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Sir George Ayscue
Admiral Sir George Ayscue by Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series.
Died5 April 1672
Westminster, London
Allegiance Kingdom of England
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1646–1672
RankAdmiral of the White
Commands heldAdmiral of the Irish Seas
Battles/warsBattle of Plymouth
Battle of Lowestoft
Four Days' Battle

Admiral Sir George Ayscue (c. 1616 – 5 April 1672) was an English naval officer who served in the English Civil War and the Anglo-Dutch Wars who rose to the rank of Admiral of the White. He also served as Governor of Scilly Isles (1647) and Governor of Barbados (1650–1652).


Ayscue (sometimes spelled Askew or Ayscough) came from an old Lincolnshire family, and was knighted by Charles I on 9 August 1641.[1] In 1646 he received a naval command, In August 1647 he was appointed Governor of Scilly Isles a post he held until January 1647.[1]

In July 1648, during the Civil War, while serving as a captain in the navy of the English Parliament, he was recognized as restoring sailors' allegiances at sea[2] and later in the year given command of two vessels and promoted to Rear Admiral.[3]

In 1649, he was appointed Admiral of the Irish Seas.[1] In 1650 Ayscue was appointed Governor of Barbados and Commander of the squadron sent to the island.[1] In 1651, he served with General at Sea Robert Blake in the capture of the Scilly Isles from Sir John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath. Later that year he captured Barbados from Lord Willoughby and the other English colonies in the Americas.[4]

In the First Anglo-Dutch War he was defeated by the Dutch Commodore Michiel de Ruyter at the Battle of Plymouth. Relieved of his command, he went into service in the Swedish Navy, returning after the Restoration of Charles II.[4] In 1664 he was appointed Rear-Admiral of the Blue Squadron.[5] In June 1665, he was appointed Vice-Admiral of the Blue.[1] During the Second Anglo-Dutch War he commanded a squadron at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665.

In February 1666, he was appointed Admiral of the Blue and at the start of the Four Days' Battle in June 1666 he was elevated to the rank of Admiral of the White,[1] his flagship, Prince Royal, ran aground on the Galloper Shoal and he was forced to surrender his ship to Lieutenant-Admiral Cornelis Tromp, earning the unfortunate distinction of being the highest-ranking English naval officer to have been captured by the enemy. He was held prisoner during the war in the Dutch state prison of Loevestein, and almost certainly never again took to sea as admiral.[4]

In December 1671, he was the President of the Court Martial of Rear-Admiral Sir William Jennings, held on board Monmouth.[1] Sir George Ayscue was still a serving officer when he died at his Westminster house on 5 April 1672. His burial was held on 13 April 1672 at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, London, England.[1][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Le Fevre, Peter (January 1982). "Sir George Ayscue, Commonwealth and Restoration Admiral". The Mariner's Mirror. 68 (2): 189–202. doi:10.1080/00253359.1982.10655858.
  2. ^ "House of Lords Journal Volume 10: 1 July 1648." Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 10, 1648–1649. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1767–1830. 354–356. British History Online. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  3. ^ House of Lords Journal Volume 10: 8 September 1648." Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 10, 1648–1649. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1767–1830. 493–497. British History Online. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ayscue, Sir George" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 77.
  5. ^ Campbell, John; Berkenhout, John (1785). Lives of the British admirals: containing a new and accurate naval history, from the earliest periods. London: G. G. J. and J. Robinsons ... p. 272.
  6. ^ Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Sir George Ayscue (d. 1672)". S. Harrison. Retrieved 16 February 2019.

1893 text

Sir George Ayscue or Askew. After his return from his imprisonment he declined to go to sea again, although he was twice afterwards formally appointed. He sat on the court-martial on the loss of the “Defiance” in 1668.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

11 Annotations

First Reading

Pedro  •  Link


Ayscue was Admiral of the Irish Station for Parliament in 1649 and blockaded Prince Rupert in the Port of Kinsale.

In 1652 the Parliamentary fleet under Ayscue subdued Barbados, and he returned to England with a number of prizes.

