Charles the Second and James the Second - from A.D. 1660 to A.D. 1689.

The object of Roman Catholic France was to keep Protestant England embroiled with Holland, and in the profligate Charles the Second, a willing instrument was found for carrying out her designs. War was declared, and the Duke of York took command of a fleet consisting of 109 men-of-war, and 28 fire-ships and ketches, with 21,000 seamen and soldiers on board. The Duke having blockaded the Texel, was compelled at length for want of provisions to return to England, and immediately the Dutch fleet sailed out under the command of Baron Opdam, Evertzen, and Cornelius Van Tromp. Directly afterwards nine merchant-ships of the English Hamburgh Company and a frigate of 34 guns fell into their hands. Opdam at all risks was ordered to attack the English, which he did, contrary to his own opinion, while his opponents had the advantage of the wind. At first the battle appeared tolerably equal, but the Earl of Sandwich, with the Blue Squadron, piercing into the centre of the Dutch fleet, divided it into two parts, and began that confusion which ended in its total defeat. The Duke of York, who was in the Royal Charles, a ship of 80 guns, was in close fight with Admiral Opdam in the Endracht, of 84 guns. The contest was severe, the Earl of Falmouth, Lord Muskerry, and Mr Boyle, second son of the Earl of Burlington, standing near the duke, were killed by a chain-shot. In the heat of the action the Dutch admiral’s ship blew up, and of five hundred of his gallant men, among whom were a great number of volunteers of the best families in Holland, only five were saved. A fire-ship falling foul of four Dutch ships, the whole were burnt. Shortly afterwards three others suffered the same fate. The whole Dutch fleet seemed now to be but one blaze, and the cries of so many miserable wretches who were perishing either by fire or water was more frightful than the noise of the cannon. The English gave their vanquished enemy all the assistance they could, while with continued fury they assailed the rest. The English lost but one ship, while they took eighteen of the largest Dutch ships, sunk or burnt about fourteen more, killed four thousand men, and took two thousand prisoners, who were brought into Colchester. Among them were sixteen captains. As the bards of old stirred up the warriors of their tribe to deeds of valour, so the naval poets of those days wrote songs to animate the spirits of British tars. The following lines are said to have been written on the eve of the battle by Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset:—

To all you ladies now on land
    We men at sea indite,
But first would have you understand
    How hard it is to write;
The muses now, and Neptune too,
    We must implore to write to you.
With a fa, la, la, la, la.
For tho’ the muses should prove kind,
    And fill our empty brain;
Yet if rough Neptune rouse the wind
    To wave the azure main,
Our paper, pen and ink, and we
    Roll up and down our ships at sea.
With a fa, la, etcetera.
Then if we write not by each post,
    Think not we are unkind,
Nor yet conclude our ships are lost
    By Dutchmen or by wind,
Ours tears we’ll send a speedier way—
    The tide shall bring them twice a-day.
With a fa, la, etcetera.
The king, with wonder and surprise,
    Will swear the seas grow bold,
Because the tides will higher rise
    Than e’er they used of old,
But let him know it is our tears
    Bring floods of grief to Whitehall stairs
With a fa, la, etcetera.
Let wind and weather do its worst,
    Be you to us but kind,
Let Dutchmen vapour, Spaniards curse,
    No sorrow shall we find;
’Tis then no matter how things go,
    Or who’s our friend, or who’s our foe.
With a fa, la, etcetera.
And now we’ve told you all our loves,
    And likewise all our fears,
In hopes this declaration moves
    Some pity from your tears;
Let’s hear of no inconstancy,
    We have too much of that at sea.
With a fa, la, etcetera.

Notwithstanding this defeat, the Dutch in a short time were again ready for battle. The fight lasted without interruption from three in the morning till seven in the evening. The remains of the Dutch fleet made sail for the Texel, but were not pursued by the duke. “After the fight,” says Burnet, “a council of war was called to concert the method of action when they should come up with the enemy. In that council, Penn, who commanded under the duke, happened to say that they must prepare for better work the next engagement. He knew well the courage of the Dutch was never so high as when they were desperate. The Earl of Montague, who was then a volunteer, and one of the duke’s corps, told him it was very visible that remark made an impression upon him; and all the duke’s domestics said, ‘He had got near enough—why should he venture a second time.’ The duchess had also given a strict charge to all the duke’s servants to do all they could to hinder him to engage too far. When matters were settled they went to sleep, and the duke ordered a call to be given him when they should get up with the Dutch fleet. It is not known what passed between the duke and Brouncker, who was of his bed-chamber, and then in waiting, but he came to Penn as from the duke and said, ‘The duke orders the sail to be slackened.’ Penn was struck with the order, but did not go about to argue the matter with the duke himself as he ought to have done, but obeyed it. When the duke had slept, he upon his waking went out upon the quarter-deck, and seemed amazed to see the sails slackened, and that thereby all hopes of overtaking the Dutch was lost.” It was not the only occasion on which James the Second showed the white feather.

