14 Annotations

vincent  •  Link

nice "BIO" suitable for the popular press: Sir Robert Holmes Governor of Isle of Wight /Grace Hooke (17):
2nd story the whole story:"......Initial research reveals the probability of Grace being pregnant with Holmes's child
...." two thirds down for the titbits
for the bio :

for the scandal:

"..., Richard Ollard, biographer of Holmes, rejects this, pointing out that in 1678, "Theodosia was in any case occupied in bearing his [Lemuel] own children....".

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

Dryden's celebration of Sir Robert's role as rear-admiral
of the white, when, at the Battle of Schelling Bay in 1666, he captured
160 Dutch vessels, loaded with gold from their Guinean outpost
at Cape Coast Castle:

*Annus Mirabilis* 171-176

and Holmes, whose name shall live in epic song,
While music numbers, or while verse has feet.

Holmes, the Achates of the general's fight;
Who first bewitch'd our eyes with Guinea gold;
As once old Cato in the Roman sight
The tempting fruits of Afric did unfold.

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
kt 1666 (1662-92). Naval commander. Son of an English settler in Ireland, he had fought under Rupert in the royalist army and navy (Pepys often refers to him as Major), and had much of Rupert's dash and flair in action. In 1660-1 and 1663-4 he commanded two expeditions to W. Africa, the second of which did much to provoke the outbreak of the Dutch War in 1665....

...The diary's references give several evidences of his courage in action, as well as of his rough manners and explosive temper....Pepys had a particular animus against him in the early diary years because of the 'old business'--whatever that was--he had attempted on his wife. But the two men drew together in later life....

[this is about 1/5 of the L&M Companion entry for Sir Holmes. As we read into the Dutch War years, the rest should perhaps be added.]

Paul Chapin  •  Link

The portrait of Holmes and Holles
Based on the description, the portrait as shown on the NMM site is reversed. The man on the right, holding the sword, is Holles; Holmes is on the left, with his arm resting on the cannon. Holles is described as missing his left arm; he is actually holding the sword in his right hand.

Pedro  •  Link

Sir Robert Holmes.

A few interesting facts about Holmes up the present time in the Diary (Sep 15th 1663), and perhaps not mentioned previously…

(Summary from Man of War…Ollard)

During his time with Prince Rupert in France, in the summer of 1647, Holmes was shot in the leg, and as no French came to his assistance, Rupert himself went with Mortaigne to carry him to safety.

Sailing with Prince Rupert, they had to flee from Lisbon to the West Indies. While on the African coast (around Feb1652) Holmes and a companion were seized by natives and held for a day and night. Rupert tried to free them by force, but they escaped during the confusion with the help of Captain Jacus who was there as an interpreter.

13th September 1652 in the Swallow, Holmes and Rupert were caught in a hurricane off the Virgin Islands, and miraculously escaped wreck. The other three ships were lost, and Rupert’s brother, Maurice, was never seen again.

9TH May 1661 a day before sighting Sierra Leone he says “we had a tornado which was the first we met upon the coast.”

End of July 1663 Holmes was in Lisbon with the deputy Governor of Tangier and Fanshawe. Fanshawe arranged for them to see the King’s bulls, and what happened is not clear but they were bundled out of the royal stables. Castel Melhor summoned Fanshawe and accused him “in a very high voice” of endeavoring to make a breach between the two crowns. The consul was firm but tactful and another visit was arranged with the consul accompanying them.

15th September 1663 Holmes’ commission on the reserve ends. The Reserve had been chosen by Prince Rupert to test the pendulum watch of Huygens at sea. On his return Holmes submitted “An account of Going of the two watches at sea from 28th April to 4th September 1663.” Sir Robert Moray would present the report to the Royal Society on October 21st.

Pedro  •  Link

Holmes and the false muster.

Maybe a spoiler!

One of the prime exponents of the false muster was none other than Sir Robert Holmes, the distinguished naval officer and friend of the King. Whilst governor of the Isle of Wight, he was accused by one Joseph Brent of practicing false musters in his independent garrison company. The resulting court martial discovered the extent of Holmes's crimes. His steward and gardener were both entered on the rolls of the company but did no duty, nor received any pay, this going directly into the pocket of Holmes.

The son of the late Keeper of the Isle of Wight forest found himself mustered, Holmes sending his pay to his widowed mother, and, in addition, Holmes allowed the army to pay his coachman, groom, a brickmaker and a sailor who had been away at sea for four years. Holmes received no punishment.

(The Army of Charles II…J.Childs)

Pedro  •  Link

On this day the 10th November 1663...

The Duke of York signs the instructions for the second expedition of Holmes to the West Coast of Africa, which had been drafted by Coventry the Secretary of the Guinney Company.

Holmes was to sail for the Gambia to assist in "protecting and promoting the Interests of the Royal Company, which is the sole end of your present voyage." In general he was to maintain the right of the Company to trade where it pleased on the African coast and he was specifically empowered to "kill, take, sink or destroy such as shall oppose you and to send home such ships as you shall so take." He was also to do his best to send home the Goulden Lyon and the Christiana both of which the Royal Company had a long score to settle.

Pedro  •  Link

Holmes' first expedition to West Africa.

(Summary from Ollard's Man of War)

Holmes had sailed with Prince Rupert and the Royalist fleet to the West Indies on their flight from Blake, during the interregnum. They had called at the Gambia where Rupert sailed up the river and brought back intelligence of mountains of gold.

This no doubt influenced the Royal Family to send a venture to parts of Africa and as Sam says...

"This day I heard the Duke speak of a great design that he and my Lord of Pembroke have, and a great many others, of sending a venture to some parts of Africa to dig for gold ore there. They intend to admit as many as will venture their money, and so make themselves a company. 250l. is the lowest share for every man. But I do not find that my Lord do much like it."


