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set to his court; and it would have been well for him, and for the nation at large, had he adhered to his resolutions ; but his infamous paramour, Castlemaine, resumed her imperious sway within a few days after the king's marriage, and the poor queen was compelled not only to receive her at court, but to treat her as a friend, and load her with favours.
The following particulars from Pepys' diary will better illustrate the shameful licentiousness of this most religious and gracious' king, and his court, than any statements of our own :—“In the privy-garden,” says Pepys, “saw the finest smocks and linen petticoats of my Lady Castlemaine's, laced with rich lace at the bottom, that ever I saw; and did me good to look at them. Sarah told me how the king dined at my Lady Castlemaine's, and supped, every day and night the last week; and that the night that the bonfires were made for joy of the Queene's arrivall, the King was there ; But there was no fire at her door, though at all the rest of the doors almost in the street; which was much observed : and that the King and she did send for a pair of scales and weighed one another ; and she, being with child, was said to be heaviest.
“Mr Pickering tells me the story is very true of a child being dropped at the ball at court; and that the king had it in his closet a week after, and did dissect it ; and making great sport of it, said that in his opinion it must have been a month and three hours old; and that, whatever others think, he hath the greatest loss, it being a boy, as he says,) that hath lost a subject by the business. He told me also how loose the court is, nobody looking after business, but every man his lust and gain ; and how the king is now become besotted upon Mrs Stewart, that he gets into corners, and will be with her half an hour together kissing her to the observation of all the world ; and she now stays by herself and expects it, as my Lady Castlemaine did use to do: to whom the king, he says, is still kind, &c.
“Coming to St James's, I hear that the queen did sleep five hours pretty well to-night. The king, they all say, is most fondly disconsolate for her, and weeps by her, which makes her weep; which one this day told me he reckons a good sign, for that it carries away some rheum from the head! She tells us that the queen's sickness is the spotted fever; that she was as full of the spots as a leopard : which is very strange that it should be no more known; but perhaps it is not so. And that the king do seem to take it much to heart, for that he hath wept before her ; but, for all that, that he hath not missed one night since she was sick, of supping with my Lady Castlemaine; which I believe is true, for she says that her husband hath dressed the suppers every night ; and I confess I saw him myself coming through the street dressing up a great supper to-night, which Sarah says is also for the king and her; which is a very strange thing.
"Pierce do tell me, among other news, the late frolick and debauchery of Sir Charles Sedley and Buckhurst running up and down all the night, almost naked, through the streets : and at last fighting, and being beat by the watch and clapped up all night; and how the king takes their parts; and my Lord-chief-justice Keeling hath laid the constable by the heels to answer it next sessions; which is a horrid shame. Also how the king and these gentlemen did make the fiddlers of Thetford, this last progress, to sing them all the obscene songs they could think of! That the king was drunk at Saxam with Sedley, Buckhurst, &c. the night that my Lord Arlington came thither, and would not give him audience, or could not: which is true, for it was the night that I was there and saw the king go up to his chamber, and was told that the king had been drinking. He tells me that the king and my Lady Castlemaine are quite broke of, and she is gone away, and is with child, and swears the king shall own it; and she will have it christened in the chapel at White Hall so, and owned for the king's, as other kings have done ; or she will bring it into White Hall gallery, and dash the brains of it out before the king's face! He tells me that the king and court were never in the world so bad as they are now, for gaming, swearing, women, and drinking, and the most abominable vices that ever were in the world; so that all must come to nought.
“ They came to Sir G. Carteret's house at Cranbourne, and there were entertained, and all made drunk ; and, being all drunk, Armerer did come to the king, and swore to him by God, “Sir,' says he, you are not so kind to the duke of York of late as you used to be.'-—Not I ?' says the king. Why so ?'— Why,' says he, if you are, let us drink his health.'—Why let us,' says the king. Then he fell on his knees and drank it; and having done, the king began to drink it. • Nay, Sir,' says Armerer, .by God you must do it on your knees ! So he did, and then all the company : and having done it, all fell acrying for joy, being all maudlin and kissing one another! the king the duke of York,—and the duke of York the king ! and in such a maudlin pickle as never people were: and so passed the day !"
These licentious courses kept the royal finances in a wretchedly low state. With the infanta, Charles had received a portion of £350,000. This sum afforded but a temporary relief to the needy monarch. The chancellor suggested the sale of Dunkirk to the French king as a means of recruiting the royal finances; the proposal was eagerly caught at, and a bargain was ultimately concluded for 5,000,000 of livres. This base transaction roused the public indignation, and Charles was ultimately compelled to dismiss his chancellor, who sought his own safety in exile.
