William and Mary - from A.D. 1689 to A.D. 1702.
One of the last acts of James was to send a fleet under the command of Lord Dartmouth to intercept that of William of Orange, which it was known was on the point of sailing. On board the Dutch fleet was Admiral Herbert, acting as commander-in-chief, though all the officers were Dutch. It was hoped that he would win over the English fleet. As it proved, both the officers and men of the navy were as ill-affected to James as were those of the army. Thus, as an old writer observes, “that naval force which James had cultivated with so much care, and on which he depended so much, proved of no use—so difficult a thing is it to bring Englishmen to enslave England.”
The Dutch fleet consisted of about 50 men-of-war, 25 fire-ships, and near 400 transports and victuallers and other vessels, carrying about 4000 horse and 10,000 foot. Admiral Herbert led the van of the fleet, Vice-Admiral Evertzen brought up the rear, and the prince himself was in the centre, carrying a flag with English colours, and their highnesses’ arms surrounded with this motto, “The Protestant Religion and the Liberties of England,” and underneath the motto of the House of Nassau, “Je Maintiendrai,” “I will maintain.”
After being driven back by a storm, the fleet came to an anchor in Torbay on the 4th of November. The prince wished to land that day, it being the one on which he was born and married, and he fancied that it would look auspicious to the army, and animate the soldiers, but the general wish was that he should not land till the following, being Gunpowder Treason day, that their landing on that day might have a good effect on the minds of the English. No sooner had the Dutch fleet got into harbour than a heavy storm sprang up from the westward, which compelled the English fleet to run into Portsmouth, from which they could not again issue till William had won the day. When Lord Dartmouth was able to leave the port he conducted the fleet to the Downs, and there holding council of war, it was resolved—first, to dismiss from their commands all such officers as were known to be papists, and then to send up an address to his highness setting forth their steady affection to the Protestant religion, and their sincere concern for the safety, freedom, and honour of their country.
Not long after this the ships were dispersed, some to the dockyards to be dismantled and laid up, others to be cleaned and repaired, and such as were in the best condition for sea were appointed for necessary services. The first service in which Admiral Herbert was employed was to endeavour to intercept the French fleet which had sailed for Ireland to support the landing of King James. On the 1st of May, 1689, the English admiral discovered the enemy’s ships at anchor in Bantry Bay; when the French stood out to sea in a well-formed line of battle to meet him. After a warm engagement of some hours the two fleets separated, when the French, claiming the victory, retired into Bantry Bay, and the English towards Scilly. After waiting for reinforcements in the chops of the channel, none arriving, Admiral Herbert returned to Portsmouth. Notwithstanding his ill-success, the king, in gratitude for the services he had before rendered him, created him Earl of Torrington, while Captains John Ashby, and Cloudesly Shovel were knighted. In 1690 Sir Cloudesly Shovel commanded a squadron of six men-of-war, which escorted the fleet of transports conveying King William’s forces to Carrickfergus, in Ireland. The Earl of Torrington, when in command of the combined English and Dutch squadrons in the channel, on the 30th of June, fell in with the French fleet commanded by the Count de Tourville between Cherbourg and the Isle of Wight. The combined fleets amounted to 56 ships only, while the French possessed 78 men-of-war and 22 fire-ships. The Dutch and Blue Squadrons being surrounded by the French, after making a gallant defence, were rescued by the Earl of Torrington. After this, finding that no impression could be made on the French fleet, it was decided in a council of war that it would be wiser to destroy the disabled ships than, by protecting them, hazard an engagement. The Anne, of 70 guns, which was dismasted, was forced on shore and destroyed. The enemy also attempted to destroy a Dutch 64 which was driven on shore, but her commander defended her with so much bravery, that he compelled the French to desist, and she, being got off, arrived safe in Holland. The earl then retreated into the Thames, leaving a few frigates to observe and watch the motions of the enemy, who remained masters of the channel. In consequence of his conduct, the earl was brought to a court-martial, but having ably defended himself, he was unanimously acquitted. The king, notwithstanding, to appease the clamours of the nation and the Dutch, took away his commission.
He was succeeded in the command of the fleet by Admiral Russell, who, greatly owing to the energetic proceedings of Queen Mary, while the king was absent in Ireland, had, by May, 1691, a squadron of considerable force, equipped and ready for sea, at his disposal. So elevated were the French at their unusual success, that they had the following inscription engraved on the stern of a new first-rate ship of war named the Saint Louis:—