Sam begins the New Year in the difficult position of being torn between political Navy factions. On one hand, he has loyalties to both Lord Sandwich, whose reputation has been tarnished by the Prize affairs (12, 17, 28), and to Sir George Carteret, who is rumoured to be losing his position to Lord Craven (7, 26). On the other side Sam is viewed favourably by their enemy Sir W. Coventry (6). “To see what difficulty I stand, that I dare not walk with Sir W. Coventry, for fear my Lord of Sir G. Carteret should see me; nor with either of them, for fear Sir W. Coventry should” (28). Feeling alone he admits that “I must now stand upon my own legs” (7). A very bright note is that both the King (28) and Duke of York (28, 29) are highly complimentary and supportive of Sam and his work, something he shares details of with Elizabeth (30).
On a positive note, Elizabeth works “like a horse” all month redecorating their bedchamber (7, 9, 26) with very pleasing results. Sam, through Kate Joyce and her husband, seems to be making some progress in arranging a match between Pall and Harman (14, 25). Most satisfying of all is that by month end Sandwich’s 1000l. bond to Sam’s cousin (to which Sam was bound in the event that Sandwich defaulted) has been paid by Lord Sandwich from his prize money.
February sees a return to normal as Sam reconnects with those he hasn’t seen during the plague. He returns to church with Elizabeth (4), rearranges the books in his chamber to their pre-plague places (7), notes the return of Lady Batten (5), Sir Thomas Harvey (10) and Mr. Caesar his boy’s lute master (12). Sam watches the newly returned Queen and her ladies playing cards and notes that she looks well in spite of her recent miscarriage (19).
As Sam’s life settles in Lord Sandwich prepares to embark on a new phase of his career, as Ambassador to Spain (2, 16, 23, 25). Sam continues the delicate balance of the politics of the Sandwich, Carteret vs. Coventry situation (12, 14, 26). Other business surrounding the Navy continues (2, 6, 14) and Sam engages with the Houbland family (8, 9, 16) with hopes of gaining some payments along the way.
Elizabeth busies herself this month with the portrait painter Mr. Hales, who works on her portrait in the style of St. Katherine (14, 15, 27). Sam continues with his efforts to marry off his sister Pall (11), notes his brother John’s desire for a spiritual promotion (21), has a sad visit from Uncle Wight (18) and hears of the death of his Aunt James (4).
Sam’s life may well be back to normal as he finds himself “beset with people to spend me money” (20) complaining of the expense of becoming the godfather to Captain Ferrer’s daughter Katherine, the Valentine of Mrs. Pierce, the host of little Miss Tooker, and the source of a potential loan to Mrs. Lane.
With Lord Sandwich on his way to Spain, Sam sets out to re-establish his ‘good’ relationships with the Duke of York (7) and Mr. Coventry (6, 7) and even suffers through a “dirty, nasty dinner” with Albemarle (9, 25) to do so.
Issues surrounding accounts overwhelm Sam this month. He advised Sir George Carteret to come clean and be very open with the Board review of his accounts. Meanwhile Sam struggles with his own personal and public accounts and finds his head ‘confounded’ after days of struggling with them (25).
Sam thoroughly enjoys Elizabeth’s new portrait and starts to sit for his own (17). He finds a job for brother-in-law Balty, albeit a hazardous one as a Muster-Master at sea. He continues to negotiate with Harman as a potential husband for Pall although his father proposes a marriage with an unsuitable, albeit rather well off, drunk. He also receives news that his father is being sued for a debt of Tom’s (19, 21).
Perhaps the highlight of the month is found in the self reflections that Sam shares on the 9th and 10th as he writes quite honestly of himself: “I do see that my nature is not to be quite conquered, but will esteem pleasure above all things, though yet in the middle of it, it has reluctances after my business, which is neglected by my following my pleasure. However musique and women I cannot but give way to, what my business is” , and “The truth is, I do indulge myself a little the more in pleasure, knowing that this is the proper age of my life to do it; and out of my observation that most men that do thrive in the world, do forget to take pleasure during the time that they are getting their estate, but reserve that till they have got one, and then it is too late for them to enjoy it with any pleasure”.