In 1663, a rupture took place with Holland, which, as it proceeded from commercial rivalry, was willingly supported by the nation. The commons voted a supply of £2,500,000 for the expenses of the war, and James, as lord-high-admiral, soon put to sea with ninety-eight sail of the line. Victory crowned the English fleet, after a tremendous engagement off Lowestoffe, on the 3d of June 1665; but the breaking out of the plague in London so depressed the public mind that the intelligence of the triumphant success of the national arms was received without any adequate demonstration of joy. The great fire of London, by which two-thirds of the metropolis were reduced to ashes, added to the national gloom and Charles's embarrassment. An insurrection in the west and south of Scotland, provoked by the intolerance of the episcopal party, next engaged the distracted attention of the ministry. It was repressed by the efforts of Dalziel ; but in appearance only. An unsubdued spirit of opposition to prelacy, and a keen sense of injury, still burned in the bosoins of the Scottish whigs, or covenanters, as they were called, and the new and rigorous laws passed by the parliament of Scotland in 1669, 1670, and 1672, aided by the still more tyrannicountenance. Upon the whole, Charles the Second was a bad man, and a bad king: let us not palliate his crimes ; but neither let us adopt false or doubtful imputations, for the purpose of making him a monster."
Sir George Ayscough.
DIED CIR. A. D. 1673.
The maritime annals of Great Britain, during the reign of the second Charles, present many illustrious names, among which that of Sir George Ayscough holds a distinguished place. Sir George was descended of an ancient Lincolnshire family. On the breaking out of the civil wars, he adhered to the parliament; and when seventeen ships went over to the prince of Wales in 1648, Sir George brought his ship, the Lion, into the Thames. This conduct procured for him the confidence of the parliament, who immediately sent him over to the Dutch coast to observe the motions of his late associates. In 1649, he was constituted admiral of the Irish seas ; and in 1651 he was sent to reduce the Scilly islands, then held by Sir John Grenville for Charles II. In this latter year he sailed for Barbadoes, where he summoned Lord Willoughby to submit to the authority of the parliament of England, and finally compelled that nobleman to acquiesce in the conditions offered to him.
In Lilly's almanack for 1653, we find the following observations under the head of August 16, 1652:—“Sir George Ayscue, near Plymouth, with 14 or 15 ships only, fought 60 sail of Dutch men-ofwar ; had thirty shot in the hull of his own ship. Twenty merchantmen never came in to assist him, yet he made the Dutch give way. Why our state shall pay those ships that fought not, we of the people know not. This is he that is a gentleman, lives like a gentleman, and acts the part of a generous commander in all his actions." The issue of this action, as well as the strength of the opposing fleets, is variously related by different historians. In the life of De Ruyter, it is affirmed that his squadron consisted of 50 men-of-war; and that advice of their arrival off the isle of Wight having been received by the English parliament, Sir George, who then commanded a fleet of 40 men-of-war in the west, was ordered to stretch over the channel to hinder, or at least dispute the passage of the Dutch fleet ; that the two fleets came to close quarters about four in the afternoon, and that the fight was obstinately maintained on both sides until nightfall. Whitlocke says the Dutch fleet consisted of 80 sail ; that the action lasted three days ; that Sir George Ayscough's squadron consisted of 38 ships of war, and four fire-ships, and that the Dutch admiral was sunk. Ledyard, who probably had access to good private information, says Sir George broke the enemy's line, and weathered them; but that, after this advantage, not being duly supported by the other ships, he retired to Plymouth during the night.
The parliament acknowledged Sir George's merits by granting him an estate of £300 per annum in Ireland, with the present of a sum of money ; but not wholly approving of his conduct at Barbadoes, they dismissed him from service. Sir George bore his disappointment with great equanimity. He retired into the country to a house in Surrey, which Whitlocke describes as so environed with ponds, moats, and water, that it resembled a ship at sea. Here he declared he meant to cast anchor for the rest of his life, but Cromwell prevailed on him to undertake the command of the fleet of Charles Gustavus of Sweden, then threatened by the Danes and Dutch. Sir George was received with great respect by the Swedes, and remained in this service till the death of Gustavus in 1663.
