command in the estuary of the Thames. He was still ill, and found himself growing daily worse, but he made an effort to aid his brother generals-at-sea. On the morning of the 3rd he was clear of the Thames, but the wind was very light, and the day was far advanced before he could reach the scene of battle. The want of wind had in the meantime suspended the action between the two fleets. It was not until the afternoon that Monk, now in sole command, was again able to bring the Dutch to battle. The second day's fight was less fiercely contested than the first. The Dutch, convinced of their inferiority, fought in retreat along the coast of Flanders, keeping as much as they could in the shallow water, and heading for the protection of their own harbours. Blake came up in time to take part in the end of the battle, but he and Monk were unable to prevent Tromp from taking refuge in the Weilings, the name we gave to the land-locked waters between the island of Walcheren and the mainland.

The actual loss of the Dutch fleet was undoubtedly exaggerated in the English reports, but, although we over-estimated the number of vessels destroyed, there can be no doubt that the defeat of the Dutch had been complete, and was of a kind to depress them greatly. It could not be accounted for by accident or mere mismanagement, but was manifestly due to the inferior quality of the fleet. This was fully recognised by the brave and able men in command of the Dutch Navy. Tromp told the States General that they must build better ships if they hoped to fight the English successfully; while Cornelius de With, always an outspoken [261]man, declared that the English were masters of "us and of the sea." The approaching ruin of their commerce and fisheries broke the spirit of the United Provinces. The loss already suffered had been enormous. Thousands of merchants were bankrupt. The fisheries were annihilated, and the Zuyder Zee was crowded with merchant vessels unable to proceed on their voyage from fear of the English fleets. In the meantime the partisans of the House of Orange were stirring. The oligarchical Government established after the death of William II. was threatened by a most dangerous rebellion. Under pressure from abroad and at home, it appealed for peace. The Protector insisted upon the full demands that had been made by the Council of State. Much as the Dutch had suffered, they were not prepared to submit so fully as this, and the harsh insistence of England provoked a revival of national pride. Declaring that it was better to die sword in hand than to submit to the outrageous demands made upon them, the States General resolved to attempt one last determined effort to regain the free use of the sea. Every nerve was strained to equip a great fleet, and for the time all commerce was suspended, in order the better to fit out a fighting force.

The English were no less resolute to maintain and, if possible, improve their advantages. The fleet was not brought back from the coast of Holland, but remained for the purpose of blockading the Dutch in their own ports. Food and munitions of war were sent out from England to Monk, who was again left in sole command by the illness of Blake, whose strength broke down completely under the strain of active service. With Penn as his second in command, and Lawson as his third, Monk was equal to his duties. He may not have been a seaman, though by this time he had been much at sea, but he was in the highest sense of the word a general, a fighter, who did his work thoroughly, used the force of his command to the utmost of its strength, and understood how to strike, with a great compact mass, at the heart of his enemy. Towards the end of July he stood across the North Sea for stores, and then returned at once to his cruising-ground off the Texel, the [262]island which prolongs the State of North Holland, and between which and the mainland runs the chief passage to the Zuyder Zee. Some thirty Dutch warships belonging to the squadron of Amsterdam were at anchor behind the protection of the land. Tromp, with eighty sail, was at Flushing, between Walcheren and the mainland. The object of the Dutch admiral was to unite these two divisions, and thereby raise his force to a slight superiority over the English. Monk's aim was naturally to prevent the junction of the enemy, and, if possible, to crush his divisions in detail while they were endeavouring to unite. Thus the last battle of the war was preceded by skilful manœuvring. In the earlier movements success was fairly won for his flag by the nerve and skill of Tromp. On the 26th of July some of his ships appeared to the south of the English fleet, then riding outside the Texel. Monk started in pursuit on the 28th, and soon sighted the enemy. The wind was at W., and it was too late for any extensive movement. On the 29th the Dutch were still in sight to the south. As the English approached, they fell back. Monk pressed on, with his lighter and better sailing ships in advance. These vessels, the frigates of his fleet, directed their attack on the rear of the Dutch line. Their better sailing powers enabled them to force on an engagement, and so compelled Tromp to turn to the support of the vessels attacked. But it was too late on the 29th for a decisive engagement. At night both fleets anchored near Camperdown. The English, who had in all probability aimed at getting the weather-gage, had apparently stood farther out than Tromp, whose vessels were in any case better able to approach the shore. Thus, when the fleets came to an anchor, the Dutch were nearer in, and it would also seem that the English had somewhat overshot the enemy, for they anchored a little farther to the south. All through the night and the following day it blew a gale with heavy squalls from the W.N.W. The wind was so high that ships under way could scarcely bear their topsails, and, as they were on a lee shore, the fleets had enough to do to keep off it, without attacking one another. During the afternoon of the 30th the Amsterdam squadron joined Tromp, raising his force to [263]something over a hundred and twenty vessels. So far he had effected his purpose, and had shown himself worthy of his great reputation as a skilful captain. On the morning of the 31st both fleets stood off the shore. The wind was still at W.N.W., and Tromp had the weather-gage. The battle began very early in the morning, and surpassed any of the previous engagements of the war both in the fury of the contest and the decisive character of the results. Monk was determined to bring the matter to an issue, and he did not wait for Tromp to bear down upon him, but tacked upon his enemy, and broke through the Dutch line from leeward.

It was six o'clock in the morning when the battle began. Both fleets were heading to the W.S.W., the English somewhat ahead, the Dutch to the northward and windward. By tacking, Monk altered the relative positions of the fleets from parallel to intersecting lines. The bulk of the Dutch weathered the head of the English line, but their rear ships were cut off. We "went through their whole fleet," said Captain Cubitt, "leaving part on one side, and part on the other of us." Tromp was resolved not to lose the weather-gage, and he also tacked when he saw Monk's movement. So did Monk when he had passed through the Dutch line, and the manœuvre was repeated three times by each. On the second tack, all the Dutch appear to have weathered the English line. The two fleets passed very close, engaging with the utmost fury. From the heavy loss suffered in our ships, it may be concluded that in this battle the Dutch fired less to dismast than to kill. Six English captains were slain, one was mortally wounded, and the loss in the lower ranks must have been in proportion. It was counted one of the advantages of the windward position that it facilitated the despatch of fireships against the enemy to leeward. The Dutch did not fail to use a weapon, so terrible in theory, and so dreadfully destructive when it took effect. Experience, however, proved that as against well-handled ships under way, and under control of steady officers, it could rarely be employed successfully. The fireship could generally be avoided by moving vessels, [264]and when that was difficult, or inconvenient to do, then it was taken in charge by the boats which the warship towed astern, and dragged away to leeward, where it burned out harmlessly. On this occasion little hurt was done by the "branders."

We cannot suppose that the movement of tacking in succession was performed by two fleets, each of over a hundred sail, with absolute uniformity. On this occasion, as in the great battle of the 12th of April 1783, when Rodney pierced the French from leeward, the main line may have broken into smaller ones. But the general course of the battle was in three great zig-zags, ranging along the coast of Holland, from near Egmont towards the mouth of the Maas, which are at a distance of about forty miles from one another. There was no shrinking on the part of the Dutch, and no failure of effort on the part of the English to push the attack home. In many points of the line ships were locked together in desperate attempts to board, or repel boarders. By three in the afternoon victory belonged to the English. A large proportion of the Dutch had been cut off from Tromp, and had fallen to leeward. Most of them were probably too damaged to be in case to do more than put before the wind, and escape as best they could. They fled into Goree and the Maas. The bulk of their fleet was debarred from that refuge by the English, who were still to leeward, and therefore on the line of retreat. It could only head northward and eastward to the Texel. Thither in the afternoon it fled, leaving behind miles of sea covered with the wreckage of the battle, and bearing with it the corpse of its great admiral, who fell by the death he had come to long for—shot mercifully dead by a musket bullet through the heart. He at least had nothing to reproach himself with. All that valour and skill could do to save Holland, he did. If he failed, it was because the mistaken policy of the soldier princes of the House of Nassau, and the unwisdom of the merchant oligarchy, had in false economy supplied him with inferior ships. An Englishman does not undervalue the heroes of his own race, when he acknowledges that not only their valour but [265]skill enabled them to overcome the most famous of the Dutch seamen.

We had no prizes, for we burned or sank the ships taken, and our own damage in the battle had not been small, but the victory was decisive. Holland again sued for peace; and as Cromwell had come to recognise that he must not insist on too much, it was finally signed some months later.

While the main tide of war had been ebbing and flowing through the North Sea and the Channel, there had been minor conflicts at the entry to the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The first is of comparatively little importance in naval history, and is indeed hardly worth mentioning, except on the ground that it illustrates a chronic difficulty of the English Government in all naval wars. We drew a great part of our stores from the Baltic. Pitch and tar, hemp for cordage, and pine wood for spars and planking, as well as part of the oak used in our ships, were supplied by Scandinavia and Russia. At a later period the American plantations entered into competition with the Baltic trade, but in the middle of the seventeenth century these indispensable articles were obtained only in the North of Europe. If they were cut off by the hostility of the Northern Powers, the task of fitting a fleet for sea was rendered almost impossible. The sense that they had it in their power to inflict so heavy a blow upon us, rendered the kingdoms of the North occasionally somewhat exacting. In the first Dutch war, the King of Denmark acted with open hostility to the Commonwealth. He had strong political motives for remaining on good terms with the United Provinces, and it is very possible that he shared the common incredulity of Europe as to our power to overcome the first naval power in the world. If the Dutch proved victorious, they would certainly be obliged to him for any harm he might have done us. Acting under the influence of a desire to please the Dutch, the King of Denmark availed himself of a pretext to arrest an English convoy at Elsinore in the autumn of 1652. A squadron of eighteen ships was despatched under the command of Captain Ball to enforce their release. Ball's force was scattered by a gale, [266]and he was compelled to return without the convoy. A long and angry negotiation followed between the Governments, but the Danish king learned that it was more dangerous to offend England than Holland, before we were compelled to teach him the lesson directly.

The Mediterranean was the scene of a very much more lively and varied fragment of the great war. It has been said above that when Penn left the Mediterranean at the beginning of 1652 he was replaced by Captain Richard Badiley, who was despatched into those seas with a squadron appointed to protect the merchant ships against an attack by Prince Rupert and the French. The main centres of English trade in the Mediterranean were the Levant,—where the Turkey Company had factories at Smyrna and Scanderoon (Alexandretta),—Venice, and Leghorn. When the Dutch war broke out, there were six English warships in the Mediterranean, stretching widely over it for the purpose of collecting merchant ships at their different ports of departure, and bringing them together into one convoy before passing the Straits on the way home. Badiley himself was at Scanderoon with three ships. Captain Henry Appleton was at Leghorn with two. The sixth, the Constant Warwick, was at Genoa, where she had been sent to careen, because she was very foul and eaten by worms. Appleton had several English ships with him, and he would in the ordinary course of the service wait until he was joined by Badiley before sailing for England. The outbreak of the war with Holland entirely broke up the usual arrangement. The Dutch were represented in the Mediterranean by a force numerically stronger than ours, though the individual ships were smaller than our largest. This advantage they were certain to use for the destruction of our trade. The war began in June, and, as news travelled slowly then, was not known, even in Italy, till the end of that month or the beginning of the next. The Dutch ships in the western half of the Mediterranean were collected in the neighbourhood of Appleton, at Leghorn. They were fourteen in number, and were under the command of an officer named Catz. With such a disproportion of force against him, the [267]English officer had no resource but to seek the protection of a neutral port. Leghorn belonged to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and to him Appleton appealed for protection. The Grand Duke was not very favourably inclined towards the English officer, who had cost him considerable annoyance by capturing a French vessel just outside his port and bringing her in as a prize. The position of a neutral in a great naval war is always more or less disagreeable. The combatants are generally either anxious to make use of its harbours as a refuge, or eager to follow up an enemy in its waters. The ingenuity of international lawyers has invented many pretty and plausible regulations for the guidance of all persons in such a case. But it is the misfortune of international law that nobody is bound to enforce its decrees unless he feels himself injured by the breach of them, while the party who really is injured, and therefore quotes them on his own behalf, is frequently the weaker, and so is unable to supply that sanction which is necessary for the validity of any law. Between the stronger who wishes to crush the weaker, and the weaker who does not wish to be crushed, the neutral is often in a dilemma of great delicacy, since the weaker is often quite strong enough to be able to punish him for inability to enforce respect for his own neutrality. Besides, it is particularly hard to judge from the local strength of belligerents which of them is likely to prove the more powerful on the whole. When, then, Captain Appleton brought the French prize into Leghorn, he caused the Grand Duke very intelligible annoyance. The English might have the upper hand at sea, and yet the French might be quite powerful enough by land to pay themselves for what England had taken on the water, by pillaging the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. A not dissimilar dilemma presented itself when Appleton appealed to the protection of the port against the fourteen ships of Catz. The Grand Duke could hardly tell which of the two was the most dangerous to offend. In spite of the offence given him by Appleton, he endeavoured to hold the balance even between the quarrelsome sea powers. He promised the English that he would not allow the Dutchmen to attack [268]them if they came within the Mole of Leghorn. In regard to the waters beyond he could give no guarantee, since he had no naval force. To make assurance doubly sure, he allowed the English merchant ships to land their cargoes, and put them for safety in the Lazaretto or Quarantine House of Leghorn. Appleton might possibly have increased his force to a point which would have made it comparatively safe for him to give battle to the Dutch, if the merchant ships in the harbour had been willing to help him. They all carried guns, and the crews of that time were comparatively large. The merchant captains displayed the cowardice of the mere trader. They refused to give Appleton any help, alleging as their excuse that they had no orders from home to recognise his authority, and no security that they would be paid for any damage their vessels might suffer in action with the Dutch. During all the summer and autumn of 1652, Appleton and Charles Longland, the agent of the Commonwealth in Florence, were engaged in fruitless efforts to recruit the strength of the squadron from the merchant ships at Leghorn and Venice.

Since there was no hope from this source, nothing remained but to wait for the arrival of Badiley, in the hope that when all the six English warships were together, they might prove more capable of dealing with the enemy. It was a desperate chance, since all the probabilities were that Badiley would sail into the middle of the Dutch blockading ships. In order to reduce this danger as far as possible, Appleton despatched Captain Owen Cox with the Constant Warwick to meet the ships coming from the Levant, and warn them of the danger. The usual course for an officer bringing a convoy from the Levant would be to touch at Zante, picking up other merchant ships, then to go on to Messina and Naples for the same purpose, to range the coast of Italy as high as Leghorn, and then sail for the Straits, where he would pick up the Spanish trade. The Constant Warwick found Badiley at Zante, the most southerly of the Ionian Islands, where he was waiting for ships still on their way from Smyrna and Cyprus. On receipt of the news of war and the danger of Appleton, he [269]came straight on, without making the usual stoppages at Messina and Naples. His energy did not avert disaster. The Dutch blockading squadron had in the meantime passed from the command of Catz to that of Jan Van Galen, who came overland to supersede his predecessor. Galen was sufficiently alert to make himself aware of the approach of Badiley while the English ships were between the islands of Elba and Corsica. His own squadron had been so far reinforced that he was able to leave six ships to keep a watch on Appleton, while he sailed with eleven for the purpose of attacking Badiley. On the afternoon of the 27th of August, Galen attacked the English convoy. It consisted of eight vessels in all, but of these only three were warships; the other five were merchant vessels, sufficiently well armed to be able to beat off a small privateer or Algerine pirate, but hardly able to encounter a man-of-war of any size. Yet the Dutch were generally small; and as Badiley's own ship, the Paragon, was heavier than any of them, it may well be that if the Turkey Company's ships had shown a manlier spirit, they might have given a fairly good account of the enemy. As a matter of fact, not only the traders, but the two warships with Badiley supported him either not at all, or very little. The encounter on the afternoon of the 27th was confined to distant cannonading, but next morning the Dutch attacked with energy, and the Paragon had to make a desperate fight for the protection of her convoy. The whole weight of the action fell upon her. She was greatly shattered in her rigging, and the loss in killed and wounded amounted to no less than eighty-one, a very large proportion of a crew of about three hundred men. In the meantime the merchant ships did very little, and the Paragon's two consorts not very much. One of them did worse, for she fell into the hands of the enemy. This was the Phenix, which was destined to be the cause of some exciting events further on. If Captain Badiley told the truth, she was lost by blundering management and the misconduct of her men. Thirty of the crew got into the long-boat towing astern, and fled to the Paragon, where they spread so violent a panic that Captain Badiley considered [270]his own ship in danger of being lost. Fortunately for him, it fell a dead calm, and when the wind rose he was able to carry the Paragon, her one remaining consort, and the five merchant vessels into Porto Longone, at the south-east end of the island of Elba.

Here the governor offered him protection, and even remained loyal to his promises, although offered a heavy bribe by the Dutch if he would allow them to plunder the English vessels. But though Badiley escaped destruction, both English squadrons were now blockaded. Jan Van Galen was further reinforced, and was able to watch both Appleton at Leghorn and Badiley at Porto Longone. The second of these officers had been appointed to the general command. In co-operation with Charles Longland, he kept making strenuous efforts, throughout the last months of this year and the early months of the next, to raise his own force so far that he could attack the Dutch with some hope of success, or at least reunite the two squadrons. He failed to do either one or the other. He and Longland were in want of money, the merchant captains were in want of courage, and the vigilance of the Dutch kept the English apart and impotent. The watch on Porto Longone was not so close but that Badiley was able to go to and fro between that port and Leghorn. The Constant Warwick, too, re-entered Leghorn, but no general movement was possible. So the year wore away. It was noted that when the news of Blake's defeat off Dungeness reached Italy, the Grand Duke showed himself even less friendly than before. There were many Royalist exiles at his court who spared no effort to injure the Parliament's officers. Dutch diplomacy was active, and an envoy from "the person called Charles II.," as Captain Badiley described his king, appeared in time to support their representations.

In the meantime the English at Leghorn were subject to a perpetual blistering irritation. The Dutch brought the Phenix into the roadstead, and began ostentatiously to fit her as a man-of-war. When she was ready, the command was given to Cornelius van Tromp, the son of the famous admiral. The sight of this vessel was an eyesore to the [271]English, and in particular to Captain Owen Cox, who had been transferred to the command of the Bonaventure on the death of her captain, Witheridge. Cox began to plot schemes for retaking the Phenix. Appleton, who was afraid of offending the Grand Duke, was very angry with his subordinate's excess of zeal, and even went so far as to put him under arrest, but Badiley restored him to his command. At the same time, he certainly gave his approval to schemes for retaking the prize. He justified this strong measure in the immediate neighbourhood of the Grand Duke's harbour by arguments which no doubt appeared convincing to himself, but are mainly remarkable for a rather childlike simplicity. "If two people," said Captain Badiley, "who are at enmity with one another, go into the house of a third on the promise that they will not make a disturbance, of course they ought to keep quiet, but if one of them filches the sword of the other, the gentleman robbed has surely a right to recover his stolen property. Now the Dutch have filched our ship the Phenix, and so the Grand Duke cannot reasonably object if we take her back again." The English captains were not so convinced of the unanswerable character of their interpretation of international law as to present it for the Grand Duke's consideration before they took the Phenix. The argument was pretty, but it was better to expound the law after the Phenix had changed hands. They also decided that the more quietly the thing was done the better. According to their exposition of the practice of nations, it was quite legitimate to take an enemy in neutral waters, provided that the ship were taken in the small hours, and that no pistols were fired to disturb the slumbers of the citizens.

The capture was effected in this way, but not until Cornelius van Tromp had given the English further intolerable provocation. About the middle of November he put to sea on a cruise, and returned a few days later with his prize. By way of insult and glorification over his enemy, Cornelius van Tromp had entered the roadstead trailing the English flag in the water under his stern. On the night of the 20th November he was punished for this piece of unmannerly [272]brag. A cutting-out party was prepared in Appleton's flagship, the Leopard. It consisted of three boats. Captain Cox, who was very properly entrusted with the execution of his favourite enterprise, took the first, with fourteen men, Lieutenant Young of the Leopard had the second, with thirty-three, and Lieutenant Lynn of the Bonaventure the third, with the same number of men. The opportunity had been well chosen. It was St. Andrew's Eve, and the Dutch were carousing. Captain Badiley was informed that in order to ingratiate themselves with the Italians the Dutch captains heard a sermon from a friar before dinner. He preached upon the text, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men"; for which sin "nearly a hundred of their men were fished from them that night in the Phenix." The boats lost one another in the dark after leaving the Leopard, and it was not until "the appearing of the morning stars" that they were all alongside the prize. The capture was easily effected, for a large part of the Dutch crew was drinking on shore, and the other was more or less drunk on the ship. Young Tromp was finishing a carouse in the cabin when the English broke in. He escaped capture by diving from the stern-port and swimming to another Dutch ship, but, although he was very quick, he did not get off till one of the English sailors had given him a wipe with a cutlass, telling him that that was for trailing the English flag under his stern. From the moment he was in possession of the deck, Captain Cox cut cable and set sail. There was a good deal of scuffling and fighting between decks, in which Lieutenant Young was killed, but the English finally drove the Dutch into the hold, and would have quelled the resistance much sooner if they had not fulfilled their obligations to the Grand Duke by rigidly abstaining from the use of firearms. Several of the Dutch ships pursued, but they might as well have spared themselves the trouble. The Phenix easily out sailed them all, and Captain Cox carried her to Naples.

This incident filled the English both at Leghorn and Porto Longone with high gratification, but it was the beginning of new sorrows. The Grand Duke at first laughed [273]at the trick, but the outcries of the Dutch forced him to take a more serious view of the outrage. An act of hasty ill-temper on the part of Captain Appleton gave him an excuse for putting the English captain into prison at Pisa. Later on, he handed him over to Badiley at Porto Longone. The English endeavoured to propitiate the Italian prince by the sentence of a court-martial which removed Appleton from his command. His offence had been that he took a runaway prisoner out of the hands of the duke's sentry on the Mole. But although the Grand Duke professed himself satisfied, and even asked that Appleton might be restored to his command, he was plainly annoyed with the English, and probably very tired of the trouble they were causing him. The urgent appeals of Longland and Badiley for reinforcements from England could not be answered at the very height of the great war. The Grand Duke may perhaps have thought that it was better to make friends of the Dutch. He began to press either for the surrender of the Phenix by the English, or for their departure from his port. At last, in March 1653, Badiley decided to wait no longer. Indeed the Grand Duke was showing a temper which made decisive action necessary. Badiley therefore sent orders to Appleton to get ready the two men-of-war, and the four merchant ships, lying within the Mole, to meet him. The Dutch had raised the blockade of Porto Longone, and were concentrated outside Leghorn. The plan of the English commander was that he should appear off the port, and that so soon as he was known to be in the neighbourhood, Captain Appleton was to take the opportunity to slip out by night. Badiley, in the course of a controversy which arose between the two, asserted that he gave strict orders to the effect that the ships within the Mole were not to come out by day unless they saw him engaged with the Dutch. He complained that the sloth of Appleton and his captains spoiled this plan. They did not make the necessary exertions to come out of cover by night. Then their rashness completed what their idleness had begun. They came out in broad daylight, when it was impossible to slip past the Dutch unseen. These two errors [274]were, according to Badiley, the cause of the disaster which ensued. As the English ships came out with a leading wind, they had the Dutch between them and the English ships which had come over from Porto Longone. It was the manifest interest of the enemy to attack the English in detail. Badiley being at the greater distance and to leeward, they naturally attacked Appleton. If they had followed the reverse course, they would have presented the English with an opportunity of concentrating upon them, since Appleton would have had nothing to do but to run down from windward to the assistance of his colleague. The two men-of-war and four armed merchant ships which had come out from Leghorn were easily overpowered by the Dutch. Badiley says he was unable to render Appleton any effectual assistance, and the Council of State seems to have thought that he was telling the truth. The Leopard made a stout fight, but the other ships did not offer a prolonged resistance.

After the capture of the ships at Leghorn, there was nothing to detain Badiley on the coast of Northern Italy, and he therefore betook himself first to Naples, and then to the Straits. He would, if he had had his own choice, have remained abroad to cruise, but his men were by this time sick of the service, and were clamouring to return home. He appears to have been afflicted by some very disorderly fellows in his ships' companies. It was in vain that Captain Badiley appealed to their patriotism, and threatened them with the terrors of No. 11 in the Parliament's recently issued Articles of War. They answered persuasions and threats alike with cries of "Home, home!" At last he sailed, and reached England unopposed. The riotous character of his men was not improved by the time they returned to Chatham. Their violence made the duty of paying them off very irksome to Mr. Commissioner Pett, but he had his revenge; for no sooner were they paid off on their return from the Straits than they were pressed again, and sent off to serve their country in the great decisive battles of the war in June and July.

Diplomatic difficulties arose between the Government [275]of England and the Grand Duke of Tuscany in consequence of this episode of the war, but before this there had been a violent pamphlet controversy between the parties concerned. It was one of the earliest, though not the first, of the series of naval quarrels. Appleton, considering he had been left in the lurch by Badiley, openly accused his commander of treachery and cowardice, in a pamphlet dedicated to Cromwell and supported by the testimony of his captains. Badiley replied by a counter-pamphlet, retorting the charges of treachery and cowardice on Appleton, and adorning his defence of himself by charges of incapacity, impiety, and immorality against his critics. Both parties were very angry, very hot, and very abusive. They present the reader with the spectacle of heated seafaring men wrangling in an abusive manner, with much clumsy irony. On the whole, it does appear that if Appleton had been more alert and intelligent, he might have given more effectual help to Badiley. So Cromwell apparently thought, for Appleton was not employed again. Yet both were so furious, loud-mouthed, and brutal, that it is impossible to accept either as a wholly trustworthy witness.



Authorities.—Carlyle's Letters and Speeches of Cromwell will of course be consulted for this period. Clarendon's intellectual greatness and his insight enable him to interpret the spirit of events even when he is wrong in his facts. Cromwell's instructions to Penn and Venables, the letters of all the officers concerned, and the journals of the proceedings in San Domingo, have been collected in the second volume of the Life of Penn. Blake's operations in the Mediterranean and the ocean are to be made out from the papers in Thurloe, his own letters, and the narratives of the capture of the Plate Ships and the battle at Santa Cruz, published by order of Cromwell's Parliament.

The Government of Oliver Cromwell was that of a usurper and, in the strict sense of the word, a tyrant. He did not indeed use his power with wilful cruelty, but by the very nature of the case he ruled by the sword, and not by law. Still, usurper and tyrant as he was, his aim was not the indulgence of any mere passion of his own. He was not only the greatest man of his time, and one of the greatest of all time, but he was thoroughly English in his wishes, his aims, and even prejudices. The desire to give the nation, in return for the subversion of its regular Government, a compensation which would take the form of an extension of its national grandeur and the promotion of its interests, had possibly something to do in framing his foreign policy. Yet there was a wide difference between the course he followed and that which commended itself, first to the Jacobins, and then to Napoleon. He did not plunge England into a succession of wars in pursuit of glory and an unattainable universal dominion, in order to divert it from discontent with his own rule. He aimed at the things [277]which the great majority of Englishmen, whether Royalist or Puritan, knew to be consistent with the true interests of England, and could approve. These were three. In the first place, he undertook to teach foreign nations once more that they must respect England—a lesson they had too much forgotten during the weak rule of the Stuarts and the confusion of the Civil War. The old rhyme has it, that

"Though his government did a tyrant's resemble,
He made England great and her enemies tremble."

In so far, he was doing what every Royalist would have wished to see the king do. Then Oliver was resolved to obtain security for English commerce on the sea, and on that point there were no differences of opinion in the nation. Finally, he designed to obtain for England that extension of her trade and that expansion of her colonial empire after which the ambition of the nation was already straining. The criticism that his schemes were too great for his resources is perhaps well founded. Yet, had he lived to establish his Government firmly, it is probable that he would not have asked the nation for more than it could easily give. The sums spent by his Government on maritime expeditions were not greater than those pilfered and wasted during the reign of Charles II. But, however that may be, the fact remains that Oliver first pointed out to England the course she was to follow in the eighteenth century; and if he was wrong in practice, it was because the principles of his foreign policy were in advance of their time.

There were two ways by which the Protector could carry out his policy—by alliance with Spain or by alliance with France. The long war between these two nations was still in progress—with growing success and resources on the side of France, and daily increasing weakness on the side of Spain. There were reasons which might seem to make it the Protector's interest to ally himself with Spain. The growing strength of France at her very doors was a menace to England. The weakness of Spain would render her a dependent ally—that is to say, it would have that effect if Spain were capable of being influenced by ordinary considerations of policy. Then the close relationship between [278]the families of Stuart and Bourbon must always give the French monarchy a leaning to the side of the opponents of the Protector's Government. But Spain was not to be influenced in the way desired by England. Before Cromwell could undertake to help the Spaniards against the French, there were two concessions he was bound to demand from them. The first was the exemption of Englishmen from the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. The second was the admission of English trade to the Spanish possessions in the New World. Pride and the blind obstinacy with which the Spaniards, to their ruin, have always clung to their most extreme pretensions, made it impossible for the King and Council of Castile to yield what Oliver demanded. It is a well-known story that when the Protector made these two concessions the price of his alliance against France, the Spanish ambassador, Don Alonso de Cárdenas, answered, "My master has but two eyes, and you ask him for both of them." Spain, in fact, would rather fight on in hopeless, contumacious obstinacy than yield up her right to protect the purity of her faith and her pretension to retain the monopoly of the New World. Since, then, Cromwell could not obtain his ends by treaty, he prepared to extort them from Spain by force. He turned to the French alliance, and made ready for war.

The attack on Spain was to be conducted on three lines. One does not concern us, except in so far as it is necessary to remember that unless England had possessed a superiority of strength at sea, she could not have followed it. At a later period English troops were sent to co-operate in the conquest of the Spanish Netherlands. But before this, Spain had been attacked on the sea. Two expeditions were fitted out in England. The first, under the command of Robert Blake, was to sail for the Mediterranean, and, after disposing of certain preliminary duties, was to attack Spain at home. The second, under the combined commands of William Penn as general-at-sea, and of Robert Venables as general of the land forces, was to fall upon the Spaniards in the New World. This second expedition marks a notable epoch in our colonial history, and, at the cost of somewhat [279]forestalling the order of time, may be told as an episode by itself.

According to all modern notions, the policy of Cromwell in fitting out this expedition was eminently immoral. A great fleet carrying a force of soldiers was sent out with orders to attack the Spaniards before a declaration of war. But in the middle of the seventeenth century, and in the circumstances, there was nothing even irregular in what the Protector did. It is necessary to understand in their main lines the relations of European States to Spain in the New World, and to do that we must look back for a moment. At the close of the fifteenth century, the almost simultaneous voyages of Columbus across the Atlantic and of Vasco da Gama round the Cape of Good Hope had appeared to give the Crowns of Spain and Portugal the rights of previous discovery over the trade routes to the East. It must not be forgotten that Columbus was believed to have reached the eastern extremity of Asia. He himself died in the belief that this was what he had done. It was not until Vasco Nuñez de Balboa had crossed the Isthmus of Darien, and Magellan had sailed through the straits named after him, and had found a vast expanse of ocean between him and Asia, that it came to be understood that there was a continent of America. In 1494 it was thought that Asia had been reached, and it appeared not improbable that Spain and Portugal would come to blows over the limits of what we should now call their respective spheres of influence. The two States appealed to the Pope, Alexander VI., and he drew a line between them running from pole to pole 100 miles to the west of the Cape de Verd Islands. The decision of the arbitrator did not appear satisfactory to the Portuguese, who would have been confined too closely to the coast of Africa. They protested, and their protest was listened to by the Catholic sovereigns, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. In the year after the Pope had given his decision, a conference was held at the town of Tordesillas, and it was then settled that the line of demarcation should run 300 leagues to the west of the Azores and in the corresponding meridian on the other side of the globe. [280]In the course of time, it was found that this decision had thrown by very much the greater part of the two American continents into the share of Spain. Other nations refused, indeed, to allow that the bull "Inter cætera" gave Spain any exclusive rights. But the Spanish Government was of another opinion. It abstained, indeed, from interfering with the English settlements in New England and the French in Canada, which were poor and distant. Its own weakness forced it so far to acquiesce in what it could not prevent, but it never recognised the legitimacy of foreign settlements; and whenever any of them approached those regions where the Spanish rule was strong, they were liable to attack, even when peace prevailed in Europe. The Spaniards, in fact, recognised no peace beyond the line—that is to say, the line of demarcation from north to south, and not, as is sometimes supposed, the equator.

Hence there arose a permanent condition of lawless violence in the West Indies. By far the greater part of the islands, composing the Greater and the Lesser Antilles, were not occupied by the Spaniards at all. European adventurers were not to be debarred from settling in unoccupied lands, by a mere decision of the Pope which they did not recognise as valid. During the first half of the seventeenth century, English, French, and Dutch had swarmed in to dispute these islands with the Spaniard. The weakness of Spain made it impossible for her to keep them out altogether. The early history of these settlements is obscure. One very curious colony, founded by a Puritan company, of which Pym was one of the directors, in the island of Old Providence on the coast of Honduras, has left no trace except a few letter-books. Barbadoes was peacefully occupied by Englishmen, and became rapidly prosperous. Other English adventurers, some of them holding patents from the king and others without, had settled in Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, and part of St. Kitts. The other part of St. Kitts was held by the French. The Dutch also were in the West Indies, less as settlers than as traders with the French and English. Yet, though these settlements had increased and prospered, they were never quite safe from Spanish attack. [281]One great Spanish armament, under Don Fadrique de Toledo, had swept the West Indies in 1629; other and minor attacks had been common. The settlement in Old Providence, after many alarms and adventures, had been finally exterminated at some time in the earlier stages of our Civil War. It will be seen, then, that if the Spaniards were assailed by Cromwell without formal declaration of hostilities in the New World, the act was abundantly justified by Spanish precedents.

In 1654 the newly established Government was being urgently pressed to send out just such an armament as was finally despatched. An Englishman, of the name of Thomas Gage, the son of a family of English Roman Catholics and strong Royalists, had published an exhortation to his countrymen to fall upon Spanish America, and had revealed the real weakness of the land in a book called the New Survey of the West Indies, published in 1648, and very popular in the seventeenth century. Gage, who had been a priest, and who then became converted, and preached as a Puritan divine in England, was one of the very few Englishmen for whom it had been possible to visit the Spanish possessions. At the same time, some at least among the planters of Barbadoes were urging the English Government to adopt an aggressive policy, and were promising effectual support.

Under the stimulus of all these motives, the Protector's Government organised this expedition in the summer and autumn of 1654. It was to consist of 38 warships, carrying 1134 guns and 4380 seamen. A land force of 3000 soldiers, divided into five regiments of 600 each, was to be raised. The whole, when ready, was to sail for the West Indies, and to begin hostilities with the Spaniards from the day it crossed the tropic of Cancer. The orders given to the expedition, as was commonly the case with the Council of State and Cromwell, were perfect examples of what such things should be—at once absolutely precise in prescribing the aim, and wisely large in defining the means to be adopted. "We shall not," said the Protector, "tie you up to a method by any particular instructions." The generals, in fact, were deprived of every excuse for failure by being left free to choose the fittest means. As for the object of [282]the cruise, on that point there was no doubt. They were to go over to the West Indies, firstly, to chastise the French, who had been guilty of excesses against English trade; secondly, to enforce the Navigation Laws against the Dutch, who had been carrying on an interloping commerce with the English islands; thirdly, and this was the main purpose of the armament, they were to effect a settlement among the Spanish possessions. Where it was to be made, they were themselves to judge on the spot, and according to circumstances. They might land on the islands, taking Hispaniola by preference, or, failing that, St. John, that is, San Juan de Puerto Rico. Or, again, they might pass the islands and fall upon the mainland somewhere between the mouth of the Orinoco and Porto Bello, that part of South America commonly called the Spanish Main. A third course was to attack both the islands and the mainland, but it was made abundantly clear that the hands of those who were to be responsible for doing the work were not to be tied by too precise instructions.

This was as it should have been, but all was not equally well with the expedition. The leaders selected by Cromwell did not do honour to his choice. Venables, the commander of the troops, must have done something to make the Protector think him fit for the place, but on this expedition he showed himself a feeble, pottering, uxorious man. He took his wife with him, and appears to have been miserable when separated from her company. Penn was undoubtedly a brave and skilful seaman, but he wanted the intellectual resources and strength of character required to make good the deficiencies of his colleague. The weakness of the usurping Government is revealed by the action which these two men, seemingly without any agreement with one another, took during the summer. They both wrote to the exiled king, offering him their services. At such a time, men who have not honour enough to stand aside from a usurping Government, and who cannot serve it with enthusiasm, are very likely to be found looking over their shoulders for a safe retreat, and making friends with the enemy of the Government of to-day, who may possibly be the ruler [283]of to-morrow. Penn and Venables offered to bring the whole armament over to King Charles if he could find a port for them abroad. The king, who was totally unable to comply with the condition, declined the offer. It throws an unpleasant light on the character of Penn, that, immediately after he had been making this offer to betray the master who trusted in him, he was found appealing to the Protector for a grant of land in Ireland, which land, as a matter of fact, was the confiscated property of the supporters of the king. He and Venables did not work harmoniously together. They had a squabble in England before they sailed, which was made up by the exertions of friends, but probably left them on not very confidential terms with one another. It was not only the inferiority of, and want of harmony between, the leaders which was likely to militate against the efficiency of the expedition. The victualling was ill done, probably because of the poverty of the Government. A good part of the stores was not ready in time, and had to be sent on later. A large portion of the soldiers raised were of an inferior quality. Cromwell could not spare the choice troops who were the support of his rule. The five regiments were specially raised for the service, and they consisted mainly of discharged soldiers of the king as well as of the Parliament. These men had lost, or in many cases had never possessed, a true military character. The number of 3000 provided for by the scheme was never attained. The expedition did not carry more than 2500 men, of whom perhaps half were more likely to be a hindrance than a help where discipline was required.

