3 Annotations

First Reading

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Per L&M Companion:

(Jennings), Sir William, kt. 1665 (d. 1690) A naval commander in almost continuous employment 1661-88. 'A proud, idle fellow' (ix 430 http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1… ), he was in trouble in 1665 for ill-treating his sailing master; between April 1667 and November 1668 had taken on board more men than those allowed to him and had attempted to cast the blame on his purser, his pay was stopped in 1669; in 1670 was imprisoned for having his wife aboard, and in 1688 was fined for brawling. He then fled to France and fought in the French navy against the English in the Battle of Beachy Head in the 1690's.


DNB entry:

JENNENS, Sir WILLIAM (/. 1661- 1690), captain in the navy and Jacobite, is said by Charnock (Biog. Nav, i. 106) to have I belonged to ' a very respectable family in the county of Hertford,' a statement probably due to some confusion with Sir John Jennings [q. v.l, who does not appear to have i been any relation. Le Neve, who may have I had a personal reason, has noted him, though doubtfully, as ayounger brother of Sir Robert Jennings of Ripon (Pedigrees of the Knights, Harl. Soc., p. 92) ; but it has been pointed out (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ix. 124) that neither Sir Robert nor Sir William are recognised in Dugdale's'Visitation of Yorkshire' in 1665. All that is certain is that he himself wrote his name'Jennens.' In 1661 he was appointed second lieutenant of the Adventure. In 1664 he was successively lieutenant of the Gloucester and the Portland, and on 11 Oct. was promoted to be captain of the Ruby, one ot the white squadron in the battle of 3 June 1665, some time after which he received the honour of knighthood. That the date is not given by Le Neve would seem to imply that he stood on naval privilege, and refused to pay the fees. He still commanded the Ruby in the four-days' fight of \-4 June 1666, after which he was moved into the Lion, and in her took part in the action of 25 July. At the burning of the Dutch shipping at the Vlie on 8 Aug., he commanded in the second post under Sir Robert Holmes [q. v.] Jennens was afterwards appointed to the Sapphire, and in the disastrous summer of 1667 had charge of a division of the small vessels got together for the defence of the Thames. Pepys implies that he was a man of dissolute and profane life (Diary, 20 Oct. 1666;, speaks of him as ' a proud, idle fellow,' whom he suspected of malpractices (»6. 29 Jan. 1668-9), and says that a complaint he brought against his lieutenant, Le A eve,' was a drunken quarrel, where one was as blameable as the other' (ib. 23 Nov. 1666; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom., 7Jan. 1664-5). In 1670Jennens commanded the Princess, in which he conducted a convoy to the Mediterranean, and on his return was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, ' only,' as he wrote, ' for having his wife on board some part of the late voyage, which was no prejudice to the service ' (State Papers, Dom. Charles II, xlyiii. 137-8-9. These petitions are calendared in error under 1661? Calendar 1661-2, p. 232). The Duke of York would seem to have condoned the offence, and in 1673 Jennens commanded the Victory in the several engagements between Prince Rupert and De Ruyter. He was afterwards captain successively of the Gloucester, the French Ruby, and the Royal James guardship at Portsmouth. In July 1686 he was appointed to the Jersey, also a guardship at Portsmouth; and on 20 Feb. 1687-8 he was tried by court-martial for brawling on shore with Captain Skelton of the Constant Warwick, another guardship. They were each reprimanded and fined nine months' pay (Minutes of the Court-martial). On 5 Sept. 1688 he was, notwithstanding, appointed to the Rupert, which was still fitting out in October, but was probably one of the fleet with Lord Dartmouth in November (cf. Memoirs relating to the Lord Torrington, Camden Soc., pp. 25, 29).

When James II abdicated, Jennens went over to France, and entering the French navy, served in some capacity in it in the action off Beachy Head, 30 June 1690. Charnock says ' he condescended to become third captain to a French admiral;' and an intercepted letter to another traitor speaks of him as' one of their admirals' (Alice Teate to her husband, Matthew Teate, 16 July, enclosed in Killigrew's letter of 18 July, in Home Office Records, Admiralty, vol. i v.) The French lists do not acknowledge him in either capacity, and it is more probable that he was serving as a volunteer and pilot on Tourville's staff. Nothing more is known of him.

