‘Hang on’, you say, ‘where are Parts 1 and 2, then?’

Well, in the relatively early days of this blog, I posted a couple of items under this title and promised that at some point in the future, I’d do some more. I didn’t really expect ‘some point in the future’ to be such a long time coming, but I guess that’s life… Next week, though, I’ll reblog the first two posts in the series for those who missed them, and will then post a new Part 4 in the following week unless something unexpected crops up that I feel moved to blog about.

In a nutshell, this is a fairly random collection of pictures of interesting naval graves and memorials that I’ve come across during the course of my travels; not just admirals, but naval figures of all ranks and degrees of fame or obscurity. This week, a naval grave that I know very well, as it’s only about five miles as the crow flies from where I live – the niche tomb of the notorious (or unjustly scapegoated?) Admiral John Byng, the only British admiral ever to be executed, in the family vault of the Lords Torrington at Southill church, Bedfordshire – which also contains the remains of his father, George Byng, first Viscount Torrington, the victor of the battle of Cape Passaro in 1718. I had the honour of giving the tribute to Byng in Southill church on 14 March 2007, the 250th anniversary of the execution, before members of the Byng family, including the current Viscount Torrington.

Admiral John Byng's niche tomb

Admiral John Byng’s niche tomb

John Byng's niche at bottom left, beneath that of his father George, Viscount Torrington

John Byng’s niche at bottom left, beneath that of his father George, Viscount Torrington

General view of the Byng vault at Southill, Bedfordshire

General view of the Byng vault at Southill, Bedfordshire

Next, a fascinating memorial that I came across in the splendid church at Kalmar, Sweden, a few years ago while researching the fourth Quinton novel, The Lion of Midnight, namely the memorial to Gustav von Psilander (1669-1738). He achieved considerable renown in Sweden for his part in ‘the Battle of Orfordness‘, 17/27 July 1704, when he refused to strike his flag to a squadron of nine British warships, leading to a battle that lasted for over four hours – despite the two countries not actually being at war with each other at the time.

Gustav von Psilander memorial, Kalmar church

Gustav von Psilander memorial, Kalmar church

Finally, there’s the memorial in Bedale, Yorkshire, to probably the most famous Poo in naval history – namely the spectacularly named Admiral Sir John Poo Beresford. Apologies for the somewhat fuzzy shot of the latter, I didn’t have a very good camera at the time! No apologies for the shocking pun, though.

Memorial to Sir John Poo Beresford, Bedale

Memorial to Sir John Poo Beresford, Bedale


Another reblog of one of my early posts this week. I’ve nothing really to add to this piece, on the importance of getting the importance of religion right in historical fiction (and especially naval historical fiction), except to add that it’s something I’m currently grappling with to an even greater extent while writing ‘Quinton 6′ – details of which will be revealed here in the near future!

Originally posted on Gentlemen and Tarpaulins:

Religion is often something of an elephant in the room of historical fiction. If the past really is a foreign country where they do things differently, faith is about as different as it gets, and for secular authors in today’s secular western societies, reconstructing its all-pervasiveness is perhaps one of the trickiest challenges of all. Indeed, perhaps it’s a challenge that can never truly be met successfully. The actual mindset of the most profound medieval piety, for example, is unlikely to be very appealing to most modern readers – after all, its nearest modern parallel is the blinkered fundamentalism seen in much TV news coverage of events in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and so forth. Too many authors, though, seem to pass up the challenge entirely. I love the ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ books by the late, lamented Arianna Franklin, having stumbled upon them by chance…

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At some point in the future, historians are going to look back at the various ways in which the centenary of World War I is being commemorated in the UK at the moment, and I suspect many of them are going to scratch their heads. For one thing, there’s the fact that so much of it began long before the actual anniversaries, as previously noted in this blog; but on top of that, there’s the sheer scale and diversity of the commemorative events. I haven’t seen the poppies at the Tower of London yet, although I hope to remedy that before long, but I strongly suspect that some community, somewhere, will be hosting my proverbial hog roast and bouncy castle some time in the next four years – and in between, there are already events of all shapes and sizes.

