During James I. reign great fleets of Turks, corsairs from North Africa and Dunkirkers terrified merchants, as they roamed the channel as they pleased. Between 1609 and 1616 they captured 466 English ships and enslaved their crews. In 1625 Plymouth complained that one thousand of its seasmen, had been sold into slavery, and 27 ships lost.
The position of Lord High Admiral was put into commission. Although the Navy was not maintained at a very great strength, these commissioners nevertheless took steps to see that the fleet was efficient. Queen Elizabeth's favourite Walter Raleigh continued to fall from grace his service during the Spanish Armada, was forgoten, his failure later to find "El Dorado" in Guiana, brought his recall, imprisonment and death;
Charles I, initiated many reforms, the ships that were constructed were of good quality, the first three-decker was built in England in 1637. She was called the Sovereign of the Seas, designed by Phineas, and built by Peter Pett, her length was 169 feet 9 inches, beam 48 feet 4 inches, and depth of hold 19 feet 4 inches, and was deemed the best man-of-war in the world.The personnel of the fleet, were increased and pay was better. To pay for these Charles I revived the levy of ship money for the construction and increase of those employed in the Navy. In 1634 he levied the coast towns, and in 1635 issued writs for ship-money all over the kingdom. The tax met with strong opposition, and the refusal of John Hampden to pay the twenty shillings at which he was rated was one of the proximate causes of the civil war. Charles left a small Navy, at the outbreak of war the king had only about 40 ships. During the period 1642 - 60 the Navy passed into the hands of Parliament, and was controlled by admirals appointed by it.
|Under Cromwell the Navy was used as an
instrument to enforce respect for us abroad, by 1660 the Navy had more than trebled in size, to 229 ships and had
nearly trebled in tonnage. Further, the naval service was no longer regarded as of necessity a service by pressed
men; the admiral of the Commonwealth, realising the error of this, opened the service to voluntary servants as
well as pressed crews. In view of the ever-increasing trade of England and the necessity to protect the merchant
service, the increase of the Navy was essential to the well-being of the nation.
Samuel Pepys early acquired the patronage of Sir Edward Montagu, afterwards Earl of Sandwich, who employed him as secretary in the expedition for bringing Charles II. from Holland. On the restoration of King Charles II. the Navy was renamed the Royal Navy, we also have during his reign the first mention of a vessel to which the name of "yacht" was given in England. "Yaugh" Pepys was appointed one of the principal officers of the navy.
|Samuel Pepys, secretary to the admiralty in the reigns of Charles II. and James II., was born at Brampton, Huntingdonshire, 1632, and educated at Cambridge. His title to fame rests upon his Diary (1659-69), which is a most entertaining work, revealing the writer's own character very plainly, giving an excellent picture of contemporary life, and of great value for the history of the court of Charles II.||In 1673, when the king took the admiralty into his own hands, Pepys was appointed secretary to that office, and performed his duties with great credit. During the excitement of the Popish Plot he was committed to the Tower, but was after some time discharge d without a trial, and reinstated in his office at the admiralty, which he held until the abdication of James II. He was president of the Royal Society for two years; He died in 1703.|
Robert Blake soon distinguished himself, and in 1649 he was sent to command the fleet with Colonels Deane and Popham. He attempted to block up Prince Rupert in Kinsale, but the prince, contriving to get his fleet out, escaped to Lisbon, where Blake followed him. Being refused permission to attack him in the Tagus by the King of Portugal, he took several rich prizes from the Portuguese, and followed Rupert to Malaga, where, without asking permission of Spain, he attacked him and nearly destroyed the whole of his fleet.
The Dutch War of 1652-54
Blake's greatest achievements were, however, in the Dutch war which broke out in 1652. On the 19th of May he was attacked in the Downs by Van Tromp with a fleet of forty-five and, the force of Blake amounting only to twenty- three, but Van Tromp was obliged to retreat.On May 29 he was again attacked by Van Tromp, whose fleet was now increased to eighty sail. Blake with an inferior force, of only 42 ships was crushed and forced to retreat into the Thames.
|Robert Blake, a celebrated British admiral, born at Bridgewater in 1599, On finishing his education at Oxford he lived for some time in a private manner on the fortune left him by his father. Elected member for Bridgewater in the parliament of 1640. This being soon dissolved he lost his election for the next, and sought to advance the parliamentary cause in a military capacity in the war which then broke out.||Tromp lashed a broom to his topmast, to indicate that he had swept, the English from the seas.In February following he put to sea with sixty sail, and soon after met the Dutch admiral, who had seventy sail and 300 merchantmen under convoy. During three days a running fight up the Channel was maintained with obstinate valour on both sides, the result of which was the loss of eleven men-of-war and thirty merchant ships by the Dutch, while that of the English was only one man-of-war.|
Martin Tromp was however defeated by George Monk in the last battle of the war near the island of Texel.
The Dutch War of 1665-67
The next Dutch War of 1665-67 found us very unprepared, as Pepys said:
"For we do nothing in this office like people able to carry on a war."
In 1666 the four days battle of Goodwin Sands was difficult with the English heavily out numbered, but forced the retreat later the English sent fire ships to destroy 160 merchantships and also the Brandaris in Holland. In 1667 the Dutch sailed up to Chatham , and burned our ships there. The Great Plague of 1665 of course handicapped our effort, but bribery and corruption was the order of the day and did far more harm than the Plague.
Even Pepys, had his price, but excuses himself when taking a present, by not looking at it,
"that I might say that I did not know what there was in the bag."
Pepys was made secretary to the Lord High Admiral of the Navy, when James II., then Duke of York, was Lord High Admiral.Officers received a proper training from the time that they were boys, and special corps were founded in order to have an ever-increasing number of officers prepared for the service.
The later institution of the Royal
Navy is a continuation of the rules which Pepys laid down. The commerce of the country was protected, from piracy
with a strong hand. The Royal Navy consisted of about 170 ships
of over 100,000 tons, a personnel of 42,000 men and nearly 7000 guns, a vast improvement on the previous reign.