Of the unfortunate Dutch officers who escaped, three were publicly shot at the Helder, four were ordered to have their swords broken over their heads by the common hangman, and the master of the vice-admiral to stand upon a scaffold with a halter about his neck under the gallows, while the others were executed, and he was afterwards sent into perpetual banishment. Two more were degraded and rendered incapable of serving the States more.

Before long the Dutch had their revenge. Charles being easily persuaded to lay up his ships and pocket the money voted for their maintenance, the Dutch, prompted by the French, who promised their assistance, rapidly fitted out a fleet under Admiral Van Ghendt. To deceive the English, he sailed for the Firth of Forth, which he entered, and after firing away to little purpose for some time, took his departure, and joined De Ruyter, who with seventy sail of ships appeared in the mouth of the Thames on the 7th of June, 1667. A squadron was immediately despatched up the river, when the fort of Sheerness was burnt and plundered, though bravely defended by Sir Edward Spragg. Monk, Duke of Albemarle, hastening down with some land forces, sank several vessels in the entrance of the Medway, and laid a strong chain across it; but the Dutch, with the high tide and strong easterly wind, broke their way through and burnt the Matthias, the Unity, and the Charles the Fifth, which had been taken from them. The next day they proceeded with six men-of-war and five fire-ships as far as Upnor Castle, but met with so warm a reception, that they advanced no farther. On their return they burnt the Royal Oak, and damaged the Loyal London and the Great James. They also carried off with them the hull of the Royal Charles, which the English twice set on fire, but which they as often quenched. Captain Douglas, when the enemy had set her on fire, having received no command to retire, said it should never be told that a Douglas had quitted his post without orders, and resolutely continuing on board, was burnt with his ship, falling a glorious sacrifice to discipline, and showing an example of no common bravery.

While the Dutch were in the Thames, a large number of their merchantmen, however, fell into the hands of the English, amply recompensing the latter for the loss they had sustained. The gallant action of Captain Dawes, commanding the Elizabeth frigate, must be mentioned. Falling in with fifteen sail of Rotterdam men-of-war, he fought their rear-admiral, of 64 and five others of 48 and 50 guns, and presently fought the admiral, of 70 guns, and two of his seconds, yet got clear of them all. Shortly afterwards he engaged two Danish men-of-war, of 40 guns each, in which action, after four hours’ fight, he was struck by a cannon-ball, crying with his last breath, “For God’s sake! don’t yield the frigate to those fellows.” Soon after, his lieutenant being desperately wounded, and the master who succeeded him slain, the gunner took their places, and so plied the two Danes, that they were glad to sheer off. The English anchored within a mile of them during the night to repair damages. The next morning they expected the Danes again, but though they were to windward and had the advantage of the current, yet they would not venture—upon which the English, after having saluted them with a shot of defiance, bore away for England.

A squadron under Sir Edward Spragg was sent out to punish the Algerines for their piracies. He drove many of their ships on shore and burnt seven, each carrying thirty-four guns. In the same year, 1670, the captain and first lieutenant of the Sapphire were condemned to be shot for cowardice, having run from four sail which they supposed to be Turkish men-of-war, and also for getting the ship on shore, by which she was lost, contrary to the opinion of the master and crew, who offered to defend her. The sentence was executed on board the Dragon at Deptford.

The peace of Breda terminated for a time the contest with the Dutch. War was, however, soon again to break out. The statesmen Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale, the initial letters of whose titles gave the name of the Cabal to their ministry, now formed a scheme for rendering the king absolute; Charles, acting under the influence of the King of France, who agreed to assist England in humbling the States-General. Every slight offence committed by the Dutch was magnified into a sufficient reason for engaging in a fresh war with the States, till it at last broke out with great violence. The English had formed an alliance with the French, when their united fleets, under the command of Prince Rupert—the English having sixty men-of-war and frigates and the French thirty—encountered the Dutch under De Ruyter, who had about seventy ships. De Ruyter bearing down with his fleet in three squadrons prepared to attack the Prince himself, while Tromp engaged Spragg and the Blue Squadron, the English admiral having, contrary to the express orders of Prince Rupert, laid his fore-topsail to the mast in order to stay for him. The French admiral had received orders to keep aloof, which he in part obeyed, while owing to Spragg’s too daring conduct Prince Rupert found himself separated from a large portion of his fleet. The fiercest engagement was that between Tromp, in the Golden Lion, and Spragg, in theRoyal Prince. For long they fought ship to ship, till the Royal Prince was so disabled, that Sir Edward Spragg was forced to go on board the Saint George, and Tromp quitted his Golden Lion to hoist his flag on board the Comat, when the battle was renewed with incredible fury. The aim of the Dutch admiral was to take or sink the Royal Prince, but the Earl of Ossory and Sir John Kempthorne, together with Spragg himself, so effectually protected the disabled vessel, that none of the enemy’s fire-ships could come near her, though this was often attempted. At last the Saint George, being terribly torn and in a manner disabled, Sir Edward Spragg designed to go on board a third ship, but before he was got six boats’ length a shot, which passed through the Saint George, struck his boat, and, though her crew immediately rowed back, yet before they could get within reach of the ropes the boat sank, and Sir Edward was drowned. The fight continued till sunset, when darkness and smoke obliged them on all sides to desist, the English having all this time maintained the fight alone against the whole Dutch fleet, while the French continued to look on at a distance.