On the 20th of December 1654 Rear-Admiral Dakins was sent on with fourteen ships in advance. The bulk of the expedition sailed on Christmas Day, which was probably chosen at least partly from a Puritan desire to show disrespect for the feast. In mid-ocean the heavier ships, which hampered the speed of the fleet, were left behind. Penn and Venables pressed on with the better sailers. By the 29th January 1655 the whole armament was assembled in Carlisle Bay in Barbadoes.

The disappointments of the expedition began at once. [284]It was found that those planters who had been urging the Government to send a force into the West Indies, and had promised effectual help, had spoken without authority. The planters of Barbadoes were by no means generally pleased at the appearance of an expedition from England. The generals were authorised to raise a regiment in the island, and the planters were afraid that if the freemen enlisted in large numbers, their "servants" would revolt so soon as the armed force was gone. By servants must be understood both the black slaves and those white men, criminals and prisoners of war, who were bound to a term of service. Much pressure had to be exercised before this opposition was overcome. It was at last surmounted, and the regiment was raised. In the meantime the news spread through the English islands. The swarm of loose adventurers who filled them, the runaway "servants," sailors who had deserted from their ships,—all the raw material, in fact, out of which the formidable buccaneering body called the "Brethren of the Coast" was afterwards formed,—began to collect in regiments, and were burning to take part in the service, which seemed to promise plunder. Such men as these, the floating population of the frontier, valiant in pothouses, but feeble in battle, were of no real value for military purposes. Yet they were accepted to the number of several thousands. The expedition had unfortunately been put under the command of a committee. In this Cromwell followed the practice of the Parliament, and was perhaps influenced by the fear of putting too much power into the hands of a single man. Not only Penn and Venables, but Goodson the vice-admiral, Dakins the rear-admiral, two special Commissioners, Winslow and Gregory Butler, together with some others, were joined in the general command, and nothing was to be done without the consent of three of them. The opinion of the wiser few, who would willingly have dispensed with the riff-raff of the islands, was overborne, and the expedition was hampered by an ill-armed, worse-disciplined, and thoroughly untrustworthy mob. It is to be noted also that this distant and unhealthy service in the West Indies was not popular [285]with the sailors. While at Carlisle Bay, the sea officers came in a body to Penn and represented to him their hope that the hardships of their service would be allowed for in their pay and prize-money. One good measure that had been decided upon in England was here perfected. A regiment of sailors was formed. It was put under the command of Admiral Goodson as colonel, with naval officers to lead the companies.

Two months were spent at Barbadoes, which might have incomparably better been employed in assailing the Spaniards before they were ready. At last, on the 31st of March, the expedition got under way. It proceeded by Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Kitts to the south-eastern end of Hispaniola, and appeared before the town of San Domingo on the 13th of April. San Domingo stands on the western side of a little river called the Ozama. It is in the middle of a large bay, some twenty-eight miles broad and some ten miles deep. The coast is low, rocky, and beaten by a formidable surf. Looked at from the sea, the spray thrown up from the waves was like the smoke of cannon fringing the beach. Close to the town on the west side was a fort. To the west of the fort, and at a distance of some five miles from the town, another river, called by the Spaniards Jaina, and by us Hina, falls into the sea. When there is a dead calm, or a land breeze from the north, it is possible to land here, but at other times the surf is too dangerous for boats. These conditions made it necessary to disembark the soldiers to westward and leeward of the town at some distance. In the West Indies the trade wind, or true breeze, always blows from the east. Beyond Cape Nisao, the western extremity of San Domingo Bay, there are a few landing-places in the surf-beaten coast. At one of these, perhaps Catalina Bay, Venables disembarked with the bulk of the expedition on the 14th of April. In the meantime Penn remained, with the greater part of the fleet and two regiments of soldiers, in front of San Domingo. The object of retaining these two corps was to land them at the mouth of the Jaina, to co-operate with Venables when he had got so far. They had with them [286]stores and scaling ladders for the purpose of attacking the town.

The story of what came of these imposing preparations is happily all but unparalleled in English history. Venables began his march on the day after landing, in circumstances of the most lamentable kind, if he is to be believed.

"Our men, the last fortnight at sea, had bad bread, and little of it or other victuals, notwithstanding General Penn's order, so that they were very weak at landing; and some, instead of three days' provision at landing, had but one, with which they marched five days, and therefore fell to eat limes, oranges, lemons, &c., which put them into fluxes and fevers. Of the former, I had my share for near a fortnight, with cruel gripings that I could scarce stand."

In this dismal condition they struggled through the narrow paths which traversed the dense tropical forest, without meeting more than a very trifling resistance from the Spaniards. By the 16th they had reached the Jaina. Here they remained until the 24th, engaged in what can only be called pottering. General Venables came back to the flagship, partly for the purpose of taking "a vomit," and partly in search of his wife, who went with him when he returned to his post. Every kind of difficulty as to provisions, scaling ladders, and powder united to hamper the attack on the Spaniards. It does not appear that the men were absolutely destitute of courage. On the 18th a portion of them were roughly handled in an ambush, but they rallied well, and beat the enemy back. The hardships of the service, of which the most intolerable was thirst, did something to depress their spirits, but what worked upon them most was unquestionably the discovery that they were being led without energy or intelligence. First, the army advanced from the Jaina to Fort Jerónimo. A vaunting attack, made without sufficient means, was followed by a retreat to the former position. When at last, on the 24th, the real attack was to be delivered, the troops, badly armed, badly disciplined, and mostly of bad quality to start with, were thoroughly ready for a panic.

On Wednesday the 25th the final attack on the Fort Jerónimo was to be made. The troops advanced and met [287]at first with no opposition. They established themselves on the eastern side of the fort, where no guns were mounted. An advance guard, called in the language of the time a "Forlorn," was to open the attack, supported by a party of "Reformadoes"—that is to say, officers belonging to corps which had been suppressed or broken up and incorporated with others. Behind them were the other regiments of the expedition. When the Forlorn was close on the fort, and the attack just about to begin, a small body of Spanish lancers, put by all the witnesses at some forty or fifty men, fell suddenly upon the English. Their charge was directed against the Forlorn, which fell suddenly and shamefully into disorder, and fled headlong back on the Reformadoes. The Reformadoes, whose part it was to have set an example to the army, were seized with a no less ignoble spasm of terror. The Forlorn and the Reformadoes, mingled in confusion, retreated upon the supporting regiments, which they infected with their own cowardice. The whole mass gave way in flight, and retreated in all the hubbub of an utter rout. Some of the officers did indeed behave with the gallantry to be expected of English gentlemen. Haynes, the major-general, the same officer who had co-operated with Blake in the taking of the Channel Islands for the Parliament, broke out of the mob of runaways, and, armed only with a small walking-sword, threw himself in the path of a handful of Spanish lancers who were pressing the pursuit. He was accompanied by an ensign named Blagg, who showed the colours in the vain hope of rallying some support. But the example of these brave men was lost on the terror-stricken rabble. Haynes was borne to the ground and slain; Blagg tore his colours from the staff, and, wrapping them round his body, fell down, and there died, pierced with many wounds. The completeness of their success appears to have taken the Spaniards entirely by surprise. They were a mere handful, and, although they are said to have killed between three and four hundred, they were not supported, and were easily repulsed when some of the English were induced to make a stand. The corps to which belongs the honour of saving the expedition from extermination was the sailors' regiment [288]commanded by Admiral Goodson. These men were no doubt veterans of the Dutch war, who were hardened to perils. They let the cowards pass, and then closed up to cover their retreat. So soon as they were resolutely faced, the forty or fifty Spanish lancers, who had hitherto "had the execution" of some thousands of Englishmen, fell back.

There were those among the English who believed that all was not lost, and that a second attempt might be made with a fair prospect of success. But the bulk of officers and men were completely cowed. They could think of nothing except of hurrying back with the utmost possible speed to the landing-place, and taking refuge in the ships. The officers would not trust themselves with such men, and indeed the spirit of the whole force was completely broken. While retreating during the night, they were terrified at the noise made by the land-crabs in the bush, and opened a wild fire right and left.

While the army was making this deplorable exhibition of itself, the ships were parading to and fro in front of San Domingo, engaging at odd moments in a languid artillery fire with the forts. Penn declared that he could have easily destroyed Fort Jerónimo, and have swept the sea-wall of the town. He excused his failure to act, by saying that his colleagues would not agree. Venables, in particular, was opposed to the destruction of Jerónimo, on the ground that it would be useful as a hospital. It is not obvious, however, that Penn need have been deterred by this from attacking the town. His conduct was certainly wanting in enterprise, and the difference between him and his colleague seems to be this, that whereas Venables did wrong, Penn did too little.

Having lost hundreds of men by the sword, and a still larger number by the tropical diseases which were now raging, the unlucky expedition cast about for some means of escaping the reproach of utter failure. Some of the more poor-spirited among them were ready to return to Barbadoes, and from thence to England. The majority, either because they possessed more courage, or because, however much they feared the enemy and the climate, they dreaded Oliver [289]Cromwell still more, were resolved to make a last effort before returning empty-handed. A compensation which was easily to be secured lay ready to their hands. The island of Jamaica is almost due west of the west end of the island of San Domingo, at a distance of about a hundred miles. Gage, the author of the Survey of the West Indies, was with Venables, and he, with the English planters from Barbadoes and St. Kitts, could easily inform the generals that the island was almost uninhabited, and would be an easy prize. On the 4th of May, Penn and Venables left the bay of San Domingo, and on the 10th appeared before the Spanish town on the south side of Jamaica. Here, fortunately for them, perhaps, there was no opposition. The population, in fact, was very small, hardly able to beat off a considerable raid of pirates. The town was occupied after a mere show of resistance on the 9th, 10th, and 12th of May. The Spanish governor made his submission at once. His countrymen, with greater spirit, deserted the town and took refuge in the hills.

Having now at last done something, the English leaders hastened to deprive themselves personally of all credit by deserting their command and running back to England. The early history of Jamaica is a very painful one, and need not be told here. Perhaps the moral of it all is best given by a witness who wrote after the Restoration of Charles II. He reported that when the Spaniards saw how fast the English died, they were surprised, but that, when they learned how much they drank, they were surprised that any of them lived. The military and naval leaders squabbled, and the soldiers and sailors fought. At last it was decided that Penn should return to England with the bulk of the fleet, leaving Goodson with twelve of the lighter vessels. He sailed on the 25th of June, returning home by the western end of Cuba and the Florida Channel. One English vessel, the Discovery, had been blown up by accident at Jamaica. On the way another disaster occurred. The Paragon, which had been Badiley's ship in the Mediterranean, caught fire and blew up, with the loss of a hundred lives. Penn returned to England in a very intelligibly dismal state of [290]mind. He was inclined to see the hand of the Lord visiting the sins of the expedition, and something he referred to mysteriously as the "sin in England," on the men of little faith about him. He was also visibly nervous as to the reception it was likely he would meet with from the Protector, and began garrulously excusing himself before he reached home. It was not without cause that he, and possibly his colleague Venables, of whom we have less evidence, looked forward to facing Oliver Cromwell. The old explanation of the Protector's anger, that he punished the generals for taking Jamaica when they were ordered to take San Domingo, was given in ignorance of their instructions; but he had good cause to be angry with them, both for the incapacity displayed at San Domingo, and for their hasty desertion of their conquest of Jamaica. As his spy service was both watchful and efficient, it is at least possible that Cromwell had warning of their letters to the king. They reached England on the 31st August, anchoring at Spithead. Within a fortnight they were both in the Tower, on the recommendation of the Protector's Council. They did not escape from this till they had made abject submission. Penn retired to the estate which he had begged for himself out of the confiscated property of the king's friends in Ireland, and was no more employed during Oliver Cromwell's life.

Goodson remained at Jamaica for nearly two years, prosecuting the war with Spain. The smallness of the force left under his command made it impossible for him to undertake operations on a great scale. In truth, what he did bore a very close resemblance to the piratical warfare afterwards carried on by the buccaneers. He sailed twice to the Spanish Main, burning and plundering small towns, taking water and provisions at unfortified places, but attempting nothing against the great port of Carthagena. To some among the English officers at Jamaica this method of conducting hostilities was not acceptable. They thought it piratical, and unworthy of a great State; but it was all Goodson could do, and it served a useful purpose. The first two years of our establishment in Jamaica were times of miserable weakness and suffering. The governors died one [291]after the other, and the ranks of their followers were terribly thinned by fever. If during this interval a vigorous attack had been made by the Spaniards, who were acclimatised and expert in bush fighting, it is not impossible that we should have lost the island. The presence of Goodson's ships and his activity warded off this danger, and it is partly to him, therefore, that we must attribute the merit of retaining this colonial possession.

Before the fleet under Penn left to undergo its varied fortunes in the West Indies, another naval armament had sailed from England under the command of Robert Blake. It started somewhat earlier than the expedition directed against the West Indies—on the 29th September. Blake's orders were ultimately to attack the Spaniards, but the time for hostilities against them in Europe had not yet come. In the interval there was plenty for an English admiral to do in the Mediterranean. In the first place, he had, in the modern phrase, "to show the flag"—that is to say, to let foreign nations see that England was mistress of a naval force capable of extorting respect. Then the Protector had inherited from the Council of State a number of diplomatic disputes with the Italian princes. The presence of a powerful English fleet in the Mediterranean was likely to add material weight to the expostulations of his diplomatists. Blake worked his way slowly along the Spanish and Italian coasts of the Mediterranean, and was everywhere treated with deference. There is a story that at Malaga he gave the Spaniards a proof that the ruler of England did not bear the sword in vain for the defence of his subjects. It is said that an English sailor who was on shore on leave displayed his Puritan sentiments by insulting the host. For this he was maltreated by the mob, on the instigation of a friar. Blake, so the story goes, insisted on the punishment of the ecclesiastic, and was told by the governor that he had no power to punish churchmen, which, if it was ever said, was untrue. Upon this, the English admiral threatened to open fire unless the friar was given up to him. His threat and the ocular demonstration they had of his strength brought the Spanish authorities to reason. The friar was [292]sent on board, presumably expecting and, if he was a fanatic, hoping for martyrdom. Blake, however, confined himself to rebuking the over-zealous friar, and declaring that he would make the English name as much respected as ever was that of a Roman citizen. There is nothing improbable in the story, which, however, rests solely on the authority of Bishop Burnet. Whatever may be the accuracy of this anecdote, it is beyond question that Blake's mission was to make the name of Englishmen respected in the Mediterranean, and that it was fulfilled. The Italian princes found that delay would no longer be tolerated. Their disputes with the English Government were wound up. A naval power is not limited in its influence, as the strongest of merely military powers must needs be. The States around the Mediterranean might have despised the menace of the New Model Army, which was no doubt capable of marching all through Italy, if only it could have got so far; but a fleet can make the power of the State felt wherever ships can go. Cromwell's menaces were formidable to the very extremities of the Mediterranean.

In that sea there was one duty to be discharged which the English Navy had been forced to neglect for too long. The pirates of the Barbary States had long been a pest and a menace to the commerce of Europe, and even to the coasts of Christian States. Within the Mediterranean nobody had yet seriously undertaken to break their power. It is true that they no longer operated in great fleets, as they had done in the days of Barbarossa. The age of the pirate admirals had been succeeded by that of the Raises, or pirate captains, but they were still formidable to commerce, if they attempted no longer to capture towns and conquer territory. The growing English trade in the Mediterranean suffered from them severely. When the Church of England included a prayer for prisoners and captives in her Litany, the words had a significance they no longer bear. In 1620 the ridiculously feeble effort already recorded, to check this disgraceful infliction, had been made with no better result than to convince these Mohammedan sea rovers that England was not formidable. It was necessary to bring them to a [293]sounder view of the facts, and this was one part of the task entrusted to Blake.

After passing along the coasts of Spain and Italy, Blake went on to discharge this part of his duties. He first sailed over to Algiers in March and opened negotiations. It was his purpose to secure his object—the release of English captives and some security for the exemption of English ships from capture in future—without fighting, if possible. The Barbary States were still nominally part of the dominions of the Sultan, and there was always a chance that severe measures taken at their expense might provoke retaliation on the servants and property of the Levant Company at Smyrna and Scanderoon. At Algiers, then, Blake attempted peaceful negotiations with the Dey, and even exerted himself on his behalf with the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John. The Dey was obstinate, or, as he habitually lived in terror of the piratical portion of his subjects, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that he did not dare to make such an arrangement as Blake demanded. Still the English admiral held his hand. Before taking hostile measures at Algiers, he decided to pay a visit to the less formidable piratical town of Tunis. The Dey of this other town of plunderers was not less unreasonable, and by this time Blake's patience was exhausted. After returning for a few days to Trapani in Sicily, he came back and fell upon the pirate ships. Tunis was strong, and the Dey believed it to be unattackable. It lies at the very bottom of the deep gulf between Cape Farina and Cape Bon. The approach was protected by the forts of Farina and Goletta, famous in the wars of Charles V. and Philip II. The pirate galleys had been hauled under the guns of these fortifications, and their owners might with some show of reason believe them safe, but they had never yet been attacked in the style adopted by Blake. On the 4th of April 1655 (just one month, be it noted for purposes of comparison, before Penn and Venables sailed away from San Domingo shamefully beaten) the English admiral stood in and opened fire on the Tunisian ships. The forts proved very ineffectual, and the fire of the vessels was soon silenced. Then the English [294]took to their boats and boarded. They were quickly masters of the prizes, and lost no time in burning them. From Tunis Blake went first to Tripoli, and then came back to Algiers. In these places satisfactory arrangements were at last made. The Orientals had, in fact, discovered that the moderation of the English admiral was not due to fear or weakness, and they at once bowed to force. Blake's conduct was approved by Cromwell, and he was now free to proceed to the execution of the last part of his duty.

The alliance with France was in the meantime maturing. There was no longer any reason for delaying an open declaration of hostilities against Spain. On the contrary, as Penn and Venables had had time to develop their attack on the West Indies, it was very desirable that the Spaniards should be prevented from sending reinforcements, and this could be most effectually done by compelling them to stand on guard at home. Blake was therefore ordered to cruise off Cadiz, for the double purpose of intercepting the treasure-ships on their way back from America and of preventing the despatch of a Spanish squadron to the West Indies. The blockade was so far successful that the Spaniards were paralysed, but no prizes were taken, and by the approach of autumn the English ships were severely strained. In October Blake returned to England. The war with Spain had not as yet been prosecuted with very triumphant success. The failure at San Domingo was a huge disgrace, hardly balanced in the opinion of the world by the capture of Jamaica. The successful blockade of Cadiz, though it must have caused great loss to the enemy, had not produced those visible results in the way of prizes and bullion which the nation could understand. But Cromwell was resolved to persevere.

In 1656 Blake returned to the coast of Spain. On this cruise he was accompanied by Edward Montagu, afterwards the first Earl of Sandwich, and their object was again to capture the much-desired Plate Fleet. This year they had a better chance of success. In 1655 the Spanish Government had stopped the vessels, but it was now in such dire need of money that it was compelled to run the risk of bringing [295]them home. In summer a first detachment reached the neighbourhood of Cadiz, only to fall into the hands of the English blockading fleet. Blake and Montagu were not present at the capture, for they had retired to the friendly ports of Portugal to refit, but a squadron had been left to watch the port, under the command of Richard Stayner. It proved amply sufficient for the work to be done. The Spanish treasure-ships, though of great bulk for the time, were intrinsically very feeble, and their decks were hampered by merchandise. Stayner burned or captured nearly the whole, with a very trifling loss to himself. The bullion and goods taken amounted in value to nearly the revenue of England for a year—to over two millions sterling. Montagu returned to England with the booty, taking Stayner with him. Although the great sugar-loaves of silver were pillaged by the sailors, there was enough left to load thirty waggons, which were driven through London to the Tower, to the general gratification of the Protector's subjects.

Blake in the meanwhile remained outside of Cadiz during the autumn and winter, till the spring of 1657, waiting for the next instalment of the Plate Fleet. It was an unheard-of thing at that time to keep a fleet out for the winter. Even now the heavier vessels had been sent home with Montagu and Stayner, but the persistence of the others in remaining abroad shows that our navy was increasing in seaworthiness and hardihood. In the April of 1657 Blake was rewarded for his perseverance by learning that a large Spanish squadron carrying treasure had taken refuge at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

To attack them in this port was in the general opinion an enterprise of the utmost hazard. The bay of Santa Cruz is deep and the island hilly, therefore the harbour is perpetually liable either to be in a dead calm, or to be swept by the violent gusts of wind off the land. These natural obstacles made entrance difficult for a fleet. And Santa Cruz was in addition very powerfully fortified. So strong, in fact, had art and nature made the harbour, that the Spaniards considered a successful attack impossible, and Blake's contemporaries looked upon his triumph as an unheard-of achievement of daring. Yet the Commonwealth admiral, [296]like so many other men of strong mind, showed his strength by despising the vain appearance of force. He estimated the inefficiency of the Spaniards at its true value. Moreover, he saw that the forts, if attacked closely, would probably fail to stop the entry of a fleet running before a good breeze and borne on a rising tide. Once in the harbour, and in the midst of the Spanish vessels, he would be comparatively safe, since they would mask the fire of the guns on shore. With the turn of the tide, aided, as it was very likely to be, by one of the common winds off the land, he would be able to secure his retreat. No doubt there was an appreciable risk, as there always must be in the serious operations of war. But it was one a bold man commanding an effective fighting force could run without temerity.

The attack was made on the 20th of April, in the early hours of the morning. The fleet had sighted the harbour by daybreak, and the look-out frigates had reported that the Spanish ships were still in the bay. The decision to attack was taken at once, and the English fleet stood in. The result fully justified the calculations we may suppose Blake to have made. The English ships ran past the forts with little or no damage. They were in the midst of the Spanish ships and in hot action by eight o'clock. The Spanish galleons were as ill fitted for war as the vessels taken outside of Cadiz. Though the English remained in the bay while daylight lasted, they lost only 50 killed and 120 wounded, while none of the ships received more damage than could be made good at sea in a few days' work. The fate of the Spaniards was very different. By seven in the evening they were all sunk, driven on shore, or set on fire. When the work was thoroughly done, the English prepared to drift out on the ebb-tide. By this time daylight must have been over, and in the dusk and following darkness they would probably in any case have passed the forts with very little injury. But by one of those strokes of good fortune which commonly come to the help of a bold and skilfully conducted enterprise, the wind arose from the south-west, and they regained the sea swiftly, with no further injury.

The attack on the Spaniards at Santa Cruz de Tenerife [297]was not only the most brilliant achievement of the navy during Cromwell's Government, but it was by far the finest single feat performed in the seventeenth century, and, though it has been equalled, it has never been greatly surpassed in later times. Even Nelson's attack on Copenhagen was not more intrepid. The delight felt by all Englishmen, without distinction of party, was unbounded. Cromwell sent Blake a "jewel" consisting of his portrait set in gold and diamonds, and the royal historian Clarendon has praised him without stint or qualification. Blake, indeed, deserved alike the jewel and the praise. Nothing quite of the same stamp as the attack on Santa Cruz had ever been done before, except his own bombardment of the forts of the Dey of Tunis. The captures of the Puntal Castle at Cadiz by the Earl of Essex in 1597, and then by his son in 1625, were small in comparison. In the Elizabethan time, ships had either shrunk from attacking forts, or, as in the case of Drake's attack on San Juan de Puerto Rico, had been beaten off. At the Ile de Rhé, our ships had shown no inclination to tackle the French fortifications. It is to Blake, as Clarendon justly pointed out, that the credit belongs of first showing what a fleet could do. But for Blake, his work was over. The destruction of the West India fleet had completed the task he was sent to do on the coast of Spain. He was therefore ordered to return home, but he never lived to reach his native country. He died, as it would seem, of scurvy, on board his flagship, the George, at the mouth of Plymouth Sound, on the 7th of August 1657. He was buried with his old fellow-admiral and general-at-sea, Richard Deane, in Henry the Seventh's Chapel, whence their bodies were taken with those of other Puritan leaders, at the Restoration, and thrown into a pit on the north side of the Abbey.

During the brief remainder of Cromwell's life, the navy had little to do except to assist the troops which were co-operating with Turenne in the siege of Dunkirk. With the death of the Protector the whole foundation of his Government was removed. It was based on his personal ascendency, and was supported by his immense superiority of faculty to all enemies. Englishmen submitted to it [298]because the alternative was anarchy. When Oliver died, the anarchy which he had warded off came swiftly upon the nation. Between the end of 1658 and the beginning of 1660 power was snatched from one feeble hand by another, till at last Monk, at the head of the army in Scotland, imposed himself on all rivals. By this time the vast majority of Englishmen had come to the conclusion that their one means of escape from a succession of mere military tyrannies lay in the restoration of the ancient monarchy. Happily for England, no man saw that truth more clearly than Monk, and under his sagacious, phlegmatic guidance the restoration of the monarchy was effected in the May of 1660. A historian of the navy is strongly tempted to endeavour to prove that it helped materially towards attaining this result. I can, however, see no evidence that this was the case. A navy, though powerful to ward off foreign intervention in our affairs, was very little able to influence the nation. It could only apply pressure by intercepting trade and cruising outside ports,—in other words, by condemning itself to the hardships and tedium of blockade, and that, too, in circumstances which made effective blockade impossible, since the fleet could not draw supplies from abroad, and could only get them at home by the goodwill of their countrymen. The utter failure of the Royalist revolt in the fleet in 1648 even to check the triumph of the Independents is an example of the happy incapacity of a navy to take an influential part in civil strife. Throughout the war the navy had followed, not led, and this was its part during the fourteen months of confusion which intervened between the fall of the Protectorate and the Restoration of King Charles.



Authorities.—The Duke of York's "General Instructions" and "Orders," together with the "Œconomy of the Navy Office," give us the form and theory of the government of the Navy. The inestimable Pepys gives the spirit and the manner of the execution. The Calendars of State Papers supply the orders to officers abroad, and their reports. Clarendon's memoirs of his own administration tell the history of the outbreak of the war from the English side, while M. Pontalis sums up the Dutch story with all the lucidity, thoroughness, and criticism of the modern French historical school.

Three reigns of English kings stand out as of exceptional interest in the history of the Royal Navy. King John's, for in it we first find a fixed sea force, and the intelligent use of the power it supplies. King Henry VIII. comes next, and to him belongs the credit of framing a regular administration. In the reign of Charles II. the work of his predecessors was completed. The government, or, to employ the phrase of the time, the "Œconomy," of the navy was finally established as it was destined to remain. Succeeding rulers might have to fill up and perfect, but, except in details, the navy became, under this king, what it was destined to continue to be through a century and a half of war and glory. The defects of Charles's character have, perhaps justly, made posterity somewhat unfair to him. He took the base view of his office, that it was an estate to be enjoyed. There is an almost touching candour in his complaint to Clarendon that his subjects spoke evilly of Barbara Palmer and her like, instead of imitating the French, who had a becoming respect for the ladies whom the king delighted to honour. To Charles it appeared to be a truth so manifest as to require no demonstration that [300]his kingdom was given him for his pleasure, and that his subjects were to be expected to revere his amusements. In so far Charles set a ruinous example, for his servants regarded their offices as he did his crown. Yet the king was intelligent, knew what ought to be done, was willing to give orders that it should be done, and to approve of those who worked well for him. His fatal defect was that he could never make that sacrifice of his ease which was necessary if he was really to govern. Therefore, though many excellent measures had his approval, they were commonly carried out detestably.

The main instrument of King Charles's government of his navy was his brother James, Duke of York, who shared his own character, though with a much duller intelligence and a far less genial disposition. The duke had been destined for the office of Lord High Admiral from his boyhood. During the exile of the Royal House he had for a time made way for Prince Rupert, but he came into his inheritance with the Restoration. Acting with the approval and support of the king, the duke did a great work for the navy. The whole code by which it was administered on shore, or sailed and fought at sea, during succeeding generations, was outlined by the various orders of the Duke of York. To a great extent, no doubt, the merits of the king and his brother may be said to have been forced upon them. The time was past when the navy could be treated as a mere collection of ships which might for the most part lie idle, save in war, or when in peace a minute winter and summer guard divided its time between escorting ambassadors, and giving a languid chase to pirates on the coasts of Great Britain. The growth of commerce, and still more the increased expectation on the part of subjects that they were to be continually protected in their commerce, made the maintenance of a permanent force on a large scale necessary. The Long Parliament and Cromwell had accustomed the country to ten times more than it had ever received from James I. or Charles I. The restored monarchy could not safely do much less. With the necessity for a permanent force came the need for a regular corps of sea officers, and [301]a great development in the dockyards. But it does not detract from the credit due to the king and his brother that they did what was necessary. On the contrary, it is their highest praise. They could not possibly have had the kind of glory which belongs to Louis XIV. and Colbert. A French ruler and his minister might create a navy for a definite political purpose, where none existed, and where none would ever have come into being without their fostering. The English Navy had grown out of the needs and with the strength of the nation. It needed only to be shaped, not built up from the foundations.

In another respect the reign of Charles is an epoch in naval history. The Royalists might endeavour to restore the ancient framework of government, and in show they had a great measure of success. But the monarchy which came back with Charles II. was a very different thing from the monarchy which perished with Charles I. It had not the same sanctity. The Royalists might read Filmer, and preach passive obedience, and talk of Divine Right, but their professions were at the outside the rhetoric of a party. In Parliament they themselves were far from disposed to approach the king with the humble deference their fathers had shown to Elizabeth, and even James. They were resolved to intermeddle, to control, to have a direct influence on the administration. They spoke out bold and sharp when they were angry. Parliament, in fact, would not pay the doctrine, that it was a merely consultative body, the honour of refutation by argument. However the high Royalist party might talk, the Peers or the Commons brushed all theories summarily aside in moments of passion, and insisted on making their real power felt in the direct control of the administration.

When the Duke of York hoisted his flag as Lord High Admiral at Schevening in 1660, and escorted his brother back, the materials forming the Navy of England were in existence. There were the ships, the dockyards on the river and at Portsmouth, and there were the officers and crews, and a staff of workmen. What remained to be done was to establish a permanent code of regulations, and to [302]organise a regular corps of sea officers. This second part of the duke's duty was encumbered by a difficulty arising out of the Civil War. The whole body of the men in command of the ships had been the servants of Oliver Cromwell. The lower ranks of officers were particularly suspected of dangerous principles. Yet the monarchy could not afford to dispense with these men altogether. The few seamen who had followed the fortunes of the king and Prince Rupert were not numerous enough to supply the staff of a great fleet, while many of them had lost their experience, and had been injured in character by the debauchery which had been one of the main resources of the exiles in idleness. The Crown, therefore, was compelled to overlook the antecedents of the existing body of admirals and captains, and to pick out from them those who were the least likely to prove "factious." Not a few of these men had given serious guarantees to the Crown. Penn had offered his services before sailing to Jamaica in 1654. Montagu and Lawson had taken an active share in the restoration of the king. We may credit them with an honest conversion to the belief that the choice for England lay between anarchy and the House of Stuart. We know from Pepys that Montagu can have had little of what the Cavalier understood by loyalty. He told his humble kinsman, during the period of confusion which preceded the Conference at Breda, that the king would probably be restored, but that unless he minded his manners he would not last long. This was not the spirit of Sir John Berkeley or Lord Byron. But it may be taken to represent pretty fairly the view of the average sensible man, in whom whatever religious and political opinions he might have were modified by a regard for his own interest. With few exceptions, the leaders of the fleet were quite as ready as Montagu to serve the king. A few were set aside as too Puritan to be trustworthy, and among them was Goodson, who had done such honourable service in the conquest of Jamaica. A selection was made among the others of men who might be relied on, and they were bound to the king's service by a retaining fee. These men were, properly speaking, the beginnings of the corps of naval officers. They [303]formed a service permanently employed by the king, and had recognised rights to continue in pay, not only when actually at sea, but when on shore.

The growth of the navy, and the certainty that in future a large permanent force would be required, must of themselves have convinced the king and his brother of the necessity for providing some way of recruiting this body by trustworthy men as vacancies occurred. It was no longer possible to wait until war arose, and then provide for the command of ships by appointing gentlemen and merchant skippers. The way in which the necessary means were provided is eminently characteristic of that practical use of expedients by which almost every part of our administration has been built up. When a similar necessity was seen by Louis XIV. and his minister Colbert, they met it by establishing the corps known in the French Navy as the Gardes de la Marine—young gentlemen who were to be educated in a school set aside for the purpose. The Duke of York took a very different course, described by himself in a letter to Sir Richard Stayner.

"Sir Richard Stayner,—His Royal Highness being desirous to give Encouragement to such young Gentlemen as are willing to apply themselves to the learning of Navigation, and fitting themselves to the Service of the Sea, hath determined, that one Volunteer shall be entered on every Ship now going forth; and for his Encouragement, that he shall have the Pay of a Midshipman, and one Midshipman less be borne on the Ship: In prosecution of this Resolution, I am to recommend to you the Bearer Mr. Tho. Darcy; and to desire you that you would receive him according to the Intentions of His Royal Highness, as I have acquainted you; and that you would shew him such kindness, as you shall judge fit for a Gentleman, both in the accommodating him in your Ship, and in farthering his Improvement.—I am, Your affectionate Friend,

W. Coventry.

May 7, 1661."

Mr. Thomas Darcy was, in the modern sense of the word, the first midshipman in the English Navy. The title had hitherto been given to a petty officer serving under the boatswain, and it even continued to be used in that sense for some time. By the duke's own orders, nobody was to be rated a midshipman who had not served seven years at [304]sea. There does not seem to have been any intention that the young gentlemen who were sent in the squadron with Stayner to apply themselves to the learning of navigation, and fit themselves to the service of the sea, were to be known by the name. It was purely by use and wont that midshipmen came to be the title of the young gentlemen who were in training to make officers, and ceased to be applied as had heretofore been the case. This appointment completed the foundation of the corps of naval officers. Young gentlemen sent on board ship in this way were known as King's Letter boys, and it was understood that they were qualifying for the rank of lieutenant, though they never were allowed to possess the right to demand it. When this modest little expedient is compared with the imposing establishment of the French king, it looks humble enough, yet it may, when judged by the results, well be considered the wiser method of the two. The French naval officers of the end of the seventeenth and the whole of the eighteenth century were more book-learned than ours, more cultivated men, much more addicted to the scientific side of their profession and to writing books, but they were far less efficient as practical seamen. Moreover, they formed a close corporation which had a strong moral if not legal claim to the exclusive right to command the king's ships. Such a body was very jealous, and even very selfish. It was capable of sacrificing the interests of the country to the protection of its own privileges. On the other hand, the English naval officer was commonly, in the ordinary sense of the word, ignorant, but he was thoroughly broken to the sea life, and, if he did not write about his business, he knew it. Moreover, lads who were sent into a ship simply to learn, and had no claim to promotion as a matter of right, were not likely to grow up with the exclusive class jealousy of the French officer. It must be remembered that the King's Letter boy only differed from other boys in the manner of his entry into the ship, and because he was to be treated on the footing of a gentleman. His right to be promoted depended, not on his King's Letter, but on the amount of his service and on his capacity to prove himself fit for promotion. Any other member of the crew [305]who had done the service and possessed the necessary qualifications was equally capable of receiving the king's commission. In practice, no doubt, the lad who had sufficient interest to obtain the King's Letter was more likely to have the interest to secure promotion than another. In practice, too, the service needed to qualify for the rank of lieutenant was sometimes given more in show than reality. The corruption and favouritism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries allowed of many abuses. One of these was the habit of permitting the names of lads to be borne on ships' books while they themselves were at school or in the nursery; but this is only one of the innumerable instances in which fact and theory failed to square, and, however ill the original scheme was carried out, the intention of the Duke of York was secured in essentials. It came to be understood that nobody could be an officer in the English Navy who had not served an apprenticeship in a king's ship, and that, when once an officer, he was regularly in the service of the king. No doubt this could not be done at once. During early years, and before a sufficient number of apprentices had been trained, it was necessary to continue the old practice of appointing men from the outside. Here, as is so often the case, the old overlapped the new, but the foundations had been laid, and it is perfectly accurate to say that the British naval officer, in the modern sense of the word, dates from the reign of Charles II.

There was nothing accidental in the decision of the Duke of York. We know again from Pepys, that in the early days of the duke's administration there was much talk of breeding men to the sea, and making the sea service as honourable as the land. The appointment of Darcy was undoubtedly decided on with this very intention, and the subsequent history of the Royal Navy may be held to show that the duke builded better than he knew. It was long before his work was complete. Half-pay, that is, payment when not on active service, was first given in 1668 to a limited number of flag-officers. Other ranks only got it by degrees. But the principle was established. When once a king's officer was in the king's service for life, it followed [306]that he had a claim to support when not employed. Before the reign of Charles II. no such right had been recognised, therefore there was then no regular service.

Another change, which had become a sheer matter of necessity, was the establishment of a permanent code of discipline. Hitherto each admiral, on being appointed to his office, had issued his own set of regulations. By use and wont there had arisen what was called "the Custom of the Sea." What remained to be done was to give expression to this custom, with the needful improvements and developments, in a statute, if that name can be applied to a set of orders promulgated by an administrative and not a legislative authority. Mention has been already made of "The Laws of War and Ordinances of the Sea, Ordered and Established by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England" in 1652. This may, in a way, be said to be the first rough draft of the Queen's Regulations and Admiralty's Instructions. Oddly enough, the code is in thirty-nine Articles, a number which one would think a Puritan Parliament would be likely to avoid. A great part of it deals less with discipline and the duties of officers and men than with exhortations to fight well and prohibitions against holding relations with the enemy, or with "malignants." It is, however, explicit on two points: first, on the course to be taken with prizes, and then on the duties of captains engaged in convoying merchant ships. The prizes are not to be pillaged, and the captains engaged on convoy duty are ordered to protect the merchant ships, and to abstain from making profits for themselves. Valour against the enemy and obedience to command are enforced in repeated clauses, and the majority of them end with this formula, or some variation of it: "upon pain of death or such other punishment as the offence may deserve."

