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Admiral Sir William Penn, 1621–1670 by Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series.

Sir William Penn (23 April 1621 – 16 September 1670) was an English admiral and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1670. He was the father of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania.

Life

Penn was born in St. Thomas Parish, Bristol to Giles Penn and Joan Gilbert.[1] On 6 June 1643 he married Margaret Jasper, a daughter of a wealthy Dutch merchant from Rotterdam. They had three children: Margaret (Pegg), who married Anthony Lowther, Richard and William.

He served his apprenticeship at sea with his father. In the first Civil War he fought on the side of the parliament, and was in command of a ship in the squadron maintained against the king in the Irish seas. The service was arduous and called for both energy and good seamanship. In 1648 he was arrested and sent to London, but was soon released, and sent back as rear admiral in the Assurance. The exact cause of the arrest is unknown, but it may be presumed to have been that he was suspected of being in correspondence with the king's supporters. It is highly probable that he was, for until the Restoration he was regularly in communication with the Royalists, while serving the parliament, or Cromwell, so long as their service was profitable, and making no scruple of applying for grants of the confiscated lands of the king's Irish friends.[2]

After 1650 he was employed as commander in chief of the southern fleet in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean in pursuit of the Royalists under Prince Rupert. He was so active on this service that when he returned home on 18 March 1651 he could boast that he had not put foot on shore for more than a year.[2]

In the First Anglo-Dutch War, he served in the navy of the Commonwealth of England, commanding squadrons at the battles of the Kentish Knock (1652), Portland, the Gabbard and Scheveningen (1653). In this last battle a sniper from his ship killed Dutch admiral and fleetcommander Maarten Tromp on the Dutch flaggship Brederode.

In 1654 he offered to carry the fleet over to the king, but in October of the same year he had no scruple in accepting the naval command in the expedition to the West Indies sent out by Cromwell.[2] In 1655 he commanded the fleet that launched a bungled attack on La Hispaniola. He was not responsible for the shameful repulse at San Domingo, which was due to a panic among the troops.[2] Afterwards the less desirable island of Jamaica was seized for the Commonwealth regime. On their return he and his military colleague Venables were sent to the Tower. He made humble submission, and when released retired to the estate he had received from confiscated land in Ireland.[2] He was knighted by Henry Cromwell at Dublin Castle on 20 December 1658 (the Protectorate honour passed into oblivion at the Restoration in May 1660).[3][4]

In April 1660 Penn was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in the Convention Parliament.[3] He played a small part in the Restoration:[2] he was on the Earl of Sandwich's ship, the Naseby (later the Royal Charles) which was sent to fetch king Charles II from his exile in the Dutch Republic (first Breda and later Amsterdam) over to England in May 1660. During the voyage he made himself known to the Duke of York, who was soon to be appointed Lord High Admiral, and with whom he had a lasting influence.[5]

In 1661 Penn was re-elected MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in the Cavalier Parliament. In the Second Anglo-Dutch War he was flag captain at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665 under James Stuart, Duke of York, and later in the year admiral of one of the fleets sent to intercept de Ruyter.

A key source for the adult life of Penn is the Diary of his next door neighbour Samuel Pepys. In 1660 Penn was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy Board where he worked with Pepys, Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board. The character of "mean fellow", or "false knave",[6] given him by Pepys is borne out by much that is otherwise known of him. But it is no less certain that he was an excellent seaman and a good fighter.[2]

Like Pepys and the Earl of Sandwich (Pepys' patron at the Navy Board) Penn was a "moderate" Roundhead who had succeeded in maintaining his position at the Restoration. Unsurprisingly, Penn appears several times in Pepys diary. A typical entry (5 April 1666):

"To the office, where the falsenesse and impertinencies of Sir W. Pen would make a man mad to think of."

But he is referenced perhaps most vividly in an entry for 1665 when we read,

"At night home and up to the leads [roof], were contrary to expectation driven down again with a stinke by Sir W. Pen's shying of a shitten pot in their house of office"

On the other hand, the diary entry for 4 July 1666 contains a long account of Penn's analysis of what was to be learnt from the Four Days' Battle, ending with the statement "He did talk very rationally to me, insomuch that I took more pleasure this night in hearing him discourse then I ever did in my life in anything that he said."

A native of the West Country Sir William Penn is buried in the church of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. His helm and half-armour are hung on the wall, together with the tattered banners of the Dutch ships that he captured in battle. His portrait by Lely, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich. After his death, his son, William, accepted the grant of land in the American colonies in lieu of money owed by the Crown to his father, and he named the new colony Pennsylvania in his father's memory.

Though Sir William Penn was not a high-minded man, he is a figure of considerable importance in British naval history. As admiral and General at Sea for Parliament he helped in 1653 to draw up the first code of tactics provided for the navy. It was the base of the "Duke of York's Sailing and Fighting Instructions", which continued for long to supply the orthodox tactical creed of the navy.[2] He was an early proponent of fighting in line ahead, so as to bring as much firepower as possible to bear.[7]

Notes

  1. ^ Jenkins 1896, p. 14.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hannay 1911, p. 99.
  3. ^ a b Ferris 1983.
  4. ^ Shaw 1906, p. 224.
  5. ^ Latham, R (ed). The Diary of Samuel Pepys. volume X Companion. Bell & Hyman. 1983. Article on Penn, Sir William
  6. ^ http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/12/31
  7. ^ Latham, R.