The English could not claim this action as a victory, for though the Dutch carried off no trophies, they had decidedly the best of it. The English officers, however, behaved with the greatest gallantry, and had they not been so shamefully deserted by their pretended allies, would have won the day. Prince Rupert highly praised the conduct of the Earl of Ossory for the way in which he bore down to the rescue of the Royal Prince. Sir John Chichely and Sir John Kempenthorne, as did many others, behaved with conspicuous courage, while several commanders of distinction lost their lives. The conduct of the gunner of the Royal Prince, Richard Leake—whose son became the famous Sir John Leake—is worthy of mention. Before Sir Edward Spragg quitted the ship, she had lost all her masts, the larger number of her upper deck guns were disabled, and 400 of her crew, out of 750, were killed or wounded. While in this disabled condition, a large Dutchman, with two fire-ships, bore down on her for the purpose of effecting her capture or destruction. The lieutenant who had been left in command, believing that it was hopeless to resist, was on the point of striking, when the gallant Leake, calling on the crew to support him, took the command, and so ably fought the remaining guns that both the fire-ships were sunk, his large assailant compelled to sheer off, and the ship preserved from capture.

The nation, discovering that England had become the mere tool of France, loudly cried out for peace with Holland, which was signed in London on the 9th of February, 1674. By this treaty it was agreed on the part of the Dutch that their ships, whether separate or in fleets, should be obliged, as a matter of right, to strike their sails to any fleet or single ship carrying the King of England’s flag.

Very considerable improvements were carried out in the naval service during Charles the Second’s reign by the influence of the Duke of York. In 1662 a judge-advocate, John Fowler, was first appointed to the fleet. In 1663 an established number of seamen was fixed to each ship of war according to her rate, and servants were at this time first allowed to the captains and officers. Under this rating it was usual for officers to take a certain number of young gentlemen to sea, who, in consequence, gained the name of midshipmen. They are often spoken of as captains’ servants or cabin-boys, signifying that they were berthed and messed in the cabin—not that they had of necessity menial duties to perform. An allowance of table-money was first established to the flag-officers; a Surgeon-General to the fleet was also first appointed by warrant from the Lord High Admiral.

In 1666, in addition to the complement of men borne on board a ship bearing the flag of an admiral, fifty men were allowed; to a Vice-Admiral, twenty; and to a Rear-Admiral, ten.

We have the first instance in this year of gratuities being allowed to captains in the navy who were wounded in battle.

From the instances already given, it will be seen that the naval officers of those days possessed a dashing, dauntless courage which no dangers could subdue. The following is one among many others. The Tiger frigate, commanded by Captain Harman, was lying in the Port of Cadiz at the same time that a Dutch squadron was there. De Witt, the captain of one of the Dutch frigates, was particularly friendly with Captain Harman; this made the Spaniards insinuate that he dared not fight the English frigate. Evertzen, the Dutch admiral, on hearing this report, told De Witt that he must challenge the English captain to go to sea and fight him, to support the honour of his nation, and that he would assist him with sixty seamen and seventy soldiers. Captain Harman readily accepted his proposal, and on a day fixed both ships stood to sea, and began to engage within pistol-shot of each other. In a short time the Dutch ship’s main-mast was shot away. Captain Harman, availing himself of the confusion into which this disaster had thrown the enemy, boarded and compelled her to surrender, with the loss of 140 men. The English had only nine killed and fifteen wounded.

Since the increase of the navy, the Cinque Ports being of less consequence than formerly, the king granted them a new charter confirming their ancient privileges, with the addition of some regulations more suitable to modern times.

As an encouragement for seamen to enter into the navy, a bounty was given to all who entered on board first and second-rates of six weeks’ pay, and on board of third-rates one month’s pay.