When the Duke of York drafted his own orders for the general maintenance of discipline, he no doubt had the Parliament's laws and ordinances before him. Some of its phrases were adopted, and one of them continued in use into this century—that, namely, which forbids unlawful and rash oaths, cursings, execrations, drunkenness, uncleanness, and other scandalous acts in derogation of God's honour and [307]corruption of good manners. But there was much in the document drawn up by the Parliament which would have been out of place in the duke's instructions. Moreover, it was so much more a general exhortation to good discipline and hard fighting than a body of regulations, that the larger part of it was dropped. The Duke of York himself issued two sets of orders, which were meant to go together and complete one another. The first contains the "general instructions" addressed to each captain, and consists of forty-four Articles. The second is headed, "Orders Established for the well governing of His Majesty's Ships, and Preservation of good order among the respective Commanders, Officers, and Seamen serving His Majesty in the same."

The general instructions are calculated to produce a somewhat unfavourable impression of the moral qualities both of the ships' companies and the workmen in the dockyard. From first to last the captain is instructed to be constantly on watch against those who will defraud the king if they can, and is threatened with dire consequences if he is himself guilty of fraud. The forty-third Article addresses him in language which would be considered now highly insulting to any gentleman. He is told that when his ship is paid off, he shall not have any part of his pay till the principal officers of the navy are persuaded of his honesty; and there is a rider to the effect that if his misdeeds escaped detection at the time, and were afterwards discovered, the duke will take care that he is duly punished. To judge from these instructions, what the Government was chiefly anxious to secure in the case of a captain was, that he would go early to his ship, leave her as little as possible, and be vigilant in putting a stop to that practice of defrauding the king which "has become a frequent (though insufferable) abuse." There is something almost pathetic in the indignant "though insufferable" which breaks into the wording of this clause. Other Articles throw a light on the discipline and organisation of the time. Thus, Article XV. orders the captain to rate no man A.B. until he has had five years' sea service, and no man a midshipman who has not had seven, and is able to navigate, except by special orders. The exception provides [308]for the case of Mr. Thomas Darcy and others. By Article XXII. he is ordered to demand the salute within the four seas, and under no condition to give a salute anywhere unless he is sure it will be returned. Article XXXIX. is particularly valuable, because it tells us what was then considered the training required to form a seaman gunner. The captain is told to take care "that for the first month the men be exercised twice a week, to the end that they may become good firemen, allowing six shots for every exercising. That the second month they be exercised once every week, and after that only once in two months, allowing six shots to every exercising." This does not necessarily mean that the men were not exercised at the guns except when they were firing at the target. By Article XL. we learn that there were many complaints that captains carry merchandise. This they were forbidden to do, unless it be "gold, silver, or jewels." A great deal is heard of this complaint and this regulation during the reign of Charles and his brother. There will be occasion to come back to it, for the purpose of showing how ill and how little it was obeyed.

"The Orders Established for the well governing of His Majesty's Ships" are but ten in number. They are a series of rapid prohibitions of such offences as swearing (this was a dead letter), drunkenness (very partially obeyed), sleeping on watch, breaking leave, and so forth. It is noteworthy that the penalty attached is in most cases loss of pay. There are, however, exceptions. First, Article III. declares that if any man receiving the pay of a seaman, or less, is found guilty of telling a lie, he shall be hoisted to the forebrace with a shovel and broom tied to his back, and the crew shall cry, "A liar, a liar!" Flogging, which was afterwards so common in the navy, is only mentioned once in Article VIII., as the punishment due, according to the Custom of the Sea, for certain dirty acts, which are specified with an explicitness of language impossible to quote.

Alongside of the organisation of a regular service and the establishing of a code of discipline there was much other work to be done. The first and the most important was to settle the system of administration in the civil branches and [309]the dockyards. During the Commonwealth and Protectorate the navy had been governed by Commissioners of the Admiralty, a Commission for discharging the office of Lord High Admiral at sea, and by other Commissioners for executing the duties of the Navy Office. With the Restoration there was an inevitable desire to restore the old prevailing system of the monarchy. The duke took his office as Lord High Admiral and gathered all its power into his own hands. At the same time, the Navy Office was replaced on the old footing, with one significant change. Two Commissioners were added to the Navy Board, John, Lord Berkeley, and Penn, with general powers of supervision and control. Sir W. Coventry, who was also Secretary to the Duke of York, was added as a third Commissioner in 1662. There were also Commissioners of Dockyards at Chatham, Harwich (a post suppressed in 1668), and Portsmouth who did not belong to the Board. During the first days of his rule the duke was compelled by necessity to go on with the machinery left him by Cromwell. Until the arrears of the navy were paid off, no new start could be made. So soon as this was done, the duke re-established the old order. The regulations which he issued were not in the main new, but were a repetition of those promulgated by the Earl of Northumberland when he was made Lord High Admiral in 1638. The duke prefixed to them a letter which is of considerable interest. From it we learn that the necessity for removing from the navy officers of dangerous principles and replacing them by new men had introduced many into the king's ships who were incompetent. The officers were therefore ordered to get reports from the captains as to the conduct of their subordinates, in order that those who were shown to be unfit might be removed. Then follows the body of the orders. Although they made a very small book when published under the name of the "Œconomy of the Navy Office" in 1717, they are longer than they need have been if mere repetition had been avoided, and a more businesslike arrangement had been adopted. The officers are first to do everything jointly and then to do it separately, and many of the articles are but echoes of one another. As these orders are but a re-issue [310]of Northumberland's, they contain no notice of the functions of the two Commissioners, but we learn from them at great length and very explicitly what the functions of the Treasurer, Surveyor, Comptroller, and Clerk of the Acts were and continued to be until the reorganisation carried out by Sir James Graham. The introduction which is addressed to the Board as a whole is minute, but the essential clause of it is the XVIIIth. It instructs them that they are to watch and check one another, "and so all may inspect each other's actions by their general power as officers, there being no difference in their trust, though otherwise a distinction in their places and particular duties and employments." What they were to check and inspect will be best shown by the functions of each officer, but it must be understood that whatever any head of a department could do in his own place, all could do in any department for the general service.

The first of these officers in dignity was the Treasurer of the Navy. As his name shows, he was responsible for the financial management. It was his duty to make a statement of accounts for others to pass—that is to say, to accept as accurate in so far as their own departments were concerned. It was he who solicited for "Privy Seals"; in other words, he drew the money from the Lord High Treasurer. He made a yearly report to the Lord High Admiral of the state of all the departments in the navy. He was forbidden to pay bills by which the king or the party to whom the same was due might be "damnified," and he was ordered to be present at all payments and to charge himself fairly with all abatements, etc.

The officer who ought to be named next, though he comes third in the "Œconomy of the Navy," is the Surveyor. It was his business to make an estimate at the end of each year of the stores needed for the next; to report to the Lord High Admiral on the state of the ships; to take care by himself or his "instruments" that all stores be right as to price and quality; to keep an account of all loans of stores issued out of the usual course on sudden need or private service; to charge and discharge all boatswains—that is to say, to debit them with all stores issued to ships, and to credit them with [311]all stores properly used. At the end of every year he was instructed to ask his brother officers to inspect his trust—or, in more modern phrase, to certify he had done his work properly. He was to keep books. At the end of every year he was to report what repairs would be required in the next. Then comes an instruction which is very significant, for in it lies part of the explanation of the failure of these elaborate instructions to secure their purpose. The surveyor was told that, as the increase of the navy and its lying in several places far distant made it impossible for him to see to everything as heretofore, his duty might have to be discharged by a Clerk of Survey, but in that case the clerk was not to issue bills, nor was the surveyor to go by his subordinate's opinion only.

The next officer to be noticed is the Comptroller. Put briefly, the duty of this official was to check the books of the treasurer and surveyor. For this purpose he kept a separate set of accounts, and was expected to superintend all the payments made by the Navy Office and to survey the stores. He was to inform the Board of the current prices of the market; to examine the storekeeper's books every quarter; to be present at all the meetings; to watch his brother officers continually; to report to the Lord High Admiral on the state and amount of the stores; to keep an account of all imprests, that is, all money advanced; to keep a copy of all estimates, privy seals, and assignations of money to the treasurer; and finally, to balance the treasurer and victualler's accounts, so that he may report to the Lord High Admiral whether any of the king's money is in hand at the end of the year.

The last of the great officers forming the Board was the Clerk of the Navy or Clerk of the Acts. This official answered to the permanent Under Secretary of our time. He was, in fact, the head of the secretariat, or purely office work, and it was his duty to attend all meetings of the Board and to keep a record of all transactions. It appears from the "Œconomy of the Navy" that he was hampered by the obligation to control what were called "petty emptions," by which were probably meant the purchase of stationery, furniture, etc., which were [312]required for the office. But it was added, that as so much more of this work has to be done now than was formerly the case, he may leave it to be done by subordinates, whom, however, he was expected to control. It was also his duty to see that a "plurality of persons was proposed for the supply of all wants." The modern statement of this obligation would be that he was bound to take care that the surveyor and other members of the Board did not get into the habit of dealing with one merchant only, with whom they might have a corrupt understanding.

Beneath these great officials there were a number of lesser and subordinate officers who did not form a part of the Navy Board. The first of these was the Storekeeper, whose function it was to receive all stores, stow them away, and issue them out again on a warrant of two or more principal officers. He was to examine all bills for stores delivered; to refuse what was unfit; to receive no stores without a copy of the contract; to keep accounts; to do all work by himself, and not, unless in case of necessity, by his servants. These instructions applied to what were called in-stores—that is to say, perishable things kept in warehouses. They held good, however, for all out-stores—that is to say, wood, metal, etc., which lay in the open air. He was minutely directed as to the tests to be applied to timber, and was to take care that when ships were broken up, all the parts worth keeping were kept.

The Clerk of the Cheque was in fact a time-clerk. It was his business to check the number of men employed, and the time they worked. He was to take surprise-musters whenever he pleased, and to hold an ordinary muster once a month. He was to watch the porter and the storekeeper. The abuses which he was especially instructed to prevent are still familiar to all who have to superintend a great shop or workyard, "such as men coming late to work, departing from work before the bell rings, tippling in alehouses or the porter's taphouse, carriaging away of timber instead of chips, etc." Chips, be it observed, came to be the slang name for all kinds of pilfering from the dockyards. It was a well-established joke to say that the handsome houses in their [313]neighbourhood were all built out of chips. The clerk of the cheque was bound to draw up and send to the treasurer the muster-books of ships newly commissioned.

The Master Attendant was in fact a sailing-master employed in a dockyard, and not in a ship. He did the purely naval work of the yard, such as shifting ships at their moorings, and maintaining discipline among the caretakers.

The title of Master Shipwright explains itself. The officers known by that name were in fact shipbuilders. It is worthy of note that they are vehemently forbidden to beautify ships—that is to say, to waste the king's stores in those elaborate carvings and gildings which the sea officers loved. In some of the models of the time, it is not only the case that the bow and stern are covered with elaborate carving, but the very portholes are surrounded with wreaths of gilded laurel.

The Clerk of the Ropeyard was a clerk of the cheque for the ropewalks. The Porter was an official of some dignity, who exercised very necessary functions. It depended more on him than any other man to check common and vulgar pilfering, therefore he was particularly instructed "to take notice of all back doors, all private passages by water, in the shipwrights' or caulkers' own boats, or through men's houses, or over the walls, etc., and to observe from time to time all those who used conveyances and neglect the common passage of the King's Gate, and to give the Clerk of the Cheque notice thereof of their check and amendments." Private passage means of course private errand, and by that doorway many millions of the king's money leaked away during a century and a half. The porter was carefully instructed to sell no drink.

The boatswains of the yard took charge of the stores and tackle under the orders of a master shipwright. The boatswains of ships were the caretakers of the vessels at the moorings. The gunner of the yard had general charge of the stores, and was bound to watch one night out of three. The purser of the yard took charge of food, served out provisions, and was also bound to watch one night out of three.


If the most elaborate provisions for standing on guard against fraud could have kept the civil administration of the navy honest, these orders of the Earl of Northumberland, renewed and emphasised by the Duke of York, ought to have effected that wholesome purpose. Nothing can surpass the care taken to check the malpractices of one individual by the vigilance of another. The ideal which has been satirically attributed to certain Continental politicians, namely, the employment of half of the population as police spies on the other, would seem to have been reached in these instructions, and it would appear to be almost impossible for anyone to commit fraud under the vigilant watch of so many competent observers. But we know as a matter of fact that the administration of the navy was very corrupt under Charles II., and that it continued to be corrupt throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, and that the abuses were so flagrant in the beginning of this as to provoke the appointment of a Commission when Lord St. Vincent was head of the Admiralty. The great original cause of this failure was unquestionably a moral one. The most artful provisions for preventing pilfering and waste are useless when the officials whose duty it is to carry them out are themselves wasteful and dishonest. We know that in the reign of Charles II., everybody, from the king downwards, looked to make his pleasure, or his profit, out of his share of the government of the country. The more honest among them were content to get what gifts they could from those who had occasion to frequent their office and thought it worth while to buy their friendship. Samuel Pepys, for instance, who, according to the standard of the time, was rather an honest official, took every penny he could get. Pepys, however, seems to have drawn the line at entering into a conspiracy to steal stores or to supply bad ones. Others who were less scrupulous pushed his practices a step or two further. They were not content with merely taking such gifts as might be made them by a contractor who still supplied good stores. They were ready to help a fraudulent tradesman to sell rubbish to the State, provided he made it worth their while. Even short of this excess a great deal [315]was done which was in reality fraudulent. There came to be a kind of tradition that what was taken from the State was stolen from nobody in particular. Men who were honourable enough in private transactions had no scruple about licking their fingers "like good cooks" when what stuck to them was the money voted for the navy. Such men were not likely to be vigilant in watching the similar offences of other people. They were too conscious that they themselves were vulnerable. Thus a tradition of dishonesty and a habit of waste established themselves in the dockyards, and it at last reached such a height that money disappeared by millions in a few years.

Even if the code of honour had been higher, it would have been difficult to prevent waste and mismanagement altogether. There was a defect in the organisation of the Navy Office which counteracted the purpose of all the instructions. They were drawn up by the Earl of Northumberland at a time when the navy was still a small force and its establishments were very limited. At that time it was not difficult for the four officers of the Navy Board to maintain that personal supervision of every detail of the service contemplated by the instructions. But with the growth of the English Navy in the middle of the seventeenth century, with the great developments of its establishments caused by the construction of the dry dock at Portsmouth, which belongs to the time of the Commonwealth, this had entirely ceased to be the case. It was little less than absurd to expect the treasurer, surveyor, comptroller, and clerk of the acts to be present at all ratings and payments, and to superintend every detail of the receipt and issue of stores of so great a force as the English Navy, yet this is what was contemplated. The truth that the task was beyond the power of the officers was not recognised by the duke and his advisers. In the instructions to the surveyor there is some slight recognition of the fact, but it does not go nearly far enough. The consequence of expecting four men at the head of the civil administration of the navy to superintend personally every detail of its working, down to the mere receipt and issue of stores in the ordinary course of business, [316]was an utter want of direct responsibility for the sufficient execution of the work. The men at the head could not do all that was expected of them in theory. Therefore they in practice left it to their subordinates. The subordinates, again, could do nothing of themselves, but only by the orders of their superiors. Thus nobody was really answerable for carrying out the work. The men at the head escaped responsibility because it was physically impossible for them to attend to everything. The men below escaped because they only acted by order. Between the two a host of makeshift usages grew up, which in their origin were inspired by nothing more lofty than the convenience of the officials. When men found that they could take with impunity, they took. It may be doubtful, if we look at the moral standard of the time, whether any organisation of the office would have prevented dishonesty. It is certain, however, that the organisation, which as a matter of fact did exist, gave corruption every chance. Yet it is advisable not to exaggerate the extent of the evil. That there were robbery and waste is an undeniable fact. Many fine houses were built out of chips, and fortunes were made at the public expense. During the reign of Charles II. and the generation following, when the corruption was at its worst, rotten ships and bad stores were to be found; even then, however, efficient ships were sent to sea. Later on, corruption took the form of spending a great deal more than was necessary, rather than supplying bad goods. The prevailing sentiment of the time looked upon robbing the State very much as otherwise quite honourable people still look upon a little smuggling.

The attempt to make the principal officers of the navy jointly responsible met with the success which, as experience has shown, generally follows on the effort to give a collective character to what from the necessity of the case must needs be individual. It may be laid down as a general rule, that where several men are said to be jointly responsible, one of two things will happen. Either they will all insist upon acting effectively, and in that case nothing will be done; or else one of them will gain a superiority of influence, and then [317]the others, though nominally his equals, will in reality be reduced to the position of subordinates. It was the second of these alternatives which became practically established in the working of the Navy Office. The comptroller, who in theory was empowered only to check the treasurer and surveyor, became gradually the most important officer of the Board. The Lord High Admiral, or the Commissioners who were discharging the office, learned from him what had been done or what it was desirable to do. In the same way the members of our own Admiralty Board, though in theory jointly responsible with the First Lord, have in practice become subordinate to him.

In the course of time, too, other departments began to group themselves around the Navy Board, in proportion as the work grew more complex. The Commonwealth had already found it necessary to establish a special commission for dealing with the Sick and Hurt. The Sick and Hurt Office became a permanent part of the machinery of naval administration. To it was left the management of the Chest at Chatham. This fund, originally established by Sir John Hawkins in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was fed by the fines levied for breach of discipline and by percentages of prizes. It was meant to be devoted to the support of seamen disabled in service, either by sickness or wounds. In the reign of William III. it was reinforced by a sum levied on the pay of all seamen, and in later days the maladministration of this fund grew into an outrageous abuse. The business of victualling the navy had originally been discharged by an official in the department of the surveyor, but it grew beyond his power to discharge. At the very end of the reign of Charles II., in 1683, a special Victualling Board was created. Later on, other departments were made separate, such, for instance, as the Commissioners for Transports, who were established and abolished, and then established again. Then there was a special Pay Office; and it must be understood that, while the main lines remained unchanged, there was much that was fluid, unstable, and tentative in details. When it was fully grown, the old naval administration consisted of no less than fifteen departments. [318]It was a further cause of confusion that they were not even all under one roof. The Navy Office was in Seething Lane, the Sick and Hurt, with the Victualling Board, had their office on Tower Hill. The Pay Office was in Broad Street.

It was another proof of the final formation of the navy in this reign, that a special corps of soldiers was now first established for service in the fleet. This was the Admiral's, or, as it was called from the colour of its uniform, the Yellow Regiment. It was the first corps of marines proper of which we have any notice. Soldiers had been largely employed in the fleet before, but it does not appear that any attempt had been made to distinguish between the soldier who served in the king's ships and the soldier who was available for all military services. The Admiral's Regiment was specially devoted to the fleet. This corps was the predecessor, but not the ancestor, of the modern Marines. It was created partly, as it would seem, by drafts from one of the London trained bands in 1664, at the outbreak of the second Dutch war, and was disbanded at the Revolution. The old belief that the naval officer was rather a fighting man at sea than a seaman, was still so strong that the functions of officer in the Admiral's Regiment and naval officer were still considered interchangeable.

The period during which the sea service was growing to its full stature was also one of strenuous and varied fighting. When King Charles II. was restored to his throne in what is officially counted as the twelfth year of his reign, the unstable adventurers who had temporarily held, or professed to hold, power in England had a considerable armament at sea. Richard Cromwell sent a force to the north, under the command of Edward Montagu. The object of this expedition was to intervene in the war between the Kings of Sweden and Denmark. A Commission, including Algernon Sidney, was sent to keep a watch on the admiral. But Montagu was too anxious as to his own fortunes in the prevailing confusion at home to have the heart to act so far away, and his subordinate officers were of the same way of thinking. They took a pretext to return home, leaving the [319]Commissioners behind them. In England, where Richard Cromwell had been upset, there was no definite authority to call them to account. Montagu indeed retired from the command for a time, and was replaced by John Lawson. This seaman was an Anabaptist. From his own account he had begun life as skipper and part owner of a small trading vessel in the north of England. Clarendon called his trade by its name when he described Lawson as a collier. During the Civil War he had fought both on land and sea for the Parliament. It might be supposed that with this past, and with what was then called his fanatical principles, Lawson would have been an opponent of the Restoration of the king. Yet he was found agreeing with, if not promoting, a petition from the fleet in favour of the Restoration, and he co-operated with Monk. When the king's Government was established, some of the Royalists were disposed to visit Lawson's earlier sins upon him, but he and the other experienced seamen of the Commonwealth were too useful to the Crown to be dispensed with. King Charles II., with characteristic wit, described them as men who having had the pest already and been cured of it, were therefore the less likely to be infected again. The high praise given by Clarendon to the character of Lawson shows that, in the opinion of a thorough Cavalier, the Anabaptist seaman had accepted the monarchy without reserve.

There was much work for the king's sea officers to do. It was impossible, to begin with, for the restored monarchy to neglect the work of protecting commerce in the Mediterranean, and the navy was hardly established on its new footing under the Duke of York before a naval force was despatched against the Barbary pirates. The latter part of 1660 and the whole of 1661 had been spent in the work of settling the new Government. Parliament had to vote money for the payment of arrears, and it was indeed impossible for the new rulers to take all in hand very speedily. So soon, however, as Parliament had supplied necessary funds, and as the work of new modelling the list of officers—that is, of removing all who were too Puritan, and re-establishing as many Royalists as it was safe to employ—had been completed, [320]a squadron was sent abroad, under the command of Montagu, now created Earl of Sandwich, with Lawson as second. It had a double duty to perform. The first part of its work was to chastise the Barbary pirates, who had recovered from the scare caused by Blake's attack on Tunis, and were again engaged in searching and plundering English ships in the Mediterranean. Then the fleet had to bring home the king's wife, Catharine of Braganza, after taking possession of the post on the coast of Africa ceded as part of her dower.

The attempt to bring the Barbary pirates to order met with very indifferent success. Sandwich sailed to Algiers, with eighteen men-of-war and two fireships. He appeared before Algiers in July, and began negotiating through the English Consul, Mr. Brown. The negotiations came to very little, for the Algerines refused to relinquish their right of search, and the fleet was not strong enough to bombard the town. In this dilemma, Sandwich decided on dividing the fleet, and devoting each part of it to one of the missions he had to fulfil. Lawson was left with twelve ships to prosecute the war against the pirates, while the earl carried out the more diplomatic half of his mission. The station on the coast of Africa, ceded to England as part of the dowry of Catharine of Braganza, was the town of Tangier, which lies just outside of the Straits of Gibraltar, and then passed for a good port. The Government of Charles II. is open to severe criticism on many grounds, but it cannot be said to have habitually neglected what were then considered the commercial interests of the nation. One of these was held to be the possession of a useful seaport, either in, or close to, the mouth of the Mediterranean. As far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, some of her officers had lamented the evacuation of Cadiz, on the ground that it would have been of the greatest possible use to us if we had decided to keep it. Cromwell had directed his officers commanding his fleet on the coast of Spain to consider the possibility of seizing on Gibraltar. When the Government of the king asked for the possession of Tangier as part of the dowry of the Portuguese princess, it took the best possible means of reconciling [321]Englishmen to a Roman Catholic marriage, and gave them something to set off against the subsequent surrender of Dunkirk to the French king. A less conspicuous gain, in the opinion of the time, was the transfer to England of the island of Bombay, which also formed part of the queen's dower. The occupation of these two posts marked another step forward in the development of the English Navy. Bombay was not destined to become a royal naval station for some time. It was taken possession of by the Earl of Marlborough, James Ley, for the king, but was soon after handed over to the East India Company. For that very reason it had a better chance of remaining a permanent part of the dominion of England. Tangier, which at the time seemed much the greater possession, was destined to be handed back to the Moors by the English king, by whom it had been received from the Portuguese. Yet the mere fact that these two posts over sea were accepted by the king, was a sign that he was prepared to employ his navy at all distances, and in all climates, in the general interests of the State. This, again, implied the maintenance of a permanent efficient force. It is possible that if Sandwich had delayed taking possession of Tangier a little longer, it might not have been in the power of the Portuguese to hand it over. When the English admiral reached the bay, the white garrison had just been wholly destroyed in an ambush by the Moors. Sandwich withdrew the survivors of the Portuguese garrison, and left an English force to hold the town, under command of the Earl of Peterborough. He then went on to Lisbon, for the purpose of embarking the queen and escorting her to England. His functions were as much diplomatic as naval, for he was charged with receiving the money of the young queen's dower and making the final arrangements with the Portuguese Government. This part of his work gave Sandwich more trouble than the Algerine pirates or the besiegers of Tangier. The Government at Lisbon had promised more than it could pay, and when it did at last produce a part of the queen's dower, the payment was made in goods and not in money. When he reached England with the queen, Sandwich fell [322]into temporary disgrace, not because he had failed in his duty, but because the poor young queen did not bring as much money as her impecunious husband had hoped for, and then because she for a time rebelled against the necessity of receiving her husband's numerous mistresses; and all who had a hand in the marriage suffered from the king's irritation.

While Sandwich was taking possession of Tangier, and haggling with Portuguese ministers over the queen's dower, Lawson had been prosecuting the war against the Algerine pirates. He met on the whole with more success than might have been expected. The lesser pirate States of Tunis and Tripoli were comparatively easy to cow, but Algiers was a formidable opponent. There were two ways of dealing with it effectually, and Lawson was not able to use either to the full. One was to bombard it with a fleet capable of beating down the fortifications and firing the town. The other was to establish a blockade which could put an entire stop to piratical voyages. Lawson's fleet was not strong enough for the first, nor was it either numerous enough or well enough supplied for the second. Yet, by pertinacity and vigilance he brought the Government of the Dey so far to submission that he undertook to give up some hundred and fifty English and Scotch prisoners, who were then in slavery in the town. Some vessels also were returned—a concession to which the Algerines were no doubt more readily brought, because English-built craft were of little use for piratical purposes. When, however, Lawson went on to make a demand for the captured goods, he was refused peremptorily. He was not the man to endure the arrogance of the pirates while it was in his power to chastise them. An opportunity presented itself for teaching them a lesson. One of their vessels, a cruiser of thirty-four guns, allowed herself to be caught out of the protection of the fortifications. Lawson immediately seized her, and retaliated for the wrong done to English captives by selling all the Turks or Moors who formed part of her crew, as slaves to work in the galleys of the Duke of Beaufort, the French admiral, who was then cruising in [323]the Mediterranean. This vigorous measure brought the Algerines to reason for the moment; but it was only for the moment, and several expeditions were required during the reign of Charles II. before this pirate State was made to understand that English ships must be left alone.

Lawson remained in the Mediterranean until 1663. During the latter part of his stay in that sea he co-operated for a time with the Dutch admiral, Michael de Ruyter, who also had been sent into the Mediterranean on the never-ending duty of cowing the Algerines. The causes which put a stop to the combined action of the Christian admirals go far to explain why what has been justly described as the disgrace of Christendom was allowed to endure until the present century. The Powers of Europe were, in fact, too bitterly divided by rivalries and quarrels of their own, either to combine for the purpose of suppressing Mohammedan piracy, or even to allow one another to act with energy. When De Ruyter met Lawson, he saluted the English flag with guns and lowered his own. Lawson returned the guns, but not the salute with the flag. The Dutch admiral not unnaturally considered this an insult. The pretension of the English to the sovereignty of the seas around Great Britain had been accepted by the Hollanders in 1653, but they did not suppose that they would be compelled to acknowledge themselves inferior to the English in all waters. De Ruyter considered himself aggrieved, and made a complaint to the Grand Pensionary John de Witt. His own determination was not to salute Lawson again if they met, but he was instructed from home to lower his flag whenever he came across the English admiral, taking care, however, to avoid him as much as he could. When a man has to keep out of the way of another for fear of being insulted by him, the two can hardly co-operate effectively against a common enemy.

John de Witt, who was keenly alive to the dignity of his country, would not have despatched such orders as these to De Ruyter if he had not been under the influence of a great fear. If he sacrificed the feelings of his seamen and the pride of Holland on a point of etiquette, it was because [324]he was then endeavouring to avert the war which the English Court showed every sign of intending to force upon him. The causes of the second Dutch war were, to some extent, those which had led to the first. They were compendiously stated by Monk, now Duke of Albemarle, when he said that it was idle to dispute as to the rights and wrongs of the quarrels between the two nations, since they essentially amounted to this, that the English wanted a larger share of the trade enjoyed by the Dutch. The result of the first war had not been all that Englishmen expected. Oliver Cromwell's policy of hostility to Spain had thrown the whole trade with that country, formerly enjoyed by us, into the hands of Holland. Dutch commerce had revived very rapidly after the disasters of the naval war. The successful intervention of Holland in the war between Sweden and Denmark had restored the prestige of the Republic, while the administration of the Loevenstein Party, however unwise it might be in other respects, was very vigorous, intelligent, and economical in matters of commerce. Thus, when the return of the king brought peace abroad to England, we found the Dutch traders competing with us as successfully as ever. In the Far East, the powerful Dutch East India Company remained as jealous and exclusive as before. However willing the States General may have been to fulfil the promises they had made to Cromwell, they were unable to control the agents of the Dutch East India Company in the Spice Islands. English ships trading to the East complained that they were stopped and turned back by the Dutch. Whatever element of truth there was—and in the midst of much exaggeration there was a certain amount of truth—in these complaints, the English Government conducted negotiations with the obvious intention of making the most of their grievances. Our representative at the Hague was Sir George Downing, a man who had formerly served Oliver Cromwell and had then made his peace with the king. Downing, who appears to have been by nature an insolent, overbearing man, knew that he would please his new masters by taking a high tone with the Dutch, and he played his game heartily. He did not scruple to do, as [325]indeed most ambassadors of the time would have done, namely, intrigue with those members of the States General whom he knew to be rivals of John de Witt.

The commercial rivalry of the nations was exasperated by political dislike between the Governments. John de Witt had been forced by Cromwell to pass the Perpetual Edict, a law of the States General, designed to exclude the House of Orange Nassau from the position it had held in the United Provinces. However unwilling the Grand Pensionary may have been to take this step under foreign dictation, the exclusion of the Princes of Orange from the place of Stadtholder, with command of the army and fleet, was so consistent with the interest of the Loevenstein Party that they could not repeal the Edict. But the young Prince of Orange was the nephew of the King of England. Family feeling has rarely induced any prince to abstain from indulging his ambition, but it is a useful pretext for doing what has already been resolved on for less avowable reasons. Charles II. had not forgiven the Dutch for excluding him from their territory at the instance of Oliver Cromwell. When he was recalled in 1660, they had, with some poorness of spirit, endeavoured to pacify him by profuse honours and by a loan of money. Even if Charles II. had been a less cynical man than his education had rendered him, he would hardly have put a high value on courtesies which were manifestly dictated by fear. His jesting remark on the ample table provided for him by the States General shows that he estimated their attentions at their true value. "Their High Mightinesses," he said, "no doubt provided a good dinner, but several of them always came to share it, and he thought that they might be said to entertain themselves at least as much as him." When the king returned, the interest he took in the commerce of his country served to make him share the jealousies of his subjects. The king and his brother became large shareholders in the Royal Guinea Company. This was a trading corporation established for the purpose of supplying slaves in the West Indies and America. It had its agents in our own possessions in the Antilles, and it cherished the hope of [326]monopolising the whole trade in slaves. In the West Indies the local agents were busy in endeavouring to compel the Spaniards to buy their negroes from us. The reluctance of the Spanish authorities to take the business away from the Genoese Company, which already enjoyed the monopoly, and indeed to allow English trade in any form, had much to do with provoking the attacks on their possessions by the buccaneers who were commissioned and sent out by the king's governor in Jamaica. In this field of activity also we had to expect the rivalry of the Dutch, who held several stations on the West Coast of Africa, and were no less eager than ourselves to smuggle blacks into Spanish America. At the same time, they were very well disposed to carry on the trade with our possessions. The English planter, like the Spaniard, preferred to buy his negroes cheap, and, when a Dutchman would sell them for less than an Englishman, had not the slightest scruple in dealing with the foreign interloper. Thus the price of the Guinea Company's negroes was kept down. To get rid of this competition was a very essential object with the Company. It was by an effort to effect the purpose that the second Dutch war began.

The habit of conducting colonial ventures by great chartered companies lent itself very easily to the promotion of international quarrels. Rival traders who had the command of an armed force were particularly likely to come to blows, when they enjoyed a position of semi-sovereignty, and were divided from all control on the part of their Government by a distance of thousands of miles. The check which even the Company itself could keep on its agents, when news took from six months to a year to reach home, and eighteen months or two years might pass before the superior's comment on the subordinate's actions could reach its destination at the other side of the world, was weak. The control of the State was illusory. It was first informed of the real or imaginary excesses of its subjects in a complaint from a foreign ambassador. It could not act without further evidence, which was not to be obtained till after months of delay, and was then sure to be vitiated by the [327]partiality of the witness. Thus wars on a considerable scale could be carried on by trading companies. The motive was hardly ever wanting, since there were sure to be disputes as to the respective rights, possessions, and, as we should now say, spheres of influence of the parties. Even in our own time it has required all the infinitely greater power of the central Government to prevent collisions between bodies of adventurers in remote regions. Sometimes the central Government has acted too late. In the seventeenth century the utmost good-will on the part of the States General and the Crown of England could hardly have availed to avert conflict between Englishmen and Dutchmen, on the West Coast of Africa and in the more remote Spice Islands. When national sentiment was loud in favour of the adventurers on one side, a collision was inevitable. There can be no question that sentiment in England was strongly hostile to the Dutch. If the king was disposed to promote a war with the United Provinces, he was certainly well supported by his subjects. The complaints of the merchants who considered themselves aggrieved by the Dutch were favourably listened to by the House of Commons. Both Houses joined in an address to the king, calling on him to take vengeance for the wrongs done by the Dutch to English traders. The amount of the injury was put at the certainly enormously exaggerated figure of seven or eight hundred thousand pounds.

When the State was disposed to allow a trading company to conduct wars on its own account, it was easy to take a further step. The next thing to do was to help the Company to fight, without going to the length of declaring war against the nation to which the Company's rivals belonged. We have seen, in the case of Oliver Cromwell's expedition to the West Indies, that the practice of the time allowed of what may be called partial war—that is to say, it was thought legitimate to conduct aggressive hostilities in one part of the world, without making a general war. The king and the Duke of York, when they found that war with the States would be popular, decided to follow Cromwell's example. A squadron was fitted out to attack the Dutch [328]possessions on the West Coast of Africa, and was placed under the command of Sir Robert Holmes. Holmes has been mentioned already as one of the Royalist officers who had followed Prince Rupert. In the course of that cruise he had visited the West Coast of Africa, and had then been encouraged by the Dutch to attack his own countrymen. In the course of his operations, Holmes must have become well acquainted with the coast, and it was doubtless this knowledge that marked him out for the command. He sailed from England with a small squadron in October 1663. His instructions were to avoid fighting as far as possible.

We do the king and Duke of York no injustice in supposing that these orders were rather meant to be quoted for diplomatic purposes than to be strictly acted upon by the admiral. The whole history of Sir Robert Holmes's cruise shows clearly that he knew beforehand that he would not be blamed for fighting if he could find a plausible excuse for hostilities, and that, when once the fighting had begun, he would not be expected to confine himself to moderate reprisals. A plausible excuse could hardly be wanting. When Holmes reached the river Gambia, he found the English traders and the Portuguese, who were now our allies, full of bitter complaints of the excesses of the Dutch. On his way he had come across a Dutch ship, and, on searching her, found, as he alleged, orders to the Dutch governor, Valckenburg, to seize the English fort at Cape Cormantin. How Sir Robert Holmes reconciled the act of searching a Dutch ship in time of peace, and on the high seas, with his instructions to avoid hostilities, we are not told. From the Dutch point of view he acted on the principles of the wolf, and assailed the lamb for troubling the water. The rival accounts of Dutch governors and English naval officers are utterly irreconcilable, and perhaps not worth reconciling. When Englishmen had made their minds up, as they had, that they wanted more of the trade enjoyed by the Dutch, and when the Dutch were, as might have been expected, thoroughly resolved to keep all the trade they enjoyed, it was a matter of course either that aggressions would be committed, or that one of the two parties would believe that [329]they had been committed. Sir Robert Holmes made a number of prizes in the neighbourhood of the Cape de Verd Islands, and then swept the coast as far down as Sierra Leone. An attack on the Dutch post at St. George da Mina was repulsed, but he took possession of some other minor posts. His next step supplies overwhelming evidence to show that he had not been sent out to avoid hostilities, and had not only been driven into fighting against his will. He stood across the Atlantic and attacked the Dutch on the mainland of America. He fell with his squadron on the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, and had no difficulty in mastering it. Then he returned to England, where he was thrown into the Tower on the demand of the Dutch ambassador—a step which proves that the Government was not ready to declare war on Holland, and would much have preferred that the declaration should come from the other side, but by no means establishes a presumption that Holmes had exceeded his confidential instructions.

