Saturday 20 October 1666

Up, and all the morning at the office, where none met but myself. So I walked a good while with Mr. Gawden in the garden, who is lately come from the fleete at the buoy of the Nore, and he do tell me how all the sober commanders, and even Sir Thomas Allen himself, do complain of the ill government of the fleete. How Holmes and Jennings have commanded all the fleete this yeare, that nothing is done upon deliberation, but if a sober man give his opinion otherwise than the Prince would have it the Prince would cry, “Damn him, do you follow your orders, and that is enough for you.” He tells me he hears of nothing but of swearing and drinking and whoring, and all manner of profaneness, quite through the whole fleete. He being gone, there comes to me Commissioner Middleton, whom I took on purpose to walk in the garden with me, and to learn what he observed when the fleete was at Portsmouth. He says that the fleete was in such a condition, as to discipline, as if the Devil had commanded it; so much wickedness of all sorts. Enquiring how it come to pass that so many ships miscarried this year, he tells me that he enquired; and the pilots do say, that they dare not do nor go but as the Captains will have them; and if they offer to do otherwise, the Captains swear they will run them through. He says that he heard Captain Digby (my Lord of Bristoll’s son, a young fellow that never was but one year, if that, in the fleete) say that he did hope he should not see a tarpaulin have the command of a ship within this twelve months. He observed while he was on board the Admirall, when the fleete was at Portsmouth, that there was a faction there. Holmes commanded all on the Prince’s side, and Sir Jeremy Smith on the Duke’s, and every body that come did apply themselves to one side or other; and when the Duke of Albemarle was gone away to come hither, then Sir Jeremy Smith did hang his head, and walked in the Generall’s ship but like a private commander. He says he was on board The Prince, when the newes come of the burning of London; and all the Prince said was, that now Shipton’s prophecy was out; and he heard a young commander presently swear, that now a citizen’s wife that would not take under half a piece before, would be occupied for half-a-crowne: and made mighty sport of it. He says that Hubberd that commanded this year the Admiral’s ship is a proud conceited fellow (though I thought otherwise of him), and fit to command a single ship but not a fleete, and he do wonder that there hath not been more mischief this year than there hath. He says the fleete come to anchor between the Horse and the Island, so that when they came to weigh many of the ships could not turn, but run foul of the Horse, and there stuck, but that the weather was good. He says that nothing can do the King more disservice, nor please the standing officers of the ship better than these silly commanders that now we have, for they sign to anything that their officers desire of them, nor have judgment to contradict them if they would. He told me other good things, which made me bless God that we have received no greater disasters this year than we have, though they have been the greatest that ever was known in England before, put all their losses of the King’s ships by want of skill and seamanship together from the beginning. He being gone, comes Sir G. Carteret, and he and I walked together awhile, discoursing upon the sad condition of the times, what need we have, and how impossible it is to get money. He told me my Lord Chancellor the other day did ask him how it come to pass that his friend Pepys do so much magnify all things to worst, as I did on Sunday last, in the bad condition of the fleete. Sir G. Carteret tells me that he answered him, that I was but the mouth of the rest, and spoke what they have dictated to me; which did, as he says, presently take off his displeasure. So that I am well at present with him, but I must have a care not to be over busy in the office again, and burn my fingers. He tells me he wishes he had sold his place at some good rate to somebody or other at the beginning of the warr, and that he would do it now, but no body will deale with him for it. He tells me the Duke of Albemarle is very much discontented, and the Duke of York do not, it seems, please him. He tells me that our case as to money is not to be made good at present, and therefore wishes a good and speedy peace before it be too late, and from his discourse methinks I find that there is something moving towards it. Many people at the office, but having no more of the office I did put it off till the next meeting. Thence, with Sir G. Carteret, home to dinner, with him, my Lady and Mr. Ashburnham, the Cofferer. Here they talk that the Queene hath a great mind to alter her fashion, and to have the feet seen, which she loves mightily; and they do believe that it [will] come into it in a little time. Here I met with the King’s declaration about his proceedings with the King of Denmarke, and particularly the business of Bergen; but it is so well writ, that, if it be true, the King of Denmarke is one of the most absolute wickednesse in the world for a person of his quality. After dinner home, and there met Mr. Povy by appointment, and there he and I all the afternoon, till late at night, evening of all accounts between us, which we did to both our satisfaction; but that which troubles me most is, that I am to refund to the ignoble Lord Peterborough what he had given us six months ago, because we did not supply him with money; but it is no great matter. He gone I to the office, and there did some business; and so home, my mind in good ease by having done with Povy in order to the adjusting of all my accounts in a few days. So home to supper and to bed.

