Sunday. Midsummer Day. Up, but, being weary the last night, not so soon as I intended. Then being dressed, down by water to Deptford, and there did a great deale of business, being in a mighty hurry, Sir W. Coventry writing to me that there was some thoughts that the Dutch fleete were out or coming out. Business being done in providing for the carrying down of some provisions to the fleete, I away back home and after dinner by water to White Hall, and there waited till the councill rose, in the boarded gallery, and there among other things I hear that Sir Francis Prujean is dead, after being married to a widow about a yeare or thereabouts. He died very rich, and had, for the last yeare, lived very handsomely, his lady bringing him to it. He was no great painstaker in person, yet died very rich; and, as Dr. Clerke says, was of a very great judgment, but hath writ nothing to leave his name to posterity. In the gallery among others met with Major Halsey, a great creature of the Duke of Albemarle’s; who tells me that the Duke, by name, hath said that he expected to have the worke here up in the River done, having left Sir W. Batten and Mr. Phipps there. He says that the Duke of Albemarle do say that this is a victory we have had, having, as he was sure, killed them 8000 men, and sunk about fourteen of their ships; but nothing like this appears true. He lays much of the little success we had, however, upon the fleete’s being divided by order from above, and the want of spirit in the commanders; and that he was commanded by order to go out of the Downes to the Gun-fleete, and in the way meeting the Dutch fleete, what should he do? should he not fight them? especially having beat them heretofore at as great disadvantage. He tells me further, that having been downe with the Duke of Albemarle, he finds that Holmes and Spragge do govern most business of the Navy; and by others I understand that Sir Thomas Allen is offended thereat; that he is not so much advised with as he ought to be. He tells me also, as he says, of his own knowledge, that several people before the Duke went out did offer to supply the King with 100,000l. provided he would be treasurer of it, to see it laid out for the Navy; which he refused, and so it died. But I believe none of this. This day I saw my Lady Falmouth, with whom I remember now I have dined at my Lord Barkeley’s heretofore, a pretty woman: she was now in her second or third mourning, and pretty pleasant in her looks. By and by the Council rises, and Sir W. Coventry comes out; and he and I went aside, and discoursed of much business of the Navy; and afterwards took his coach, and to Hide-Parke, he and I alone: there we had much talke. First, he started a discourse of a talke he hears about the towne, which, says he, is a very bad one, and fit to be suppressed, if we knew how which is, the comparing of the successe of the last year with that of this; saying that that was good, and that bad. I was as sparing in speaking as I could, being jealous of him and myself also, but wished it could be stopped; but said I doubted it could not otherwise than by the fleete’s being abroad again, and so finding other worke for men’s minds and discourse. Then to discourse of himself, saying, that he heard that he was under the lash of people’s discourse about the Prince’s not having notice of the Dutch being out, and for him to comeback again, nor the Duke of Albemarle notice that the Prince was sent for back again: to which he told me very particularly how careful he was the very same night that it was resolved to send for the Prince back, to cause orders to be writ, and waked the Duke, who was then in bed, to sign them; and that they went by expresse that very night, being the Wednesday night before the fight, which begun on the Friday; and that for sending them by the post expresse, and not by gentlemen on purpose, he made a sport of it, and said, I knew of none to send it with, but would at least have lost more time in fitting themselves out, than any diligence of theirs beyond that of the ordinary post would have recovered. I told him that this was not so much the towne talke as the reason of dividing the fleete. To this he told me he ought not to say much; but did assure me in general that the proposition did first come from the fleete, and the resolution not being prosecuted with orders so soon as the Generall thought fit, the Generall did send Sir Edward Spragge up on purpose for them; and that there was nothing in the whole business which was not done with the full consent and advice of the Duke of Albemarle.
But he did adde (as the Catholiques call ‘le secret de la Masse’), that Sir Edward Spragge — who had even in Sir Christopher Mings’s time put in to be the great favourite of the Prince, but much more now had a mind to be the great man with him, and to that end had a mind to have the Prince at a distance from the Duke of Albemarle, that they might be doing something alone — did, as he believed, put on this business of dividing the fleete, and that thence it came.1 He tells me as to the business of intelligence, the want whereof the world did complain much of, that for that it was not his business, and as he was therefore to have no share in the blame, so he would not meddle to lay it any where else. That de Ruyter was ordered by the States not to make it his business to come into much danger, but to preserve himself as much as was fit out of harm’s way, to be able to direct the fleete. He do, I perceive, with some violence, forbear saying any thing to the reproach of the Duke of Albemarle; but, contrarily, speaks much of his courage; but I do as plainly see that he do not like the Duke of Albemarle’s proceedings, but, contrarily, is displeased therewith. And he do plainly diminish the commanders put in by the Duke, and do lessen the miscarriages of any that have been removed by him. He concurs with me, that the next bout will be a fatal one to one side or other, because, if we be beaten, we shall not be able to set out our fleete again. He do confess with me that the hearts of our seamen are much saddened; and for that reason, among others, wishes Sir Christopher Mings was alive, who might inspire courage and spirit into them. Speaking of Holmes, how great a man he is, and that he do for the present, and hath done all the voyage, kept himself in good order and within bounds; but, says he, a cat will be a cat still, and some time or other out his humour must break again. He do not disowne but that the dividing of the fleete upon the presumptions that were then had (which, I suppose, was the French fleete being come this way), was a good resolution. Having had all this discourse, he and I back to White Hall; and there I left him, being [in] a little doubt whether I had behaved myself in my discourse with the policy and circumspection which ought to be used to so great a courtier as he is, and so wise and factious a man, and by water home, and so, after supper, to bed.
- This division of the fleet was the original cause of the disaster, and at a later period the enemies of Clarendon charged him with having advised this action, but Coventry’s communication to Pepys in the text completely exonerates Clarendon. ↩