The course taken by John de Witt, when he found that the English had committed an aggression on the West India Company, was to play them a return match at the same game. He did not use his influence to persuade the States General to declare war, though he must have known that war was now inevitable. The commercial oligarchy which formed the Loevenstein Party was very averse to war. It would infinitely have preferred to soothe the King of England by concessions, if it could have succeeded at any tolerable cost. If this could not be done, it preferred to confine war to the colonies as long as possible. Even this was difficult for it. The insolent and overbearing Downing maintained a vigilant watch on the actions of the States General. He would have been informed immediately if a squadron had been prepared in the Dutch harbours to follow Sir Robert Holmes, and in that case an instant declaration of war from England was to be feared. The fleet of Michael de Ruyter was at the disposal of the States. It was cruising in the Mediterranean, and ready to start at a moment's notice. But here the same difficulty presented itself. Downing was sure to be informed if orders were [330]sent to the admiral. John de Witt escaped that risk by a piece of ingenious management. He contrived to get the question what ought to be done in consequence of Sir Robert Holmes's cruise referred to a select committee of his own partisans. The orders were drafted by them, and were then slipped through at a general meeting of the States without attracting attention. By the terms of these orders De Ruyter was directed to fill up a year's provisions on the coast of Spain, and to follow in the track of Holmes, retaking the places he had seized, and retaliating for the damage he had done to Dutch commerce. De Ruyter carried out his instructions to the letter. He re-established the Dutch on the West Coast of Africa, then he stood across to the West Indies. An attack made by his fleet on Barbadoes proved unsuccessful, but the damage done to English trade was considerable. Then De Ruyter stretched along the coast of North America as far as Newfoundland. He failed to retake New Amsterdam, which, under the name of New York, remained in our hands at the close of the war. From Newfoundland he returned home.

This counter-stroke provoked a furious outcry of anger in England, for it is perhaps more the custom of the English than any other nation to be seized with unaffected moral indignation when another does unto them the disagreeable thing which they have just been doing to someone else. Letters of marque and reprisal were now issued on both sides, and a privateering war of plunder preceded regular hostilities. The Dutch oligarchy would still have made peace if they could, but the English Court had at last found its pretext, and was resolved to force on the quarrel. The terms upon which it insisted were such as a people far less courageous and less powerful than the Dutch could not possibly have accepted. The formal declaration of war was delayed until March 1665.

No great change had taken place in the relative strength of the two navies since the conclusion of the first Dutch war. The English still had the superiority which they derived from unity of command and the greater strength of their ships. The Loevenstein Party had done nothing to [331]remove the fatal defects of organisation in the fleets of the United Provinces. Indeed it could do nothing, since the only way in which unity of command could be given to the different squadrons of the Provinces was by again naming a Stadtholder, and allowing the office to carry with it the post of Admiral-General. But to ask the Loevenstein Party to do this was to ask them to commit suicide. So we find the same divisions of authority in the Dutch fleet in this as in the former war. The commercial government of the Republic had done nothing, and perhaps from its character could do nothing, to establish a higher standard of military spirit among its officers.

On the side of England the monarchy was still profiting by the work of the Council of State and Oliver Cromwell. The corruption which in the later years of King Charles's reign invaded every detail of the administration of the navy had not yet got the upper hand. Although the practice of giving the command of ships to young gentlemen who had absolutely no qualification beyond their interest at Court was already followed, still the bulk of the captains and all the flag-officers, with few exceptions, were the veterans of the first Dutch war. These men were already accustomed to act together; they had fought side by side in many battles, and had cruised in company for months. They had the tradition of the last war fresh in their minds. To this must be attributed the general good discipline and efficiency displayed in the coming struggle.

The fleet left by the Protector to the restored monarchy was estimated at 154 ships of 57,463 tons. The average size of vessels was therefore about 370 tons, and had not increased during the century. Some twenty or thirty of these vessels were foreign built—that is to say, were prizes taken from the Dutch, French, or Spanish. But the great majority were built by the Petts and their school. It is somewhat curious that although the reign of Charles II. was a time of great scientific curiosity and activity, and although the king took an intelligent interest in the forms and qualities of his vessels, yet the art of shipbuilding in England appears to have rather lost than [332]gained ground. If we did not become positively worse, we allowed ourselves to be outstripped by the French. During this reign we constantly hear of English shipbuilders as imitating French models, and that not always with success. In the time of Charles I. Phineas Pett built the finest vessels in the world, on his own lines, and by his own calculations. In the reign of Charles II. this superiority had been lost. Even the Dutch, taught by experience, began to build their vessels much higher and stronger. Pepys, who is an unanswerable authority, noted that "in 1663 and 1664 the Dutch and French built ships with two decks, which carried from sixty to seventy guns, and so contrived that they carried their lower guns four feet from the water, and to stow four months' provisions, whereas our frigates from the Dunkirk-build, which were narrower and sharper, carried their guns but little more than three feet from the water, and for ten weeks' provisions. Observing this, Sir Anthony Deane built the Rupert and Resolution, Mr. Shish the Cambridge, Mr. Johnson the Warspight, and Mr. Castle the Defiance. The two latter were, by contract of the Commissioners of the Navy, bound to carry six months' provisions, and their guns to lie four and a half feet from the water. This was another great step and improvement to our navy put in practice by Sir Anthony Deane." Yet this stimulus seems to have exhausted itself very soon, for eight or nine years afterwards, in the third Dutch war, when a French squadron of thirty-five ships came to Spithead, several of them were found to excel ours of the same nominal rate in size and quality. It was once more seen to be the case that ours were narrower, could stow less provisions, and carried their guns nearer the water. Again, we took a French ship for a model; this time it was the Superbe, a 74-gun ship. The Harwich was built in imitation of her by Sir Anthony Deane. An attempt was made to improve the models of our navy in the thirty ships which were built by the special Parliamentary grant in those years. The corruption which had by this time overwhelmed the navy made these efforts of little avail. The vessels built out of the grant were so ill-constructed, so carelessly [333]looked after, and put together of such very poor material, that they rotted at their moorings before they were used. Perhaps the desire to possess a great many vessels had a bad effect. When a definite sum of money has to be spent, when it is not sufficient to pay for both number and size, and when number is strongly desired, it will inevitably follow that vessels will be built of the smallest size required to carry the desired number of guns. It is certainly the case that during the latter part of the seventeenth century and nearly the whole of the eighteenth our ships were, rate for rate, smaller than the French. At one time in the eighteenth century we allowed ourselves to be outstripped so far that two English 74's were hardly more than a match in strength and tonnage for one Spanish ship of the same nominal strength. A French 80-gun ship was as large as an English man-of-war of 100 guns. This, however, was a later development. In the earlier part of the reign of Charles II. we were still superior on the whole to the Dutch in all but numbers, which in every generation and in every kind of war is the least valuable of the elements of strength. At the beginning of the second Dutch war the Duke of York wrote from Portsmouth to complain that the vessels then being built were designed on too small a scale. He argued that the Dutch could always excel us in point of number, and that it was desirable to possess a counterbalancing advantage in the size, and what followed from size, the broadside weight of fire of our individual ships. The duke's view did not prevail, but it is well worth quoting, if only to show how old is this conflict between the two schools of naval critics—those who rely on number and those who rely on individual strength.



Authorities.—The State Papers, which are very fully copied in the Calendars for these years, are by far the best authorities for the events of the second. The official narrative of the battle of Lowestoft published by the Government, and drawn up by the Duke of York's secretary, Sir W. Coventry, is printed in the Life of Penn. A very full account of the Four Days' Battle by a French eyewitness is to be found in the Memoirs of the Comte de Guiche. Clarendon gives the fullest account of the transactions at Bergen. Captain Mahan's Sea Power in History and Admiral Colomb's Naval Warfare now become inestimable, and Pepys, it is needless to say, indispensable. Brandt's Life of De Ruyter, the Life of Cornelius van Tromp, and M. de Pontalis' Jean de Witt give the Dutch side.

If proof were wanted that the Dutch were not prepared for war, it might be found in the length of time they allowed to the English Government to get its fleet ready for sea. The cruise of Sir Robert Holmes would have been more than sufficient provocation to a Power really in search of a pretext for hostilities. Yet the Dutch let a year pass, and even then did not fight until they were attacked, for it must be remembered that the counter-cruise of De Ruyter was strictly limited to the ground already covered by Holmes, or to reprisals in the colonies. If John de Witt and his party had been really disposed for a new struggle with England, it would have been easy for them to attack her at home while unprepared. Unprepared she was until the early months of 1665. Happily, the Dutch were not in a better case. The commercial oligarchy had sacrificed everything to economy, and their fighting fleet was not ready. Therefore the English Government was allowed time to fit out its armaments.


It needed every hour which the delay of its enemy allowed. Even as late as November 1664 the total force of the English fleet ready, or being made ready, for sea was only this: On the coast of Ireland there were three vessels. Thirteen were stationed in the Straits of Gibraltar. One was on duty at Tangier. The convoy to the Newfoundland fishery employed two, which, with the three assigned to New England, and two at Jamaica, made seven vessels on the coast of America. There were three on the Guinea Coast of Africa, one was in the Medway, one on transport duty, one in the East Indies, fourteen with Prince Rupert in the North Sea, and twenty-four in the Channel. These ships, sixty-six in all, were ready, but a third of them were not available for service in Europe. Thirty-seven others were being fitted for sea. When it is remembered that this was the state of things a year after the Government of King Charles had made an attack on the Dutch which must almost certainly lead to war, it will be obvious that if England was unprepared it was because her rulers were wanting in foresight, and if the Dutch were not ready it was because they had not been casting about for an excuse for a quarrel.

It was, in truth, not easy to fit out a fleet on the scale required for a struggle with Holland. Parliament was indeed enthusiastic for the war, and could supply the money. The £243,000 and odd required to victual 20,000 men for a year were easily voted, and were not difficult to raise among the merchants of the city, but to get the men and to equip the ships required more than money. The difficulty of finding men was immense. The press, though no doubt a powerful instrument of coercion, did not work satisfactorily in the hands to which it was entrusted. Corruption had already made way so far that the officials entrusted with the duty of levying the sailors were vehemently suspected of taking bribes to allow all who could afford to pay them to escape. It was only the more miserable who were taken. Peter Pett, the Commissioner of the Dockyard at Chatham, wrote to complain at the end of the year of "those pitiful pressed creatures, who are fit for nothing but to fill the ships full of [336]vermin." At about the same time, the Duke of York at Portsmouth was complaining that no men could be found there, and that, unless men could be sent down from the Thames, some of his vessels must be left behind, or all of them must go to sea short-handed. Even when the men had been obtained, it was difficult to keep them. The duke complained that upwards of two hundred men had deserted in a few days. Furious threats of punishment to be inflicted for desertion were issued by the Admiralty, and the seamen were told that they would be hanged as an example if they dared to desert. All this coercion appeared of very little use, and the Government of the king was reduced, like the Council of State of the Commonwealth, to pass Acts for the encouragement of seamen—in other words, to give them promises of security for prize-money. These produced some effect. At the same time, the king suspended the Navigation Acts which compelled a shipowner to man his vessels with Englishmen. This became in time the usual preliminary to a great war, for there were not enough seamen in England to man both the trading and the fighting fleet of the country when this latter was on a war-footing. The Government was so hard pressed that it made great efforts to secure Scotch sailors, but the measure did not prove wholly satisfactory. It was doubtful whether Scotch seamen could be lawfully pressed by the king in England. The war caused serious loss to the trade of the east coast of Scotland with the Continent, and as Scotchmen did not consider themselves concerned in the colonial quarrels of England, they were deeply aggrieved. Numbers of them undoubtedly fought in the Dutch fleets, where their pay was secure, which was far from being the case in the fleet of their own king. However, the Act for the encouragement of seamen produced a good effect, and by the spring of 1665 a really powerful fleet had been got together.

While the main fleets were getting ready at home, hostilities were being pursued abroad. The fleet in the Straits, meaning what we should now call the Mediterranean Squadron, was under the command of Captain Thomas Allen, an old Royalist seaman who had served with Prince Rupert. Allen [337]had succeeded Lawson in command of the force appointed to protect our Levant trade against the Algerine pirates. In this work he had had some success, having on one occasion captured no less than five pirate cruisers. But the approach of war with Holland called him off from this duty. He withdrew from the centre of the Mediterranean and stationed himself in the Straits. Here he lay in wait for the Dutch. Allen's orders were as contradictory as was to be expected, considering that they were given by a Government which wanted to enjoy the incompatible advantages of making war on another, and yet of not declaring itself in open hostility. He was told that he might attack the Dutch men-of-war, or the Smyrna fleet, but not such of their vessels as came past in twos and threes. The meaning of the distinction is not very obvious. Allen also complained that he was not allowed to attack the Dutch in Spanish ports, which throws a light on the opinion entertained by naval officers of the time as to what constituted neutrality. His operations were not at first very successful. While pursuing what he calls a Dutch fleet, and what was no doubt a convoy of merchant ships, he ran several of his squadron of nine ships on shore, where two of them were totally lost. The others were got off, and on the 19th December 1664 Allen was consoled for this misfortune. He fell in with the Dutch Smyrna convoy proceeding home under protection of three men-of-war. It consisted of fourteen sail in all. Allen at once attacked with his remaining seven vessels, sunk two of the Dutch, and captured two of the others. One of the two prizes was a rich vessel from Smyrna. The Dutch vessels which escaped destruction or capture fled into Cadiz. This operation in the later stages of our history would have attracted little or no attention, but it passed at that time for a considerable achievement, and was even, for the greater glory of the nation, very much exaggerated. The fourteen Dutch vessels were swollen out to forty. We were not, in truth, so honestly persuaded of our superiority to the Dutch that we could afford to make light of any success gained against them, or to abstain, it may be added, from mere vulgar boasting.


When, partly by the press and partly by promises, the fleet had at last been manned, it was concentrated in the North Sea under the command of the Duke of York. The duke himself went as Lord High Admiral, having Penn in the flagship as his naval adviser, and Lawson as his second in command of the centre or Red Squadron. The White Squadron was commanded by Prince Rupert, with Myngs and Sansum as his second and third. The Blue Squadron was under the command of Sandwich, with Cuttins and Sir George Ayscue as his subordinates.

It would seem that our fleet was a little farther advanced than the enemy in readiness. In the early days of May the Duke of York sailed over to the coast of Holland, and stationed himself opposite the Texel, in hope of provoking the Dutch to come out to battle, or, if he failed in this purpose, of inflicting serious damage on their commerce. The Dutch did not, however, put to sea at once, and the duke was compelled to return to England by want of provisions. The complaint that the victuals provided would not be sufficient had been heard for months, and nothing gives a more vivid impression of the administrative inefficiency of the time than the fact that it had not produced a remedy. The English fleet returned to the coast of Suffolk to take in stores. While there, it was visited by Court ladies and joined by numbers of volunteers. In later times gentlemen of distinguished family who had offered to lumber the quarter-deck of a flagship in the Channel would probably have been answered in the spirit of the boatswain in The Tempest—"You mar our labour: keep your cabins: you do assist the storm." But in the seventeenth century it was not yet thoroughly understood that a spirited and willing gentleman may be a superfluity in a fight, if he has no training to the business. The fleet of the Duke of York was full of nobles and gentlemen who came to serve a campaign. The business of victualling the fleet was but slowly performed, and the difficulties as to men had not yet been conquered. Sir William Coventry, the Duke of York's secretary, complained that sailors were not to be got, and gave a very sensible reason for the deficiency, namely, that men who [339]could earn £8 a month in a collier—for, under the stress of war, wages had risen to this height—could hardly be expected to be content with 23s. in a king's ship, for which, moreover, they had to wait a year. Small wages, ill-paid, were not made the more acceptable by short allowances of food, by want of beer, and in some cases by the want even of water. "The duchess and her beautiful maids," whose departure from the fleet was noted by Coventry in a serio-comic vein, must have been very glad to find themselves back in London, even though the plague had already made its appearance there.

While the English fleet was painfully filling up with provisions and water, the Dutch had at last got to sea. They were under the command of Baron Opdam de Wassanaer, who had with him Courtenaer, Evertsen, and Cornelius van Tromp. Opdam's first purpose was to cover the return home of Michael de Ruyter with a convoy, then he was to seek out and give battle to the English fleet. The Dutch admiral, though a man of undoubted courage, as he showed in the ensuing action, was not much disposed to engage the English except at an advantage. He was aware of the inferior size of his ships, and also that the military spirit of a number of his captains was not good. Therefore, though he discharged the first part of his duty with success, and even made a great many captures of English merchant vessels, he showed a certain reluctance to force on the battle. Although he was short of men, the Duke of York did not hang back, but stood to sea from Solebay on the 1st of June, when he heard of the approach of Opdam and his capture of some English merchant ships from Hamburg. He had an additional motive for acting with vigour, since the coaling fleet was then on its way south from the northern ports. The capture of this convoy by the Dutch would have caused immense inconvenience to London, and would, moreover, have been a serious misfortune to the duke himself, since it would have deprived him of his best chance of recruiting his fleet by pressing the colliers. The promptitude of our movements averted this misfortune. The coal fleet was met on the 1st of June, and the duke [340]reinforced his ships by taking out the crews. The vessels were probably left at anchor near the coast under the charge of one or two watchmen. The wind was easterly, with a tendency to turn to the S.W. Opdam, distrusting the quality of his own command, was unwilling to engage, but his reluctance to fight was overcome by the emphatic orders of John de Witt. The Grand Pensionary, who was not a man of military training either on sea or land, may have underrated the difficulties which weighed on the mind of Opdam, but as a politician he understood that it is sometimes better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all, and his common-sense must have told him that if the Dutch fleet only fought hard enough, it would certainly make the English pay very dear for their victory. It may be, too, that John de Witt was secretly conscious of sufficient resolution of character to make use of those means of keeping the captains up to their duty which Cornelius de Witt had in vain threatened to set in motion in the previous war. There was much to be said for bringing on a battle in order to find who would do his duty and who would not, provided it was also decided to make a necessary example of such as showed the white feather.

The first great battle of the second Dutch war was fought on the 3rd June between thirty and forty miles S.E. of Lowestoft. On the 1st June the Duke of York had been at anchor at Solebay when he was informed of the appearance of the Dutch to the S.S.E. He at once weighed, and stood farther out, coming to an anchor at nightfall. The wind was easterly. During the whole of the 2nd June the English were working up towards the Dutch, who continued to decline battle; and as the wind, though drawing round to the south, was still more or less easterly, they had the weather-gage, and could not be forced to action. At dark we anchored again. During the night the wind shifted round to the S.S.W., and when the morning came the English were to windward. The duke at once gave the order to bear down on the enemy. Opdam, stimulated by the orders of John de Witt, did not decline battle. He would have done better for Holland if he had attacked [341]while he had the wind in his favour and could have used his fireships. The battle began at half-past three in the morning. Rupert led the van. The duke was in the centre with the Red Squadron, and Sandwich commanded in the rear with the Blue Squadron. It appears that the Dutch now endeavoured to regain the windward position which they had held on the day before, but failed to weather the head of the English line. English and Dutch passed on opposite tacks, we heading to the north, they to the south. When the two fleets had passed, there was a pause in the fire. Then both tacked, which reversed the order of the squadrons so that at the second "charge" the rear or Blue Squadron under Sandwich led the English line. It was now six o'clock. The opponents passed one another again, heading in the reverse of their former direction, the English towards the south, the Dutch to the north, and once more there was a pause in the battle. As each fleet consisted of from eighty to a hundred ships, it must have covered from eight to ten miles of sea, measuring from the leading ship to the last. As the rate of speed was certainly slow, not more than three or three and a half miles, it is easy to understand that each of these passes, or, as they were called at the time, charges, would take two and a half or three hours to perform. Both fleets tacked together for the third pass, and the Dutch had some hope of weathering Rupert's squadron, which was again leading. But the duke with the Red Squadron was so well to windward that he would have weathered them, and they would have been placed between two fires. They therefore fell to leeward of Rupert. As they were passing, the duke tacked his fleet, beginning with the Blue Squadron, and thus brought the English fleet to head in the same direction as the Dutch. The English fleet now pressed on to the attack so fiercely that they baffled the attempt of the Dutch to tack. Opdam fought his own ship bravely till she blew up by the side of the English flagship. Then some of the Dutch ships in the centre flinched from the attack of the duke and his vice-admiral, Lawson. They fairly ran to leeward, thus leaving a gap in the line, through which he broke. The battle now became a furious mêlée, in which the Dutch were [342]completely beaten and fled towards their own coast. Their loss would have been more serious than it was if their retreat had not been covered by Cornelius van Tromp with a seamanship and indomitable courage worthy of his father.

The escape of the enemy was assisted by a mysterious incident in the English flagship. Night fell while the Dutch were still struggling to escape with the English in pursuit. The duke led his fleet in the Royal Charles of eighty guns, and the orders were that the other ships were to follow his light. The battle had cost us less than a thousand men in killed and wounded, but it had been extraordinarily fatal to men of high position, and to those immediately around the duke. Admiral Sansum had been killed. Sir John Lawson was disabled by a musket-shot which shattered the bone of his leg above the knee, inflicting a mortal wound. The Earl of Marlborough, who had been sent out to take possession of Bombay for the king, had also fallen, so had the Earl of Portland. In the flagship the Earl of Falmouth, Lord Muskerry, and Mr. Boyle, gentlemen serving with the duke, were all killed together, by a chain-shot, close to his side. He was drenched in their blood, and wounded in the hand by a fragment of Mr. Boyle's skull. The courage of the Duke of York has been praised even by his enemies, and, although Swift recorded the cruel sneer that he made a cowardly popish king, we are not entitled to doubt his bravery. Yet, the horror of such a scene as this, coming on the top of the fatigues of the battle and the anxiety of the preceding weeks, may pardonably have been something too much for a man who was not hardened by experience to scenes of blood and conflict. It is certain that he left the deck on the persuasion of the officers of his household. It is no less certain that, shortly afterwards, one of his gentlemen, Brouncker by name, came up from the cabin to John Harman, captain of the flagship, who remained on the quarter-deck, with the order to shorten sail. After more or less hesitation, Harman obeyed. Sail was shortened in the flagship, and, as the other vessels were strictly ordered not to pass the admiral's light, the English fleet fell behind, and the Dutch escaped into the Texel. The truth of this [343]incident was afterwards wrapped up in a cloud of contradictions, and of what we are justified in asserting must in part have been lies. The duke denied that he gave Brouncker the order, and finally dismissed him from his service. Brouncker, who was of infamous character, was capable of misusing the duke's name, but it is strange that if he did he was not sooner punished. The explanation that he was valuable to his master for services it is not well to record, is as nearly discreditable to the duke's character as want of firmness could have been in the reaction natural after such a terrible experience. The truth about the Duke of York is perhaps that his courage was of the kind defined by Marryat as negative. He had the nerve to face a foreseen danger when it came in his way, but not that "springing valour" which can attack and adventure.

The loss inflicted upon the Dutch in this first great battle of the war was much exaggerated in the excitement of the victory. It was said that almost all the Dutch officers had been killed, and the number of vessels taken or burnt was greatly over-estimated. In truth, the loss of the Dutch in principal officers was less than our own. The total number of prizes brought into Harwich was fifteen, and it is doubtful if, when we add the vessels sunk and burnt, their total loss much exceeded twenty. Their historians put it far lower. It was more painful to the feelings of a patriotic Dutchman than any mere material loss could have been, that the defeat was undeniably due at least as much to the palpable misconduct of some among the captains as to the superiority of the English in the quality of their ships and the skill of their leaders. It had been noticed in the previous war that some of the Dutch captains employed in their fleet, though no doubt good seamen, were wanting in military ardour. This experience was repeated in the battle of the 3rd of June. It provoked John de Witt to take very stern measures. Four of the captains who had deserted their posts in the line of battle were shot for cowardice. Others whose guilt was less flagrant were cashiered. Unfriendly critics of the Dutch have represented that these measures were taken merely for the purpose of throwing the [344]responsibility of defeat on individual officers, but the misconduct of some of the captains in the battle of the 3rd of June is undeniable, and it was of the kind which by the customs of all nations deserves death. John de Witt obtained for himself a commission from the States General to join the fleet as deputy. His numerous enemies have founded on this an accusation of foolish vanity. Professional judges, both seamen and soldiers, are naturally impatient of the presence of a civilian in the midst of warlike operations, but there are times when the interference of a representative of the State is of immense value. If he comes to hamper the admiral or general he is no doubt a mere nuisance, but if his purpose is to assist the commander to enforce discipline, and to stimulate him to vigorous exertions, then the deputy may supply an element of much-needed vigour. If John de Witt had been a prince, his conduct would have been thought heroic, and it did instil a spirit of decision into the handling of the Dutch fleet, which had hitherto been wanting. It is possible that the Grand Pensionary might have been less successful if he had not found a commander-in-chief for the fleet who gave him effectual assistance. This was Michael de Ruyter. Cornelius van Tromp considered himself entitled to the place. The disappointment he felt at the nomination of De Ruyter deepened his hatred of the Loevenstein Party. He conceived a peculiar animosity to De Witt, which he afterwards showed in a manner highly dishonourable to himself, by publicly gloating over the corpses of the Grand Pensionary and his brother Cornelius, when they had been horribly murdered by a mob. He did not, however, refuse to serve, and the Government, though well aware of his feelings, did not venture to remove him from command.

The attention given to the war on the part of the English Government was not so energetic as to interfere with the measures taken by John de Witt to improve the discipline of the Dutch fleet. The Duke of York did not stay long on the coast of Holland. His fleet, in truth, had suffered so severely in the spars and rigging as to be in great need of a refit. When it was found that the Dutch had contrived to [345]take refuge in the Texel, the English made no effort to establish a blockade, but returned immediately to their own coasts. The ships were brought back to the ports between Lowestoft and Harwich, and refitted without bringing them into the Thames. Within a month they were again ready for sea, but did not sail under the command of the Duke of York. It is to be noted that, in spite of the reputation he has retained as an admiral, the Duke of York's services at sea during war were scanty and erratic. In this case, for instance, after commanding in a successful battle, he was suddenly removed from the command. It is difficult to believe that this was done wholly against his own wish. He and his brother the king were not always on the best terms, but it is not to be believed that Charles would have compelled his brother to come on shore if the Duke of York had been really anxious to stay at sea. Much was made of the fact that he was heir to the crown, and it is said that the duchess laid strict injunctions on the duke's servants not to let him engage too far, and that it was her influence with the king that prevented her husband from going to sea again; but the world has generally thought lightly of the courage of a fighting man who is kept out of danger by his wife. If his relationship to the king made his life too valuable to be risked, he ought never to have gone to sea at all. He was succeeded in the command of the fleet by the Earl of Sandwich, who was to have been associated with Prince Rupert, but the prince was reluctant to share authority, and the sole command was left in the hands of the earl.

Sandwich stood over to the coast of Holland, but found the Dutch not yet ready to put to sea. The States General had put an embargo upon commerce, partly to facilitate the manning of their fleet, but partly also to diminish the risk of loss by capture. A blockade of the Texel was therefore far from lucrative; and as Charles's Government was, as usual, in great straits for money, Sandwich was inclined to entertain any suggestion for making a more profitable use of his force. The Court was equally well inclined to approve of arty enterprise which was likely to produce plunder. At this moment a considerable temptation [346]was thrown in its way. Although the Dutch had put an embargo on the outward-bound trade, they had naturally not attempted to stop the return home of their convoys from the East Indies and the Levant. The vessels belonging to these two fleets had only been instructed to avoid the dangerous route up Channel, and to return home by the north of Scotland. Twenty vessels engaged in these two lucrative branches of the Dutch trade were reported to be lying in the harbour of Bergen in Norway. They had taken refuge in this port probably in obedience to a warning from Holland. Norway was then a part of the dominions of the Crown of Denmark, which was in alliance with Holland, and had indeed owed its escape from destruction by the Swedes, to Dutch intervention, only a few years before this time. Gratitude is proverbially a motive of little or no power with politicians. The then King of Denmark did not consider that his debt to the Dutch made it obligatory upon him to abstain from endeavouring to profit by their misfortunes. A scheme for plundering the ships at Bergen was drawn up. Whether it was suggested by the English envoy, Sir Gilbert Talbot, to the king, or by the king to Sir Gilbert, is not quite certain, and it is not perhaps a matter of much importance. The essential fact is, that a scheme was made for plundering the Dutch, and that the host with whom they had taken refuge was a party to it. Sandwich sailed north. He seems to have wished to be quite sure of the co-operation of the King of Denmark. Indeed, if it was intended that he was to sail into Bergen and attack vessels under the protection of Danish batteries, it was obviously desirable to be sure beforehand of the co-operation of the King of Denmark's officers. But the king, though perfectly ready to share in the plunder of the Dutch, had a gentlemanly disinclination to write himself down a rogue. He refused to allow a written agreement to be made, and insisted that the scheme should be carried out on an honourable but vague understanding. Sandwich can hardly have liked his work, for it was too probable that if the plan failed, the King of Denmark would deny his own responsibility; and if he also found it useful to vindicate himself to the Dutch [347]by professing to quarrel with England, the whole blame would be thrown on the English admiral. It was also within the knowledge of Sandwich that the Dutch would make a resolute effort to bring their fleet off safe, and that De Ruyter had been appointed to the command. The English admiral must have been perfectly well aware that his Dutch opponent would not fail through want of faculty or energy. If the Dutch ships at Bergen were to be seized, the work must be done at once.

The result might have been more profitable to the English if Sandwich had resolved to attack immediately, and had directed the enterprise himself. Whether because he thought that the arrival of De Ruyter was the greater danger, or because he also was anxious to provide himself with a scapegoat in case of failure, he entrusted the direction of operations to his subordinate, Sir Thomas Teddiman. Teddiman sailed into Bergen, accompanied by a Mr. Clifford, who had been sent from Copenhagen by Talbot with the assurances that the King of Denmark was friendly to the venture, though he did not care to take an open part in it. This agent was landed to inform the Danish governor at Bergen that the English were ready to perform their part in the act of brigandage approved by his august master. The governor was aware of what was expected of him, but had not yet received sufficiently definite instructions from his superior, the Danish viceroy at Christiania. He asked the English to wait for a little. Teddiman was not disposed to wait; perhaps he had very small confidence in persons who showed such a manifest disposition to roguery as the Danish officials, and perhaps he was afraid of the arrival of Michael de Ruyter. He decided to attack the Dutch the next day. In the meantime the convoy had taken vigorous measures for its own safety. Great part of its goods had been landed on the guarantee of the Danish governor. As the water of the harbour at Bergen is very deep, the Dutch had been able to draw their ships up close to the shore, and it was the more difficult to attack them because the port is broken by masses of rock. If the Danes had co-operated actively, the Dutch would have been at the mercy [348]of the associates, but the governor did not render any assistance to Teddiman. Among persons engaged in carrying out a piece of brigandage, it is not unreasonable to suspect the presence of the mutual distrust common among thieves. It may well be that when the Danish governor found Teddiman attacking in such haste, he may have thought that the English meant to act without his consent, in order to have an excuse for carrying off all the booty; and it would indeed be rash to assert that he was wrong. The upshot of it all was, that when the English fell on, they were received with a hot and damaging fire, not only from the Dutch ships, but from the Danish batteries. In the end the English were driven out to sea. Edward Montagu, a cousin of the Earl of Sandwich, and several captains were killed in the fight.

On the following day the viceroy arrived from Christiania. This official appeared to regret what had happened, and endeavoured to persuade Sandwich to renew the attack, promising that on this occasion he should not want for effective assistance. At the same time, however, he suggested that before the English carried off their plunder they should make a fair division with the Danes. Now the first scheme had been that the whole was to be carried off by the English, and that the King of Denmark was to receive his share from the King of England. Reflection had brought the Danes to the judicious conclusion that it was much safer to get the plunder into their own hands directly. But Sandwich had no orders to make this arrangement, and may have perhaps begun to doubt whether the Danes really meant to help him. He sailed from the coast of Norway, and so that episode of the second Dutch war came to an end.

As Sandwich stood to the south on his way back to England, where he anchored at Solebay, he crossed the Dutch fleet steering to the coast of Norway to bring off the ships at Bergen. De Ruyter was in command, and John de Witt accompanied him. They arrived off Bergen at an exceedingly convenient moment for their countrymen. The Danish governor had come to the conclusion that there was no reason why he should not do for himself what he had [349]been told to do with the co-operation of the English. He attempted to extort a hundred thousand crowns from the Dutch by threats to sink them with his cannon unless they paid him this amount of blackmail. The arrival of De Ruyter, and the presence in the fleet of the greatest statesman in Holland, brought this greedy ruffian to his senses. The convoy was allowed to go out, and the Danish governor was left to console himself by seizing a few of the guns which the Dutch had landed on the shore for their protection. De Witt turned homeward to Holland with his convoy. In the early days of September the weather became stormy, the fleets were scattered, a portion of the Dutch convoy fell into our hands, but the bulk got safe back to Holland.

It was now September, and the time was approaching when, according to the practice of the seventeenth century, it was no longer safe to keep the great ships at sea. The fleet then must shortly be laid up, and could no longer serve to take Dutch convoys, even if any had been coming home so late in the year. On the whole, the result of the summer's fighting had not been satisfactory. It is true that we had gained an undoubted victory over the enemy, but his fleet had not been destroyed. Amid the ringing of bells and public rejoicings, the more sagacious men in the employment of the English Government were well aware that the Dutch would soon be at sea again. The prizes taken from the enemy had fallen much short of the expectations of the Court. In spite of large grants from Parliament, the king was greatly embarrassed. He had hoped that the war would support itself, but this expectation, which has seldom been realised, was disappointed in this case also. Sandwich was not well received on his return, and among the courtiers there was a general inclination to accuse him of want of energy. Sir William Coventry, who, as the Duke of York's secretary and a Commissioner of the Navy, had many means of securing a hearing, was one of the most severe of the earl's critics. A mistake made by Sandwich on his return home laid him open to the attacks of his enemies. His flag-officers made him a petition that "in regard of their having [350]continued all the summer upon the seas with great fatigue, and been engaged in many actions of danger, that he would distribute amongst them some reward out of the Indian ships."

The Indian ships were that part of the convoy from Bergen which had fallen into his hands in consequence of the storm. Sandwich thought the request reasonable, and wrote a letter to the king, asking for his approbation. With his usual good-nature, Charles consented. But before his approval reached Sandwich, the admiral had distributed as much of the coarser goods as were theoretically valued at £1000 for each flag-officer, and had taken £2000 worth for himself. Whatever the motives of Sandwich may have been, his action was undeniably illegal, and was not less ill-advised. It was a standing and well-known rule that no prize taken from the enemy was to be touched until it had been condemned by the Admiralty, and that a distribution of the shares was to be made on a regular system. Even the king's personal consent would not have justified Sandwich in breaking the law. But the way in which he acted was sure not only to embroil him with the Admiralty, but to arouse a very natural indignation among the captains and the seamen. They said that the prizes were being plundered for the exclusive benefit of the admiral and flag-officers, and it cannot be denied that on the face of it they were right. The merchants interested in the East India Company were no less indignant than the captains and seamen. They complained that the Indian goods distributed to the flag-officers would be thrown on the market at a cheap rate, and would spoil the sale of those that they themselves had brought from India. The outcry on all hands was loud, and the king was beset with complaints. According to the regular practice of all his family, he threw over the servant of whose action he had just approved so soon as it seemed likely to cause him any personal inconvenience. The goods distributed to the flag-officers were seized at the ports by orders of Albemarle, who, partly by virtue of his office as Lord General, and partly on the ground of the immense services he had rendered at the Restoration, exercised a vast irregular influence during the early years of King Charles's [351]reign. The Duke of York, who, as Lord High Admiral, had good ground for considering himself personally insulted by an insolent intrusion on the rights of his office, was furious. Sandwich was dismissed from his command, and had no further employment in this war, though he retained sufficient influence with the king to be appointed to diplomatic missions abroad.

This is the most favourable version of the story for Sandwich, and is, even so, an ugly symptom of the dry-rot beginning to spread throughout every branch of the public service. The sailors of the fleet were months in arrear of their pay. The victualling service was thoroughly bad. Even when food was supplied, it was of most inferior quality, and there were loud complaints that, such as it was, it was not always forthcoming. When Sandwich returned from the coast of Norway to Solebay, his provisions were exhausted, although he had only been a few weeks at sea. At such a time a zealous commander-in-chief would surely not have seized the opportunity to enrich himself irregularly. Sandwich, judged by the standard of the time, was not a dishonourable man, yet we see that he went out of his way to grasp at a little money. His recorded conversations with Pepys leave no doubt that Sandwich was distinctly influenced by a desire to fill his own pocket. He told his kinsman that it was better to take the money, and then get the king's consent to keep it, than to trust to obtaining what the king had promised he should have. Another remark of his throws a curious light on the morality of the time. He told Pepys that the King of Denmark was "a blockhead," for not seizing the opportunity of plundering the Dutch fleet at Bergen, since he owed the States a great sum of money. These were the principles of a swindler, and a man who took such a very lax view with regard to the conduct of others was not likely to be severe to himself. As a matter of fact, we learn again from Pepys that the £2000 worth of goods the earl had adjudged to himself were sold to a London merchant for £5000. When, then, Pepys observed, as he did about this time, that, however poor the king might be, his principal officers always took care to provide money [352]for themselves, he was making a very accurate remark on the morality of the time. It is not wonderful, when we consider the example that was set them, that the captains and seamen, who had raised such an outcry over the favours shown to the flag-officers, were themselves accused of plundering the prizes. Plunder, in fact, was the general rule of the service. It raged from top to bottom. The men at the head enriched themselves by misapplications of money on a large scale. The subordinates pilfered and wasted. It follows, as a matter of course, that the money voted by Parliament for the war, which in the hands of the Commonwealth's Council of State or of Cromwell would have been more than sufficient, failed entirely to meet the expenses of the second Dutch war. Neither need we doubt that Pepys was very well informed when he said that the Court looked forward to another meeting of Parliament with reluctance, and stood in some awe of the wrath that members were likely to feel upon discovering what had become of their money.

The difficulties which the Government had created for itself by mismanagement were materially increased by the plague, which raged all through the year 1665. It reached not only the dockyards on the Thames, but the ports on the east coast, the Channel, and even the fleet. Between the disorganisation produced by the great pest and the vices of its own administration, the Crown was all but within reach of bankruptcy by the close of the year. At harvest-time the workmen in the dockyards had been so long left without pay that numbers of them went into the fields to work for the farmers in order to escape starvation.