In 1673 an order was issued to all commanders of His Majesty’s ships of war that in future they were not to require French ships to strike the flag or topsail, or salute, neither were they to salute those of the French king.

In 1673 the oaths of allegiance and supremacy were first administered to the officers in His Majesty’s navy. The king granted half-pay to several captains in the navy, according to the rates they commanded, as a gratuity for their bravery during the war.

The regulating and allotting of cabins to each particular officer was first established.

For some years merchant-ships had been sheathed with lead, and the experiment was now tried on the Harwich and Kingfisher ships of war, as also on several other ships ordered for foreign service. The practice was, however, in a few years discontinued.

The Royal Navy was now becoming far larger than it had ever before been. In 1675 the Parliament granted 300,000 pounds for the building of twenty large ships of war, one first-rate of 1400 tons, eight second-rates of 1100 tons, and eleven third-rates of 700 tons. At the same time the tonnage and poundage money was applied to the benefit of the Royal Navy. The Newfoundland fishery had begun to assume considerable importance, it being considered especially useful as a nursery to furnish seamen for the Royal Navy. Thus in the year 1676, 102 ships were employed, each ship carrying 20 guns, 18 boats, and 5 men to each boat, making in all 9180 men.

The corsairs which sailed forth from the States of Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers, continuing their depredations on English merchant-ships, Sir John Narborough was in 1675 despatched with a powerful squadron to teach them better behaviour. On arriving off Tripoli Sir John sent Lieutenant Cloudesly Shovel, of whom we now first hear, to open negotiations with the Dey. That Oriental potentate, despising Mr Shovel for his youthful appearance, sent him back with a disrespectful answer. He had, however, made a note of everything he saw, and on returning on board he assured the commodore of the practicability of burning the piratical fleet. The night being extremely dark, the commodore despatched Lieutenant Shovel with all the boats of the fleet to destroy the ships in the mole. Lieutenant Shovel first seized the guard-boat, then entered the mole, and burnt four large armed ships, without losing a man. The Dey, terrified by these unexpected proceedings of the English, sued for peace; but, according to time-honoured eastern custom, delayed the fulfilment of his engagements, on which Sir John sailing in, cannonaded the town, landed a party of men, burnt some stores, and finally brought him to terms. One of the pirate ships carried 50 guns, one 30, one 24, and another 20 guns. These powerful rovers were indeed a match for any ordinary merchant-vessel, and often contended desperately with men-of-war. In 1677 the 26-gun ship Guernsey, Captain James Harman, fell in with one of them, an Algerine called the White Horse, carrying 50 guns, and 500 men, while the crew of the Guernsey numbered only 110. A fierce action ensued, when at length the Algerine, taking advantage of the Guernsey’sdisabled state, sheered off, these pirates always fighting for booty rather than for honour. The gallant Captain Harman received three musket-balls in his body, and a severe contusion from a cannon-shot. He still fought his ship till he sank from exhaustion, when Lieutenant John Harris took command. The Guernsey in the action lost nine killed and many wounded, besides the captain, who three days afterwards expired.

A still more successful action was fought between the 40-gun ship Adventure, Captain William Booth, and an Algerine ship of war called theGolden Horse, of 46 guns, commanded by Morat Rais, a notorious Dutch renegado, who had a crew of 508 Moors and 90 Christian slaves. During the action a stranger hove in sight under Turkish colours; but night coming on, the Algerine drew off, when Captain Booth, having a fire-ship in company, gave orders to burn her or the new-comer. Fortunately, the fire-ship failed to reach either one or other, and in the morning the stranger hoisted English colours, and proved to be the 40-gun ship Nonsuch. The Golden Horse being dismasted, and 109 of her crew killed and 120 wounded, and having six-feet of water in the hold, surrendered.

In the same year a 42-gun ship, Captain Morgan Kempthorne, beat off seven Algerine corsairs, after they had made several desperate attempts to board her. Unhappily the Captain and eight of his crew were killed, and 38 wounded.

Many other similar gallant actions were fought with the Algerines and Sallee rovers, who, however, notwithstanding their frequent defeats, continued their depredations on the commerce of England and other European countries. Tangiers had been in possession of the English about twenty years, but, to save the expense of keeping it up, a fleet under Lord Dartmouth was sent out to destroy all the works, and to bring home the garrison. The destruction of the mole, which was admirably built, caused much labour, it being necessary to blow it up by piecemeal. Its ruins, as well as the rubbish of the town, were thrown into the harbour to prevent its again becoming a port.

The navy had long been held in high estimation by the English, who were always ready to grant any sum required for its improvement. It is stated that between the years 1660 and 1670 never less than 5000 pounds a-year was granted for its support. On the death of Charles the Royal Navy amounted to 113 sail.