Elizabeth visits Brampton to gather details about a potential husband for Pall (4, 19). Sam visits with Balty who prepares for his departure to sea as a Muster-Master aboard the Henry (27). Sam graciously sends some of his ruling work to Elizabeth’s father, which will provide him with much needed money (28). Sam writes a rather sharp letter to his brother John, the first he’s written to him since he become angry with him (28).
The most exciting family matter is that Sam acts on his August 1665 promise to buy Elizabeth a pearl necklace. Sam finds himself in a rather contented state in his marriage these days and finds himself “melancholy in the absence of my wife” (6) while she is away. His original promise was for a 60l. necklace, but he seems content to lay out 80l. Sam is pleased to record his net worth at 5200l. by month end.
With the Court in mourning at the death of Queen Catherine’s mother Sam dons his black coat (22) and notes how ordinary and plain Lady Castlemaine is in her black morning attire without her finery and makeup. The young Mrs. Stewart, however, still gets the nod of approval on her looks, even in her mourning attire (21).
Health matters start with the illness of little Su, Elizabeth’s ‘bad cheek’ (8, 12), and end with Sam’s sore eye (30). Most upsetting is the still-born baby delivered by Balty’s wife, which Sam takes in stride as “there is no reason to be sorry because his staying without a child will be better for him and for her” (30).
Sam enjoys Elizabeth and the ladies but faces Elizabeth’s wrath as she calls Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Knipp “whores” (9). Later, while discussing “the ladies” with Elizabeth, Sam admits that he is to blame for her upset here as Elizabeth “do find with reason, that in the company of Pierce, Knipp, or other women that I love, I do not value her, or mind her as I ought” (12).
Work worries surround Sam’s business, where “his defect in my duty of the Victualling, which lies upon me as a burden, till I get myself into a better posture therein, and hinders me and cast down my courage in very thing else that belongs to me, and the jealousy I have of Sir W. Coventry’s being displeased with me about it” (31).
The guns of the fleet are heard as battle against the Dutch unfolds (2, 4). Early excitement about a win turns to disappointment at a loss due to the division of the fleet (7, 8, 24). Balty escapes unharmed (8) but Sir William Clerke (7), Sir Christopher Mings (10) and Sir William Barkeley (16) are among the many that lose their lives. Fallout and blame are the fodder of gossip with finger pointing at Albemarle’s poor leadership, the poor morale of the seamen and general bad management. Holmes, Spragg and Smith (10) are viewed as those that carry out the business of true fighting.
As the battle news and fallout unfolds, Sam entertains his father and brings him to Hales to have his portrait done (6, 11, 14). Sam and his father discuss business (17) including the latter’s estate, Pall’s proposed marriage arrangements, and his brother John who is still in Sam’s bad graces (17). By month end much is settled with his father, but Sam’s “extended family” has an upset with the temporary departure of Mercer (23) after a falling out with Elizabeth.
Unruly men are pressed to sea (2) and the wives of those who have been held prisoner in Holland unnerve Sam as they shout out in anger and beg for money (10). Balty is among those who leaves for sea (19). The fighting begins along with worries about the state of the young gentlemen captains and their lack of ability (25). Sam’s worry is for naught with news of a victory as the English Navy beats them into the Weelings (29). Sam believes that there is a double victory at the death of De Ruyter but is disappointed to find this rumour is false (31). While the brave fight Creed tells Sam that things are mighty dull at Court, where they lounge in bed and have no drive to do any work or any cares to be productive (7).
With good news comes the bad as Sam is asked to be the godfather to Mrs. Knipp’s boy (6) followed by the sad news of the death of Mrs. Pierce’s newly born son (26). Mercer is back in the fold (5) and all settles down with Sam’s extended family this month.
