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Phil Stokes  •  Link

John Kempthorne (c1620-1679), born of minor gentry in Devon, he was apprenticed to a merchant seaman, and eventually captained ships for the Levant Company, where he made his name as a fighter against pirates. During the Civil War his father fought for the King, but John avoided taking sides, and remained abroad, returning to England in 1660, and joining the Royal Navy under the patronage of Prince Rupert. Unlike many of the gentleman Royalist commanders Kempthorne was considered both a 'tarpaulin' (an experienced seaman), and a 'gentleman, and thus straddled the two factions in the Navy. He became a friend of Pepys, who consulted him on Naval matters, such as that concerning the promotion of officers by merit, not birth. He rose through the ranks to become an Admiral, fought with distinction in the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars, was knighted in 1670 for his famous fight with 7 Algerine pirate vessels, and ended his life as both Commissioner for the Navy at Portsmouth and the local MP (in the 1679 parliament). He was a much loved commander, who could fill his ships with volunteers without recourse to press gangs. He had three sons, all Naval men, Morgan died fighting Algerine Pirates off the Italian coast in 1681, Rupert was killed in a bar room brawl in 1692, and John died of fever returning from India with the East India Company in 1694.

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


  • Feb