The King supplied five ships in exchange for a promise embedded in the Companies Charter that the King should receive two thirds of "all gold mines which shall be seized, possessed and wrought in the parts of the place aforesaid."

The Companies affairs were managed by a committee of six, including Coventry. Holmes had general instructions to afford the Company's factors all assistance in promoting their trade and safe delivery of the Company's cargoes and the materials to build a fort. He also had private instructions to go to the mines up the Gambia River..."and the boats are to be brought down full of Gold or the richest sands."

Holmes sailed in January 1661, and according to Dutch sources, on reaching Cape Verde he told the Governor that the King of England claimed exclusive rights to trade between Cape Verde and the Cape of Good Hope, and that all Dutch forts were to be evacuated within a few months. Holmes did not log this event.

The mouth of the Gambia River was protected by an island called Dog Island, and within three days of arrival Holmes renamed it as Charles Island and decided that it was a suitable place to build a fort. He also took the fort of St Andreas located up the river near Jillifri from the Dutch, on the pretext that they had fired on a frigate and would not let her water at the Island. The island was renamed as James Island, and would provide matter for much diplomatic negotiation over the next decade. (Twelve years later Holmes was to say that "it was a little fort with two men and a dog in it", one of the earliest instances of the phrase.)

Holmes arrived back at the Downs in July. The venture had cost £4,000 and the hides, wax and ivory brought back worth £1,600. For exceeding his authority he was deprived of his pay, but for someone who lived a fashionable life and brought back the exotic baboon, he probably made room for more negotiable cargo.


The States-General in Holland vigorously protested, and retaliation was taken against English ships on the West Coast of Africa. Charles disavowed the High claims of Holmes to the Governor of Cape Verde.

Bill  •  Link

HOLMES, Sir Robert,—commanded the Bramble at the time of the restoration, and was, in the course of the same year, successively appointed to the Truelove and the Henrietta. In the year 1661, he was promoted to the Charles, and sent, as commodore of a small squadron consisting of four frigates, to the coast of Africa to make reprisals on the Dutch, who refused to make good their treaty they had entered into with the English; and had, in other instances, been guilty of great enormities, particularly in that part of the world, where they had, contrary to all the laws of nations, and existing treaties, possessed themselves of Cape Corse Castle by force. Major Holmes, as he was then called, had, on this occasion, the singular honour of being permitted to wear the union flag at his main-top-mast head, which is now the distinguishing mark of the commander-in-chief of the fleet. Having achieved all that was possible with his very limited force, and dispossessed the Dutch from several of their forts, he returned home; and was, in the next year, (1662) appointed to command the Reserve, a fourth rate of forty-eight guns. In the year 1663 he was removed into the Jersey of the same rate, carrying fifty guns, and sent, a second time, to the coast of Africa for the express purpose of reducing Cape Corse Castle. Having, in his passage, possessed himself of sufficient authentic documents of the hostile and treacherous intentions of the Dutch, he resolved, with the greatest patriotism, (inasmuch as he risked incurring popular censure by exceeding his orders) to punish their infamous conduct. With this intention, having arrived the latter end of January at the Cape de Verde, he proceeded to attack the island of Goree, which, though strongly fortified and resolutely defended, he took in the course of a few hours. Elevated by this so much merited success, he next attacked the fort of St. George Del Mina, the strongest fort in that part of the world possessed by the Dutch. Here his former good fortune failed him, though without the smallest neglect, or defect, on the part of sir Robert, or his people, either in point of courage, or prudence. In recompense, however, for his failure in this instance, Fortune aided him almost to a miracle in his next, which was the reduction of Cape Corse Castle. Having achieved this exploit he sailed for North America, where, in conjunction with sir Robert Carr, he reduced the island of New York.
---Biographia Navalis. J. Charnock, 1794.

Bill  •  Link

This biography, reprinted in 2001, should be very interesting reading!

Richard Ollard. Man of war: Sir Robert Holmes and the Restoration Navy. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1969.

One might remember Sir Robert Holmes as a rival of Samuel Pepys, who tended to make appearances as a villain in the navy man's Diary, but the often-overlooked Holmes had a distinguished naval career of his own. Adventurous, energetic, combative, and unscrupulous, Robert Holmes first attracted the attention of Prince Rupert as a young cavalry officer in England's Civil War. As a Royalist exile, he accompanied the Prince into French service and on a cruise to West Africa and the West Indies. After the Restoration, Holmes directed perhaps the most successful single feat of arms of the century, as he destroyed a great part of the Dutch merchant marine at the cost of barely a dozen casualties. For 30 years he intrigued, maneuvered, and quarreled with Pepys over naval matters, until the pair finally managed a mutual respect for their combined contributions to English naval superiority. Holmes makes a marvelous subject for Richard Ollard's thorough, skillfully constructed and unswervingly entertaining story.

Bill  •  Link

HOLMES, Sir ROBERT(1622-1692), admiral; served under Prince Rupert in civil war; governor of Sandown Castle, 1660; seized Dutch possessions on Guinea coast and in North America, 1664; captain of the Revenge at battle of Lowestoft, 1665; knighted, 1666; rear-admiral of the red, 1666; distinguished in fight of 1-4 June, 1666; fought duel with Sir Jeremiah Smith or Smyth arising out of his conduct in fight of 25 July, 1666; destroyed shipping and stores at Vlie and Schelling; admiral at Portsmouth, 1667; one of Buckingham's seconds in duel with Shrewsbury; governor of Isle of Wight, 1669; attacked Dutch Smyrna fleet in Channel, 1672; took part in battle of Solebay, 1672; M.P., Winchester, Yarmouth (Isle of Wight), and Newport.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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