Sadly the plague advances in Greenwich, Deptford and Deal as many escape for London (6, 9). New plague deaths are also reported locally. Sir Minnes becomes ill of ague (20, 22) and Sam fears Sir W. Pen may become Minnes’ replacement if he dies.
Sam and Elizabeth are at odds most of the month with arguments over Mrs. Knipp and Mrs. Pierce (6), Elizabeth’s unauthorised expenditure on a handkerchief (12) and her “snappish” ways (21). Sam’s only pleasure is in her painting of the Virgin head (9, 11) which he admires.
Naval news includes “Holmes’ bonfire” which is his famous burning of the enemy’s harbour and houses in Vile and Schelling (15). A friendly bet between Carteret, Batten and Sam about the action against the Dutch takes place (16). On a more stressful note, Sam is pulled in front of the King with little warning and must report on the want of victuals for the fleet (26). A few days later the King receives a letter from Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle complaining about their need for supplies which references Sam’s accounts of what has been sent, which fall short of their needs (28).
Jane awakens Sam and Elizabeth telling them of a “great fire” that she saw in the City (2). Sam leaves to White Hall with details of the fire to present to the King and Duke of York. Sam tells the King that unless he pulls down houses nothing will stop the fire. The King tells Sam to bring the Lord Mayor a command to spare no houses, but to no real avail as the fire begins to engulf the city over the next several days.
As the fire escalates Sam secures his belongings, carrying money and plate away in a cart loaned by Lady Batten, burying wine and Parmesan cheese in the garden (4) and locking up his gold (5) with strict orders for Elizabeth not to leave it alone. Over the next few days people and their goods are juggled throughout the city, from one “safe” place to another. Sam’s home remains as the fire subsides and he starts the slow process of moving back (13) and re-organising his home. In spite of all the work and dishevelled activity Sam is back in good form by month end (22) and pleased that his home is in as good condition as it ever was before the fire. Many in London are not in good shape and John Evelyn reports to Sam on the dismal state of the poor (22) and the lack of respect for the King.
The “ill condition of things … is the common subject of all men’s discourse and fears now-a-days” (12) with concerns of lack of money (27) and the sorry state of the Navy (17, 18, 25), and so Sam prepares his controversial “Great Letter” to the Duke of York detailing the dismal financial state of the Navy (16, 17, 18).
A fire erupts at White Hall and the whole city is once again in alarm (9), but this fire is contained. The Committee examining the Great Fire of September starts to place the blame on papist plots (5). Meanwhile the King starts to gather maps and information to look at the rebuilding of London (22).
Great festivities take place on the Queen’s birthday with all of the handsome courtiers and beautiful ladies dressed in their finery and dancing (15). On another fashion note there is gossip that the King of France has slighted King Charles II’s newest fashion, the vest, by dressing all of his footmen in vest attire. Although Sam sees it as an “ingenious kind of affront; yet it makes me angry, to see that the King of England is become so little as to have the affront offered him” (22). It seems that the King is lacking respect not only within his own country, but from afar.
Many themes continue this month as the year comes to an end. The Catholics defend themselves in The Catholique’s Apology (1) which Sam finds well written. A strangely ominous article that appeared in the London Gazette in April seems to add to the possible plots behind the Great Fire (13, 14).
The King’s court causes ongoing gossip with the Duke of Monmouth’s claims that he is the King’s rightful son (16). The £30,000 debts of Lady Castlemaine are paid off by the King (12). Although her ranking in the King’s affections seems to be falling, Sam is thrilled to purchase three prints of Lady Castlemaine and have one framed for himself (1, 21).
Sam hears that Lord Sandwich will be brought home (13) and writes him a long overdue letter (17). On the work front lack of money issues continue. A revolt of 1000 seamen brings fear to Sam (19) but the Duke of Albemarle steps in with forces to quell the uprising.
Sam starts to experience eye troubles and buys himself some spectacles with the hope that these will ease his pain (24, 27, 29). He writes his usual astute year-end summary showing overall disgust with the “public” state of the Kingdom but thankfulness for his robust estate and the well being of his family (31).