Wednesday 25 April 1660

All the morning about my Lord’s character. Dined to-day with Captain Clerke on board the Speaker (a very brave ship) where was the Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral, and many other commanders.

After dinner home, not a little contented to see how I am treated, and with what respect made a fellow to the best commanders in the Fleet.

All the afternoon finishing of the character, which I did and gave it my Lord, it being very handsomely done and a very good one in itself, but that not truly Alphabetical.

Supped with Mr. Sheply, W. Howe, &c. in Mr. Pierce, the Purser’s cabin, where very merry, and so to bed. Captain Isham came hither to-day.

28 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

Speaker: more guns than Swiftsure:
.......__---- len--___wd....-dp-----wt/tons---crew--guns
Speaker----106ft--34/4--16/4----691-----260----- 52
Swiftsure--106ft--36/0--14/8----559-----260----- 36

Vince  •  Link

I'm lost to what this 'character' is - its not a CV, its possibly a character description or reference... but why alphabetical or not as SP describes and why does my Lord require one?

DanSki  •  Link

"CHARACTER" - In this instance, it's a coded letter written by Pepys on behalf of Lord Montagu. See yesterday's annotations for more information.

DanSki  •  Link

...As for it's not being "truly Alphabetical," I guess we're talking about a cipher here: a code in which each "written" letter corresponds to a "true" letter, according to a predetermined code.

For instance , if a=z, b=y, c=x, d=w and so-on, "Samuel Pepys" becomes "Hznfvo Kvkh"

Perhaps Sam means the character he has didn't conform entirely with it's governing code, or that the code itself was flawed in some way.

DanSki  •  Link

Except that should read "Hznfvo Kvkbh". Sorry all... been at work all night.

Susanna  •  Link

Not Truly Alphabetical

It was a fairly common practice in Pepys' day to use characters that were not part of the standard alphabet in one's ciphers. In addition to a simple substitution scheme (where, for instance, a=l, b=m, c=n, etc.), other original, i.e., non-alphabetical, symbols might be used to replace common words such as 'and', 'the', 'with' etc. There would probably also be nulls (symbols that stood for nothing at all, designed to confuse the enemy cryptologist) and possibly also a dowbleth (a symbol indicating that the next character should be read as a double letter).

I hope for Pepys' sake that his cipher was a good one, although I doubt it was as cleverly nasty as the Great Cipher used by Louis XIV's spymasters, Antoine and Bonaventure Rossignol (father and son), which after their deaths (they had not passed its secrets on to anyone else) was not broken until the 1890s. (For more fascinating information about the history cryptography, I recommend "The Code Book: the Evolution of Secrecy from Mary Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography", by Simon Singh.)

Mary  •  Link

'After dinner, home.... '

See how comfortable and well settled Sam now feels on board the Naseby; not 'back to my quarters' or 'back to my ship' but 'home'.

Pauline  •  Link

‘After dinner, home.… ‘
And how much it is like his life moving about the streets of London and Westminster, meeting and eating and drinking--and then home. It took me aback that he could do this from ship to ship with such ease.

Eric Walla  •  Link

Even the ship-to-ship travels are not that much ...

... out of the norm considering how often he'd been rowed from place to place on the Thames. And the amount his current destinations roll with the waves could be likened to a few stiff drinks at the inn.

Eric Walla  •  Link

What I personally like best ...

... is how the ships seem to be as well equipped with musical instruments as with cannon!

Laura K  •  Link


How would a character be deciphered? If Sam was making up a code on the spot - a different code, presumably, for each character he created - would the recipient have to crack the code? What if they couldn't do it? And if it was a simple code to decipher, couldn't anyone who intercepted the letter do the same?

If this wasn't the case, how would it work? I can't imagine there was a code book or a key somewhere...?

DanSki  •  Link

I'm guessing, of course, but I would imagine Montagu would use the same code, with the key distibuted to a small number of confidantes. Either that, or a personal code agreed with each contact.

It seems unlikely that Sam is making up a new code each time he sends a letter, as this would surely take too long, although theoretically it would be possible to make subtle changes to previously used ciphers using nulls and dowbleths to create a new cipher.

If the key wasn't already held by the recipient, perhaps it was sent under separate cover?

vincent  •  Link

Encode/Decode: Maybe a book, that both do have? or even the King James Bible ? The place in the book (page, chapter or paragraph, offsets by date) to give the offset code letter? or inbedded in the the name of sender or receiver? maybe an ex. sigs type may remember the history of secret codes of the times. It must be off the secret list by now in the age of disclosure, no longer "in patent" or maybe it is still a monopoly of the powers to be:

Susanna  •  Link

Codes, Ciphers, and Breaking Them

It was probably, technically speaking, not a code but a cipher. Probably a simple substitution cipher, examples of which can be seen in many newspapers (mine calls it the "Cryptoquote"). These are broken by freqency analysis, as it's hard to conceal that some letters are used far more often than others. ("In this message, Z appears more often than any other letter. If this message is written in English, it probably is 'E'...")