References

Attribution

Further reading

  • Street, Lucie (1988), An Uncommon Sailor A Portrait of Admiral Sir William Penn : English Naval Supremacy, New York: St. Martin's Press 

External links

1893 text

This is the first mention in the Diary of Admiral (afterwards Sir William) Penn, with whom Pepys was subsequently so particularly intimate. At this time admirals were sometimes styled generals. William Penn was born at Bristol in 1621, of the ancient family of the Penns of Penn Lodge, Wilts. He was Captain at the age of twenty-one; Rear-Admiral of Ireland at twenty-three; Vice-Admiral of England and General in the first Dutch war, at thirty-two. He was subsequently M.P. for Weymouth, Governor of Kingsale, and Vice- Admiral of Munster. He was a highly successful commander, and in 1654 he obtained possession of Jamaica. He was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy in 1660, in which year he was knighted. After the Dutch fight in 1665, where he distinguished himself as second in command under the Duke of York, he took leave of the sea, but continued to act as a Commissioner for the Navy till 1669, when he retired to Wanstead, on account of his bodily infirmities, and dying there, September 16th, 1670, aged forty-nine, was buried in the church of St. Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol, where a monument to his memory was erected.


This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

18 Annotations

David Brown  •  Link

Pennsylvania is actually named in honour of Admiral Penn - rather than his now more famous son.

PHE  •  Link

William Penn's memorial at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, can still be seen.

Sjoerd Spoelstra  •  Link

Charles II's Hat

Charles II once encountered the famed Quaker William Penn, whose faith prohibited him from removing his hat - as etiquette demanded of anyone in the monarch's presence. When, having exchanged niceties, Penn's hat remained firmly ensconced upon his head, the king - with a graceful flourish - removed his own. "Friend Charles," the Quaker said, "why dost thou uncover thyself?" "Friend Penn," the king replied, "in this place it is the custom for only one man at a time to keep his hat on."

Charles II, (1630-1685) English monarch; king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1660-85)

[Sources: I. Poley, Friendly Anecdotes]

David Quidnunc  •  Link

John Aubrey on William Penn & his son

From Aubrey's Brief Lives (the edition edited by Oliver Lawson Dick; bracketed words are mine):

"William Penn [born 1644] was the eldest son of Sir William Penn ...

"His Majestie owing to his [the younger Penn's] father 10,000 pounds (which, with the interest of it, came not to lesse than 20,000 pounds) [L&M Companion volume says 16,000 pounds] did in consideration therof grant to him and his heirs a province in America which his Majesty was pleased to name Pennsylvania the 4th day of March 1681.

"Sir William Penn, Knight, his father, was a man of excellent naturall abilities, not equalled in his time for the knowledge of navall affayres: and instrumentall to the raysing of many families. Bred his son religiously; and, as the times grew loose, would have his sonn of the fashioon, and was therfore extreme bitter at his sonne's retirement. But this lasted not alwayes; for, in the conclusion of his life, he grew not only kind, but fonde; made him the judge and ruler of his Family; was sorry he had no more to leave him (and yet, in England and Ireland, he left him 1500 pounds per annum). But, which is most remarkeable, he that opposed his sonne's way because of the crosse that was in it to the world's Latitude, did himselfe embrace his faith, recommending to his son the plainesse and selfe deniall of it, sayeing, **Keep to the plainesse of your way, and you will make an end of the Priests to the ends of the Earth.** And so he deceased, desiring that none but his son William should close his eies (which he did).

vicente  •  Link

"...
To Ye Just Memory of Sr. William Penn, Kt & Sometimes Generall;
borne at Bristol In 1621 son of Captain Giles
Penn severall years consul for ye English in ye Mediterranean of the Penns of Penn Lodge in the County of Wilts & those Penns of Penn in ye County of Bucks & by his Mother from ye Gilberts in ye County of Somerset, Originally of Yorkshire. Addicted from his youth to maritime affairs he was made Captain at ye years of 21. Rear-Admirall of Ireland at 23, Vice Admirall of Ireland at 24. Admirall to ye. Straightes at 29. Vice Admirall of England at 31 a Generall in ye First Dutch Warres at 32 whence retiring in Ano.1665.
..."

The Will of Admiral Sir William Penn
6th October 1670

Pen will, shows sonne and daughter
http://www.cems.uwe.ac.uk/~rstephen/livingeasto...