The winter months suspended the operations of the war, but with the return of spring efforts were made to get the fleet to sea. As Sandwich had been discredited, and since the Duke of York was so ready to co-operate with those who were so concerned about his personal safety, it was necessary to find another leader. The king must have been allowed to have made the best choice he could when he put his fleet into the hands of Monk. The Lord General had a reputation and an influence which made it certain that he would be obeyed by all. He had much experience of war [353]at sea, and he had the energy of a great commander. By desperate efforts a fleet of seventy-seven sail was collected in the Downs in the course of May. Rupert was joined in command with Monk. The prince had shown a decided reluctance to serve with Sandwich, but he could not refuse to act with the Lord General.

The Dutch had exerted themselves strenuously to meet the English on equal terms, and a fleet of from eighty to a hundred ships was collected and ready for sea under Michael de Ruyter. Our enemy had some faint prospect of assistance from France in this campaign. In 1662 John de Witt had succeeded in making a convention with France, by which the two countries agreed to help one another in case either of them was attacked by a third Power. The case contemplated by the treaty had arisen when England declared war on Holland in 1665. The States General called on Louis XIV. to fulfil his obligations. The French king shuffled and hung back. He hated the Dutch, partly because they were Republicans, and partly because he knew them to be the most formidable obstacle in the way of the realisation of his plans for the conquest of the Spanish Netherlands. At last he could no longer evade making at least a show of fulfilling his promises without absolute disgrace, and he therefore promised to send a squadron to co-operate with the Dutch against the English.

When, therefore, Monk began to collect his command in May, he had to face the possibility that he would be called upon to deal with the united Dutch and French fleets. The movements of Michael de Ruyter were consistent with the supposition that he was manœuvring to join the French. He stood across to the coast of England, and kept in the neighbourhood of the Straits of Dover. A rumour that the French fleet was coming up Channel worked so strongly on the fears of the Court, that it was induced to take a measure which might well have proved fatal to the English fleet. Rupert was despatched into the Channel with twenty ships selected from the other squadrons, to look for the French, and Monk's force was thus reduced to fifty-seven vessels.

Some changes in the commands were made necessary [354]by this separation. Sir Christopher Myngs, who had been vice-admiral of the Red Squadron, accompanied Rupert as second in command. The ships which remained with Monk were still divided into three squadrons. Sir Joseph Jordan succeeded Myngs as vice-admiral of the Red, and his rear-admiral was Sir Robert Holmes. The Blue Squadron was commanded by Sir George Ayscue as admiral, with Sir William Berkeley as vice, and John Harman as rear. Sir Jeremiah Smith was admiral, Sir Thomas Teddiman vice-admiral, and Captain Utber rear-admiral of the White.

This division of the English fleet seems to have taken place just before a spell of thick weather and heavy wind from the S.W., which forced the Dutch off the coast. Being afraid that the wind would sweep him back too far into the North Sea, De Ruyter anchored on the shallows of the Flemish coast somewhere between Ostend and Dunkirk. This was at the very end of May. On the last day of the month Monk was at sea, on his way from the Downs to the Gunfleet, when his look-out frigates brought him the news that the Dutch were at anchor in his neighbourhood. Monk, with the instinct of a general, saw at once that, being superior to him in number, and in his immediate neighbourhood, the Dutch might force on a battle to his disadvantage if they once got the weather-gage. The then direction of the wind from the S.W. gave the weather-gage to him, and, with a boldness which would have horrified the admirals of the next two generations, he decided to fall on while it was still in his power to select his point of attack, and thus to compensate for his general inferiority of numbers by concentrating a superior force at a given place.

The battles which followed make up among them the so-called "Four Days' Battle" of the Annus Mirabilis, 1666. The first encounter took place somewhere between the Flemish coast from Ostend to Dunkirk on one side, and the northern end of the Downs on the other. The Dutch had anchored in three divisions some little distance at sea. They lay stretching from S.W. to N.E. The south-westerly squadron was that of Van Tromp; next to him, towards [355]the N.E., was the division of De Ruyter; and farther still to the N.E., the squadron of Jan Evertszoon. As the wind was in the S.W., De Ruyter and Evertszoon were to the leeward of Tromp. This disposition afforded Monk exactly the opportunity he sought. Coming down from the W. or N.W., on Friday the 1st June, he directed his attack on the squadron of Van Tromp. The English fleet was on the starboard tack—that is to say, it had the wind on the right side, and was heading to the S.E. It passed well clear of the centre of the Dutch line, and therefore at a greater distance from the squadron of Evertszoon, in order to fall with all its strength on the ships of Tromp. The English line was in beautiful order, but, as was commonly the case, the ships in the rear had a tendency to straggle. The distance between them and the leading vessel was so great, that when the ships at the head of Monk's line were abreast of Tromp, those at the rear were barely visible to observers on the decks of the Dutch. Tromp, on being attacked, immediately cut his cables and stood to the south. The battle began at about three o'clock in the afternoon, and for some time the two fleets ran on cannonading one another. But their course, if followed far enough, would have stranded both of them near Dunkirk. Both Tromp and Monk therefore reversed their course almost simultaneously, and, instead of standing to the S., turned towards the N. or N.N.E. In the course of these movements the lines had come very close together, and the English, acting on their usual rule of pressing an attack home, had stood down on the Dutch. Several English ships broke through the Dutch line, and among them were the two admirals, Sir William Berkeley and Harman of the Blue Division. Berkeley was the brother of the Lord Falmouth killed in the battle of the 3rd of June in the previous year. His vessel, the Swiftsure, being cut off for a time from all English support, was attacked by several Dutch ships at once and overpowered. She surrendered, but not until she was completely cut to pieces and the admiral had fallen. He had been struck in the heat of the action by a musket bullet in the throat, and, staggering into the captain's cabin, fell dead [356]on the table, where he was discovered lifeless and covered by his blood when the Dutch took possession of his ship. Harman, who had been in equal danger, fought his way through. His vessel caught fire, and a panic spread among the crew. Harman, who looks in his portrait by Lely a man of a singularly fierce type, restored order by his example and a vigorous use of his sword. The fire was got under, but the fall of a topsail yard broke the admiral's leg. He did not leave the deck, and, when hailed by a Dutch officer to surrender, only answered, "No, no; it has not come to that yet." The fire of his broadside was severe enough to make the Dutchmen sheer off, and Harman rejoined his fleet. As the English fleet stood back, De Ruyter had worked sufficiently far to windward to bring his ships into action. Joining with Van Tromp, he made an attack with superior numbers on the end of Monk's line. It was here that the fight was hottest, and the loss most severe. The last of the twilight had come before fire ceased, but as the darkness fell the Dutch could see Monk leading his line, little diminished in number, and still in excellent order, seaward to the west.

This was the fortune of the first day of the Four Days' Battle. The English had suffered, but they had shown themselves the better fighters and manœuvrers. The Dutch must have been depressed by finding how little their superiority of numbers had availed them. Yet all had not done equally well on the side of the English. The anxieties of the last few days had made the Court very anxious to know what was happening with the fleet. Sir Thomas Clifford was sent to gain information. Embarking at Harwich in a small vessel, in company with Lord Ossory, the gallant son of the Duke of Ormonde, he joined Monk on the 2nd June. We are told by him that there were at that time only thirty-five ships with the English admiral, and that this weakness was due to the desertion of some of the smaller vessels. Bad example, bad pay, bad food were beginning to produce their effect; and although there were many of a higher courage, and some who, although greedy and unscrupulous, were yet personally brave, there were others in our fleet who were beginning to imitate the conduct of those Dutch [357]captains chastised by De Witt. Men who do not scruple to steal may be brave, yet it is not unnatural that one kind of dishonesty should lead to another, and that the captain who got his command by bribery, and made it pay by pilfering, should have no scruple about deserting his post.

The battle had begun on Saturday the 2nd of June before Ossory and Clifford reached Monk's flagship, the Royal Charles. It had been in progress since eight o'clock in the morning. When day broke, the two were in sight of one another, the English to the west of the Dutch, and both somewhere between Ostend and the North Foreland. The Dutch were rather to the south, and, as the wind was still at S.S.W., a little to windward. The two fleets stood towards one another, and the English ships, being the sharper built and more weatherly, gained the weather-gage from the Dutch—that is to say, the two lines met at a very obtuse angle, the English crossing the course of the Dutch, and passing to the south of them, then they curved inwards, and the two lines crossed on opposite tacks, cannonading as they went by. The ships in the rear of the Dutch line were commanded in this battle by Van Tromp. Seeing that as the English turned in they had fallen off the wind, he tacked to gain the weather-gage upon them, and thus separated himself from the bulk of De Ruyter's fleet. At the same time, or very shortly afterwards, some of the vessels in the van of the Dutch line behaved in a fashion which shows that the executions of the previous summer had not yet produced the full effect desired. They turned before the wind and fairly ran. Thus De Ruyter found himself left at the same moment by his rear through the wilfulness of one admiral, and by his van through the misconduct of others. He had but a choice of evils, and of these he probably chose the less when he bore up and went to leeward for the purpose of overtaking the runaways, and bringing the bulk of his fleet again into order. Yet he gave Monk an extraordinarily fine opportunity of cutting off the squadron of Van Tromp. The English chief had only to pass to leeward of the Dutchman, and he must separate him from the bulk of his fleet. Probably because he believed that the [358]weather-gage was the more advantageous position of the two, Monk did not take this course. At least it appears that the English passed to windward of Tromp. In the meantime, De Ruyter, having recalled the runaway van ships, reversed his course and stood back to the assistance of his self-willed and unruly subordinate. The two divisions of the Dutch fleet were allowed to rejoin, and they remained to leeward of us huddled in a confused body.

There was at this point a pause in the battle. It may be that the English had defects to make good in their spars and rigging, for the Dutch, according to their usual custom, fired high. Perhaps Monk was so conscious of his inferiority of numbers that he did not care to entangle himself too far. De Ruyter was allowed to restore order in his line, and then, during the last hours of the day, the fleets again passed on opposite tacks, and the battle ended in an ineffectual cannonade.

The absence of Prince Rupert had been acutely felt during this prolonged conflict. Monk had fought with a remarkable combination of intrepidity and skill, but, though he had inflicted severe punishment on the enemy, he could not but know that he was much weakened by loss and desertion. If Rupert did not return shortly, and the wind were to shift to the N. or N.E., he might have the whole Dutch fleet on his hands when it would be no longer possible for him to pick his own point of attack. On the Sunday, then, he decided to retire into the Thames. Selecting sixteen of his best and strongest vessels, he arranged them in a line abreast—that is to say, side by side, stretched from north to south. The injured and the weaker ships were placed in front, and the whole body retired together towards the river. The Dutch pursued, but not with much energy, or at least at no great rate of speed. If it had not been for an error of judgment, and, I am afraid we must add, a certain want of nerve on the part of Sir George Ayscue, it would seem that the retreat might have been successfully effected with very little loss. Sir George had his flag in the Prince, which was counted the finest ship in the English fleet. Her place was on the [359]extreme right, or northern end of Monk's line. It was of course desirable to place powerful ships at the extremities, in case the enemies should attempt to turn them. The approach to the Thames is made difficult by successive rows of shallows: one of these is the Galloper Sand, a long and narrow shoal lying N.E. of the North Foreland, and stretching from E. of N. to W. of S., and directly opposite the coast of Essex between Walton-on-the-Naze and Clacton. The pilot of the Prince, or whoever else directed her navigation, miscalculated her room, and the vessel ran on the southern end of the sand. A few of the other ships touched, but were got off. This accident was instantly seen by both fleets. The Dutch crowded on, under the immediate direction of Van Tromp, to attack the stranded vessel. The English turned for her support, but, before they could render any effectual assistance, Sir George Ayscue had surrendered. He was severely blamed for want of spirit, perhaps unjustly; and yet we cannot but believe that if the Prince had carried the flag of Sir John Harman, she would have made a longer and perhaps a successful resistance, for she was a heavily-armed vessel of ninety guns. The loss of the Prince was made the more exasperating to the English by the long-desired appearance of Rupert, who was seen coming past the North Foreland with his twenty fresh ships, pressing on to rejoin Monk. The reinforcement came, however, too late to save the Prince. At the sight of Rupert's flag the Dutch did indeed give up all hope of carrying her off. They removed her officers and crew, and set her on fire. She burned in the sight of the English fleet.

Monk's often-proved valour and strength of character were never more conspicuous than now. After three such days the most stout-hearted of men might have thought that enough had been done for honour. But the Lord General was resolved to fight again. He anchored for the night, and on Monday, the 4th of June according to the old calendar and the 14th according to ours, got under way to engage the enemy once more. The Dutch also had anchored, and when they got under way they stood on the [360]port tack with the wind still from the south. The English headed in the same direction, and, being the more weatherly vessels, forced a close action. Each fleet had fought well on the three previous days, but on this last they may be said to have thrown away the scabbard. The English, holding their wind, endeavoured to force their way through the Dutch line, and, where their enemies were leewardly ships, or ill-handled, they succeeded. The furious mêlée lasted for hours, and Rupert's squadron fought as if it was its purpose to make up for absence on the previous days. At the end of hours of conflict the two fleets were broken in confused masses, the Dutch to windward here, and the English to windward there. A portion of the English had headed the Dutch line: they were pursued by some of the Dutch; while in the meantime the battle in the centre and the rear was raging between De Ruyter and Monk, the Dutch admiral being still to windward. Van Tromp, with all the energy and more than the judgment he had displayed on the second day of battle, recalled the pursuers, and, joining them to his own ships, fell on the main body of the English on the opposite side to that on which they were engaged with De Ruyter. This was the last phase of the long and desperate struggle. Monk was for a time in great peril, surrounded by enemies, and deprived of all support from his own side, but he broke his way through. Even when the fight had clearly gone against them, the English had sold their defeat dear. Their fireships had destroyed two of the enemy, nor had any English vessel struck till she had exacted her full price from the Dutch. Night, a fog, and fatigue on both sides ended the Four Days' Battle. The English retired into the river, the Dutch remained outside for a short time, and then returned to refit.

The Four Days' Battle bears a certain resemblance to Blake's engagement with Martin Tromp near Dungeness. It was a defeat, but one which did nothing to diminish the pride of the English seamen or their belief in their inherent superiority to the Dutch. We had fought against superior numbers by our own choice, frequently with success, and [361]never with what could be called rout. At the close we had lost some twenty vessels, and a number of men estimated by various authorities from 3000 to 5000 in killed and wounded. One admiral had died, and a score of captains were slain or wounded. Our fleet had retired into the river, and the enemy was left for a space with the sea clear, but his own injuries were so serious that he could make no other immediate use of his victory than to return home and make ready for the next battle, which he knew well that the English would be ready to offer him before many weeks were over.

The effect produced in London and at Court by the news of this great battle is audible to us now in the Diary of Pepys. He is a very unsafe authority for the truth of any particular statement, for he heard all the gossip of the day and noted it down as it came. Yet, for that very reason, he is an invaluable witness to the fluctuations of the feelings of his contemporaries. We can trust him thoroughly when he reports how all the world rejoiced in this new victory over the Dutch, until it learned that we had been defeated, and that De Ruyter was for the moment master of the Thames. His Diary records the contradictory rumours of the day, and also the complaints of Monk's rashness, and the sneers at the misconduct of this or that officer—the snarling and tittle-tattle of the lower deck and the ward-room. This, also, is not without its value as evidence. It was ominous of that fall in the spirit and vigour of the navy which was to come in the next generation, that men were found to blame Monk for giving battle to superior numbers. The evil of the time was the gradual debauching of the spirit of the nation by self-seeking and corruption, and it is visible on every other page of Pepys. We find him recording that captains were suspected of deserting their admiral without incurring any particular shame. He himself, though patriotic and zealous for the king's service in his way, did not allow the disasters of the fleet to interfere with his innumerable little schemes for increasing that comfortable private fortune whose growth he records with such unfeigned satisfaction; and if others [362]differed from him, it was in being less patriotic and much more self-seeking.

It is to Pepys that we owe our knowledge of one of the most heroic scenes of the time. Sir Christopher Myngs, Rupert's second in command, had fallen mortally wounded on the last of the Four Days' Battle. He had been shot in the throat, and had held the wound together with his fingers till a second shot disabled him completely. It was at first not supposed that his hurt was mortal, but he died within a few days of the battle. The Council of State had buried Deane, and Cromwell had buried Blake, in Henry VII.'s Chapel with splendour. The king allowed Sir Christopher Myngs to be carried to his grave unattended, except by Sir William Coventry, who went out of spontaneous good feeling, and by Pepys, who went because Sir William Coventry was going. These were the only official representatives of the nation at the funeral of Sir Christopher Myngs, but there were others who of their own free will came to do honour to the stout-hearted seaman in the name of the navy. Pepys records how, on leaving the church, he had the sentimental pleasure of witnessing a truly touching scene: "One of the most romantique that ever I heard of in my life, and could not have believed, but that I did see it, which was this:—About a dozen able, lusty, proper men come to the coach side with tears in their eyes, and one of them that spoke for the rest began and says to Sir W. Coventry, 'We are here a dozen of us that have long known and loved and served our dead commander, Sir Christopher Myngs, and have now done the last office of laying him in the ground. We would be glad we had any other to offer after him, and in revenge of him. All we have is our lives; if you will please to get His Royal Highness to give us a fireship among us all, here is a dozen of us, out of all which choose you one to be commander, and the rest of us, whoever he is, will serve him; and, if possible, do that that shall show our memory of our dead commander, and our revenge.'" Sir William Coventry was much moved, and Mr. Pepys even shed tears, but we do not learn that anything effectual was done. At the time when Sir Christopher [363]Myngs was allowed to go to his grave neglected, the young captains who owed their commands to Court influence incurred no punishment for deserting their admiral in battle. Nobody denied that the impunity permitted to such misconduct as this was an evil. Sir William Coventry knew as well as any man how inferior the new captains were to the old, and foresaw what the consequences of employing them must be. Before the second war with Holland he had been in the habit of denouncing the little service the Cavalier captains could do to the king. The evil was not that they were Cavaliers, but that they got their places for any reason on earth except fitness to hold them. Neither Sir William Coventry nor any other man, but one, could have provided a remedy. The king could indeed have made all right, but he would not. He could not give up his idle, pleasure-seeking life in order to work at his business of king, and he would not annoy his friends and courtiers by allowing their relations and protégés to be punished. Thus the whole standard of conduct and discipline in the navy was degraded. The king himself was growing tired of the war, which had brought him neither profit nor popularity, and within a few months he was about to take a series of steps for the purpose of obtaining peace, which brought such a disgrace on the nation as it had never suffered before, and has never been called upon to endure since.



Authorities.—The same as for the previous chapter, with the addition of the Parliamentary History for the debates in the House, and the Calendar of Colonial Papers for transactions in the West Indies.

Honour and interest made it necessary to try to wipe off the discredit of the late defeat. The nation had been so deeply moved that it would probably have been dangerous for the king to meet Parliament if this duty was neglected. In spite, therefore, of the disturbance caused by the plague, strenuous efforts were made to get a new fleet ready for sea, and they were not unsuccessful. The patriotism of the nation did something to supply resources. Even the courtiers, in a spasm of virtue, agreed to subscribe in order to supply a vessel to replace The Prince. Volunteers were found for the navy, in spite of the unpopularity brought on the service by bad pay and bad food. What was not done by voluntary offer was done by the unsparing use of the press. So zealous were some of the officers entrusted with this duty, that the pressmen at Gravesend offered to press Sir Edward Seymour. A suspicion that this zeal was at least partly dictated by a desire to extort a bribe, is justified by stories reported from other quarters. There were loud complaints of the quality of the men sent into the fleet. Some of the king's officers had no hesitation in describing the bulk of them as worthless, miserable creatures. At the same time, it was alleged that in some of the out-ports hundreds of stout seamen were walking the streets unmolested. It would be strange if the [365]only incorruptible persons at that time had been the officers conducting the press, and we are quite entitled to take it for granted that the work was often done after the immortal pattern supplied by Sir John Falstaff. Bullcalf, who could pay, was let off, while Wart and Feeble, who could not pay, were taken.

The Dutch, who, in spite of some bragging on our side, had suffered less than ourselves in the Four Days' Battle, were at sea a month before our fleet could leave the Thames. As early as the 29th of June their ships were seen off the North Foreland, engaged in picking up the anchors they had left when attacked by Monk on the 1st of the month. After thriftily recovering their lost property, they stood into the estuary of the Thames and cruised between Margate and the Gunfleet. In London the air was full of rumours of their insolence, and ostentatious enjoyment of their victory. It was said, falsely, that Sir George Ayscue was treated with insult, and there was another story, no better founded, that the body of Sir William Berkeley was exposed in a sugar-chest, with his flag beside him. Stories of this kind stimulated the desire of the nation to see the fleet again ready for sea. Indeed, there were other and stronger reasons for exertion. The danger of invasion was real. If the King of France had been honestly anxious to press the war against England, it is almost certain that a French army might have been landed in Kent. We had absolutely no force ready to interfere with the operations of the Dutch fleet. It could have shipped any number of men the French king could supply, and might have landed them pretty much where it pleased. But Louis was already contemplating an attack on the Spanish Netherlands, and was looking forward to secure the co-operation of the King of England. He declined to make an irreparable breach with his brother sovereign for the sake of the Republic, which he knew to be in reality his most serious opponent. Therefore, although rumours of the coming of French troops were rife in England, and although our cruisers were active in taking French prizes, there was no attempt at an invasion, and King Louis made no effectual effort to help the Dutch.


While the unprepared state of the English fleet caused a pause in the great operations of war, the smaller cruisers were tolerably active on both sides. The feats of single ships are not recorded so fully at this time as later, but traces remain which show that captains of spirit were active. We hear, for instance, of a desperate action between a French East Indiaman and an English frigate, the Orange. The fight had been so hot that the Frenchman was in a sinking state when the English took possession of him. Here we have another example of the discipline of the time. The English prize-crew fell to rifling the Frenchman's hold, and were so intent on this occupation that they forgot to stop the leaks. The result was, that the Frenchman went to the bottom, carrying forty of his captors with him. The incident is typical. In small things as in great, it was then the rule that what was won by valour and conduct in battle was lost by greed and self-seeking afterwards. Another incident of the time illustrates the fall in the level of national courage. Some gentlemen belonging to the county of Essex had banded themselves together to act as a bodyguard to the deputy-lieutenant, who was engaged in collecting the militia to resist the threatened Dutch invasion. Being on the sea-coast, and finding a small armed galliot belonging to the king at hand, they were fired with ambition to go out and have a brush with the Dutch. The commander of the galliot, who seems to have been a man of some humour, was prepared to indulge them. They ran to sea, and soon found themselves in the immediate neighbourhood of a Dutch look-out vessel. The captain of the galliot attacked at once with so much zeal that he soon came within musket-shot of the enemy. This was more than the doughty bodyguard of the deputy-lieutenant had bargained for. They were seized with an extreme panic, and insisted upon being taken back. The captain of the galliot refused, alleging that he would be hanged if he returned for no better reason. The country gentlemen replied that their lives were of more value than his, since some of them were even knights. Even this appeal to the respect he owed his betters had no effect upon the mind of the skipper of the galliot. At [367]last the terrified squires and knights had recourse to a more persuasive line of reasoning. They offered him a bribe in the shape of a handsome piece of plate. This was probably what the captain had been aiming at all the time. The informer who sent this story to Mr. Secretary Williamson added that it had better not be put in the Gazette as an example of English valour; and yet, if accompanied by judicious comment, it might have had considerable value.

The fleet which was to revenge us on the Dutch was collected, during the latter days of June and the early days of July, at the Nore. The command was still in the hands of Monk and Rupert, though the death of Myngs and Berkeley, the capture of Ayscue, and the wound of Harman, had made some changes in the subordinate places necessary. The total force of the fleet was put at eighty-seven ships and the fireships. The numbers might have been higher, but the admirals decided to take the crews out of fifteen of the smaller vessels and distribute them among the larger. Our ships had never been so strongly manned in mere numbers before. The spirit of the men was good, and it must in justice be allowed that the courtiers set a very honourable example. They flocked into the fleet to take part in the coming battle; even the notorious Rochester, who was one of the worst men of that or any other time, went as a volunteer with Sir Edward Spragge. One gentleman, Sir Robert Leach by name, had been told in a dream that he would kill De Ruyter with a "fusee," i.e. fowling-piece, and he came to the ship of Sir Robert Holmes to fulfil the prophecy. Holmes promised to take him near enough to prove the truth of his dream.

It was on the 19th of July that the fleet began to drop down from the Nore. Several channels lead out from this anchorage to the open sea. Immediately below the Nore is the Warp, from which the West Swin branches out on the left as you go to the N.E., the Barrow Deep is to the right, and then the Oaze Deep beyond it. The tangle of shallows at the mouth of the Thames is traversed by navigable channels running in different directions. Several of these had not been surveyed in the time of Charles II., and it is [368]therefore not necessary to mention more for the purpose of explaining the movements of the fleet than those that were then in general use. It must be remembered that the coast of Essex is fringed by shallows. At the very mouth of the river, beginning above Shoeburyness, are the Maplin Sands, north and a little east of the Maplin Sands is Foulness Sand, and north of that again Buxey. In the seventeenth century these were called the Rolling Grounds. From the north-east corner of Buxey stretches out the Gunfleet, which itself runs towards the north-east. The navigable passage which goes along these three channels is called, after it leaves the Warp, just opposite the Maplin Sands, first the West Swin, then the East Swin. Here a narrow shallow called the Middle Ground divides it from the Middle Deep. At the end of the Middle Ground the East Swin and Middle Deep join together to make the King's Channel, which flows past the Gunfleet and leads into the open sea. The right-hand side of this channel is formed, at the place where it is called the West Swin, by the shallows known as the West Barrow, the Barrow, and the East Barrow. The Barrow Channel is on the other side of this shallow. Both run from S.W. to N.E. On the right hand as you go out of Barrow Deep are the Oaze, the Nob, the North Nob, the Barrow Ridge, the Knock John, and then the Sunk: all these have the same general direction as the Barrow. On the eastern side of the shallows, beginning at the Oaze Deep and flowing on till it mingles in the King's Channel at the Sunk Head, is the Black Deep, the main channel into and out of the Thames. On the right-hand side of the Black Deep, going out, is the Long Sand, which is fairly described by its name. This also stretches from S.W. to N.E. Between the south-west end of the Long Sand and the coast of Kent are the Girdler, the Kentish Flats, the Margate Sands, and a host of confusing shallows and channels, not necessary to be specified. Outside and on the east of the Long Sand is the Knock Deep, and then the Kentish Knock. This was the scene of the first battle of the first Dutch war. A line drawn straight south from the Kentish Knock would strike on the Goodwin Sands. At flood-tide there is a strong current which runs through these [369]channels and over these sands, towards London. At the ebb the current is in the reverse direction.

Now it will be obvious that the difficulty of bringing a fleet of sailing ships from the Nore to the North Sea through all these obstructions to navigation is great, and that the difficulty may grow into a very serious danger if there is an enemy waiting outside. To carry the ships out in one tide from the Warp through the Swin or Barrow into the King's Channel, or through the Black Deep into the open sea, required a combination, of either a good breeze and an ebb-tide, or such a strong wind from the west, with a flood-tide, as would enable a fleet to make head against the current. The difficulties of an approach to the Black Deep are so serious, in consequence of the numerous little sands lying at the entry to it, that it was decided in July 1666 to take the fleet out by the Swin, but this had necessarily to be done at one tide. De Ruyter was cruising between the Long Sand and the Naze, with an advanced detachment of ships at the Gunfleet. If, then, the English fleet, in coming through the Swin, had been caught by the turn of the tide at a moment when part of the fleet had passed and the other had not, that portion of it which was still dropping down the Channel might be stopped until the next tide. In the meantime, those which had already passed might be subject to an attack by the whole force of De Ruyter coming on with the flood-tide. From this it could only escape by running back into the Swin, a very dangerous operation for vessels in a narrow tideway under the fire of enemies. Before, then, attempting to issue from the Sea Reach Swin and Middle Deep into the King's Channel, it was necessary to be sure that the wind would be strong enough to enable the whole fleet to get out together on one ebb-tide. The opportunity did not present itself until the 21st of July. Before that, the ships were making their way down as far as the Middle Ground. Here they anchored in a body on the 19th. Sir Thomas Clifford, who was again with the fleet, and the Generals Monk and Rupert in their flagship, the Royal Charles, wrote a stirring description to Lord Arlington of the spectacle [370]presented by this great fleet, stretching along for nine or ten miles as it worked its way down the Channel. The length of the long column of ships working through the fairway constituted the difficulty of getting them out in one tide. Clifford reported that the fleet was in high spirits, and had prepared for serious work. The cabins were pulled down, and the decks clear. Even the common men were full of spirit, declaring that "if we do not beat them now, we never shall." Yet we can understand the anxiety of the generals. For two days the fleet lay at the Middle Ground. The wind was still too much from the north to afford a reasonable security of clearing the narrow passages between the East Barrow and Foulness. On the 22nd it had shifted sufficiently to the west to allow the fleet to get under way. Monk and Rupert were on deck all day, and, so Sir Thomas Clifford reports, "sometimes a little rough with the pilots" in their impatience at the hesitations of the technical man. Captain Elliot led the van of eleven ships and eight or nine fireships, in the Revenge, with orders to fall upon the Dutch advance guard if they did not retire from the Gunfleet. If the work had not been done "in the nick," it would not have been done at all. But done it was, and on the evening of the 22nd we anchored at the buoy of the Gunfleet. The Dutch advance squadron weighed anchor and stood out to the N. of E. as we came on. The bulk of the Dutch fleet, with De Ruyter, was riding at the Naze. Another English vessel, the Rupert, joined the fleet here from Harwich.

On the morning of the 23rd, both fleets weighed anchor. The Dutch were farther out than the English, and a little to the south of them. Monk and Rupert desired to force an action at once, but the enemy worked away to the southward, and could not be brought to battle. Our fleet had started beating drums and preparing for action, with the pomp and circumstance beloved by the fighting men of former times. The wind was light, and fell before evening almost to a calm, so that we anchored at dark on the outskirts of the shallows of the Thames estuary. The fall of the wind was followed by a violent gale, which raged all [371]through the night and the early hours of the 24th of July. The Jersey was struck by lightning, and so disabled that she was compelled to make her way to Harwich. Her captain, Digby, pleaded to stay as a volunteer in the flagship, but was ordered to go with his ship. Towards the afternoon the wind moderated, the fleet weighed anchor and again moved in pursuit of the Dutch, of whom it had lost sight during the previous evening. Little progress was made, and the generals anchored at nightfall eight leagues east of the Naze. It is possible that De Ruyter, who had fallen back on the 23rd, returned when the gale had exhausted its force. For on the morning of the 25th he was seen to the south of the English fleet. The generals had again got under way at two o'clock in the morning, and at daybreak the Dutch were seen to leeward of the English. From the account given in Brandt's Life of Michael de Ruyter, of the council of war held on board the Seven Provinces, it appears that the Dutch had decided to accept battle to leeward.

In strength the fleets about to engage were almost exactly equal. The fleet of the United Provinces consisted of seventy-three warships, and twenty-six frigates and look-out vessels, with twenty fireships. It was divided into three squadrons. The van was under the command of Lieutenant-Admiral Jan Evertszoon. The second in command under Evertszoon was Lieutenant-Admiral Tjerk Hiddes de Vries. The third was Vice-Admiral Bankert, the fourth Vice-Admiral Koenders, and there were under them two officers known by a title peculiar to the Dutch Navy—that of Schoutbynacht, of which the literal meaning is the Command-by-night. It answered to the Rear-Admiral of our navy. Their names were Evertszoon and Brunsvelt. Jan Evertszoon, though equal in rank to De Ruyter, carried a flag, of which the Dutch name is Wimpel, at the foremast, as his actual office was only that of leader of the van. De Ruyter commanded in the centre. His second in command was the Lieutenant-Admiral van Nes. His third was Vice-Admiral de Liefde, his fourth the Schoutbynacht, Jan van Nes. De Ruyter's flag was at the mainmast; [372]the rear was commanded by Tromp; Lieutenant-Admiral Meppel, Vice-Admirals van Schram and Sveers, with W. van der Zaan and G't Hoen in the rank of Schoutbynacht. Tromp, as commander of the rear, had the Wimpel at the mizen.

The strength of the English fleet was put in the official account at ninety, but it appears really to have consisted of ninety-two ships fit to lie in a line of battle. We did not as yet distinguish between battleships and light ships, and in fact there were fewer of the latter with us than with the Dutch, so that the ninety-two of the English were equal in effective strength to the ninety-nine of the Dutch. Our fireships were seventeen in number. The van of the English fleet—that is to say, the White Division—was commanded by Sir Thomas Allen, with Sir Thomas Teddiman as vice-admiral, and Captain Utbar as rear. The rear, or Blue Division, was commanded by Sir Jeremy Smith, with Sir Edward Spragge as vice-admiral, and Kempthorne was rear-admiral. The Red or Central Division was under the direct command of the generals, Monk and Rupert, who were together in the flagship, the Royal Charles. Sir Joseph Jordan was vice-admiral, and Sir Robert Holmes rear-admiral.

Though the enemy had been sighted at daybreak, the battle did not begin until nine or ten o'clock; both hours are mentioned by eye-witnesses, and it may be that neither is quite accurate. Estimates of time taken in such circumstances, and hurriedly reported after a battle, can hardly be minutely accurate. The English fleet bore down on the Dutch in a line abreast from the north-west, sailing on the port tack. They stood on their course till they were parallel with the enemy, and then bore up all together, and engaged him from end to end of the line. Sir Thomas Allen in command of the White Squadron engaged the Dutch van under the command of Evertszoon. The Red Squadron came into action with De Ruyter, and Sir Jeremy Smith with Cornelius van Tromp. In accordance with an almost universal experience, the rear division of the English was in some disorder when it engaged Tromp. Part of the ships [373]were out of their place, with the result that some of them were under the fire of the Dutch before the others. For five hours the action raged with very equal fortunes. We do not hear of any manœuvres on either side, unless it be in the boast of the English that they engaged the enemy so close as to give him no opportunity to tack. As the afternoon wore on, the English began to gain the upper hand. The Dutch van and centre began to flinch, and fall away to leeward. In the rear the course of battle had been somewhat different. Sir Jeremy's Smith's squadron was considered weaker than the other two. As it was not inferior in numbers to the centre, this estimate was probably made to console the national complacency for the failure of the squadron, which might be sufficiently accounted for by the disordered state of the English ships at the beginning of the battle. Tromp, who at all times showed a wilful preference for acting by himself, took advantage of his comparative success against the Blue Squadron to break away from his admiral. When De Ruyter and Evertszoon fell away to leeward, he did not follow them, but remained closely engaged with the English rear. Thus the battle broke into two, the Dutch van and centre retreating towards their own coast, with the English Red and White Squadrons in pursuit, whilst the Dutch rear division and the English Blue Squadron remained behind, cannonading one another with fairly equal fortunes.

By the time that De Ruyter and Evertszoon were undeniably in retreat, it was almost dark. The night put a stop to the battle. Next day, the 26th of July, the wind had almost fallen to a calm, and the two fleets remained within sight of one another, but neither able to move except at a very slow rate. Prince Rupert took advantage of the helplessness of the enemy to play off a piece of bravado on De Ruyter. He had bought a little sailing-yacht, which he named the Fan-fan, and towed about with him behind the flagship. She carried two toy pop-guns for ornament. A little craft of this kind could be easily handled in breezes which produced no effect on the bulk of the Seven Provinces. Rupert sent her out with orders to take her place opposite [374]the stern of De Ruyter's flagship and fire into her, by way of insult and derision. The calm was so great that the little Fan-fan was able to enjoy the amusement of banging away at the big Dutchman with her pop-guns for two hours, before the enemy was able to move. At last the breeze got up again. The Fan-fan ran back into our fleet, and the pursuit was resumed. De Ruyter kept in the rear of his flying fleet, gallantly supported by some of his captains. The historian of his life says that in his anguish he called for death, and regretted that none of the many bullets flying about had struck him. At last, on the evening of the 26th, the Dutch ran into the shallow water near Flushing, and so escaped. The English fleet anchored outside.

While two-thirds of the fleet on either side were drifting or sailing towards Flushing, Cornelius van Tromp and Sir Jeremy Smith were fighting their detached action on their own account. During the night of the 26th the sound of their guns was heard by ships at anchor off Flushing. The English fleet got under way and stood out in the hopes of intercepting the Dutch rear division. It would have added immensely to the glory of the victory if they could have carried out their purpose. Only four prizes had been taken on the 25th, and against this we have to set off the loss of one vessel of our own, the Resolution. Tromp had with him twenty-five battleships, six frigates, and eight fireships. If their road home could have been barred by the White and Red Squadrons at a time when Sir Jeremy Smith was pressing on them from behind, it is probable that every one of the thirty-nine might have fallen into our hands, and then the disaster to Holland would have been crushing. In the hope of fulfilling their triumph on this splendid scale, the English fleet stood out to sea on the 27th of July. The wind was at the N.E. Tromp and Smith were seen far out, engaged with one another. The White and Red Squadrons stood out until they were opposite to Tromp, and then tacked to put themselves in the direction he was following, and bar his road home. It was maintained at the time that if the admiral of the Blue had handled his squadron with spirit, he would have driven Tromp into the bulk of the [375]English fleet. He was violently accused not only of incompetence, but of personal cowardice. The latter accusation may be dismissed as being only a form of calumny common at that time, but it does seem that Smith showed some want of skill. He might have excused himself by alleging that he had done as well as anybody else. The two generals who directed the fleet had little right to complain of the mismanagement of a subordinate officer. With the wind in the N.E., they surely had it in their power to force an action with Tromp. They were to windward, and he was making his way homeward against the wind. Yet they were content to lie in wait for the Dutchmen at the point to which they took it for granted he would be driven by the Blue Division. The upshot of it was that he slipped between the two. During the night of the 27th the Blue Squadron lost sight of the enemy, and Tromp, skilfully avoiding the White and Red Squadrons, joined De Ruyter in harbour.