11 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the business of Bergen"

This had to do with the English expectation that the Danes/Norwegians were on their side against the Dutch in an engagement at Bergen and the Earl of Sandwich's being torched by the contrary action his fleet encountered.
See the note to 19 August 1665:

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...but I must have a care not to be over busy in the office again, and burn my fingers..."

Delightful...Sam is too good a worker for this King's Navy.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Sam will not forget these reports of the "ill government of the fleete" later in life, when he devotes his energies and his talents to the professionalization of the navy.

JWB  •  Link

"ill government of the fleete”

Yes, but it is the loyalty of the Royal Navy that is the King's first concern. And it is loyal and it does fight. "Professionalization" of the navy has its drawbacks too, the first of which is tendency to hold back and not put your ship (and home) at risk.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...nothing is done upon deliberation, but if a sober man give his opinion otherwise than the Prince would have it the Prince would cry, “Damn him, do you follow your orders, and that is enough for you.”..."

Hmmn...If the loud-mouthed, screamer c-in-c is lucky and/or talented enough to win or be on the winning side he is lauded... Hail,Caesar, Alexander "the Great", Patton or at least given grudging admiration...Stalin, "brutal but a Man of Steel", "World's (please) Toughest Boss". If however he loses in the end, however talented (or not), he's denounced as a megalomaniac or merely a loud-mouthed fool- Hitler, Napoleon, "Fighting Joe" Hooker. Generally the full career and behavior in adversity is what counts...Prince Rupert is generally regarded as personally a very able and brave commander in the field, but lacking in adminstrative skills and a bit mercurial at times in battle. Friendship and prejudice seem to be blinding him here but he does after all have a history that would tend to make him reluctant to give commands to former Commonwealth or even men in the Commonwealth mold (middle-class, no pedigree).

Robert Gertz  •  Link

...whoops, lost the end.

, however able.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Up, and all the morning at the office, where none met but myself."

At the end of all roads...And the Seething Lane Naval Office...

Unless of course Alternate Sam has escaped the hell of Brampton...

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

JWB: A favorite song, in point

Mahan, disparaging the rise of the tarpaulin over the soldier in the RN, notes, "The studious and systematic side of the French character also inclined the French officer, when not a trifler, to consider and develop tactical questions in a logical manner; to prepare himself to handle fleets, not merely as a seaman but as a military man. The result showed, in the American Revolutionary War, that despite a mournful history of governmental neglect, men who were first of all military men, inferior though they were in opportunities as seamen to their enemies, could meet them on more than equal terms as to tactical skill, and were practically their superiors in handling fleets. "

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Here I met with the King’s declaration about his proceedings with the King of Denmarke, and particularly the business of Bergen"

A true deduction of all transactions between His Majesty of Great Britain, and the King of Denmark : with a declaration of war against the said king, and the motives that obliged His Majesty thereunto
London, printed by John Bill and Christopher Barker, printers to the King's most Excellent Majesty, 1666
At foot of title page: Cum privilegio 24 p.
Reproduction of the original in the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery
Wing (2nd ed.), T2672
Online edition, Ann Arbor, Mich, UMI, 1999-, Early English books online

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