Returning home, soon after the Restoration, he was appointed one of the commissioners of the navy, and on the breaking out of the Dutch war in 1664, he went to sea as rear-admiral of the blue squadron, in which capacity he greatly distinguished himself in the engagement of the 3d of June, 1665. Next year Sir George hoisted his flag on board the Royal Prince, a ship of 100 guns, and was present at the great engagement which began on the 1st of June, between the Dutch fleet and the English. Towards the evening of the third day of that desperate fight, the Royal Prince unfortunately ran upon the sand-bank called the Galloper, and could not be got off. Sir George defended his vessel, with great resolution, until his men compelled him to surren
The Dutch paid a high compliment to his bravery and worth in the extraordinary parade with which they exhibited their captive in different towns. He was closely imprisoned in the castle of Louvestein, but obtained his release soon after, and returned to his native country, where he spent the remainder of his days in comparative retirement. The date of his death is not certainly known. It appears that he was employed in 1668, and that he hoisted bis flag on board the Triumph in 1671.
Sir Edward Spragge.
DIED. A. D. 1673.
Another name which graces the maritime annals of Charles the Second's reign is that of Sir Edward Spragge, who first appears as captain of the Portland in the year 1661. At the commencement of the Dutch war, in 1665, he was appointed to the Royal James, but was in a short time removed to the Triumph. In the great engagement betwixt the duke of York and Opdam, Spragge behaved with distinguished bravery. His services on this occasion were rewarded with the honour of knighthood. In the ensuing spring he was appointed to the Dreadnought, and served as rear admiral of the white. On the death of Sir William Berkeley, Spragge was named vice-admiral of the blue. In the action with the Dutch of the 24th July, 1666, the blue squadron, which was the weakest in the English fleet, found itself opposed to that of Van Tromp, which was the strongest division of the enemy's fleet. Notwithstanding of the odds in his favour, however, Van Tromp found himself so severely handled that, on the wind shifting, he availed himself of it to get out of the reach of his opponents.
Sir Edward commanded at Sheerness when that place was attacked by the Dutch in June 1667. The place itself was almost incapable of resistance; its whole defence consisted of a platform, on which were mounted fifteen iron guns. Yet, with these insignificant means, he for a time successfully resisted the approach of the Dutch vessels, and finally made good his retreat to Gillingham. When Van Naes, the Dutch admiral, came up the river again, after his attempt upon Harwich, Sir Edward engaged him about the Hope, and with a considerably smaller force, succeeded in compelling him to retire into his own seas.
In 1669, on the appointment of the constable of Castile to the governorship of the Spanish Netherlands, Sir Edward was sent over to compliment him upon that occasion, and to promote the success of some political measures. In this new capacity he acquitted himself to the satisfaction of his royal master. Soon after his return to England he sailed as vice-admiral of the fleet, under Sir Thomas Allen, destined to chastise the Algerines. Sir Thomas returned from the Straits in November, 1670, leaving Sir Edward commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. Towards the latter end of the ensuing April, having received intelligence of a number of Algerine corsairs laying in Bugia bay, Sir Edward determined on instantly attacking them. A first attempt failed, in consequence of an accident which happened to the fire-ship; and in the meantime the Algerines laboured incessantly to secure their vessels by a strong boom made of yards, topmasts, and cables, buoyed up by casks. On the 8th of May a fine easterly breeze having sprung up, Sir Edward bore into the bay, and came to anchor in four fathoms water, close under the castle, from which an incessant fire was kept up upon him for two hours. During this time the boats of the fleet were employed in cutting the boom, and clearing a passage for the fire-ship. When this service was effected, she was sent in, and the whole Algerine fleet, consisting of seven men-of-war, was destroyed. This important and daring exploit was achieved with the loss of only seventeen men killed, and forty-one wounded. It effectually crippled the power of the Algerines, and brought them to terms with the English government.
On the renewal of war with the Dutch in 1671, Sir Edward was appointed to serve in his old station of vice-admiral of the blue, and to him the duke of York confided the trust of equipping the fleet, and arranging every thing that was necessary for its future service. He was present at the battle of Solebay, and sunk one of the largest ships in the enemy's line.
On the death of the earl of Sandwich, Sir Edward succeeded him as admiral of the blue. Campbell says, with regard to this appointment, “ When the duke of York, by the passing of the test act, was obliged to part with his command, and the court, to gratify the desires of the nation, lay under an absolute necessity of making use of Prince Rupert, they took care to secure the fleet notwithstanding, by employing on board such officers only as they could best and he could least trust." We are not quite disposed to adduce this statement as evidence that Sir Edward possessed “every virtue that could render a commander great, or human nature respectable." On the contrary, we regard the fact of Sir Edward's appointment, in place of Sir Robert Holmes, whom the prince had specially recommended, as furnishing a very conclusive
Charnock, vol. i. 74.