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Christopher Myngs, by Sir Peter Lely, 1666, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series

Sir Christopher Myngs (1625–1666), English admiral and pirate, came of a Norfolk family and was a relative of another admiral, Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Pepys' story of his humble birth, in explanation of his popularity, is said to be erroneous. His name is often given as Mings.

Life

The date of Myngs's birth is uncertain, but probably somewhere between 1620 and 1625. It is probable that he saw a good deal of sea-service before 1648. He first appears prominently as the captain of the Elisabeth, which after a sharp action during the First Anglo-Dutch War brought in a Dutch convoy with two men-of-war as prizes. From 1653 to 1655 he continued to command the Elisabeth, high in favour with the council of state and recommended for promotion by the flag officers under whom he served.[1]

In 1655, he was appointed to the frigate Marston Moor, the crew of which was on the verge of mutiny. His firm measures quelled the insubordinate spirit, and he took the vessel out to the West Indies, arriving in January 1656 on Jamaica where he became the subcommander of the naval flotilla there, until the summer of 1657. [1] In February 1658, he returned to Jamaica as naval commander, acting as a commerce raider during the Anglo-Spanish War. During these actions he got a reputation for unnecessary cruelty, sacking and massacring entire towns in command of whole fleets of buccaneers. In 1658, after beating off a Spanish attack, he raided the coast of South-America; failing to capture a Spanish treasure fleet, he destroyed Tolú and Santa Maria in present-day Colombia instead; in 1659 he plundered Cumaná, Puerto Cabello and Coro in present-day Venezuela.

The Spanish government considered him a common pirate and mass murderer, protesting to no avail to the English government of Oliver Cromwell about his conduct. Because he had shared half of the bounty of his 1659 raid, about a quarter of a million pounds, with the buccaneers against the explicit orders of Edward D'Oyley, the English Commander of Jamaica, he was arrested for embezzlement and on the Marston Moor sent back to England in 1660. The later governor described him in an accompanying letter as "unhinged and out of tune".

The Restoration government retained him in his command however, and in August 1662 he was sent to Jamaica commanding the Centurion in order to resume his activities, despite the fact the war with Spain had ended. This was part of a covert English policy to undermine the Spanish dominion of the area, by destroying as much as possible of the infrastructure. In 1662 Myngs decided that the best way to accomplish this was to employ the full potential of the buccaneers by promising them the opportunity for unbridled plunder and rapine. He had the complete support of the new governor, Lord Windsor, who fired a large contingent of soldiers to fill Myngs's ranks with disgruntled men. That year he attacked Santiago de Cuba and took and sacked the town despite its strong defences. In 1663 buccaneers from all over the Caribbean joined him for the announced next expedition. Myngs directed the largest buccaneer fleet as yet assembled, fourteen ships strong and with 1400 pirates aboard, among them such notorious privateers as Henry Morgan and Abraham Blauvelt, and sacked San Francisco de Campeche in February. The atrocities led to an outrage and Charles II of England was forced to forbid further attacks in April, a policy to be carried out by the new governor, Thomas Modyford. Nevertheless a pattern had been set and large buccaneer attacks on Spanish settlements, secretly condoned by the English authorities would continue till the end of the century, gradually laying waste to the entire region.

During the attack on Campeche Bay Myngs himself had been severely wounded leaving Edward Mansvelt in charge of his pirate army. In 1664 he returned to England to recover. In 1665 he was made Vice-Admiral in Prince Rupert's squadron. As Vice-Admiral of the White under the Lord High Admiral James Stuart, Duke of York and Albany, he flew his flag during the Second Anglo-Dutch War at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, and for his share in that action received the honour of knighthood.

In the same year he then served under Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, as Vice-Admiral of the Blue and after the disgrace of Montagu under the next supreme fleet commander, George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. He was on detachment with Prince Rupert's Green squadron, when on 11 June 1666 the great Four Days' Battle began, but returned to the main fleet in time to take part on the final day, and in this action when his flotilla was surrounded by that of Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde he received a wound — being hit first through the cheek and then in the left shoulder by musket balls fired by a sharpshooter when his Victory was challenged by De Liefde's flagship, the Ridderschap van Holland — of which he died shortly after returning to London.[1]

References

Attribution

3 Annotations

Pedro  •  Link

Myngs.

The Wikipedia article says…

“The Spanish government considered him a common pirate and mass murderer,”

How strange from a country that influenced the Pope to divide the world between Spain and Portugal, and was itself guilty kicking out all the natives in the area in question!

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Per L&M Companion:

Myngs, Sir Christopher (1625-66). A 'tarpaulin', born of poor parents in London: no friend of Sandwich, but admired by Pepys for his ready speech and remarkable powers of command. He had fought in the parliamentary and republican navies, earning a special renown in the W. Indies (1655-7).

At the Restoration he held seven commissions 1662-6, attaining flag rank 1664-6. He was knighted after the Battle of Lowestoft and fell in action in the Four Days Fight. The scene at his funeral when his men offered to avenge his death is on of the most moving passages of the diary. (June 13th. 1666, http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1666/06/13/ )

Also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Myngs

Engraved portraits only:
http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?Li...
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/prints/browseH...

Bill  •  Link

MYNGS Sir Christopher, - The first information we have been able to acquire of this truly gallant gentleman is, that he was made commander of the Centurion in the year 1662. In 1664 he was, in rapid succession, captain of the Gloucester, the Portland, and the Royal Oak, and appointed vice admiral of a fleet destined for the channel service, under the chief command of prince Rupert. In the following year, 1665, he hoisted his flag on board the Triumph, as vice admiral of the white squadron. He served in this capacity during the engagement between the duke of York and the Dutch admiral Opdam; and, on the subsequent retirement of the duke of York, he was appointed to serve as vice admiral of the blue. When the fleet returned into port he shifted his flag into the Fairfax; and a strong squadron, of twenty-five sail, formed of the ships in best condition for service, was put under his command, during the winter, for the protection of our commerce, to which end his activity did not a little contribute. The latter end of January he sailed for the Downs, and by that means entirely broke the measures concerted by the Dutch for the protection of their own trade, and the injury of ours. In the middle of February he went to the Elbe for the purpose of convoying home the Hamburgh fleet, a service he completely effected. When the fleet was assembled under the command of the joint admirals, prince Rupert and the duke of Albemarle, he removed into the Victory, being appointed, as it is said by some, to serve as vice-admiral of the red. But we have a good deal of reason to doubt this information, and to suppose that, acting as vice-admiral of the white, he led the van of prince Rupert's division, which Was detached, in consequence of false information, to meet the French fleet. He consequently was not present during the three first days of the long battle; but on the fourth, as though he thought it incumbent upon him to make amends for the time he had lost, he fell, exerting himself almost beyond what strict duty and gallantry demanded. We cannot do a greater justice to his memory than by giving an account of the manner of his death, extracted from La Vie de Michael de Ruyter, and inserted by Lediard, "Admiral Myngs having received a musket ball in his throat, would not be persuaded to be bound, or to leave the quarter deck, but held his fingers in the wound to stop the flowing blood, for about half an hour, till another musket ball taking him in the neck, he died after having given the most signal proofs of his courage to the very last gasp."
---Biographia navalis. J. Charnock, 1794.

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References

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

1662

1665

1666