[Chiirnock's Biog. Nav. i. 106 ; other references in text.] J. K. L.

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Historian/novelist J.D. Davies has spent years researching the Anglo-Dutch Wars and thinks he knows who Jennens was:


William Jennens was born in 1634, the youngest son of Sir John Jennens, MP for St. Albans -- and an uncle of the future Sarah Jennings Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.

Eccentric, often unpleasant, but always larger than life, Sir William Jennens was one of the most colorful of the ‘gentlemen captains’.

We know little about Jennens’ life before the Restoration, but he was lieutenant of the Newcastle in 1660, and served in three other ships in 1661-4.

The Second Anglo-Dutch War brought William Jennens his first command, the Fourth Rate Ruby, in which he fought at the battle of Lowestoft (3 June 1665)
and at the Four Days’ Fight (1–4 June 1666), in which he was wounded. His bravery and the patronage of Prince Rupert brought Capt. Jennens a knighthood and the command of the Third Rate Lion, in which he served at the St. James’ Day Fight, 25 July 1666.

Capt. Sir William Jennens was Holmes’ second-in-command for the raid Terschelling in August 1666 – the incident which also destroyed a pacifist Mennonite community and is known as ‘Holmes’s bonfire’.

From then on Capt. Jennens’ career went downhill, thanks to his abrasive personality which led to Pepys describing him as ‘a proud, idle fellow’.

Capt. Sir William Jennens was accused of cowardice during the Dutch raid on the Medway, and later of administrative irregularities during a Mediterranean cruise. His command of the Princess in 1670–71 led to his dismissal from the service for having his wife aboard during the voyage, and he was sentenced to a year and a day in the Marshalsea prison.

The Third Anglo-Dutch War saw his rehabilitation and he commanded the Second Rate Victory in 1673. He was wounded at the battle of the Texel,11 August 1673.

Capt. Jennens next commanded the guardship Royal James at Portsmouth in 1678–9. This led to a series of clashes with Pepys. He was reprimanded for keeping women aboard and for plundering wine from Dutch vessels wrecked on the Isle of Wight.

From 1678 onwards Jennens was involved in developing the patent for the first Turkish ‘bagnios’ in London, which only led to a series of protracted lawsuits.

Capt. Sir William Jennens was a prosecution witness in the show treason trial of Stephen Colledge, a poet who wrote verses against Charles II during the Popish Plot.

In 1686 Capt. Sir William Jennens took command of the guardship Jersey at Portsmouth, but was reprimanded and fined by a court martial in 1688 for a drunken brawl at a dinner with a fellow captain.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

During the crisis of 1688 which culminated in the ‘Glorious Revolution’, Capt. Sir William Jennens commanded the Rupert and was the leading critic of the fleet’s strategy of not intercepting the invasion force of William of Orange.

Further clashes with Pepys and other authorities led to Jennens following James II into exile, one of the few Protestants at the exiled court at St. Germain.

During the crisis of 1688 which culminated in the ‘Glorious Revolution’, Capt. Jennens commanded the Rupert and was the leading critic of the fleet’s strategy of not intercepting the invasion force of William of Orange.

Further clashes with Pepys and other authorities led to Jennens following James II into exile, one of the few Protestants at the exiled court at St. Germain.

In 1690-91 Capt. Jennens served aboard the French flagship, interrogating British prisoners for sending Jacobite propaganda ashore, and helped plan the projected Franco-Jacobite invasion of 1692.

In 1698 Sir William Jennens returned to England in an unsuccessful attempt to be pardoned; he was quickly deported him, before his creditors caught him, but his betrayal of the Jacobites ruled out a return to France.

Capt. Jennens was in Lisbon in 1699 and offered his services to the Portuguese crown. Jennens probably died in Lisbon in 1704 -- the year his niece’s husband won his great victory at the Battle of Blenheim.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


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