I’ve attended two during the last couple of weeks, and they both proved to be excellent, albeit in very different ways. In Bedford, we went to an event organised jointly by the Friends of the Philharmonia Orchestra (Bedford is one of its provincial bases) and of the Higgins, the local museum and art gallery, which recently underwent a huge refurbishment. The latter has an excellent new exhibition about the Highland Division’s time in Bedford in 1914-15, illustrated by some fine photographs and the words of some of the troops who passed through. It must have been an extraordinary time in the town’s history – there were even Highland Games in a local park! – and it’s well served by thoughtfully curated displays. (Incidentally, the Higgins is well worth a visit in its own right, as it holds an art collection of national importance – including some naval Turners!) The second part of the evening consisted of a concert in the Bunyan Meeting, the chapel serving the congregation to which John Bunyan himself ministered during the seventeenth century. Three outstanding soloists from the Philharmonia Orchestra played an interesting selection of music, although it has to be said that the programme’s connection to World War One was pretty much non-existent with the exception of the encore, The Lark Ascending.

Then, on Saturday night, I was part of the audience in a packed Llanelli parish church for a much grander event, ‘The Town Remembers’. In some respects, this proved to be very much like the entire history of the town: very long, often unbearably poignant, sometimes unintentionally funny, occasionally downright odd, and sometimes simply extraordinary. If you don’t believe me about the latter, consider the fact that we had a choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Nothing extraordinary about that, you might be thinking; except that the great majority of the choir were seven years old, and Handel’s mighty masterwork is difficult enough for adult choruses. (It also proved a difficult experience for the very proud but troublingly young parents of one of the choir members, who were sitting in the row in front of me. They shuffled uncomfortably and exchanged blank glances as the older audience members rose to their feet during the rendition, followed uncertainly by those who were evidently rather less familiar with obscure Hanoverian concert etiquette: ‘Why are we standing?’ muttered trendily-dressed young father. ‘Dunno’, whispered even more trendily-dressed young mother.) In fact, the combined forces of the Hywel Girls Choir and Boy Singers, the former in particular being a very long established local institution, proved to be the undoubted stars of the evening. Their appearance in 1914 costumes – suffragettes, nurses, chimney sweeps, and so forth – belting out everything from ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ to a deeply moving ‘Abide With Me’, was one of the highlights of the evening.

Another of those highlights occurred at the very beginning of the evening, when the procession of serving personnel, veterans and standards culminated in the entry of two Chelsea pensioners, aged 91 and 92, one a veteran of D-Day, the other of North Africa. (Do the Chelsea Pensioners operate on a shift system, with bragging rights in the Royal Hospital bar for whichever nonagenarians get the best gigs? ‘So where are you off to, then, Albert and George?’ ‘Huh, some place in Wales. What about you, Edgar and Cecil?’ ‘We’re the support act for U2 at Wembley Stadium.’ ‘Damn, jagerbombs on us, then.’) Inevitably, the programme included several of the hoary old favourites of the war, such as ‘It’s A Long Way to Tipperary’, ‘If You Were the Only Girl in the World’, and ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, the latter being probably the greatest hit of Ivor Novello, arguably the least likely Royal Naval Air Service pilot of the war – and who earns a mention as such in Britannia’s Dragon. The odd, but rather moving, thing about this was that each of these numbers got pretty much the entire audience humming or singing along, and even swaying from side to side in the pews. Both this, and the familiarity of many of the spoken words – In Flanders Fields, and so on – proves that even for much younger generations, the cultural references of the First World War are still all pervasive. Will that still be the case when, perhaps, one of those seven year olds in the choir grows up to become one of the historians analysing the commemorations staged between 2014 and 2018? I wonder.


Last week’s reblog of one of my very early posts got a pretty positive response, so I’m going to do the same with some others every other week for a little while, starting next Monday, albeit adding updates and new commentary where necessary. And yes, I do have a pretty obvious ulterior motive in doing so, i.e. it gives me more time to concentrate on finishing ‘Quinton 6’!