Codes can be harder to break, but also require a more elaborate setup (making sure all the users have the codebook, which might be large or hard to hide), and may be less flexible. (For instance, what if you want to send a message that includes terms not in your codebook?)

The simple substitution ciphers of Pepys' day were vulnerable to frequency analysis. Codes would have been vulnerable to theft of the codebook. Both would have potentially been vulnerable to too much usage of the same code or cipher, which is probably why Pepys periodically has the job of coming up with new schemes.

Mary  •  Link

If we knew who this character was addressed to

it would make it easier to guess at the kind of code or cypher being used. If it is for Monck, for example, it would be reasonable to guess that he and Mountagu have a particular character agreed between them and reserved to them.

vincent  •  Link

"All the afternoon finishing of the character, which I did and gave it my Lord, it being very handsomely done and a very good one in itself, but that not truly "Alphabetical" "Very time consuming and has a few extra twists in it to fool the spies.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"not a little contented to see how I am treated, and with what respect made a fellow to the best commanders in the Fleet"

It's not hard to imagine how those naval officers felt about having to "respect" a government bureaucrat who felt at "home" among them. Our Sam is indulging in a bit of self-deception, I think.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"not a little contented to see how I am treated, and with what respect made a fellow to the best commanders in the Fleet"

Pepys is now inside a different culture,, whose customs astonish him. He is a representative of the Admiral and is treated well -- above his rank.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

From the House of Commons blog:

The ‘Convention’ that wasn’t: the Opening of the 1660 Parliament

By Dr. Andrew Barclay, senior research fellow for our Commons 1640-1660 project. …

Prior to dissolving itself on 16 March 1660, the Long Parliament had agreed that a new Parliament should meet on 25 April.

The elections held over the next 6 weeks used the old franchises revived for the 1659 Parliament. Unlike then, the new Parliament did not include MPs from Scotland and Ireland. The other obvious difference from 1659 was that it included the traditional House of Lords, not the Cromwellian ‘Other House’. The new assembly was consciously intended as the Long Parliament’s successor, although one with a fresh electoral mandate.

But was this a ‘Parliament’?

Modern historians usually say at this stage it was a ‘Convention’,because it had not been summoned by a monarch. It thus did not become a Parliament until the June 1660 when by its first Act, which received the assent of the newly restored king, Charles II, it declared itself to be one. ... That the 1660 body was initially only a ‘Convention’ is why it is sometimes called ‘the Convention Parliament’. All this however rests on an anachronistic distinction. The Long Parliament’s ordinance of the previous March by which this replacement was summoned spoke of it only as a ‘Parliament’ and the Journals of both the Commons and the Lords call it a ‘Parliament’ from the first entries on 25 April.
The later Act declaring it to be a ‘Parliament’, while acknowledging the doubts over the lack of royal writs, never say it had not been one before.

Nor is there evidence that contemporaries called it a ‘Convention’.
Sir Edward Dering, whose notes are the only surviving diary by a sitting MP covering its opening days, just calls it a Parliament (Dering, Diaries, 35).

The body meeting at the same time in Dublin was the ‘General Convention’, but, as Patrick Little has recently explained, that was not quite the same as a full Irish Parliament.

Tellingly, the earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary for the word ‘convention’ being used for a English parliamentary assembly of questionable legality does indeed date from 1660, but it is from a comment by Sir Orlando Bridgeman at the trial of the regicides and is really an unflattering reference to the Rump (1648-1653, 1659-60).

The idea that a Convention is a Parliament-like body summoned without royal writs dates only from the next such occasion, the ‘Convention Parliament’, summoned in 1689 following the flight of James II, when the issue of the writs was far messier and thus more precisely considered.

Historians only later applied the term ‘Convention’ to the 1660 Parliament retrospectively, as well as, even more anachronistically, the 1399 Parliament.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


The MPs who assembled at Westminster on 25 April were a mix of experienced men and novices. Half of them had never been MPs before, a quarter had sat in the Long Parliament, and about one in three had been Members of Richard Cromwell’s Parliament the previous year.

Their political views are more difficult to pin down. This Parliament has few diaries and no division lists.
On the biggest issues, most especially the Restoration of the monarchy, many seem just to have accepted, albeit with misgivings, the prevailing mood.
The History’s Commons 1660-1690 volumes state that about half of the Members were ‘Anglican’ (implying they were committed to bishops and the Book of Common Prayer), but that is a crude measure, especially at a moment when the shape of any religious settlement was still open.