Although the battle had produced few prizes, and the escape of Tromp had shorn it of its hoped-for fair proportions, it was the subject of great and legitimate rejoicing in England. De Ruyter had been driven from his cruising-ground at the mouth of the Thames. We had again proved that we could overcome the Dutch in battle, and were masters of the sea. Monk and Rupert made a vigorous use of their success. They swept along the coast of Holland, driving the enemy's commerce into port, or capturing all ships that dared to remain out. An opportunity of inflicting a great blow on a Dutch corporation which was regarded with peculiar animosity in England, was put in their way through the treason of a Dutch officer who had been dismissed from the service. This ignoble scoundrel informed the English admirals that a number of vessels belonging to the Dutch East India Company were lying inside of Vlieland and Terschelling, two islands north of the Texel and opposite the coast of Friesland. There were also a number of other merchant ships, some from the Baltic, and some from the coast of Africa, lying in the same roadsteads. The islands of Vlieland and Terschelling contained [376]large magazines belonging partly to the Dutch East India Company and partly to the States. Here was a mass of plunder which it was neither the interest nor, indeed, the duty of the English admirals to neglect. It was decided to sail in and attack. The squadron detached for the purpose was put under the command of Sir Robert Holmes, the rear-admiral of the Red Squadron. On the 8th of August the fleet was close to Vlieland, but, the wind not being favourable for an attack on that island, it turned into the roadstead of Terschelling on the 9th, and there destroyed one hundred and sixty merchant ships, and two men-of-war that had been told off for their convoy. To the end that the work of injuring the Dutch should be done thoroughly, orders were given that the vessels captured should be fired at once, lest the temptation to look after the prizes should distract the attention of the officers and men. There was a real disinterestedness in this, for the captain who fired a richly-laden Dutch merchant ship was in fact burning his own chance of a fortune. It must be put to the credit of a greedy time that these orders were thoroughly obeyed. The Dutch were fired, and not taken off as prizes. On the following day a naval brigade was landed in the island of Terschelling, and one of the towns was burned to the ground. The stores found in the warehouses were carried off to the ships, as some compensation to the men for the loss of the merchant ships the day before. The taking of the plunder was in accordance with the military practices of all times, but the burning of the town was a cruel act, and compares very unfavourably with the conduct of De Ruyter at Chatham in the following year. The loss to the Dutch was estimated at £1,200,000. After inflicting this severe retaliation for the injury which De Ruyter had caused by his occupation of the mouth of the Thames, the English fleet returned home.

Yet the Dutch were not so seriously injured but that they were at sea again within a month. The French king, provoked perhaps by the injury inflicted on the commerce of his country by English cruisers, was at last showing some serious signs of an intention to reinforce the fleet of his ally. A French squadron was sent into the Channel, under the [377]command of the Duke of Beaufort. The Dutch, in hopes of meeting him, stood along the French coast as far as Boulogne. They were at once followed by the English, under the sole command of Prince Rupert. The great fire of London had taken place during the interval. Amid the terror and confusion it had caused, there was a loud cry for the presence of Monk. The Lord General was one of the few leading men of the day who had not fled from the plague. He had stood his ground, and had kept order whilst the pestilence was at its worst, showing no other sign of anxiety for his own safety than to indulge rather more than usual in his habitual practice of smoking and chewing tobacco. He chewed tobacco and spat about the deck when yardarm to yardarm with De Ruyter, and he did it during the plague, to keep out the germs of death. The nation had profound confidence in the stolid courage and unfailing loyalty to duty of the man who had restored the monarchy. The scandal of the time asserted that he had been recalled from the fleet in disgrace, but there can be no doubt that he was summoned to London because he was one of the very few who could be trusted to put his hand to a piece of public work, with the intention of doing it first, and of attending to his own pecuniary interests afterwards. Rupert's cruise in the Channel was so far successful that no junction took place between the Dutch and French. De Ruyter drew his vessels into the shallow water near Boulogne, and, when bad weather drove the English fleet off, took the opportunity to turn home. The bulk of the French fleet did not come into the Channel, but some of them advanced far enough to give us the only chance we had hitherto had of punishing them for joining the Dutch. When Rupert was driven off the coast of Boulogne, he fell back to St. Helens. The squadron of Sir Thomas Allen was kept at sea to watch for the French. Three or four of their vessels were met in the Channel in the course of September, and one of them, the Ruby, of seventy guns, was taken. Beaufort did not venture to come on, and, as the autumn was now begun, the fleets on both sides retired into harbour.


The great war may be said to have come to an end with the withdrawal of the main fleets in the early autumn of 1666. There were still some operations of squadrons in distant seas, and the country had one disgrace to undergo unparalleled in our own history, or, considering the circumstances, in any other. At least it would be difficult to find a case in which a powerful nation was compelled to see its ships burnt within earshot of its capital, and its coast insulted, at the close of a successful war. This disgrace was the direct result of corruption and bad management on the part of the Government. The excuse made for Charles II. by official apologists is that he allowed himself to be surprised at the end of the second Dutch war, solely because he was candid enough to rely for his protection on the peaceful negotiations then in progress with the Dutch. The plain English of this very lame apology is that the king was compelled to seize upon the first plausible pretext for opening negotiations with the Dutch, by the state of penury to which mismanagement had reduced his treasury, and that, having provided himself with an excuse for not keeping his fleet on a war footing by opening a correspondence with the enemy, he took advantage of it to divert the money voted for the war to other purposes. Hence it was that in the spring of 1667 the country was found unprepared, and that the Dutch, under the command of De Ruyter, who was accompanied by Cornelius de Witt in the capacity of delegate of the States, was able to burn the ships at Chatham.

When the country found itself committed to hostilities with the Dutch at the close of 1664, Parliament had been induced to vote the sum of £2,500,000 for the king's service. Members were in a somewhat gloomy mood when they were summoned to make good their loyal promises to the king by providing so large a sum. But the House had soon been made to understand that war could not be conducted without money. The £2,500,000 was granted. In 1665 the sum of £1,250,000 was asked for by the king's servants, and was obtained from the House. In the early days of 1667 a third vote of £1,800,000 was put at the king's disposal. The total amount, therefore, voted in those three years had been [379]£5,550,000. The fixed revenue of the Crown, though it fell below the estimated amount, was not less than £1,000,000 a year. For the three years counting from late in 1664 to early in 1667 this would make £3,000,000, so that the total amount that had been at the disposal of the Government during these three years had, at least on paper, been no less than £8,550,000. A large allowance must undoubtedly be made for the disturbing effects of the plague and the fire. The king had to put up with delay in obtaining advances from the city on the security of the revenue, and after the fire the whole of the business of the Treasury was disorganised for an interval. Yet the money actually received by the king must have been much the greater part of the £8,550,000. None the less, his crews were a year or more in arrear of their pay, the workmen were running from the dockyards to escape starvation, and the navy was burdened with debt. King Charles was under no necessity to maintain a great army. This obligation had weighed on the Government of the Protector, who had to provide for the Scotch and Irish establishments, and had, moreover, never enjoyed any equivalent revenue. The sea service of the Protector did indeed suffer through the financial difficulties of his Government, but was never so crippled as the navy was in 1667. The religious discontents in Scotland and conspiracies among the Puritans in England undoubtedly made it necessary for the king to maintain a body of troops, yet a very few would have sufficed; and when the king began raising new regiments at the end of 1666, it was not because they were needed for the maintenance of order.

The Dutch war had been a disappointment to the king and Court. They found that they had entirely underestimated the difficulty of defeating Holland. The war was not, as had been hoped, a rich but a poor one. In spite of our victories at sea, our commerce suffered so severely that after the conclusion of hostilities it was found necessary to suspend those provisions of the Navigation Acts which prohibited the purchase of foreign-built vessels. In the meantime, every appeal made to the House of Commons for money had a tendency to strengthen its already deeply-rooted [380]desire to interfere with the king's administration. This combination of disappointments abroad with the rising difficulties at home, ended by thoroughly sickening the king of the Dutch war. He began to think of the dangers menacing him in England, and to long to be free from the control of his House of Commons. He was far too clever a man to imitate the fatal courses of his father. Charles II. would never go far enough to provoke his people into sending him on his travels for a second time, and when Parliament became dangerous he yielded. Till it came to that pass, he would take all he could get, and would prepare, as far as he safely could, to make himself a despotic king on the model of his cousin Louis XIV. One way of bringing about that much-desired consummation was to provide himself with an army. It would have been an act of suicidal folly to go to Parliament with a request for funds for the maintenance of troops. Standing army was a phrase which stank in the nostrils of all Englishmen, and was to none more offensive than to the king's own most loyal subjects, the Cavaliers, who associated regular soldiers with the memories of Oliver's major-generals. But there was one thing the king could do: he could take the money the Parliament had voted for naval armaments against the Dutch, and apply it to the payment of soldiers. There was nothing in the "dry and elegant cynicism" of Charles II. to make him see anything discreditable in such a manœuvre; so towards the end of the war he pocketed the £1,800,000 voted by Parliament for the fleet, and applied it to the general purposes of his Government, of which one was the formation of fresh regiments of troops. The navy in the meantime was laid up, with the exception of a few light squadrons, and the country left without protection against the Dutch. It is no doubt the case that the king was technically justified in spending the money as he saw fit. It was voted for his service, and he was in theory the judge of what constituted his service. What neither the king nor his advisers foresaw sufficiently clearly was, that the House of Commons would draw its own deductions from these facts. It would sooner or later guard itself against the risk of seeing the money given for one [381]service diverted to another by insisting on allotting funds for definite purposes. From the moment it had done that, it had taken the last step which was necessary to give it direct control over every branch of the public administration.

The session of Parliament began in September 1666, and took a course well calculated to warn the king of the domestic perils before him. A bill was introduced in the House of Commons for the examination of public accounts. According to the terms of this measure, a Parliamentary Commission was to be appointed, which was to have the power of calling the king's officers before it, and compelling them to give an account of all public money that had passed through their hands. The House was so resolute to give itself this satisfaction that it at first refused to proceed with supply until the bill was passed. The terror felt by the king's officers and by his courtiers was lively. The Diary of Pepys contains ample evidence of the searchings of heart set going in the Navy Office. The terrors of the courtiers were even greater, as they were better founded, than those of the king's officials. Nobody had more to fear from a parliamentary investigation than Lord Ashley, afterwards first Earl of Shaftesbury. He was chairman of the Commissioners of Prizes. According to the law, the Commissioners ought, after satisfying the claims of the officers and men, to have handed over the surplus for the purposes of the war, but it was notorious that the fleet had not been paid either wages or prize-money, and that vast sums of money had been pilfered by the courtiers. Ashley had the king's orders not to reveal what he had done with the proceeds of the prizes, and he had also the king's promise that he would be protected against the House of Commons. The servants of the House of Stuart had the fate of Strafford to teach them the value of such guarantees. The danger passed away, but only because the House of Commons was diverted by other objects. The king had announced that he never would have passed the bill, even if he failed to get it defeated in the House of Lords. The belief that he would refuse his consent to a measure designed to make his servants the servants of the House of Commons was universal. Some members at least were so convinced [382]of his obstinacy that they had recourse to an unchivalrous but effectual method of coercion. They talked of attacking the king's mistress, the Countess of Castlemaine, thereby setting an example to Ashley, who, when he had quarrelled with the king at a later period of his career, cowed his master by threatening to cause the Duchess of Portsmouth to be presented as a nuisance by the Grand Jury of Middlesex. Clarendon, though no friend to the extravagances of the Court, was opposed to the bill, which he held, and very justly, to constitute a great reduction of the power of the Crown.

Neither the reluctance of the king nor the management of his chancellor would of themselves have checked the House of Commons if it had not been diverted by a quarrel about jurisdiction with the House of Lords. It was getting into that savage state of mind which so often made it dangerous in the seventeenth century. Members felt that the money they had voted had been shamefully wasted. They were filled with suspicion by the increase in the number of troops, and were almost maddened by fears, which we now know to have been well founded, that the king was secretly a Roman Catholic, and was nursing schemes to favour those of his own religion. It must be remembered, too, that the House was very ill informed. To-day every detail of the public service is subject to inspection by Parliament, but in the seventeenth century it had not yet been settled that the king's servants were responsible to Parliament in any other sense than this, that they might be impeached, and, if found guilty, be punished for giving bad advice to the king, or for illegal acts. They were still struggling to maintain the old doctrine of the Tudor dynasty, that the king's servants answered to the king alone. Feeling themselves tricked and eluded, being very ignorant of the facts, it is not wonderful that the members of the House of Commons were liable to get beside themselves with anger. In their frame of mind they were always prepared to clamour for a victim. Pepys has recorded his rueful conviction, not only that the navy officers might be, but that it was reasonable to think that [383]they ought to be, thrown out as a sacrifice to the wolves to save the king and great men. On this occasion, however, they escaped, and it was Clarendon who was thrown out to pacify the House of Commons. The Bill for Examining Public Accounts passed the Commons. The Lords, desirous to help the king, decided to petition him to appoint a committee of inquiry himself. The Commons were furious at what was manifestly a manœuvre to avert a reinvestigation, and a great quarrel arose between the Houses as to the constitutional orthodoxy of the course taken by the Peers. In the general conflict the bill was allowed to lapse, but when the king prorogued Parliament in the beginning of 1667 he found it wise to promise that he would cause inquiry to be made.

At the time that this promise was given, the king was in hopes of a speedy settlement with Holland, which might help him to huddle up the war. Informal negotiations had been going on since the close of the summer of 1666. Occasion for them had been given by an act of humanity and courtesy on the part of John de Witt. He caused the body of Sir William Berkeley, who had fallen in the first day of the Four Days' Battle, to be skilfully embalmed, and returned it to England under a flag of truce. Charles had replied by taking the first step towards the settlement of a peace. Some months passed before they progressed so far as to become definite negotiations, but it was so much the interest of both parties to put a stop to hostilities that they were not allowed to drop. If England, or rather, if the English Treasury, was exhausted, Holland had begun to be conscious of a danger menacing her very existence. Her ally, Louis XIV., was entering on a course of aggression against the Spanish Netherlands, which, if unchecked, must very soon bring his armies to the borders of the United Provinces, and thereby reduce them to entire dependence on his mercy. To face this peril while hampered with a war with England was impossible, and John de Witt was eager for peace. The King of England for his part was already engaged in underhand schemes with his cousin Louis XIV., which had for their ultimate object the destruction of the [384]Dutch Republics, but some time had to pass before their plans could be ripened. In the interval it was desirable to make peace, and so, by putting a stop to hostilities between England and France, leave the two Courts free to act together. When, therefore, the King of Sweden came forward with offers to act as mediator, he was accepted by both powers. The Conference appointed to settle the treaty of peace met at Breda in May.

While the diplomatists were sitting in their different rooms at Breda, drawing up protocols and sending them to the Swedish ambassador, who acted as umpire, it was perfectly understood on both sides that the war was to go on. This was first dishonestly, and then foolishly, denied on our side. But the actions of our Government prove to demonstration that it was perfectly well aware that hostilities were not to be suspended. In May, when the Conference at Breda was just about to meet, the king, in a letter addressed to the Duke of York as Lord High Admiral, declared that as London was well supplied with coal, there was no need to keep at sea more than a few light squadrons, which might distract the enemy and disturb his trade. These were operations of war. In fact, so little did the English Government trust to the peace negotiations for protection, that when it was decided not to send a fleet to sea, measures were ordered to be taken for the fortification of the coast. In March the works undertaken for the purpose were already patent to all the world, and were, in fact, perfectly well known in Holland. At a later time, when the disastrous consequences of this decision had been seen, the king threw the blame on his councillors, and the Duke of York asserted that he had opposed the policy. These were after-thoughts of men anxious to screen themselves at the expense of others. From the account given by Pepys of the meeting of the Council at Whitehall on the 24th of March, it appears that the Duke of York was very well satisfied with the fortifications. When he was told that they were known of in Holland, and might be taken for a sign of fear, "the King and Duke of York both laughed at it and made no matter, but said, 'Let us be safe and let them talk, for there [385]is nothing that will trouble them more, nor will prevent their coming over more, than to hear we are fortifying ourselves.' And the Duke of York said further, 'What said Marshal Turenne when some in vanity said that the enemies were afraid, for they entrenched themselves? "Well," says he, "I would that they were not afraid, for then they would not entrench themselves, and so we could deal with them the better."'" The difference between the Government of England and that of Holland in these months was not that the first relied on negotiations for peace to suspend hostilities, and that the second took a base advantage of its confidence, but that England was governed by cunning men of no wisdom, intent on their own amusements, and that Holland was governed by an energetic and judicious statesman, who ranked her glory far above any personal aims of his own.

The light squadrons sent out from England were two. The less interesting and important was sent into the higher latitudes of the North Sea under the command of Sir J. Smith, to cruise against the Baltic commerce of the Dutch, and it is reported to have been fairly successful in taking prizes. It remained there till peace was actually signed, and then returned, having made some profit for those who could secure a share in the prizes, but having certainly done nothing to distract Michael de Ruyter.

The second squadron had a much more varied and brilliant history. It was commanded by that Sir John Harman who had been captain of the flagship of the Lord High Admiral in the battle of Lowestoft, and had afterwards fought with such conspicuous valour in the Four Days' Battle. Harman came from that part of England which was to the reign of Charles II. what Devonshire had been to the age of Queen Elizabeth—a nursery of brave and skilful seamen. The more famous of the Tarpaulin Admirals, as the regular-bred seamen were nicknamed, were East Anglians. Harman's people belonged to Suffolk, and from his portrait he was of that type of eastern county men with sharp, almost hatchet faces and black hair, who perhaps represent the black Danes. The station to which he was [386]destined was the West Indies. However languidly the war had been conducted in Europe by Louis XIV., the French and English had come to very fierce blows in the Antilles. At this period the French already possessed Guadaloupe, Martinique, and some smaller islands. They divided the island of St. Christopher with us. England had Barbadoes, Antigua, Nevis, which lies immediately next St. Christopher, on the other half of that island. The Commonwealth had given us possession of Jamaica. Whether in the French or in the English islands, the control of the Home Government was very inefficient. There were conflicts as to jurisdiction between the Crown and the Lords Proprietors who had secured concessions for settling the islands, and with the companies which had secured trade monopolies. The islands were the home of a vast floating population of adventurers, mostly scoundrels. The Civil War in England had consigned herds of Scotch and Irish prisoners to what was really slavery in the West Indies. It had also been the custom both of France and England to supply the planters with labour by drafting out criminals who were bound to give so many years of labour. An active trade of kidnapping conducted by rascals who were known by the cant name of "The Spirits" tended to recruit this curious nondescript population, which not unnaturally produced a large proportion of men incapable of regular work. When it is remembered that the rich Spanish colonies were close at hand, and that Spain was very weak, no demonstration is required to prove that the West Indies were swarming with pirates. Under the names of "Brethren of the Coast," "flibutiers," and buccaneers, and under the pretext of asserting the freedom of the rest of the world to share in the possession of America, these adventurers carried on an incessant piratical warfare against Spain.

The French king's declaration of war had introduced a new element into this scene of organised disorder. The French, English, and Dutch had hitherto worked pretty harmoniously together for the purpose of plundering the Spaniards. They were now divided, the French and Dutch being banded together against the English. The first [387]collision in the war took place, as might have been supposed, in the island of St. Christopher. The French colonists had generally an advantage over ours on these occasions. That want of industry which in the end ruined their chance of establishing an empire in America, made them more ready for martial adventure. In St. Christopher's it is said that they were guilty of a breach of faith, a charge continually made and retorted on both sides. It was probably produced on this occasion the more readily, because the French gained an instantaneous and complete success. The defeat of the English may be accounted for without having recourse to the supposition of illegitimate manœuvres on the part of the French. The planters among the English were peaceful persons who did not want to fight. They had some buccaneers, who were no doubt in their way courageous, under the command of one William Morgan (not to be confounded with the renowned Sir Henry Morgan); but these men, if they were brave, were very drunken and undisciplined. There were also some Irish, victims, no doubt, of the great exportations of the Civil War, who are described by the narrator of these events as a bloody and perfidious people, always hostile to the Protestant interest. It is said they fired into the backs of the English while they were engaged with the French in the front. The end of it was, that our colony was destroyed, and the English wholly expelled from the island. Some of them took refuge in Virginia, others fortified themselves in the island of Nevis, and there contrived to hold out till they were relieved.

Little help came from Jamaica, where Modyford, the governor, could not get that part of the population which was prepared to fight, to serve against anybody but the Spaniards. But Lord Willoughby, who was again governor of Barbadoes, exerted himself with energy, and appeals were made for help from home.

The West Indian interest, though not so great as it afterwards became, was highly important in London, and the Government made an effort to afford the plantations relief. A squadron of ten ships, mostly, if not all, merchant vessels, taken for the occasion and fitted as men-of-war, was sent out [388]under the command of Captain John Berry. Berry was a Devonshire man, the son of a clergyman who had been expelled from his living in the Civil War. He was bred to the sea in the West India trade, and had entered the king's service in 1663 as boatswain of the Swallow. First in that capacity, and then as lieutenant, he had seen service against pirates in the West Indies. In this service he is said to have distinguished himself, and although the story is of dubious authority, it may be told for the excellent doctrine it contains. The Swallow had been despatched in pursuit of a certain sea-rover, and overtook him. The chase turned out to be a larger vessel than the Swallow, and Berry's captain "rather hesitated to attack him, expressing himself in the following words:—'Gentlemen, the blades we are to attack are men-at-arms, old buccaneers, and superior to us in number and in the force of their ship, and therefore I would have your opinion.' Mr. Berry is reported to have immediately answered, 'Sir, we are men-at-arms too, and, which is more, honest men, and fight under the king's commission, and if you have no stomach for fighting, be pleased to walk down into your cabin.'" The pirate was attacked and taken. A man of whom such a story looked probable would not be wanting in resolution. On his arrival in the West Indies, Berry exerted himself to retaliate on the enemy for their success at St. Christopher's. He succeeded in doing some real damage to the enemy, and in protecting Nevis from attack; but although several French prizes were taken, and a spirited action was fought with the allies, Berry could do little more than keep them at bay till reinforcements arrived from England.

Harman had been appointed in March, but he cannot have sailed until May. He went first to Barbadoes, and from thence to Nevis, where he joined Berry. Their combined forces were apparently enough to overawe the French and Dutch, who separated and left the English in command of the sea. Harman would willingly have retaken St. Christopher's, but, as the English had been expelled from the island, he had no help to expect on shore. The other English plantations gave him no assistance, and he had [389]brought no troops from England. In these circumstances he was confined to pushing the war against the enemy at sea, and fortunately an opportunity presented itself. The French admiral had retired to Martinique, and had withdrawn himself under the protection of some forts. Their position was reconnoitred by the Portsmouth ketch and reported to Harman, who, with the hearty agreement of his subordinates, determined to attack. He reached Martinique on Monday 24th June, and would have attacked at once, but the breezes are always treacherous under the land in the West Indies. It fell calm before Harman could get at the ships, though he was able to silence the forts. On Tuesday morning the sea breeze was favourable, and he fell on. There is a tradition that the admiral was so seriously ill with the gout as to be unable to move, but in the excitement of battle he mastered his disease so completely that it disappeared for a time. The forts having been silenced, there was nothing to distract Harman's attention from the ships, and he assailed them with such success that eight were burned, including the admiral's vessel, and most of the others driven on shore. This victory disposed of the French as active enemies at sea in the West Indies for the time being, and Harman was left free to assail the Dutch. Their posts were chiefly on the mainland of South America, in Guiana, or on the islands off the coast of Cumana. Harman cruised against them with great success during what remained of the war. The proclamation of peace in July cut short his activity. He remained in the West Indies for the protection of trade till the close of the year, and then returned to England with a great convoy in January 1668.

Within a few weeks after Harman sailed on this successful expedition, the country received a lesson, which it has fortunately never forgotten, on the folly of supposing that cruises against an enemy's commerce can ever compensate for the want of a force capable of meeting his main fleet in battle. All through the early spring there had come one report after another, that the Dutch were fitting out a great naval force under Michael de Ruyter. The Court, however, learned no wisdom, but continued to rely on its fortifications. [390]Even if these had been efficient, they would not have availed to avert a disaster, but the work was done in the slovenly style common in this reign. The fort at Sheerness, though begun in plenty of time, was not finished when it was wanted, and was therefore not armed. Yet as late as the month of May the Court was diminishing the crews of the few fireships that were still kept in commission in the Thames. Meanwhile the Dutch were resolved on a serious effort. Towards the end of May a squadron under the command of Van Ghent was despatched to the coast of Scotland. Its object was probably partly to protect Dutch commerce against Smith's squadron, and partly to distract the attention of Charles's Government in a more effectual fashion than his own. Van Ghent entered the Firth of Forth, and, although he was beaten off in an attack on Burntisland, and was unable to land at Leith, he did great injury to trade, and he certainly gave a remarkable demonstration of the feebleness of the Government. From the Firth of Forth Van Ghent sailed south to join De Ruyter.

On the 1st of June the main Dutch fleet started on the cruise designed to revenge Holland for the plunder of Terschelling in the previous year. A storm scattered it on the 4th, but the ships were rapidly got together again, and, on the 7th of June, Michael de Ruyter's fleet, now seventy sail strong, was sighted off the North Foreland. The officers commanding the forts on the coast, and the county magistrates, hurried the news up to London; and then at last, when it was too late, when De Ruyter was anchored at the Gunfleet, and an advance squadron had come up the river as far as Gravesend, the Court woke up to the facts of the case. If the honour of England had not been concerned, the ensuing scene would have been comic in the highest degree. For once, and for a moment, the Court was reduced to sobriety. The courtiers slunk away by back doors, and the terrors of the Navy Office were dismal. Pepys, we know, made his mind up that something dreadful was going to happen, and that, if he and his colleagues were not thrown out as a sacrifice to appease the mob, they might [391]still be massacred in an explosion of popular fury. He has described how he took his old father and his wife into his wife's bedroom, and, having locked the door, informed them of the perils accumulating on all hands. In the hopes of saving something from impending ruin, the careful Pepys sent his father and wife off to the country, with all his available ready money. If others of that generation had been as much in the habit of making plenary confessions to their diaries as was the Clerk of the Acts, we should probably know that many such scenes were transacted during those days in the neighbourhood of Whitehall.

The surprise of the nation, and its ignorance, made the danger seem greater than it really was. Along with the well-founded report of De Ruyter's appearance off the North Foreland, came stories of a French army ready to be embarked for the invasion of England. This danger was imaginary, because the King of England had entered on that course of secret intrigue which ended by making him the vassal of his cousin. The actual peril was rather that we should be insulted and injured than invaded. It was fortunate that this was the case, for the Government was utterly unprepared to deal even with the lesser peril in front of it. It was not until the 10th of June, when De Ruyter's plans were matured and his attacking force was ready, that what deserved to be called measures of defence were taken. The London train bands were called out, and the militia of the counties immediately threatened were ordered to march down to the coast. The Court had, as usual, recourse to the one man who was to be trusted in a crisis. Monk was ordered down to Chatham. The militia and train bands must have in any case arrived too late, and Monk only reached Chatham in order to be the helpless eye-witness of a national disgrace.

He reached Rochester on the 11th. His long military experience and his natural sagacity must have shown him at once that the case was hopeless. A few soldiers of a Scotch regiment scattered between Sheppey, Sheerness, and Chatham represented the sum-total of his effective military resources. The officers seemed to have known something [392]of their business, and Pepys praises them for being men of few words, and also, a very characteristic trait of the time, for being content to ride about their duties on horseback, whereas Lord Brouncker, one of the Navy Commissioners, would move only in a coach and six. But the Scotch regiment was not numerous enough to prevent a landing, and there was nothing else. The fireships were unmanned. The workmen of the dockyards refused to render the slightest help. Of eleven hundred who ought to have been present, only three were forthcoming when Monk called upon them. In fact, neither in Chatham nor in London itself could any man be found to do work except for money down. The sailors openly rejoiced in the embarrassments of the Government which had cheated them of their pay, and had fed them on stinking food. Their wives collected round the Navy Office with their husbands' unpaid tickets, and taunted Mr. Pepys and his colleagues. It was universally believed that the Dutch fleet was full of Englishmen, and, though there was no doubt some exaggeration in this, it has a foundation in fact. In the second year of the war Parliament had found it necessary to pass a special Act against Englishmen serving in the States of Holland. It is a fact that English prisoners of war, who might have been released, preferred to take service with the States. They said that the punctual pay of the Dutch was better than the broken promises of the King of England. Pepys has reported a story that when the Royal Charles was taken possession of by the enemy, a number of the men who boarded her were found to be English, who declared, in a rude popular copy of the cynical tone of the Court, that they were coming to present their pay tickets for payment.

On the 9th of June De Ruyter had sent a squadron up the Thames as far as Gravesend. The merchant ships in the river fled up before it, and there was nothing in the shape of an armed force to prevent Van Ghent from coming on to London Bridge. But the wind fell, and on the turn of the tide the Dutch officer was stopped. Calculating that, as the advantage of surprise had been lost, London would prove too strong to be attacked, De Ruyter [393]recalled his subordinate, and decided to be satisfied with the taking of Chatham. On the 10th of June he entered the Medway, after battering down the half-finished fort at Sheerness with the utmost ease. The command of the fort and of the fireships had been given to a naval officer, Sir Edward Spragge, who made all the fight that was possible in the circumstances. The sailors and a detachment of the Scotch regiment under his orders stood their ground in the fort till the Dutch cannon had battered it about their ears, and fell back when the enemy landed to storm. A great magazine of naval stores, and fifteen guns, fell into the hands of the enemy. It must be recorded, to the honour of the Dutch, that, although they had received provocation which might have been held to justify reprisals in the burning of Terschelling, they did no injury whatever to private property, but contented themselves with carrying off the stores belonging to the Crown, which were fair prizes of war. During the 11th they were engaged in working up the Medway. In the meantime Monk had been desperately endeavouring to arrange a defence. A great iron chain working on pulleys on either side of the stream had been prepared in Gillingham Reach, for the purpose of stopping such an attack as the Dutch were now about to make. The fact that the chain had been provided is one of many proofs that the Government was not taken by surprise by the Dutch invasion, but was only utterly mistaken in its estimate of effective measures. The chain was drawn across the river not without difficulty, and five or six vessels were anchored behind it in order to support it by their fire. There were also two trifling batteries, one at either end. In the dockyard there was nothing but panic and confusion, the unpaid men refusing to serve, and the higher officials running away with their private property. They, with Mr. Commissioner Pett at their head, took all the available boats, and thereby deprived Monk of his best means of removing the men-of-war lying at their moorings in the dockyard farther up the river. When Pett was afterwards called to account for his conduct on this occasion, he caused some laughter by saying that he considered it his duty to save his [394]models, and was sure that the Dutch would rather have them than any of the king's ships. If the enemy had been aware of the little value of the means of resistance collected against them, they would probably have shown less hesitation in attacking than they did. The command on the spot was left to Van Ghent. De Ruyter and the delegate, Cornelius de Witt, remained outside with the bulk of the fleet. Van Ghent gave the command of the ships appointed to break the chain to Captain Brackel. Our ancestors consoled their national vanity by inventing a story that the enterprise was considered so dangerous that it was not undertaken until this officer, who was in disgrace at the time, volunteered on it as on a forlorn hope, in order to re-establish himself in favour. In point of fact, the difficulties in the way of the Dutch were wholly caused by the intricate navigation of the river, not by any strength of armed opposition. On the 12th of June, Brackel, having with him some frigates and several fireships, came on with the flood-tide, and steered straight at the chain. The first fireship hung on the obstruction, the weight of a second snapped the chain, and then the Dutch poured through. The English ships nearest this barrier were immediately set on fire. Three of them, the Unity, the Amity, and the Mathias, or, as it is called in the Dutch account, the Honingen Castle, were prizes taken by us in the war. They were vessels of some size, and with them were some lighter craft which shared their fate.

While Brackel was burning the ships at the chain, Monk was doing all that lay in his power to save the vessels lying farther up the river. The panic of Mr. Commissioner Pett and his brother officers, aided as it was by the mutinous discontent of the men, made it impossible for the Lord General to move the greater ships farther up the river. One of these was the Royal Charles. She had carried the Duke of York's flag in the battle of Lowestoft, and Monk himself had been in her in the Four Days' Battle. This vessel now fell into the hands of the Dutch. She had only thirty of her guns mounted, and could only have been saved by flight, and, as there were no means of towing her farther up the Medway, flight was impossible. She was run aground, [395]and then her crew escaped to the shore. The Dutch sent out boats which took possession of the deserted vessel, and she was dragged off. Monk sank the Royal James, the Royal Oak, and the Loyal London.

When the tide turned, the Dutch fell back and anchored. There were hopes that the interval might be utilised for the purpose of blocking the river. In the account which he afterwards gave to the House of Commons of the miscarriage of the war, Monk pleaded that he had sunk three vessels in what he was told was the only passage by which the Dutch could come farther up, but that he was misinformed, and that they actually made their way up by another. It is very unsafe to rely on the evidence of men who were probably in confusion at the time, and who afterwards had strong motives for disguising the truth. Monk indeed was by nature courageous and phlegmatic, and not the man to lose his head, but he probably had no great scruple in excusing himself by throwing the blame on others. Wherever the responsibility for the failure may rest, it is certain that on the following day the Dutch returned with the tide and passed up to Upnor Castle, which it had been hoped would stop them by its fire, without the slightest difficulty and with very little loss. They found the upper works of the Royal James, Royal Oak, and Loyal London standing out of the water, and immediately set them on fire. Then, when the tide again turned, they once more fell down the river, their trumpeters playing the air called "Joan's placket is torn," which it was at that time a custom of the sea to play, for the purpose of glorifying over a beaten enemy.

The loss of seven large ships burnt or captured, of an uncertain number of smaller craft destroyed or taken, and of the stores in the magazines at Sheerness, was far from representing the whole extent of the injury inflicted by the Dutch. For six weeks after they retired from Chatham they remained completely masters of the mouth of the Thames and of the southern and eastern coasts of England. The enemies of the house of De Witt complained that more had not been done. It was alleged that but for the want of spirit of the delegate, Cornelius de Witt, the dockyard at [396]Chatham might have been completely destroyed, and London itself attacked. But it does not appear that the fleet carried any considerable body of troops, and, as the militia were rapidly collecting on the English coast, it would have been rash to land small parties. The Dutch naval officers, too, must have been aware that a certain risk was run by remaining among the shallows of the Thames. Two or three of their vessels were stranded and lost. Ample damage could be done to England, and ample humiliation inflicted on her pride, without running hazards for which there was no adequate object. De Ruyter withdrew his advance squadron to the Gunfleet and established a blockade of the river. The terror of his presence continued to work in London for some time. Even after he had withdrawn from the Medway, vessels were sunk in the upper reaches of the Thames to obstruct the navigation, in case he should return. The king and the Duke of York were themselves seen below the bridges directing these operations; and so great was the flurry of the navy officers that they actually sank a transport laden with naval stores to the value of several thousand pounds belonging to our own fleet. De Ruyter did not return; and it was fortunate he did not, for there was neither sense nor unity of will at headquarters, and in the subordinate ranks there was only discontent, and a bitter, jeering gratification over the enemy's success. Pepys, whose invaluable evidence meets us at every turn, tells us that even at this moment the king's officers were thinking every man of himself. Nobody would take the trouble to do more than he was compelled to do. The Ordnance Department, for instance, when called upon to supply powder to the fireships, would only send the materials for making it—though, to be sure, we cannot, with our still fresh recollection of the Crimean War and the feats of the Government departments at that time, attribute this necessarily to corruption or discontent. It was perhaps only what is practically nearly as mischievous as either of them—and that is red-tape.

The Dutch made an attack on the Landguard Fort below Harwich, but were beaten off. Then De Ruyter, [397]leaving Van Ghent to blockade the Thames, sailed along the Channel as far as Plymouth without meeting any English force to oppose him, or, so great was the panic, any number of English merchant ships at sea. The desperate exertions of the Government did at last succeed in collecting a squadron of frigates and fireships in the Thames under the command of Sir Edward Spragge. Some very vague and inconclusive skirmishing, out of which our national vanity strove hard to make a victory, took place between Sir Edward and Van Ghent, but the Dutch fleet was cruising unimpeded in our waters at the end of July, when a messenger brought the news of the signing of the Peace of Breda.



Authorities.—The operations against the pirates of the Barbary States were recorded in separate narratives, which have been largely quoted in Campbell's Admirals and Charnock's Biographa Navalis. Playfair's Scourge of Christendom gives full accounts of them. The operations of the third Dutch war are less fully recorded in the State Papers than the second, but we have now the advantage of the French historians. The most copious of these is Troude's Batailles Navales, founded on French official papers. It is particularly full for the battle of Solebay. Lediard and Colleber are of little value. An account of the capture of St. Helena will be found in Brookes's history of the island.

The conclusion of peace with the United Provinces in July 1667 gave the king an interval of quiet. He had already begun secret negotiations with Louis XIV., which were certain to lead him once more into hostilities with Holland, but in the interval there was some work to be done of a more honourable character. It has been said already that the Barbary pirates had speedily forgotten the sharp lesson taught them by Blake. One of the first duties of the navy in the reign of Charles II. had been to cruise against Algiers. The squadron left by the Earl of Sandwich on their coast, under the command of Sir John Lawson, had done something to renew their respect for the power of England, but it had not done enough. Like most other barbarians and Orientals, the Barbary pirates could not believe in the reality of a Power which was not always present to their eyes, and was not exercised with uniform severity. Therefore, so soon as the second Dutch war began fully to employ the naval power of England, they resumed their old practices. From Sallee in the West to Tripoli in the East, their cruisers were out again plundering [399]and capturing every English ship they found unprotected by a convoy. No English Government could afford to offend the whole trading class by allowing these outrages to go on unchecked, so, in the year after the conclusion of the Dutch war, Sir Thomas Allen was sent with a squadron into the Mediterranean to expostulate with the Dey of Algiers, and if possible to bring him to order. Allen sailed in August, and was off the pirates' stronghold on the 8th of October. The Spaniards, to whom we were in fact giving the protection they had now become too feeble to provide for themselves, allowed us to make use both of Cadiz and of Port Mahon in the Balearic Isles, as naval stations.