(Man of War…Ollard)

Pedro  •  Link


In 1659 Ayscue was in command as a Swedish admiral in the Sound.


Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

It is scarce possible to give a higher character of the courage of this brave admiral, than to say that he was. a match for Van Tromp or De Ruyter; both whom he engaged in the first Dutch war (before the Restoration) without being conquered. In 1648, when the fleet revolted to prince Rupert, he declared for the Parliament, and brought the Lion man of war, which he then commanded, into the river Thames. He was the next year appointed admiral of the Irish seas, and had a great hand in reducing the whole island to the obedience of the Republic. In 1651, he forced Barbadoes, and several other British settlements in America, to submit to the commonwealth. In 1652, he attacked a Dutch fleet of forty sail, under the convoy of four men of war: of those he burnt some, took others, and drove the rest on shore. Lilly tells us, in his Almanack for 1653, that he, the year before, engaged sixty sail or Dutch men of war, with fourteen or fifteen ships only, and made them give way. He protested against Blake's retreat in that desperate action of the 29th of November, 1652, thinking it much more honourable to die by the shot of the enemy. This, and his great influence over the seamen, are supposed to have been the reasons for his being afterwards dismissed from his command. He was a short time admiral in Sweden, under Charles Gustavus; but returned to England soon after the Restoration. In 1666, he commanded on board the Royal Prince, the largest ship in the navy, and generally esteemed the finest in the world. He engaged the Dutch with his usual intrepidity and success, in that memorable battle which continued four days: but on the third day his ship ran on the Galloper sand, and he was compelled by his own seamen to strike. He was for some months detained a prisoner in Holland; and during that time, was carried from one town to another, and exposed to the people by way of triumph. He never afterwards went to sea.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

AYSCOUGH, Sir George,—was descended from an ancient and honourable family in Lincolnshire; his father, William Ayscough, being gentleman of the privy chamber to king Charles the First, sir George was knighted by that monarch.
One of Cromwell's last projects was, that of prevailing on sir George to go over to Sweden to command the fleet of Charles Gustavus, who had ever been in the strictest alliance with him, and was now threatened by the Danes and Dutch. But, owing to the delays at home, the fleet sent under the command of vice-admiral Goodson, was prevented by the ice from entering the Baltic. Sir George proceeded to Sweden by land; and, as he was received, so he continued to live in the highest estimation, and favour with the king, to the time of his death, which happened early in the year 1660. Returning to England soon after the restoration, he was appointed commissioner of the navy, and, on the commencement of the Dutch war in 1664, rear-admiral ef the blue. In that station he served at the memorable battle of the 3d of June, having hoisted his flag on board the Henry; and on the duke of York's quitting the fleet, was promoted to be vice-admiral of the red under the earl of Sandwich, who carried the standard as admiral of the fleet. He was afterwards promoted to be admiral of the blue, and served in that capacity in the battle with the Dutch, which began on the 1st of June, 1666. During the two first days of the action sir George, as he had been ever accustomed, behaved with the utmost gallantry; but, unfortunately, on the third, while endeavouring to form a junction with prince Rupert and his squadron, who was hastening to the assistance of the English fleet, then hard pressed by the Dutch, he struck on a sand, called the Galloper, when after having, for a considerable time, defended his ship with the utmost bravery, against an host of enemies, he was at length compelled, his men absolutely refusing to defend the ship any longer, to surrender; and the Dutch being unable to get their conquest off, after having removed the men, set her on fire. The Dutch, according to their wonted Custom, insulting those whom they had conquered, paraded their captive through their whole country, and afterwards shut him up in the castle of Louvestein. When he returned to England he was received in the most gracious manner by the king, and most affectionately by the people. But after the misfortune he had met with, declining going to sea any more, he continued to live privately, and in so great a degree, that it is not, with any certainty, known at what time he died.
---Biographia navalis. J. Charnock, 1794.