The Commons began by electing Sir Harbottle Grimston as its Speaker. A professional lawyer who had first been elected as an MP in 1628, he had made a famous speech on the nation’s grievances during the opening days of the Long Parliament.
George Monck, the man of the hour, helped drag him to the Speaker’s chair was surely deliberate symbolism.

The Lords re-elected Gen. Edward Montagu, 2nd earl of Manchester, who had been their Speaker during some of the most eventful periods of the 1640s.

In the Commons the first 3 days were dominated by routine business – appointing its officials, hearing election disputes, setting a fast day and a day of thanksgiving. The only legislation introduced was a bill against vagrants. Monck was thanked, as was Richard Ingoldsby, who had recently arrested John Lambert, the leader of the diehard republicans in the army.

The key move by the Lords was its decision to admit those peers who had succeeded to their peerages since 1649.
The first steps were also taken by them to appoint Monck as the captain general for England, Scotland and Ireland.

Neither House then met over the weekend and the Monday had been set aside as a fast day, although the Lords did transact some minor matters before processing to the service in Westminster Abbey.
In truth, all this was just marking time. Everyone was waiting for Monck to declare his hand.
The Commons agreed that when they resumed on the Tuesday (1 May), they would discuss the ‘Settlement of these Nations’.
Meanwhile, the Lords asked for a joint conference with them on that day ‘to make up the Breaches and Distractions of this Kingdom’.

The events of 1 May would end the uncertainty.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The British Civil War Project also have a point of view about what happens today:

The reinstated MPs were Presbyterians who had wanted to continue negotiations with King Charles I after the first civil war, and who now sought a restoration of the monarchy, but with constitutional limitations on Charles II's powers.
The Presbyterians formed a majority over the republican "Commonwealthsmen" in Parliament and over the few MPs who wanted to revive the Protectorate.
A number of Presbyterian church reforms were introduced, but the Long Parliament was obliged to call new elections and duly dissolved itself on 16 March, 1660.

The election campaign for the new Parliament was principally fought over the issue of the monarchy. The nation as a whole almost unanimously favoured the monarch's return, and this was reflected in the election results.
The republicans and army officers who had dominated recent parliaments were swept from power and replaced by Royalists and Presbyterians.

The new parliament was called the English "Convention" because it had not been summoned by a sovereign. Unlike the Protectorate parliaments, only English constituencies were represented in the Convention. Separate parliaments for Scotland and Ireland were reinstated.

When the Convention assembled on 25 April 1660, a small group of experienced Presbyterian politicians known as the "Presbyterian Knot" attempted to gain control of Parliament in order to promote their policy of a conditional restoration.
The Presbyterian Sir Harbottle Grimston was elected Speaker of the House of Commons before the full House had assembled, and Gen. Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester was elected Speaker of the House of Lords, which sat for the first time since its abolition under the Commonwealth in February 1649.
Manchester tried to limit attendance at the Lords to 16 senior Presbyterian peers and to exclude the "young Lords" who had come of age during the Interregnum and who were expected to favour an unconditional restoration. However, it proved impossible to restrict attendance, and around 145 peers eventually took their seats, a large majority of whom were Royalists.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Captain Isham came hither to-day."
Presumably he is still the captain of the Swiftsure. He must have just arrived in the Downs.

MartinVT  •  Link

In 2017 above, Bill and Terry Foreman commented that Sam is being treated above his rank and is indulging in self-deception with regard to his importance. But let me posit a contrary opinion: Sam is being invited to dine with vice admirals, rear admirals and captains, because just as Sam is a hell of an interesting fellow to *us*, he probably also struck *them* as a hell of a conversationalist and great dinner companion. It didn't hurt that he worked for Mountague (and he would not have been invited had he held some lower rank) but this "respect" and inclusion is not solely due to his position as Mountague's clerk.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Agreed, MartinVT -- plus he's about to become a Commissioner of the Navy when they get home. Enlightened self-interest on the part of the Captains to get to know the guy who will be approving their invoices shortly. I bet word had leaked on that one (hard to keep a secret on a ship).

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"When the new Parliament met on 25 April 1660 few doubted that it would restore the monarchy. The real question was whether it would try to impose any conditions on Charles II. Lots of people, including quite a few MPs, still hoped that some variation on the deal discussed with Charles I at Newport on the Isle of Wight in 1648 might be possible. The late king had been willing to make concessions on church government and control of the militia. That his more flexible son might agree something similar seemed plausible enough."

Another insightful blog post from Dr. Andrew Barclay, senior research fellow for our Commons 1640-1660:

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