Allen succeeded in making one of the long string of treaties with the Algerines. These barbarians were generally ready to promise when they were under pressure, and never hesitated to break their word when our fleets were out of sight. Their conduct on the present occasion was in exact accordance with their usual practices. Having secured their worthless engagements on paper, Allen returned home in the autumn. He was hardly out of the Straits before they began again. Once more he was sent out, this time with the determination to make clean work. His squadron, eighteen strong, sailed from England on the 22nd July 1669 and reached Cadiz on the 30th. From the Spanish port Allen returned to Algiers, not to negotiate, but to blockade. In this work he had the assistance of a Dutch squadron under the command of that Admiral Van Ghent who had burnt the ships at Chatham two years before. The Dutch had as good reason as ourselves to complain of the Algerines, and in this field we could act together for a common purpose. The united efforts of Allen and Van Ghent did something to clear the sea. On the 8th of August six of the pirates who were fleeing from Van Ghent were cut off by a detachment of Sir Thomas Allen's squadron under the command of Captain Beach. They were all destroyed. Those of their crews who were Mohammedans were made prisoners, the English and Dutch who were found in slavery among them were restored to their countrymen.

In this year there took place an action which was long [400]remembered in the navy as particularly heroic, and is interesting because it makes us acquainted with a singularly fine specimen of the Tarpaulin naval officer of the seventeenth century. John Kempthorne was a Devonshire man, the son of an attorney at Modbury, who had fought as a cavalry officer in the service of Charles I. and had died in poverty. The son was apprenticed to the sea, and entered the service of the Levant Company. In 1657, on his way home from the Levant, Kempthorne was attacked by a Spanish privateer of the name of Papachino, and taken after a desperate resistance. There is a legend which may be accepted as a more or less poetical version of the facts, that, having used up all his bullets, he had recourse to firing bags of dollars into the Spaniards. Papachino treated him handsomely. In the following year the Spaniard fell into our hands, and owed his release on comparatively easy terms to the friendly offices of Kempthorne. Such a man was obviously destined by nature to end in the fighting fleet. In the second Dutch war he served with distinction as a captain, and had the honour to be chosen to act as Rear-Admiral of the Blue in the battle of the 25th of July. In 1669 he carried an English envoy to Morocco in his ship, the Mary Rose. Having landed his passenger at Tangier, Kempthorne went on to Sallee, one of the most notorious of the pirate strongholds. A gale blew him off the coast into the Straits of Gibraltar. Here he fell in with a squadron of seven corsairs. There were two small merchant ships in sight. One of the pirates sailed in pursuit of them, and the other six fell on Kempthorne. The old opponent of Papachino was not the man to be carried tamely into slavery by any enemy, however superior in numbers. He fought, and was well supported by his crew. The Mary Rose was cut to pieces, eleven of her men were killed and seventeen wounded, but Kempthorne reduced the principal ship of the corsairs to a sinking condition. The others sheered off and left him to make his way unmolested to Cadiz. All sea fighting at this time was fierce, but there was a peculiar quality of ferocity in actions with the Barbary pirates. They themselves gave their victims the choice of slavery or death, and it was given to them. [401]Immediately before this action in the Straits, Kempthorne had retaken a prize from the corsairs, and had sold the prize-crew of twenty-two men as slaves. Kempthorne's fight lived long in the memory of the navy as a model of stout-hearted courage, and it rounds the story off pleasantly that he was imitated eleven years later by his son, Captain Morgan Kempthorne. In 1681 the younger Kempthorne, who was then twenty-three years of age, was commander of a small vessel called the Kingfisher in the Mediterranean. He was attacked by a squadron of Algerines, said to have consisted of seven vessels, one more than the force his father had fought. The Kingfisher repeated the obstinate resistance of the Mary Rose. Morgan Kempthorne was himself killed by a cannon-shot early in the action, but his lieutenant, Wrenn, an officer who afterwards rose to high rank, filled his place. The pirates were finally beaten off, and the Kingfisher, though seriously damaged, and having lost a large part of her men, was carried safely into Naples.

Sir Thomas Allen remained in the Mediterranean till the close of 1670, when he returned home at his own request, leaving his second in command, Sir Edward Spragge, behind him with a part of the squadron. During the short remainder of 1670 and the whole of 1671 Spragge carried out the most uniformly energetic and the most effective of our cruises against the Barbary pirates. In December 1670 he managed, by disguising his ship, to tempt some of the quick-sailing pirates to come too near him, and was able to effect the destruction of one among them. In the spring of the following year he struck a far more brilliant blow. News reached him in April that a squadron of Algerines was lying at Bougie, a port to the east of Algiers. Spragge set out with his squadron and several fireships, with the determination to destroy them. A storm crippled one of his vessels so severely that she was compelled to return to the coast of Spain, and it also inflicted some temporary damage on a fireship. But, though weakened, the admiral considered himself still able to deal with the pirates. He refitted the fireship at sea, and then went on, reaching Bougie on the 2nd of May.

The squadron had approached with a brisk gale, but as [402]it drew near the land the wind fell, and for the remainder of the day there were only treacherous breezes, with calms between. In these conditions no direct attack by the heavy ships was possible, but Spragge was in hopes that something might be done with a fireship after dark. There were three vessels of this class in the admiral's force, two small and one somewhat larger—too large, in fact, to be used conveniently against an enemy who drew few feet of water, and was hauled up close to the land on a shelving beach. The smallest of the three was chosen. She could be rowed, and was therefore independent of the wind. The combustibles having been arranged and the slow matches laid, the fireship left the squadron, accompanied by armed boats under the command of Nugent, the first lieutenant of the flagship. The night was very dark, and the enemy, lying close under the shadow of the land, was invisible. The pirates had also no doubt taken the obvious precaution of putting out their lights. In the prevailing blackness Nugent overshot the enemy. Calculating that he had gone too far, he stopped the expedition, and turned back with his own boat only to grope for the enemy. In a few moments he came upon them, and then silently, with muffled oars, slipped away to bring on his fireship. At that moment she burst into flames, alarming the whole coast. Perhaps she was ill fitted, and the inflammable matter in her caught fire by accident. Perhaps she was prematurely fired by her men. The work of the "brander" was singularly trying to the nerves of the crew; they were always liable to become flurried, and the less resolute among them were subject to the temptation to seek strength in the use of spirits, which betrayed their senses just when the utmost coolness was needed. Whatever the cause of the misfortune may have been, the chance was lost. The enemy was alarmed, and, as he could succeed only by surprise, Nugent returned to the flagship.

For nearly a week Spragge was baffled by calms and catspaws of wind. His second small fireship was consumed through the folly of a drunken gunner, who fired off his pistol in some idle extravagance, and so set her in flames. There was now but one fireship left, the Little Victory, and, as [403]she drew eight feet of water, she could not be used against an enemy who was drawn up on the very edge of the shore. The corsairs had in the meantime dismasted their vessels to form a boom, so that the difficulty of attacking them increased as the means diminished. On the 8th May a convoy of ammunition was seen approaching Bougie along the coast, escorted by Arab horsemen. But Spragge had resolved not to go till he had struck an effective stroke, and fortune favoured his pertinacity, as she is apt to do. He had lightened the Little Victory till she drew only four feet of water. So soon as the wind served, the greater ships were to engage the forts. Under the cover they afforded, a detachment of boats was to cut the boom, and the fireship was to be steered through the opening. Just as the convoy was nearing the town, amid the premature rejoicings of the Algerines, the wind began to blow in strong from the sea. Then Sir Edward Spragge carried out his plan. He himself engaged the forts. The boats, under the command of the younger Harman, Pearce, and Pinn, cut the boom. The Little Victory was steered through the breach and laid across the bows of the nearest pirate ship. Under the impulse of the wind the flames spread quickly, and before next morning there were six skimmers of the sea the less on the waters of the Mediterranean.

The destruction of the ships at Bougie was a severe blow to the Algerines. Being unable to avenge themselves on the English, they vented their rage on their own Dey. He was murdered, and a successor was appointed. The new ruler did what the old must have done if he had been spared. He made peace. Even so it required another visit of Spragge's squadron to Algiers to compel the pirates to keep faith. At last a treaty was made, and English trade appeared to be safe for the time from the pirate vessels of Algiers. Spragge returned home in the spring of 1672, having effected the purpose for which his squadron was sent abroad with an exceptionally full measure of success.

It was, however, only for the time being. The outbreak of the third war with Holland in 1672 employed the whole naval force of the English Government. The fact was soon [404]known to the Barbary States. It is convenient to forestall the course of events, and finish with this chapter of naval history. Although the subsequent proceedings against the pirates belonged to the years which followed the signing of the peace with Holland, they may be told here, since they form part of the same story and stand wholly apart from the war in the Channel and North Sea. The excesses of the pirates were so notorious, and the outcries of the English merchants so loud, that another squadron was despatched to the Mediterranean in 1674. The command was given to Sir John Narbrough. The reader will remember that this officer comes second in what Lord Macaulay calls the strange line of descent from Myngs to Shovell. John Narbrough was a Norfolk man, belonging to a family which held a position intermediate between that of the county families and the working class. He was, in fact, almost a gentleman by birth, but his family seemed to have been poor, and the lad, like many other gentlemen in his position at that time, was apprenticed to a trade. Whether he was ever, as Macaulay puts it, cabin-boy to Sir Christopher Myngs may possibly be doubtful. There would be nothing in the habits of the time to make it improbable. The cabin-boy of an admiral, or even of a captain, would be very much in the position of the page of a nobleman or the maid of his wife. We know that gentlemen and ladies of very good birth served as the pages and maids of people of rank, and that this position in the household of a great man was not thought discreditable. Whether he was cabin-boy or not, Narbrough undoubtedly served under Sir Christopher Myngs, and owed much to his recommendation. He had fought in the second Dutch war. In the interval of peace he had commanded a curious expedition into the South Seas. He was sent with a commission from the Duke of York to visit the possessions of the Spaniards on the Pacific coast of South America. The object seems to have been to see whether it would be possible to establish a trade. The commercial policy of the Spaniards ought to have been sufficiently well known to the English Court to forbid any such hope. Narbrough reached the coast of Chili. He [405]was received by the Spanish officials with a mixture of courtesy and suspicion, and returned, after a brief stay in the Pacific, having effected nothing. The Spaniards would not allow of any trade, and Narbrough was too much the king's officer to begin a course of piracy, after the model of private adventurers when they were debarred from commerce in the Spanish Seas.

His command in the Mediterranean was eventful and creditable. The chief offenders on this occasion were rather the Tripolitans than the Algerines. Narbrough cruised against them all through 1675. He began in the customary way by negotiations which led to no result, and then had recourse to active hostilities. In the June of that year he drove one of their largest ships ashore and destroyed it. At the end of August he struck another blow at the enemy. The English squadron was cruising outside Tripoli when a Sattee, a large lateen-rigged ship working both with sails and sweeps, was seen endeavouring to slip into port by hugging the shore. It was a calm, and she was worked with her oars. Narbrough despatched the boats of his squadron to cut her off. The Sattee, finding that the boats had cut her road home, ran on shore. The English boats were thereupon anchored close to her, with the intention of endeavouring to set her on fire by means of a fireship, so soon as it could be got ready. The Tripolitans were soon made aware of the dangerous position of the Sattee. Two large armed galleys were sent out to drive off the English boats and tow the pirate vessel into the bay. For a time they were successful. The English boats retired, and the galleys took the Sattee in tow. But while this was in progress the sea breeze got up. The light frigates of Narbrough's squadron were able to stand in, and all three corsairs were cut off together. Both the Sattee and the galleys were now driven on shore, and while in this helpless position were fired by the English boats.

This blow was so far effectual that the Bey of Tripoli was induced to open negotiations for peace. Narbrough employed as his representative his first lieutenant, Cloudesley Shovell. Shovell is the third in Lord Macaulay's line of [406]descent. He came into the navy under the protection of Narbrough. He also was a Norfolk man, and his name will be conspicuous in the campaigns of the English Navy throughout the whole of the next generation. Shovell was still young, and it is said that the Bey considered himself insulted by the choice of so youthful a diplomatic agent. He vented his ill-will by insult to Shovell. The young lieutenant was by no means of a long-suffering disposition, but he was an officer of great care and judgment. He bore the insolence of the barbarian with patience, and in the meantime turned his leisure to account by making careful observations of the position of the pirate ships in the harbour at Tripoli. His inspection satisfied him that the corsairs were open to a vigorous boat attack, and he reported as much to Sir John Narbrough. Since the Bey was obviously resolved not to make peace until he was compelled to do so, Sir John decided to apply the necessary pressure. The year 1676 had now begun, and it was on the 14th of January that the English admiral resolved to act. The boats of the fleet were armed and supplied with combustibles. Under cover of night they entered the harbour. A guardship which was found lying ready for the purpose of protecting the vessels at anchor was carried by boarding, and the boats, pushing on, took possession of and set fire to four of the Bey's best vessels. They then returned to the squadron without having suffered any loss. This stroke abated the insolence of the enemy, but he was not yet sufficiently cowed to make a really satisfactory peace. The English insisted that the pirates should not only release the prisoners in their possession, but should pay an indemnity for the damage done to English trade. This they refused to do. Finding that the burning of their vessels had not been enough, Sir John Narbrough bombarded the town, and also effected a landing at a place some distance from Tripoli, and burned a magazine of timber accumulated for the construction of other cruisers.

The necessity of refitting his squadron now compelled Sir John Narbrough to return to port. He was allowed to make use of Malta by the Knights of St. John. After having [407]refitted his ships, Narbrough returned at once to Tripoli. This persistence finally broke down the spirit of the corsairs. They agreed to make peace, on the conditions that they should release their prisoners and pay eighty thousand dollars. Even yet the work was not thoroughly done. No sooner had Sir John Narbrough obtained the signature of the treaty and sailed away from before the town, than some of the pirate vessels belonging to it (which, having left on a cruise some months before, had escaped the English squadron) returned. The captains of these adventurers, supported by their crews, raised an agitation against the Bey for his weakness. He was compelled to flee. The report of this revolution reached Sir John Narbrough before he had left the Mediterranean, and with it came the news that the pirates were again beginning to plunder English trading ships. He returned to Tripoli, and once more bombarded the town. This last act of vigour finally persuaded the pirates that they were the weaker. The new Bey confirmed the treaty made by his predecessor, and the ringleaders of the revolt were handed over to the English admiral as a guarantee for the sincere observance of the treaty.

Sir John Narbrough felt justified in returning home with his squadron in the spring of 1677, but his stay there was short. One or other of the pirate towns was always sure to seize upon the chance afforded by the temporary absence of English warships to renew its depredations. On this occasion it was Algiers which broke its engagements. Undeterred by the lesson inflicted upon Tripoli, and the memory of the punishment they had received from Sir Edward Spragge, the Algerines returned to their old courses in 1677. Narbrough was sent out in the summer of that year. His second campaign in the Mediterranean lasted for two years, and was directed against the Algerines. Several of their cruisers were captured, and on one occasion Sir John made prize of twelve of their merchant vessels, and two men-of-war which were sailing with them as convoy. Then he bombarded Algiers, but the strength of the place was so great that this measure proved of little effect. A success [408]gained in the month of November in 1678 did more to cow these enemies of Christendom. The Algerines fitted out a squadron for the purpose of retaliating on English commerce. It consisted of five vessels—the Greyhound of 42 guns, the Golden Tiger and Five Stars of 36, the New Fountain of 34, and the Flying Horse of 32 guns. But the whole of this squadron fell together into the hands of Sir John Narbrough, who took it after a smart action and carried it bodily into the friendly port of Cadiz. This blow so far weakened the Algerines that Narbrough returned home in May 1679, with fifteen of the ships of his squadron which stood most in need of repair. He left a detachment behind him under the command of Arthur Herbert, who remained on the station till 1682. The active operations of the English fleet were put a stop to when our navy was reduced to impotence at the end of the reign of Charles II. Herbert we shall meet again. The operations which took place under his command are not of sufficient importance to call for notice.

The third Dutch war, and the last in which England had Holland for a principal adversary, lasted for two years, from the spring of 1672 to the spring of 1674. It is not a passage in our history that Englishmen can look back upon with pride. Our seamen indeed fought as gallantly as ever, but the leadership they found was of the poorest. This of itself might have been only a misfortune due to a temporary clouding of the military intelligence of our chiefs. But the war was essentially infamous. It was undertaken for no national purpose, and on no sufficient grounds. It is true that, in a way, it brought us a certain profit. The colossal piece of brigandage organised by Louis XIV., and encouraged by the co-operation of Charles II., did undoubtedly give the death-blow to the commercial supremacy of Holland, and it was England that stepped into her inheritance. Yet it is certain that the United Provinces, limited as they necessarily were to a small territory, must have been outstripped by the great consolidated States about them. The war can by no possibility have done more than hasten the date of their fall. As a set-off to what we gained through [409]the distress of the Dutch, we have to put the immediate loss inflicted on English commerce, the infamy which the character of the war fixed on our Government, and the stimulus given to those passions and fears which brought England to the very verge of a civil war. It may be doubted whether the advantage we gained was worth the price we paid for it. Unless a small money profit is a sufficient compensation for a national shame, we certainly lost. It may be asserted, with as much confidence as can be shown in maintaining any historical opinion, that the frantic fever of terror and suspicion, which threw England into the cruelties of the Popish Plot, can be traced directly to the policy which produced the third Dutch war.

The conclusion of the peace with Holland in 1667 was due at least as much to the hidden policy of Charles II. and the aims of Louis XIV. as to the necessities of the Crown. The King of France was resolved to extend his kingdom towards the north and north-east, where it was not shut in by mountain barriers, by absorbing the Spanish Netherlands. These aims of his had at once excited the fears of the Dutch and of the more patriotic among English politicians. It was not the interest of England to see France established as mistress of the Netherlands. Therefore the second Dutch war was barely over before the majority of Englishmen were ready to forget their late rivalry with the States, and to enter into the Triple Alliance with Holland and Sweden. The avowed object of this league was to compel Spain to make certain concessions to France, but its unavowed though well-known purpose was to provide the means of offering an effectual resistance to France if she went farther than she had yet done. So long as this bond remained unbroken, there was a barrier in the way of the ambition of the French king. For that very reason it was the interest of the French king to break the Triple Alliance, and he found the means of effecting his purpose in the character and position of Charles II.

The preliminaries of the infamous Treaty of Dover, signed in May 1670, need not be repeated here. In its main lines this treaty bound the King of England to assist in the [410]conquest of the Dutch Republic by an army and a fleet. When the conquest was effected, England was to receive as her share of the spoil the island of Walcheren and some other points on the Dutch coast. During the progress of the war Charles was to receive a pension from the King of France. The treaty was kept rigidly secret, even from the majority of the king's most trusted servants.

The turbulence of the House of Commons during the sessions of 1667, 1668, and 1669 had unquestionably a large share in inducing the king to enter into this secret agreement. In 1667 the House was in the first flush of its anger against the mismanagement which had led to the final disasters of the war. It was intent on paring down the expenses of government, and insisted both on apportioning the fixed revenue for definite purposes, and on inquiring into the spending of the money voted for the war. It was no less resolute in voting against a standing army, which the king was endeavouring to form, and against Popery, which he was dimly suspected to favour. Popular fury was for a time diverted into a clamour against Clarendon, who was driven from office and the country. But when the House met in February 1668, it was found to be intent as ever on investigating the miscarriages of the war. Peter Pett, the Commissioner of the Chatham Dockyard, and Sir William Penn were both called before the House and threatened with impeachment on a long string of charges. The Commons called for and received a long apologetic statement from Monk. The proceedings against Penn and Pett fell through, and Pepys contrived to make a plausible case for the Navy Office, but the House was in so dangerous a humour that the king did not dare to cross it openly. The war had left him embarrassed with debt, and it was soon made clear that, until the House was satisfied that there would be better management in future, it would not vote a penny for the relief of the king's necessities. The pressure thus applied to him drove the king at last to promise that supply should be collected and issued for those purposes, and by such persons only as the House of Commons should think fit. He agreed, in fact, to the demand of Parliament [411]to be allowed to appropriate its votes to particular services. The concession was really great, but the Commons still refused to relieve the king, and continued to insist on retrenchments and the regulation of the revenue. In desperation the king prorogued the House, and did not summon it again for nearly a year and a half. At last want of money drove him to call Parliament together in October 1669. It was not found that this interval of delay had produced any reduction in the passions of the members of the Lower House. Once more they went into the abuses in the accounts, and they expelled Sir George Carteret, who had been Treasurer of the Navy. These incessant attacks, which, though nominally directed against his servants, were in reality aimed at himself, made the king long more eagerly for a release from an intolerable position. He found a body of courtiers who were prepared to assist him in carrying out his policy of alliance with France against Holland. The members of this informal council were called the Cabal, a word originally only applied to what we now call a Cabinet. It happened, oddly enough, that the first letters of their names, Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale, spelt the word, and as their policy ended by becoming odious, an unfavourable sense was ever afterwards attached to the phrase. They were called "The Cabal," and the term became synonymous with everything that was unscrupulous and unpatriotic. With the help of these men, the king contrived so far to manage his Parliament in 1671 that it voted him something for the payment of his debts. As the intrigue with Louis XIV. was ripe just at this moment, the money voted by the House came at a convenient time. It was, however, not sufficient, and probably would not have been if it had been spent with more care than was ever bestowed on the management of the king's revenue. When the time came to give active assistance to the King of France, it was found necessary to cast about for other resources. Charles dared not summon his Parliament and ask it for funds to help the aggressive Roman Catholic King of France to destroy a Protestant State. A way out of the difficulty was found by plundering the creditors of the [412]Crown. When Parliament voted the king money, it was then the custom to raise the funds at once from the bankers, who advanced the money entrusted to them by their clients on the security of the revenue. They received 8 per cent. for the accommodation, and were accustomed to pay their own clients 6—the difference was their profit. Of course one result of this method of managing the revenue was, that as the taxes came in they were paid over to the bankers. If the money advanced by the capitalists had been wasted so soon as it was received, the king was naturally as poor as ever. This was exactly what had happened. Money being absolutely indispensable, the Crown provided for itself by repudiating its debts. Orders were given that no more payments should be made out of the Exchequer to the bankers. Thus the king received the parliamentary vote twice over—once when it was advanced by the bankers, and once again as the taxes came in. This was the famous closing of the Exchequer which brought such profound discredit on the Government of Charles II. It was the result of conducting government on the principles of a wasteful private person.

The closing of the Exchequer took place in January 1672. It put the king so far in funds that he was able to meet the House of Commons with some confidence. He could now at least go on to make war without waiting till the House voted him more money. During the whole of 1671 the danger menacing the Low Countries had been notorious. John de Witt tried hard to secure allies, and was prepared to make great concessions to England, in return for support against the French. But the king had decided that the French alliance was more profitable. The piratical character of the war was shown by the very first measure taken by the English Government. Negotiations were still in progress with Holland when Sir Robert Holmes was ordered to attack the home-coming Dutch Smyrna and Lisbon convoys. The seventy or eighty merchant ships forming convoys were known to be laden with very rich cargoes. If they could be seized bodily, they would not only put a great deal of booty in the way of officers employed on the service, [413]but would also give Charles's Government the command of a much-needed sum of money. The duty of seizing them was given to Sir Robert Holmes. The force at his command was supposed to be amply sufficient for the work. He had nominally thirty-six warships under his orders, and, as the Dutch merchant ships were only accompanied by six men-of-war for their protection, he would, supposing his force to be efficient, have been able to overpower them easily. But the strength of his fleet existed mainly on paper. Of the ships actually ready there were only five or six. Holmes was cruising with these vessels in the neighbourhood of the Isle of Wight, when the Dutch fleet under the command of Van Nes came up the Channel. It had perhaps been supposed by the English Court that the Dutch would be found unprepared. They were, however, on their guard. Although the States General had tried to pacify the King of England, they had not been so foolish as to neglect the risk that he would attack them. Van Nes had been warned, and was ready to defend himself. Throughout the whole of the war now beginning, the average conduct of the Dutch officers was better than it had ever been before. The strong measures taken by John de Witt to improve the discipline of the service had had their effect, and it may be believed that the deadly peril of their country had some effect in rousing the courage of the Dutch. They are not an easily moved people, but, when once thoroughly inflamed, their valour is singularly tenacious. On this occasion the Dutch officer handled his convoy with the utmost skill as well as resolution. Twenty of his merchant ships carried guns, and Van Nes made use of them as fighting ships. The decks were hampered with cargo, but this the Dutch skippers threw overboard to make room for working the guns. Van Nes adopted the usual order for a convoy. He arranged his warships and armed merchant ships in the so-called half-moon. This formation had been adopted by Tromp at the battle of Portland. It was, in fact, an angle, the flagship being at the apex, and the vessels from which fighting was expected being arranged in two lines branching out to right and left from her. The unarmed vessels would [414]be put in the space contained in the angle. The action began on the afternoon of the 13th of March. The courage of Holmes was, in fact, more conspicuous than his good management. If he was outnumbered, it was largely due to his own fault. On the day before the Dutch came in sight, he had met the ships returning from the Mediterranean under Sir Edward Spragge. These were the vessels which had been engaged in the operations against the Algerine pirates described above. Spragge had passed the Dutch convoy on the way. He was not acquainted with Holmes's orders, and Sir Robert did not tell him what they were. The fact, no doubt, is that Holmes thought himself strong enough to capture the Dutch convoy without help, and was unwilling to share prize-money with another officer. This was only one more example of the then general practice of subordinating the public service to private interests. Holmes paid for his greed by failure. He found the Dutch far too strong for him. When he attacked on the afternoon of the 13th of March, the English ships fought well, for, although Holmes was a man of a conceited, violent, and turbulent character, he was abundantly brave, and his captains backed him up stoutly. They could, however, make no impression on the Dutch. When night fell, they were glad to draw off badly cut up, and the enemy continued on their way. During the darkness the English ships were refitted. Holmes's own flagship, the St. Michael, was so severely mauled that he was compelled to transfer his flag to the Cambridge, but he was reinforced in the morning by three fresh vessels. The second day's fighting was as fierce as the first had been, and was somewhat more successful. One Dutch vessel was sunk, and five or six were captured. Several officers fell on both sides. The great bulk of the Dutch convoy was carried safely into port. Holmes and Spragge are reported to have had a quarrel. Sir Edward thought that his brother officer had been meanly anxious to deprive him of prize-money, and the probabilities are that he was right.

The failure of this attack was a great disappointment to the Government. The open declaration of war could no [415]longer be delayed. The king had informed Parliament of his intention to make war on the Dutch, and referred it to his Declaration for his reasons. The Declaration, as might be expected where the Government could not avow its real motives, was a somewhat pitiful document. An attempt was made to justify hostilities by complaints that the Dutch had not fulfilled their treaty obligations in regard to Surinam, and had persisted in offensive measures against our trade in the East Indies. Much prominence was given to their offences in the matter of the salute to the English flag. This was a convenient pretext whenever an English Government wished to quarrel with a neighbour. It could always say that it was asserting the national dignity. In the present case the falsity of the pretext was glaring, for the king, who was so exacting towards the Dutch, was prepared to waive his rights as against the French. Louis XIV. never would allow his ships to render the salute, and King Charles did not insist on this mark of deference from his paymaster. The greater part of the Declaration was divided between assertions that the Dutch Republic was the enemy of all kings, and complaints of personal insults directed against King Charles. It was thought ridiculous, even in times which had a profound reverence for royal dignity, that an appreciable portion of so serious a document as a declaration of war should be found to be devoted to a rather whimpering complaint that the Dutch had drawn pictures of His Majesty in undignified positions. This wordy document, written in the style of a pamphlet, produced very little impression on the House of Commons. Members, in fact, were too intent on resisting the spread of Popery, and had been made too angry by the king's Declaration of Indulgence to dissenters, to pay much attention to the war. The session was employed in passing the Test Act, and in the meantime the campaign against the Dutch was carried on with such resources as the king had been able to provide by closing the Exchequer and by taking the money of France.

Although one side had long been resolved on war, and the other had every reason to consider it inevitable, the fleets of England and Holland were so little ready that nearly two [416]months passed before serious operations were begun. The English Government collected its fleet in the course of March, April, and May by the methods already described, and in the face of much the same difficulties as had been met with in former wars. The Navigation Laws were suspended. On the occasion of the last war this had been done by the king without question. But the recently published Declaration of Indulgence had startled Parliament by showing it what extension might be given to the king's prerogative to dispense with penal statutes. The suspension, then, of the Navigation Acts did not on this occasion pass without exciting comment. Yet there was no resistance to the king's exercise of his authority. In war-time the measure was indispensable. In later ages Parliament was accustomed itself to suspend the Acts, since it was evident that the country did not contain a sufficient number of sailors to man both the merchant ships and the war fleet. Crews were found by a free use of the press. Officers who had not been employed during the peace were recalled to the king's service. Such men, for instance, as Richard Haddock now found the opportunity to serve the king in the higher commands of his navy. Richard Haddock was the son of William Haddock, who had served the Commonwealth with distinction, and had been rewarded by the gift of a jewel as a special mark of favour. The family had for centuries been seamen and skippers of the town of Leigh in Essex. Richard Haddock had fought in the previous war, but, finding no employment in peace, had returned to the command of a merchant ship, of which he was part owner. There were still hundreds of others who, like him, were naval officers only in war and merchant seamen in peace. The difficulties which were put in the way of manning the fleet by the defects of the Administration were not less than they had been before, but in this war the King of England did not act alone, and the strain on the Navy Office was not so great.

While the English fleet was being got ready for sea, the Dutch also were preparing. The whole extent of their peril had now been revealed to them. A French army of [417]overwhelming strength poured over their border. The Loevenstein Party had always been jealous of the army. It feared the devotion of the soldiers to the House of Orange, and had not only reduced their numbers, but had disorganised the diminished force it did maintain by omitting to fill up the higher commands. This measure, which was intended to make combined action on the part of the soldiers the more difficult, proved utterly disastrous when the country was suddenly entangled in war with a formidable enemy. The towns fell fast before the invader. The neglected army was found to be utterly inefficient, and it looked for a time as if the end of Holland had come. The States General made appeals to the Kings of France and England, but in vain. They were answered by both with demands which, if complied with, would have entailed the entire destruction of Holland. There are few more odious passages than this in European history. Nothing like it was seen again until the time of Napoleon. The States General, driven to despair, made desperate efforts to prepare forces for the defence of the country. These efforts, though hampered by the divisions of the Dutch Admiralty, were more successful at sea than on land. If the fleet sent to sea under the command of De Ruyter was late in getting ready, it was at least a powerful and efficient force when once it had been collected. It consisted of over a hundred vessels. Between seventy and eighty were of the line or were frigates. If it had been out a month sooner, it is possible that the naval war might have begun by a crushing disaster to the allies. The French squadron appointed to co-operate with the English did not make its appearance in the Channel till the first days of May. It anchored on the third of that month at Portsmouth. The command was given to the Count d'Estrées, Vice-Admiral of France. D'Estrées was not a seaman, but a great noble who was entrusted with the military direction of the fleet only. The navy of Louis XIV. was as yet but new and inexperienced. The forty vessels under d'Estrées were likely to be more of a burden than a help to the English fleet, yet the vessels were among the finest then [418]afloat. While the French admiral was at Portsmouth, he was visited by the king, who admired the size and beauty of his ships. In the meantime the English fleet was painfully collecting in the Downs. If at this moment De Ruyter had been in a position to attack, it is extremely possible that he might have beaten the allies in detail; but his fleet also was not ready, and so the French and English were allowed to join one another in the Downs unmolested. The English fleet consisted of some sixty ships of the line and a number of smaller vessels. Monk was dead, and the command was again in the hands of the Duke of York as Lord High Admiral. The king was still childless, and the duke was the heir-presumptive to the throne; but although this had been made an excuse for recalling him from active command in 1665, it was not allowed to prevent him from going to sea in 1672. The second in command of the English fleet was the Earl of Sandwich. When the whole force of the allies was collected, it was divided, according to the custom of the time, into three squadrons, carrying respectively the red, the white, and the blue flag. On this occasion the White Squadron consisted wholly of the French. It was natural that they should carry this ensign, for the flag of the French monarchy was white. But as the White Squadron formed the van in the order of sailing of a great fleet, it was made a charge against the Cabal that they had sacrificed the dignity of England by leaving this place of honour to a foreign Power. The Red Squadron was under the direct command of the Duke of York. His vice-admiral was Sir Edward Spragge, and his rear-admiral Sir John Harman. Sandwich commanded the Blue Squadron, with Sir Joseph Jordan as vice and Sir John Kempthorne as rear-admiral.

On the 19th of May the whole fleet was at anchor in the Downs when the Dutch fleet was seen off the North Foreland. The Duke of York immediately put to sea, with the intention of forcing on a battle. De Ruyter was perfectly ready to fight, but he was also resolved not to give battle until he saw a fair prospect of striking an effectual blow. He therefore drew off before the allies to [419]the coast of Holland. He perhaps calculated on the inexperience of the French to cause some confusion in the allied fleet. To judge by the movements of the allies, the Duke of York and his English advisers were far from sure of the seamanlike efficiency of their associates. Soon after the fleet had got under way, the weather became misty and squally. Thereupon the allies proceeded to Southwold or Solebay, and came to an anchor on the evening of the 20th. Here they remained, making no movement, for several days. The fleet was anchored some seven or eight miles off shore. This was hardly what was to be expected from a commander who felt confident of the capacity of his force to fight and manœuvre. The Duke of York may have had another reason for remaining at Solebay. The work of provisioning an English fleet was usually so wretchedly done at that time, that he may very possibly have been already in want of stores. Yet his necessities cannot have been so great as to compel him to remain at anchor when an enemy was within a few hours' sail. Another explanation of his action may be found in this, that the duke was essentially no commander at all, but only a very dull man who had acquired some knowledge of the mechanical parts of seamanship, and was intrinsically incapable of thinking out any plan of action. Such a man might naturally prefer to remain quiescent till his enemy came in sight and saved him the trouble of thinking. Whatever the explanation may be, it can hardly be consistent with the efficiency of the allied fleet or the capacity of its commander. The disadvantages of the situation in which the naval force of the allies was kept was patent to many of the subordinate commanders. A well-known and fairly well-authenticated story tells how Sandwich expostulated with the Duke of York at dinner on the evening of the 27th. The Admiral of the Blue called the duke's attention to the fact that when the wind was from the sea the fleet was in a dangerous position, and recommended that it should either stand out or be drawn nearer the shore. What Sandwich probably meant was, that as it lay, the fleet could get no support from batteries on shore, and might, if the wind [420]blew from the E. or N.E., be so attacked that the Dutch could double upon one end of it, part of them placing themselves outside, and the others coming between the English ships and the land. This danger might be averted either by getting under way, or by anchoring so close to the shallow water that the enemy would be unable to come inside. The warning was much needed, and the advice was good. But the Duke of York took neither one nor the other. He only answered with a silly jeer at the courage of Sandwich. The story is credible enough of the only member of the House of Stuart of whom it can be said that he occasionally acted like a boor, and was always essentially dull.

The value of the opinion attributed to Sandwich was demonstrated on the morning of the 28th of May. The French look-out frigate reported that the Dutch fleet was at hand. The morning was hazy, and De Ruyter was close on before he was seen from the flagships. So little was the Duke of York prepared for a risk of which the probability must have been patent to every thinking man in the English fleet, that a number of the boats were getting water. That the ships had not supplied themselves during the seven days they had been lying idle, speaks volumes for the slovenly stupidity of the management in the French and English squadrons. The conduct of the battle is worthy of what had gone before. The moment the Dutch were known to be coming on, the allies did what they ought to have done earlier. They got under way, but of course they had to do in hurry and confusion what they might have done coolly and in good order. The wind was blowing from the N.E. in the early hours of the morning. If it had held steady, De Ruyter would have been upon his enemies before they had time to get into any kind of order, but it fell for a short space, and then shifted round towards the south. This pause gave the allies time to cut their cables and get under way. In the very act of preparing for battle they divided themselves into two, thereby committing the most fatal possible blunder in the presence of a capable enemy. The Blue Squadron was anchored to [421]the north. To the south of it was the Red Squadron, and south of that again the White. In the usual order of sailing it would have fallen to this last to lead. If the Duke of York meant to allow the Blue Squadron to lead, he should have made his meaning perfectly clear beforehand, since, in the absence of particular instructions, d'Estrées would naturally act on the general sailing orders. But if the White Squadron was to lead, it must, with the wind at N.E., stand out to S. of E. on the port tack. This was the course taken by d'Estrées, and, unless he was told not to take it, he was right, both because he followed the regular sailing orders, and because this course would lead him to the open sea. But while d'Estrées was steering south-east, the Blue Squadron, with the Red Squadron after it, was standing to the W. of N. They went out on the starboard tack. Why this course was followed does not appear. It presented no possible advantage, but had, on the contrary, the serious drawback that it carried the English ships near the coast, where they were in imminent danger of being cooped up between the enemy and the shallow water. Haste and want of thought, or confused directions from the Duke of York, probably account for the blunder.