Bill  •  Link

Admiral Sir George Ayscue, knighted by Charles I., but appointed Admiral of the Fleet in the Irish Seas in 1649 "for his fidelity and good affection to the Parliament." Vice-Admiral of the Blue Squadron under the Duke of York in the action with the Dutch fleet on June 3rd, 1665, and Admiral of the White under Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle in 1666, when he was taken prisoner by the Dutch (Diary, June 7th, 1666).
---Wheatley, 1899.

Bill  •  Link

AYSCUE, Sir GEORGE (fl.1646-1671), admiral; knighted by Charles I; was a captain in 1646; appointed admiral of Irish seas under parliament, 1649; actively engaged in relief of Dublin when besieged by Ormonde, 1649 ; assisted in reduction of Scilly, 1651; reduced Barbados and Virginian settlements, 1651-2; defeated Dutch in the Downs, and engaged them off Plymouth, the result being indecisive, 1652; superseded in his command but pensioned, 1652; commanded Swedish fleet, 1658; appointed a commissioner of the navy at Restoration; in second Dutch war (1664-6) successively rear-admiral, admiral of the blue, and admiral of the white; prisoner in Holland, 1666-7; probably did not serve again after return to England, 1667.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

From 2017 DNB:

‘Opinions of Ayscue varied. Clarendon called him ‘a gentleman, but had kept ill company too long, which had blunted his understanding, if it had ever been sharp: he was of few words, yet spake to the purpose and to be easily understood’. Pepys believed he did not have ‘much of a seaman in him … by his discourse I find that he hath not minded anything in [his ship] at all’, but then Ayscue had just criticized the lack of organization of the Navy Board which Pepys served. On the other hand, Sir William Coventry found him ‘a very honest, gallant man … he does not serve mercenarily, for he lives handsomely and honourably in the fleet, beyond his pay’.’

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The best highlights I've found of Sir George Ayscue's life is from the University of St. Andrews' Institute of Scottish Historical Research:…

George Ayscue's date and place of birth are unknown, but can be placed around 1615. He was born into a family of long established Lincolnshire landed gentry. His father held a minor court post under Charles I. Ayscue was knighted 9 August 1641, and married Mary Boys, the widowed daughter of Martin Fotherby, Bishop of Salisbury, before 1645, and thus became kin to Sir Henry Vane. A son, George, was baptised in 1645, but died sometime before 1672. His stepson was a Royalist, John Boys of Hoad Court, Kent.

Ayscue lived in "considerable style" at Hamm Court, Weybridge, Surrey, with additional income from commercial ventures.

The part which covers The Diary says:

Ayscue was a known Royalist sympathiser but he was probably not used as an intermediary, unlike other admirals.

Appointed Commissioner of Navy at Restoration, close advisor of James, Duke of York.

Vice Admiral of the Blue under Sandwich, 1665,
he joined in attack with Myngs and Albermarle on Sandwich over 1665 VOC prize goods scandal.

1666 'his Majesties Surveyor General' for Wey Navigation scheme.

Admiral of the Blue or the White [uncertain] in Royal Prince for 1666 campaign;

taken prisoner at the Four Days' Fight (1-4 June) after she ran aground on 3 June on the Galloper Sand and stuck fast without support and outnumbered. According to his own account he intended to blow her up, but the crew struck her flag.
The Dutch took Ayscue and the men off and then burnt Royal Prince.
Ayscue was paraded through The Hague to contradict rumors of his ill-treatment (that he had been painted as the Devil, burnt, and blown up) and appeared before the States General where he was courteously received.
Prisoner at Loevestein Castle until October 1667;
the Dutch refused to release him after the peace until he had paid 11,000 guilders for his board and lodging, the Dutch also refused security for the money.
Returned to England November 1667 and well received by Charles II.
Not much known after 1667;
he commander of Triumph in 1668,
in 1669 he visited his Irish estates but returned to claim compensation for damages received through the Wey Navigation scheme.
His wife Mary died in 1670.
1672 Vice Admiral of the Red under James, but died at his Westminster house, 5 April 1672, just after the outbreak of the Third Dutch War, but before the start of the fleet campaign.
Buried 13 April at St. Margaret's, Westminster.

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






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