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion (partial)
kt 1660 (1621-70). Navy Commissioner 1660-9. Bristol sea-captain and bred to the sea from an early age. Penn was (with Batten, to whom he had once been apprenticed) the most experienced seaman among Pepys's colleagues....he accepted a knighthood from Henry Cromwell in 1658. In the following year he went to England hoping for a naval appointment from the Rump. Monck gave him charge of the preparation of the fleet which sailed to bring home the king from exile. He was on board Sandwich's ship, and soon had made himself known to the duke of York. Probably at the Duke's request he presented a memorandum in June 1660 to the king about the government of the navy, which shows a considerable knowledge of administrative detail. In it he expounded the advantages of government in the Commonwealth manner by commissioners acting collectively and without rigidly defined duties. The reconstituted Navy Board set up shortly afterwards showed several traces of this advice and he was himself made a Commissioner. At about the same time he drew up for the Duke a new version of the Admiral's Instructions, issued later, in Jan. 1662. Pepys, who probably resented Penn's superior knowledge and his intimacy with the Duke, has hardly a good word to say for him either as a colleague or as a person....

Nix  •  Link

The Penn/Pepys Relationship --

From the article on Penn in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

"Penn came into residence at the Navy Office in Seething Lane on 27 July 1660, thus becoming a neighbour of his junior colleague Pepys, in whose diary the last phases of Penn's career are sharply described. Pepys, although welcoming Penn as ‘very sociable … and an able man’ (Pepys, Diary, 1.241) soon fell out with him over contracts and appointments, and above all because he saw him as enemy to his own patron Sandwich. Penn was ever thereafter ‘as false a fellow as ever was born’ (ibid., 7.68) and Pepys took every opportunity to denigrate Penn's social address, service career, and administrative probity and competence."

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Penn before he was sidelined, or rusticated by Cromwell in 1656, for letting Venables [Col./Gen.] make a hash out of removing Hispanola from the Spanish crown, had a taste of Tower of London's hospitality suite, Venables appears to have been a disaster of the first order the epitomy of ineptness, and Penn received some of the backlash. S. Pepys may not understand some of Pens comments on fellow titled leftovers from the Cromwell period.
The story of how 2000 plus soldiers failed to capture Santa Domingo, defended by a few undernourished Islanders, is a good study of a combined ops.
Penns attitude, after this discovery of this classic in generalship and the rewards, I can be empathic with Sir Wm..

Terry F  •  Link

Another take on "Admiral Sir William Penn(b.1621 - d.1670)

"Penn was born, married and buried in Bristol. He was Cromwell's Sea General who was responsible, with General Venables, for the British capture of Jamaica in 1655. Jamaica became the base for British slavery and piracy and for British colonial expansion in the West (see Port Royal). Admiral Penn had also been rewarded for his services in Ireland to the Cromwellian Commonwealth with a castle and a confiscated estate in Ireland (1656, Macroom Castle). An interesting fact, which speaks of the continual duplicity of the Penn family, is that the Coat of Arms which appears with his battle armour at St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol is a fraud. The Admiral and the Penn family were not entitled to use the Coat of Arms which belonged to the Penns of Penn in Buckinghamshire. The Admiral and his family merely appropriated the Coat of Arms just as they had appropriated their Irish estate and African slaves for themselves and the isle of Jamaica for England. William Penn, the Admiral's son, was to take this appropriation further with his proprietorship of Pennsylvania." http://www.cems.uwe.ac.uk/~rstephen/livingeasto...

Pedro  •  Link

30th December 1650.

Captain Penn’s squadron sailed from Falmouth to attack the Portuguese at sea. He took 36 prizes in the Atlantic.

Terry F  •  Link

"Admiral William Penn....loaned large sums to the King's ambitious building programme but, after his death, the cash strapped King could not repay the loan, when requested to do so by Penn's son (also named William). So the monarch offered him land in America instead, provided that it would be named after the favoured late Admiral. Thus the state of Pennsylvania came into being. Its [fraudulent] arms still incorporate those of the man whose name it bears." http://www.history.uk.com/articles/index.php?ar...

Bill  •  Link

William Pen had all those qualifications of a sea-officer which natural courage and experience can give a man of a very moderate capacity. He was well qualified to act an under part, in executing, with alacrity and vigour, what had been planned by his superiors in command. He was vice-admiral, under Monck and Dean, in the famous sea-fight with the Dutch that continued three days, and in which the gallant Tromp was defeated. He was, without declaration of War, sent to take St. Domingo from the Spaniards. The design was well laid by Cromwell, and would have been executed with great facility by a Blake; but it exceeded the capacity of Pen. In this expedition he took Jamaica, a colony which cost a great deal of blood and treasure; but which, in process of time, proved advantageous to the nation. He was father of a much greater man than himself, who is well known among the Quakers as a preacher and a writer; and throughout the world as the founder and legislator of the colony of Pensylvania.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

Penn, William, a native of Bristol, distinguished in the British navy as an able admiral. He was commander of the fleet in the reduction of Jamaica in 1655 by Venables, but he lost for a time the good opinion of the protector who confined him in the Tower for absenting himself from the American station without leave. He was member for Weymouth, and after the restoration he obtained a high command under the duke of York, and greatly contributed to the defeat of the Dutch fleet 1664. He was knighted by Charles II for his services, and died at his house, Wanstead, Essex, 1670, aged forty nine.
---Universal biography. J. Lemprière, 1810.

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References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

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1662

1663

1664

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1669