When once it had been made, the allied fleet lay at the mercy of Michael de Ruyter. The course followed by the White Squadron was carrying it away to leeward, whence it could not return except by tacking against the wind. The Dutch admiral could therefore afford to neglect it and employ the main strength of his force in attacking the English. De Ruyter's fleet had come down in line abreast, stretching from north to south. The ships at the northern end formed the squadron of Admiral van Ghent. De Ruyter himself commanded in the centre. The left wing, or most southerly end of the line, was the squadron of Bankert. The Dutch admiral ordered this officer to follow and watch d'Estrées. Bankert's duty was not to force close action with the French admiral, but to keep himself to windward and check every attempt of the enemy to return to the support of the Duke of York. This duty he performed so thoroughly that the French were thrown out of action all [422]day long. Our ancestors accused d'Estrées of want of personal courage, or at least of disloyalty to his ally, but it may be that he could not help himself: having once fallen to leeward, his squadron had not the seamanship to work back against the Dutch.

While d'Estrées and Bankert were engaged in a distant cannonade, a furious battle was raging between the squadrons of Van Ghent and De Ruyter on the one hand, and the Blue and Red Squadrons on the other. Whether he deliberately planned to do it or not, De Ruyter contrived to concentrate a superior force on the English line. In the order in which we went into action, the ships at the head of the line were commanded by Sir John Kempthorne. Next to him came the Earl of Sandwich, with his flag in the Royal James. Sir Joseph Jordan followed the Admiral of the Blue. Then came Sir John Harman, with the rear ships of the Red Squadron. Then the Duke of York, and then Sir Edward Spragge. It would appear that the Dutch attack was directed mainly on those parts of our line which were immediately about the Earl of Sandwich and the Duke of York. I am not aware that this is anywhere stated, but as it is said, on the authority of eye-witnesses, that the Dutch had a superiority of three to two in the battle, and as they certainly could not have had this advantage after detaching the ships under Bankert if they had engaged from end to end, I conclude that they managed to be superior at the point of attack, though only equal in number to the English fleet, by concentrating in this way. It is made further probable that this was the case by the fact that, after the battle had lasted some time, Sir Joseph Jordan tacked with his division of the Blue Squadron, gained the wind of the Dutch, and came to the support of the Duke of York, who was hard pressed. It is said, indeed, that Jordan had previously beaten off his own immediate assailants, but the conduct of the Dutch in the other parts of the battle renders it improbable that Sir Joseph would have been in any condition to manœuvre if he had been seriously attacked. The probabilities are, that a few vessels only were employed to watch rather than attack Jordan, and that the main [423]strength of the Dutch was concentrated on the flags of Sandwich and the Duke of York. It is certain that at these two points the English suffered very severely. As De Ruyter bore down on the English line, he summoned his steersman, or, as we should say, quartermaster, to him, and, pointing with his finger to the Duke of York's flagship, the Prince, said, "That's our man." The Seven Provinces, in which, as in the former war, De Ruyter had hoisted his flag, was brought to within pistol-shot of the Prince, and the two admirals set an example of fierce and close fighting to their fleets. The Dutch boasted that the broadsides of De Ruyter were fired with the rapidity of volleys of musketry, and, as he had no doubt kept his old crew and many of his old officers about him, he may well have had them in a high state of efficiency. The gunnery of the English fleet was generally good, and there was abundance of courage, but the discipline had fallen from the standard of former years. The Prince was cut to pieces without being able to inflict equivalent damage on the Seven Provinces. The Duke of York's mainmast was shot down, and his vessel otherwise so damaged that he transferred himself and his flag to the St. Michael, of which Sir Robert Holmes was captain. Although a regular corps of naval officers was being formed, it had not yet been made the rule that a man who served as admiral on a particular service was always entitled to that rank, and Holmes, who had been a flag-officer in the former war, was only a captain at Solebay. The St. Michael was nearly as badly mauled, before the day was done, as the Prince had been, and the duke was again compelled to transfer his flag to the Loyal London, the flagship of Sir Edward Spragge. While the centre of the English line was thus being broken down under the strenuous attacks of De Ruyter, the Earl of Sandwich was hotly beset by Van Ghent. The Dutch admiral himself fell in the heat of the battle, but the Royal James was none the less furiously assailed. Whatever the defects of his character may have been, Sandwich fought his ship on this the last and most glorious day of his life with determined courage. The Dutch steered fireship after fireship down upon him, but [424]they were one after the other sunk by his guns. At last the enemy succeeded. A shot from the top of one of the Dutch ships wounded the left foot of Richard Haddock, the captain of the Royal James. He limped into his cabin, and was under the hands of the surgeon, who was cutting away some loose skin and one of his toes, when he heard the cry that a fireship had at last grappled the Royal James. It was said that Haddock made his way out of the cabin to the admiral on the quarter-deck. The amount of damage suffered by the ship makes it probable that some of her spars had fallen, bringing down the sails with them, which would be hanging over the side, and that they caught fire in the flames of the fireship. It is at least certain that the Royal James was blazing in a moment, and it is difficult to account for the rapidity of the conflagration in any other way than this. Haddock, so the story runs, implored the admiral to throw himself overboard and endeavour to escape by swimming, but Sandwich, stung by the Duke of York's unmannerly sneer at his well-proved courage, chose to perish in his ship. It is probable that this is a legend invented by someone unfriendly to the duke, for the purpose of increasing the glory of Sandwich. If he had stayed, he would have been burnt in his ship. But his body was picked up some days afterwards, so disfigured that it was only recognised by the star on his coat. The great majority of the officers and men of the Royal James perished with the admiral. Haddock was picked up, and it is said by the Dutch that one of the lieutenants was taken out of the water by their boats. They put into the mouth of this officer a confession of his admiration for their fighting, and a statement that this battle exceeded anything seen in the previous war. "It is not yet midday," he is reported to have said, "and more has been done than in any of the Four Days' Battles." Whether any imprisoned English officer said these words or not, it is true that the battle of Solebay was extraordinarily fierce. So savagely had both parties fought, that in the early hours of the afternoon they were exhausted. It was probably not long before this that Jordan came to the relief of the Duke of York. He was foolishly enough [425]abused in the House of Commons as if he had deserted his own admiral, but his movement was undoubtedly correct. It relieved the pressure on the centre of the English line, and prevented De Ruyter from overpowering our fleet as completely as he might have done but for this interruption. Jordan could, however, do no more than relieve the over-taxed Red Squadron. De Ruyter was able to draw off, leaving the English so crippled that they were utterly unable to follow, and the French, true to their character throughout the whole battle, made no effort to pursue.

Very persistent but also rather foolish attempts have been made to represent the battle of Solebay as a victory for us. It was not that, nor even a drawn battle. It is true that the obstinate valour of the officers and men averted an utter defeat. On our side, Solebay was a sailors' battle, to adapt a phrase usually applied to armies. With the exception of Sir Joseph Jordan's movement to support the Red Squadron, there was no sign of skilful management among our leaders. De Ruyter, on the contrary, showed the qualities of a great commander. Though inferior in numbers on the whole, he took advantage of his enemy's blunder to be superior at the point of attack, and he pressed his assault so fiercely home as to inflict the maximum of damage. Then, having crippled his enemy so effectually that no counter-attack was probable for some time, he took his own fleet home damaged, but still in a state to serve. Indeed, so little was he disabled from keeping the sea, that he met and convoyed home the returning East India ships. The fruits of victory were his.

Although the whole of the summer remained to the allies, nothing was done against the Dutch. The French and English squadrons did indeed pay a visit to the coast of Holland, but they made a very short stay there, and the trade of the States was not seriously interrupted. The internal condition both of Holland and England had much to do with suspending hostilities. In the Low Countries revolt broke out against the Loevenstein Party. The partisans of the Prince of Orange succeeded not only in replacing him at the head of the army and navy, but in [426]restoring to him the whole extent of his authority as Stadtholder. The De Witts were cruelly murdered by the mob, and their party effectually destroyed for the time. Although the revolution was accompanied by circumstances of atrocious barbarity, it was on the whole beneficent to Holland. William III. made no attempt to undo what the Loevenstein Party had effected for civil freedom and religious toleration, and he gave his country what it needed if it was to be saved from the invader—that is to say, unity of military command. Having no jealousy of the army, he was able to apply himself with whole-hearted vigour to making it efficient. Holland rose against the French, as it had risen against the Spaniards. The dykes were opened, and the country put under water. During the interval of leisure provided by this desperate measure, much was done to make the defence of the country once more possible. In the midst of so terrible a crisis as this, the naval war was inevitably neglected by Holland. De Ruyter had done enough to avert the danger of invasion from the sea, and offensive operations against England would have served no useful purpose. So hard pressed, indeed, were the Dutch, that they were compelled to land the powder from the ships to be used by the soldiers.

In England other causes were at work to prevent the Government from pushing the war. The king found that the old jealousy of Holland had been replaced, at least for the time, by another and more pressing emotion. The growth of the power of France, the aggressive policy of its king, the danger to a neighbouring Protestant State, combined with the king's obvious intention to favour the Roman Catholics as shown by his Proclamation of Toleration, had frightened the nation into one of its paroxysms of fear of Popery. Parliament showed an obstinate determination to give the king no help in this war. It called in question his right to suspend the penal laws against dissenters, and the session was devoted to passing the Test Act, which was especially meant to exclude Roman Catholics from all offices under the Crown. Although it was one of the secret articles of the king's treaty with France that he was to proclaim himself a [427]Roman Catholic whenever a favourable opportunity occurred, he was compelled to allow the bill to become law, for fear that an obstinate refusal would provoke an explosion of disloyalty to the Crown. Hitherto the Parliament had been profuse in declarations of loyalty to the king's person. It drew careful distinction between him and his servants, and always professed to be inspired by a tender anxiety for his safety, even at the moment that it was engaged in defeating what it well knew to be his policy. According to his usual custom, Charles escaped the peril by bowing to it, and by sacrificing his servants. Among those who were thrown over to pacify the House of Commons was the Duke of York. On the passing of the Test Act he resigned his commission as Lord High Admiral, and was therefore necessarily removed from the command of the fleet. He was replaced by Prince Rupert. The choice of his cousin to command at sea was probably due less to any confidence the king had in his ability than to the prince's rank. As the English fleet was to co-operate with the French, it was desirable to have someone at the head of it whom a French noble would recognise as his social superior. Louis XIV. had given strict orders to his officers to avoid disputes with the English, but it is very doubtful whether even the commands of his own king would have been enough to compel the Count d'Estrées to render ready obedience to Spragge or Jordan.

Although he was hampered by the reluctance of his Parliament to vote him money, and by the growing unpopularity of the French alliance among Englishmen, the king made an effort in the following year to push the war against Holland. Six thousand soldiers were collected at Yarmouth, to form an invading army ready to be landed on the coast of Zeeland or North Holland, in order to attack the Republic from behind, while the French troops were pressing on it from the Rhine. Before it was safe to attempt to land these men on the Dutch coast, it was absolutely necessary to dispose of the fleet of De Ruyter. The crushing burden thrown upon them by the French invasion made it hard indeed for the Dutch to maintain an adequate force at sea. [428]If they could have devoted the whole resources of the State to the naval war, they might perhaps have been able to meet the French and English on equal terms. But this was far from being the case. Their resources did not do more than enable them to fit out such a fleet as might, "by the help of God and a good admiral," prevent the enemy from landing an army on their coast. Happily for them, and for England also, since the success of King Charles's mean personal policy would have been the establishment of France in overwhelming strength in the Netherlands, the good admiral was not wanting to Holland. Michael de Ruyter was admirably fitted for the work he had now to do. He had to fight a defensive campaign. A rash man might have yielded to the strain, and have risked the existence of Holland by fighting an imprudent battle. But De Ruyter, though he was one of the few commanders who grew bolder as he grew old, was never rash. On the other hand, a timid man might have been oppressed by the responsibility of his position, and might have been reluctant to fight, even when a fair opportunity presented itself. De Ruyter had just the needful combination of cool, self-possessed caution which made him refrain from blindly rushing at a threatening danger, and of intrepidity which nerved him to strike hard when he saw that a blow could be successfully delivered. He was the last man in the world to endeavour to behave after the fashion recommended by our own Admiral Herbert some twenty years later—namely, to get behind a sandbank, and trust to the effect which the knowledge that the fleet was "in being" was likely to have on the mind of an enemy. Nor was it in his nature to attack feebly when the time for fighting had come. Therefore it was that he stood vigilantly on guard during the summer of 1673 amid the shallows of the Dutch coast, watching the operations of the superior allied fleet, leaving them unmolested when nothing was to be gained by attack, and striking, when the time for blows had come, with might and main. The success he achieved may be regarded by us not only with the admiration due to a valiant and skilful enemy, but with something not remote from patriotic approval. He won, it is true, against an [429]English fleet, but his victory was gained in the real interest of England.

It was obviously the interest of the Dutch to cripple the naval force of England before it could be again united with that of France. Since it was impossible for them, with their then diminished resources, to do this by being beforehand with a powerful fleet, they resolved to make the attempt to effect the purpose indirectly. A scheme, of which De Ruyter himself can hardly have approved, was formed to block the approaches of the Thames by sinking heavily-laden ships in the Channel. With this purpose in view, De Ruyter came on our coast early in May, with a force of 31 ships of the line, 14 frigates, and 18 fireships. He came as far as the Gunfleet, but no attempt was made to put the plan into operation. The naval preparations of the English Government had been timely. It had a sufficient force lying outside the banks to oppose De Ruyter's squadron. When this was known to be the case, the Dutch admiral fell back to his own coast. The States General, with the approval of the Prince of Orange, decided on making no more attempts at offensive warfare for the present. The only fleet Holland could afford to equip was stationed at Schooneveldt, a good anchorage between shallows on the coast of Zeeland. Here it was ordered to lie, and keep watch on the movements of Prince Rupert.

Shortly after De Ruyter had returned to the coast of his country, the French squadron arrived in the Downs. It was still under the command of d'Estrées, and consisted of 27 ships of the line and some smaller vessels. The strength of the English fleet was 54 ships of the line, and it was divided into two squadrons—the Red, under the command of Rupert, and the Blue, of which Sir Edward Spragge was now admiral, in succession to Sandwich. The Dutch fleet had been raised to a strength of 55 ships of the line, 14 frigates, 25 fireships, 14 yachts, and 7 galliots—115 vessels in all. But more than half of these were small. De Ruyter had only 55 battleships to oppose to the 81 of the allies. The odds were very long. No English admiral has ever had to fight against such a superiority of real force. Although bad [430]administration and the example of the Court had done much to injure the discipline of our fleet, it was still far from being as inferior in efficiency to the Dutch as the Spanish and French fleets of Nelson's time were to us. In the allied fleet the English were just equal to the Dutch, leaving the whole French squadron to give the allies a superiority of power. The French were still inexperienced, and for that, together with other reasons, they proved of little use in the campaign. Yet they were certainly not so inferior to the Dutch as the Spaniards of the Great War were to ourselves, and De Ruyter cannot have known that they would not exert themselves fully.

So soon as the whole allied force was collected in the Thames, it stood over to the Dutch coast. The conduct of the French at the battle of Solebay had filled the English seamen with suspicion, and it was decided to put them on this occasion where they could not go off on a tack by themselves. Prince Rupert took the van with the Red Squadron. The French, who still formed the White Squadron, were placed in the centre, with the Blue Squadron under Sir Edward Spragge in the rear. Our ally was thus sandwiched between two trustworthy English forces. De Ruyter was found at his anchorage at Schooneveldt. Relying, as he reasonably might, on his superior numbers, Prince Rupert decided to make an attempt to draw the enemy out to the open sea, where he could be crushed. A light squadron of thirty vessels, including eight French, was sent in with eight fireships to attack the Dutch at anchor. The wind was from the S.W., and the occasion appeared favourable. Rupert's effort to draw the enemy proved successful in a way he had not foreseen. De Ruyter was not the man to lie in a hole and to think that it was enough to preserve himself in being, in order to make himself felt by the enemy. He could rely on the zeal of his squadron. A vehement letter of appeal from the Prince of Orange to the officers and men on the fleet had been read on every ship. It called on them to remember that the very existence of their country was now at stake, to throw aside all selfish care for their own lives, and to sink all personal animosities for the sake of Holland, [431]This appeal to the patriotic feeling which is profound in the Dutch heart had been becomingly answered. De Ruyter had set his fleet a good example by putting his personal grievances aside. The Stadtholder had appointed Cornelius van Tromp to succeed Van Ghent. Tromp was an ardent partisan of the House of Orange, and was very popular with the seamen, but he was no friend to Michael de Ruyter. His disobedience in the last battle of the previous war had almost caused a crushing disaster, and there had been an open quarrel between the two. When, however, Tromp was named by the Stadtholder as third in command of the fleet, the admiral promised to forgive what had passed. Tromp was ordered by the prince to obey his admiral, and the two were publicly reconciled. As no more is heard of the insubordination of Tromp, he must be supposed to have been sincere in the promises he gave, not to remember the stinging rebuke of De Ruyter in the former war.

When, on the 28th May, the allied light squadron was seen to be approaching, the Dutch prepared to meet the attack by a counter-blow. Their anchors were apeak, and they were ready to get under way at a moment's notice. They stood out on the port tack to the N.W., Tromp's division, which was the rear according to the formal division of the fleet, being the van in the action. De Ruyter was in the centre, and Bankert commanded in the rear. So prompt was the action of the Dutch that the allied light squadron had not time to run back to the protection of the fleet before the enemy was close on it. It fled in disorder and with loss. The allied commanders were no less completely surprised by the vigour of De Ruyter's counter-stroke. They had calculated that the enemy would be too frightened to take the offensive. They thought they had to deal with a terrified opponent, who would have to be slowly and with difficulty worried out of his lurking-places. Under this delusion they lay at anchor in some disorder. When, then, De Ruyter stood out to attack them, they had to get under way in a hurry, and their line was badly formed when the enemy was upon them. Both fleets stood out to sea on the port tack, heading to N.W. The Blue Division was hotly engaged [432]by Tromp, and De Ruyter pressed hard on the French in the centre. Bankert was opposed to Rupert with the Red Squadron in the rear. The fight was hottest in the van and centre. The Red Division was comparatively little engaged. According to the French accounts, d'Estrées, seeing that Rupert was not pressing hard enough on the squadron of Bankert, ordered some of his own ships to bear down on the Dutch rear, and they succeeded in cutting it off from the centre. Then De Ruyter, seeing what had happened, tacked with his division, and, running through the French ships, rejoined Bankert. His next move, according to the same authority, was to turn again to the north and follow Tromp, who in the meantime had continued on the first course engaged with Sir Edward Spragge. It was the fortune of these two to be pitted against one another in all the battles of this campaign. The battle ended in the evening without decisive result. De Ruyter anchored near West Kappel, and the allied fleet stood over to the coast of England. This was but a lame and impotent conclusion after the vigorous movement with which the French credit themselves. One suspects that the Dutch version is nearer the truth—namely, that Bankert, finding himself not severely pressed by Rupert, stood on to assist De Ruyter against the White Squadron, and that the allies were timidly handled throughout. Certainly, with eighty-one ships and the weather-gage they might well have done more against fifty-five enemies to leeward.

The Dutch admiral may perhaps have hoped to do sufficient injury to a portion of his enemy's fleet to induce him to return home in order to refit. But the allies continued on the coast, and De Ruyter, who must by this time have seen clearly that he was not called upon to contend against great energy or faculty, decided not to wait to be attacked. Seven days after the battle of the 28th of May, on the 4th of June, he had a favourable wind from the N.E. The deputies of the States accompanied their fleets as well as their armies, but were apparently less timid when sea-fighting was concerned than they were often found to be on shore. Though the odds were long against him, the field deputies gave their consent when De Ruyter asked leave to attack. On the [433]afternoon of the 4th he bore down from windward. As on the former occasion, the fleets engaged headed to the N.W., with the rear divisions in the van. The French were no longer in the centre of the allied fleet, but had resumed the van, the place they had held at the battle of Solebay, which, as the fleets engaged, was in fact in rear of the line. In this, as in all his battles, De Ruyter aimed intelligently at concentrating on a part of the enemy's line, in order to counterbalance a general inferiority in numbers. The brunt of the fighting fell on the two English divisions, the Red and the Blue. Our own historians of the war, who for slovenliness in the use of terms, vagueness of description, and mendacity of assertion are nearly unequalled, maintain that the advantage rested with the allies. Rupert, they say, artfully endeavoured to draw the Dutch off their own coast by slanting to leeward. The substantial facts covered by this plausible apology are that the Dutch and English cannonaded one another until dark; that the English suffered as severely as the enemy, that the French did nothing, and that on the following day the Red and Blue Squadrons were found to have suffered so much that the allies returned to the Thames to refit. Tromp went back to his own coast, having gained the fruits of victory. He had driven a fleet, more than half again as strong as his own, off the coast of the Low Countries, had stopped an invasion, and had cleared the road for trade.

The utter failure of Rupert and d'Estrées to sweep the Dutch fleet out of the road might have convinced the English Court that the time had not come for an invasion of Holland from the sea. Yet, unless something was done, the war would soon appear as ridiculous to Englishmen as it was already odious. The ships were refitted, 4000 soldiers were embarked in the men-of-war and 2000 others in transports. Then the whole force was sent back to the coast of Holland, in order, apparently, to try whether, since it had been found impossible to beat the Dutch fleet first and land the soldiers afterwards, it might not be possible to do both things at once.

On the 23rd of July the allies were again on the coasts of the Low Countries, about the mouth of the Maas. From this point they prowled along as far as the islands beyond [434]North Holland and then back again. De Ruyter had been reinforced till he had under his command about seventy ships of the line. As the English and French had also been strengthened till the first numbered sixty and the second thirty battleships, the superiority of the allies was still considerable. True to his policy of not fighting rashly, De Ruyter followed the enemy as they sailed to and fro, keeping his own ships in the dangerous banks and shallows, where the sharper-keeled French and English vessels dared not follow. But he was still resolute to strike so soon as he had a fair opportunity. It came on the 11th of August, when both fleets were close to the Texel. On the 10th the wind was blowing from the sea, and Rupert pressed in as close as he dared. During the night De Ruyter slipped between the allies and the land and anchored near Camperdown. In the morning the wind had shifted to the S.E., giving the weather-gage to the Dutch. De Ruyter had the permission of the States to give battle, and he came down with his seventy against the ninety of the allies. Both fleets were heading to the south, on the port tack. The French were now actually in the van. The Red Division was in the centre, under the direct command of Rupert, with John Harman as vice-admiral and Chicheley as rear-admiral. Sir Edward Spragge commanded the rear, with Kempthorne as second, and the Earl of Ossory, the son of the Duke of Ormonde, who served as a rear-admiral not because he was a seaman, but because he was a gallant gentleman, for whom the king had a liking, and the son of a great noble. In the Dutch fleet Bankert led the first division, De Ruyter was at his place in the centre, and Tromp was once more opposed to his old foe Spragge in the rear. The plan of the Dutch admiral was identical with that which he had followed in the previous battles of the war. He decided to concentrate his efforts on the Blue and Red Squadrons. He did not do the French the honour to deal with them seriously. Ten vessels were told off under Bankert to watch them, and then De Ruyter fell with the sixty left to him on the sixty English. The battle broke into three separate engagements. Bankert engaged the French at some little distance. Being much more numerous than their opponents, [435]it was in the power of the French to stretch ahead, to make the leading ships turn to windward, and so put Bankert between two fires. They made the attempt to carry out this obvious movement. The leading subdivision of the White Squadron, commanded by M. de Martel, turned to windward and gained a position from which it could have fallen on Bankert. But the intrepid and steady Dutchman was not minded to remain passive till he was taken between two fires. He put his helm up and ran through the French ships still to leeward of him. The French say that the fighting at this moment was hot, and that they almost succeeded in destroying Bankert's vessel with a fireship. It would have been unspeakably disgraceful to them if there had not been hot fighting; as it is, their inferiority to either the Dutch or English seamen in the contending fleets is demonstrated by Bankert's success in carrying out a movement which could never have succeeded against a skilful enemy. It is likely that the heat of the action was felt much more acutely by the French than the Dutch. Bankert's captains must have been very much wanting to themselves if they did not rake the French ships as they passed through with tremendous effect.

When Bankert broke through the French fleet, he found Rupert and De Ruyter to the northward and a little to the leeward of him. The English admiral had not waited quietly for the enemy to bear down upon him. He sheered off a little towards the sea, for the purpose of drawing the Dutch out. The intention was to entice them to such a distance from their own coasts, that they might not be able to run back speedily and take refuge among the shallows. It was a somewhat poor-spirited device, since the most effectual way of preventing the Dutch from returning to their sandbanks would have been to get between them and the land. Rupert's ships were the more weatherly, and, if he had kept his wind and had pressed harder on the Dutch, it is possible that he might have worked through them as Monk had done in the last of the Four Days' Battle. In any case, severely crippled Dutch vessels must have drifted down on his line, and if he had remained steady he might have taken them, whereas by edging away he made them a present of a [436]margin of safety. Moreover, he laid himself open to a peril which he may be excused for not having foreseen. When Bankert had run through the French and found the two central divisions to leeward of him, it was in his power to join De Ruyter by simply putting himself before the wind and coming down. This he did, and his arrival enabled the whole of the Dutch centre and van to concentrate on the Red Squadron. This misfortune might have been averted by the French. The wind which carried Bankert to leeward would equally have carried them. But the French did nothing, and, in fact, took no further part in the action. They remained idle until late in the evening, when the battle was over and the victory had fallen to De Ruyter. As the Dutch admiral pressed closely on Rupert, he had broken through the Red Squadron towards the rear. When Bankert's squadron joined him, he was able to concentrate thirty of his ships upon twenty of ours. If the gunnery of the seventeenth century had not been very wild, these vessels must infallibly have been destroyed. If the Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral de Winter in 1797 had been able to bring a force proportionately superior to bear on the ships of Duncan, he would most certainly have ruined them. But in the earlier century the fire of ships' guns was still very ineffective, and therefore Rupert escaped destruction, though he did not escape defeat. The English squadron was compelled to fall away to leeward, and to look about for the help of the Blue Squadron in the rear.

While the French were demonstrating their entire worthlessness as allies, and while Rupert was being overpowered, the Blue Squadron and its immediate opponent, the Dutch division of Tromp, were carrying on a desperate battle by themselves. The story reads like a passage out of a mediæval chronicle. It has been pointed out already that Sir Edward Spragge had been pitted against Tromp in the two previous battles of the war. A species of personal rivalry had grown up between them. While the fleet was refitting in the Thames, Spragge had visited the Court, and there, perhaps provoked by some jest, or perhaps merely in ostentation, had promised the king that he would bring [437]Tromp home prisoner from the next battle, or would lose his life in the attempt. Having given the promise, Spragge was the man to endeavour to keep it. When the battle began, he fixed his attention exclusively on his own conflict with Tromp. As the Dutch bore down, he did not continue his course in the wake of the Red Squadron as he should have done, but lay-to to wait for Tromp. Lying-to means that a ship braces some of her sails round so that the wind blows them against the mast, while the others are still kept in such a position that the wind blows behind them. The two kinds of pressure neutralise one another, and the ship, instead of forging ahead, begins to drift slowly to leeward. She does not remain stationary, because the wind is always pushing her sideways against the water, and, although she moves very slowly, yet she will drift some miles in the course of a few hours. The result of Spragge's action was to separate his squadron by a long distance from that of Rupert. The prince continued moving to the south, though with a slant towards the west. Spragge floated slowly away to the west. He did not go alone. Tromp, who was at all times ready enough to separate his squadron from that of his commanding officer, could not resist the temptation offered, and he accepted the challenge thrown out to him by the English admiral. He bore down, and the two squadrons engaged ship to ship. There was no manœuvring, no attempt on either side to gain an advantage by skilful fence. Each side laid on the other with might and main. Spragge and Tromp engaged ship to ship. Spragge's flag was flying in the Royal Prince and Tromp's in the Golden Lion. So well were the two matched that they had soon beaten one another to a standstill. Then Spragge transferred his flag to the St. George and Tromp his to the Comet. Then they renewed their duel. Before long the St. George was as complete a wreck as the Royal Prince. Once more Sir Edward Spragge prepared to shift his flag, but he was destined to fulfil the alternative promise he had made the king. He was not to bring Tromp back a prisoner, but to give his own life in the effort to take him. His boat had hardly gone ten times her length from the side [438]of the St. George when it was struck by a cannon-shot, which took a great piece out of the bottom. The crew made a manful attempt to regain the St. George, baling the boat and rowing hard. But the damage done was too great The boat went down before they could again reach their ship. Sir Edward Spragge was drowned. Of the short list of English admirals who have died in battle, the majority have fallen in action with the Dutch.

The erratic valour of Sir Edward caused no small embarrassment to his chief. When he turned towards the Blue Division, Rupert found it miles to leeward of him and in no position to give him any support. The White Division showed no sign of coming to his assistance, but lay idle to windward, where it was in vain for the prince to endeavour to reach them. He made no attempt to reunite with his untrustworthy allies, but, turning off before the wind, bore down in the direction of the separate battle raging between the squadrons of Tromp and Spragge. De Ruyter accompanied him, and for a time the battle ceased between the two centre divisions. It may be that their powder was becoming exhausted. The two ran down side by side together, each aiming to regain touch with the rear division of his own fleet. This was effected towards evening, and, the fleets being together again, the action was resumed. The superiority of force was now with the Dutch, for the Blue Division had been very severely cut up in the action with Tromp, and De Ruyter, having been joined by Bankert's squadron, had the whole of his ships together, and excelled the English by some ten vessels. The renewed action lasted until about seven o'clock in the evening, when De Ruyter drew off. From the French accounts it appears that they joined Rupert about this time. Whether De Ruyter withdrew because he saw the French coming down, or whether the French plucked up heart of grace on seeing that the Dutch had retired, is uncertain.

This battle ended the war, and it also ended the possibility of a co-operation between the English and French fleets. It was the firm belief of every man in the navy, from Prince Rupert downwards, that our allies had betrayed us. The [439]nation was convinced that the fleet was right, and it came to be taken for granted that the Count d'Estrées had deliberately allowed the English to be overpowered. It was said that he acted on express orders from his king, directing him to keep his squadron out of action and to leave the Dutch and the English to exhaust one another. No evidence that any such orders were given has been produced. If it is improbable that they ever were given, the reason is rather that they would have been thoroughly silly than that they would have been base. King Louis and his ministers were quite intelligent enough to see that if they allowed the Dutch to destroy the English, they would have to deal with them single-handed. There is no need to attribute so much unscrupulous, and withal silly, cunning to the French Government. The inexperience of d'Estrées, and the natural dislike of Englishmen and Frenchmen for one another, at least in that century, account quite sufficiently for the failure of the allies to co-operate with success. The French must have been perfectly well aware that the English king's alliance with their master was odious to his subjects. They knew that the English considered them the supporters of Popery, and they, for their part, looked upon the English as heretics. In this war the English wished success to their enemy and defeat to their friend. A coalition is seldom successful in war, and, when it is conducted under such conditions as these, is inevitably doomed to defeat.

The battle of the Texel was the end of the war in Europe. When the fleets drew off from one another on the evening of a long day's fighting, there was no list of prizes to show on either side. The loss of life in the English fleet was great, for the ships were crowded with the soldiers who were to have been landed on the coast of Holland, and the slaughter had been proportionately severe, but no vessels had been lost. Still, the victory was undoubtedly with De Ruyter. The allies retired, giving up even the pretence of an attempt to land men or maintain a blockade on the Dutch coast. He had, therefore, gained the main object for which he fought; and if that does not constitute victory, it is difficult [440]to attach a definite meaning to the word. The terms on which the allies stood to one another made it certain that they would not act together again, and, if De Ruyter did not know that on the evening of the battle, he must have learned it before very long. The relations of the French and English were patent to all the world. There is a story that a Dutch sailor, whose comrade expressed some surprise at the inactivity of the French, explained it by saying, "Why, you see, they have hired the English to do their fighting for them, and have no business here except to see that their servants do their work." That sailor may not impossibly have been an invention of the Dutch press, which was able and active. But the opinion put into his mouth was not unlike what was being said in England. Englishmen felt that the king had sold himself and them, to do the work of Louis XIV., and the war was intensely unpopular. As was usual with Charles, he yielded immediately that the opposition of his Parliament and people began to be dangerous. The war was first allowed to die down, and then peace was made in the beginning of 1674.

The fighting which took place outside the North Sea was not important in this war. Some colonial posts were taken and retaken between the English and the Dutch in the West Indies. Sir Tobias Bridge, who commanded for us, and Evertszoon, who led for Holland, however, did not come to an engagement. A more interesting passage of warfare took place far to the south in the Atlantic. The island of St. Helena had been early occupied as a watering station and storehouse by the East India Company. It had once before been taken by the Dutch, and retaken by us. The Dutch were then, and for long afterwards, in possession of the Cape of Good Hope, and it was an obvious object of policy with them to secure possession of all those places on the road to Asia which could be used for the purpose of refreshing a fleet. They were always ready to endeavour to correct the oversight by which they had allowed the island to fall into our hands. In 1672, when the news of the outbreak of the war reached the settlement at the Cape, an expedition was at once despatched against St. Helena. It [441]was beaten off in the first attempt to land, but one of the English planters turned traitor. A convenient landing-place was pointed out by this man. The Dutch were able to reach the higher ground, and once there they soon made themselves masters of the East India Company's little fort. The governor, whose name was Beale, took refuge in a ship then at the anchorage, and fled to Brazil. On the coast of Brazil he fell in with a squadron consisting partly of the king's ships, the Assistance and the Levant and the Castle fireship, and partly of two vessels belonging to the East India Company. It was under the command of Sir Richard Munden. At that time, and indeed to the very close of the eighteenth century, the voyage to the East Indies was expected to last six months. Vessels on their way out, or on their way home, always put in to the Portuguese ports in search of fresh vegetables and water. Sir Richard Munden had been despatched to protect the home-coming East India trade from capture by the Dutch "Capers" or privateers, which were sure to lie in wait for them at the approaches to the Channel. He would naturally go down to meet them where they could be expected. The arrival of the fugitives at once showed Munden that he had an even more pressing duty to perform. If St. Helena was not recovered from the Dutch, the home-coming trade would almost certainly sail into their hands and be lost altogether. He was an officer of great spirit, a Tarpaulin seaman of the best stamp, whose tombstone in Bromley Church records, that though he died at the early age of forty, he had "what upon public duty and what upon merchants' accounts, successfully engaged in fourteen sea fights." Munden prepared to retake the island. Among the fugitives who had reached Brazil with Governor Beale was a negro named Black Oliver. Black Oliver was known to possess an exact knowledge of the landing-places and interior of the island. He had been sold by his master to a Portuguese, but Munden redeemed him and took him as guide. The English squadron reached the island of St. Helena on the afternoon of the 14th of May 1673. It was not observed by the Dutch. By the advice of Black Oliver, it was decided to land at a spot, afterwards named Prosperous [442]Bay to record the success of the enterprise. The command of the landing-party was given to Richard Keigwen, a Cornishman, who was first lieutenant of the Assistance, and who afterwards had a curious and varied career in the service of the East India Company. The plan was to climb up the cliffs surrounding the bay, and then go on to the high ground on the side of James's Valley, where they would be in a position to dominate the settlement at the only convenient anchorage in the island. It was no easy work to get up the cliffs. There was no path, and, in order to effect the ascent, it was necessary to send one of the party on in advance, who climbed up the precipice with a ball of twine in his pocket. As the climber made his way up, his comrades below called out to him, "Hold fast, Tom!" and the name has remained attached to the cliff. Tom made his way to the top, and then, by use of the twine, hauled up a rope. The rest of the party now scrambled up after him. If the Dutch had been on the alert, the enterprise would have been physically impossible, but they were quite unaware that the English were in the island. The party marched past Longwood, destined in after times to be the prison of Napoleon, and then seized the summit of Rupert's Hill on the east side of James's Valley. At the same time, Richard Munden brought his ships round to the anchorage, and the Dutch, attacked both by sea and land, were compelled to surrender.

The success of the English did not end here. News of the taking of St. Helena in the previous year had been forwarded to Holland. A ship was sent out bringing a Dutch governor. She sailed into the anchorage, where Munden lay with the Dutch flag flying, and was taken. By use of the same stratagem he all but made a further capture of much greater value. A home-coming squadron of six Dutch East Indiamen came to the island, under the impression that it was in the possession of their countrymen. Two of them laden with rich cargoes fell into our hands. The other four escaped through the over-haste of the English ships, which gave them the alarm. Still, the success of Munden was fairly complete. He returned to England, [443]having achieved a most useful piece of service, and having fairly earned his knighthood. Keigwen was left behind as governor, and it is satisfactory to be able to add that Black Oliver was handsomely rewarded for his services by his freedom and the gift of a little piece of land.

The third war with the Dutch ended in deserved failure, and was followed by a period of decadence. Yet the years between 1660 and 1673 were, on the whole, a time of growth. The long and generally successful series of operations against the Barbary pirates, the victorious campaign of Harman in the West Indies, the timely intervention of Munden so far south in the Atlantic as St. Helena, the presence of the king's ships at Bombay, were proofs that the Royal Navy was already growing to its full stature. It was putting out its arm round the world, not indeed to take hold as yet, but to feel its way and measure. The advance in organisation was real. Though the captain was still only captain while in commission, and the Admiral of the Red, White, or Blue held rank only while the fleet was collected, the foundation of the corps of officers was laid by the list of 1668. The principle was recognised, and a very slight extension of the practical application was all that was required to form a complete establishment. What had been gained was to be held for good. The decline of the navy at the close of King Charles's reign was due to the personal and temporary vices of his government. When the reins were again in stronger hands the lost ground could be rapidly recovered, and it would be found that the work of the earlier and better years was a permanent possession.



The main sources of information for the period included in this chapter are Pepys' Memoirs relating to the State of the Royal Navy of England for the Ten Years determined December 1688, and the Diary of his Journey to Tangier, included in Mr. Smith's edition of his Letters. For the naval events of the Revolution we possess the Memoirs of Lord Torrington, edited by Mr. Laughton for the Camden Society.

The fourteen years between the conclusion of the third Dutch war and the Revolution of 1688 saw no new war. The operations against the pirates of the Barbary coast have already been described. The events of this interval were first the fall of the navy to a dis