A career man’s crisis

“Chance without merit,” said Samuel Pepys, had won him his post as the navy’s Clerk of the Acts. Mischance without personal demerit almost cost him all on June 12,1667, when a Dutch squadron sailed boldly up the Thames, burned part of the British fleet at anchor, right, and towed away the royal flagship before the eyes of the humiliated British.

The public “dismay,” said Pepys, was comparable to nothing save the panic of the recent London Fire. Tales of official corruption, reports of gun batteries equipped with the wrong ammunition, fed the popular fury. For days after the Dutch raid, Pepys fully expected a mob to break into the navy office. He feared,too, that the King might clap him into the Tower. That he, of all people, was blameless, was no shield at all, as Pepys well knew.

—James II (1633–1701), as Duke of York
by Peter Lely(and studio attributed to)
Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum
Date painted: c.1666–1685
Oil on canvas, 124 x 101 cm
Collection: Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum
Read More:http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/james-ii-16331701-as-duke-of-york-61900

“Only favour,” Pepys himself had said, “do prevail in the world.” As Clerk of the Acts, for example, his influence dpended very little on his official status, for no tidy civil-service hierarchy then existed. Among the richer and better connected colleagues on the Navy Board, Pepys might have been the last among equals had he not won some favor wit the King’s brother, James, Duke of York, the Lord High Admiral, above, and with James’s secretary, Sir William Coventry, below, who shared Pepys’s quite uncommon concern for efficiciency in carrying out the King’s business.

Fortunately for Pepys, his friends did not betray him during the frenzied hunt for scapegoats. A few weeks after the Dutch attack, he learned to his relief, the King himself singled Pepys out as the one shining figure in the tarnished navy office. The Dutch disaster,in fact, put Pepys on the high road to success. With the backing of the Duke of York, he now became the driving force behind naval reform. Advancing steadily, he eventually became civilian chief of the navy in 1684.

—The moment of triumph, the capture of the Royal James is shown on this work by Peter van den Velde. The unrigged Royal Charles in the center still bearing the Flag of the Red but a Dutch tricolor is already hoisted on the masthead. The burning fire ships are shown grappled with the Matthias and the Carolus V already in flames.—Read More:http://www.sailingwarship.com/category/dutch-navy

But by 1684, Pepys was in his fifties, a widower for years, and had long since discontinued his diary. Had he never kept that diary, he would still be remembered by historians as one of the greatest administrators in the annals of the British navy. Because he did keep it, however, the busy, curious, energetic little man who was making his way in the aristocratic age of the Stuarts also became an immortal.


(see link at end)…Later the mighty Royal Charles was taken after putting little resistance. This ship, originally Naseby 80-gun First Rate, renamed Royal Charles after the Restoration, had served as flagship for such famous admirals as Blake, Monck and Duke of York. Its capture was the ultimate humiliation for the English fleet.

The tide began to fall and the Dutch could not proceed any further that day. Still there were three more ships up the river, Royal James, Loyal London and Royal Oak. The English realized that the only way to prevent their capture

to sink them and so they were scuttled. Next day De Ruyter took command of the attack personally. The sunken ships were reached by the fire ships and set on fire.

β€œThe destruction of these three stately and glorious ships of ours was the most dismal spectacle my eyes ever beheld,”
wrote Edward Gregory, Clerk of the Cheque of Chatham Dockyard.

The next day the Dutch finally withdrew. The tide was falling and the ships regularly ran aground. Royal Charles and Unity were taken along as prizes. Despite the obvious success not all objectives were accomplished. For one, Johan de Witt was not satisfied pointing out that the actions of the fleet were insufficiently aggressive and not accepting arguments of shallow water and adverse wind. Chatham Dockyard was not burnt and had it been destroyed it would have taken a generation to rebuild. Furthermore the political aim was not reached as well. Despite disastrous events such as plague, the Great Fire of London 1666 and then the raid itself, no rebellion ensued. Read More:http://www.sailingwarship.com/category/dutch-navy

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