My recent trip to Scotland meant that I missed blogging about the 350th anniversary of the conquest of New Amsterdam in 1664, and the subsequent establishment of New York and New Jersey. When I came to think about writing a new post on this, looking at the odd coincidence of the ‘Bedfordshire connection’ behind the foundation of both states, I realised that I’d already presented the material in a post from over two and a half years ago. As a lot of new followers have come on board since, I thought I’d reblog that post now to mark the 350th anniversary. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Gentlemen and Tarpaulins:

‘The Journals of Matthew Quinton’ are set principally during what are known as ‘the Anglo-Dutch wars’, but like most generalisations used to describe historical periods, that label actually conceals a much more complex picture. For one thing, the wars were not exclusively Anglo-Dutch: the second, from 1665 to 1667, also involved France, Denmark-Norway and even the Prince-Bishop of Munster, while the third, from 1672-4, was part of a much larger conflict that the Dutch regard as effectively their second war of independence, fought overwhelmingly against the French.

The same is true of the colonial conflicts that form the backdrop of The Mountain of Gold, the second book in the series. Anglocentric sources have sometimes seen the colonial conflicts of the early 1660s as being primarily between the English and the Dutch, especially in West Africa, but in reality many European powers, including some pretty unlikely ones, were scrabbling desperately…

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And so it belongs to the ages: the most momentous event in the history of the United Kingdom, and certainly of Scotland, for many decades. If you can be certain of one thing at this very moment, it’s that the first versions of the history of the Scottish independence referendum are already being written. As you read these words, journalists and/or historians (or, the saddest cases of all, journalists with History degrees who secretly always wanted to be proper historians), sustained by pathetically inadequate advances from their publishers, will be hunched over their laptops and burning the midnight oil, fuelled by coffee and/or Cabernet Sauvignon, hammering out the glossily-packaged tomes that are contractually obliged to be on the shelves of airport bookshops in three months’ time.


The end of Union Street, literally and metaphorically?

The end of Union Street, literally and metaphorically?

Meanwhile, at both school and university level, chief examiners for Politics are already devising next summer’s questions, which will be recycled, albeit with slightly modified wording, for the next hundred years or so by the chief examiners for History, or at least until the next Michael Gove attains puberty (apologies to my American, Canadian and Antipodean readers; please feel free to insert instead the name of your local bete noire politico spouting utterly bonkers cod educational philosophy).

‘The intervention of Gordon Brown was crucial to the success of the No campaign. Discuss.’

‘Assess the importance of women voters in determining the outcome of the referendum.’

‘The growth of Scottish nationalism was principally a consequence of the retreat from empire. Discuss.’

And so on ad nauseam, and probably not only in History and Politics, either. Why, even chief examiners for Media Studies may be preparing to trot out something along the lines of ‘Assess the impact of “Braveheart” on the growth of Scottish support for FREEDOM!!!!, 1995-2014′. (By way of digression, on the night of the count, one guy in a bar in Greenock thought it a good idea to try and attract the barmaid’s attention by shouting ‘Freedom!’ as loudly as he could. This proved to be undoubtedly the worst impression of Mel Gibson playing William Wallace since Mel Gibson’s own. So quite rightly, he still didn’t get served.)

But you can be certain that one aspect of the referendum won’t appear in any of the books or the examination questions and answers, and that’s the story of the ‘referendum tourists’.

Yes, my friends, I mean the voyeurs who ventured north of the border, hoping to gaze upon the nakedness of broken political promises. The vampires feasting upon the blood of the poll booth virgins. The Rippers dissecting the corpses of -

OK, I’ll stop all that now.

But, gentle readers, I confess that I was one of those referendum tourists. I was one of those dining in the Restaurant at the End of the United Kingdom while the entire edifice teetered on the very brink of oblivion. I was not alone: the hotels that I stayed in, at Kirkcudbright in Galloway and Greenock on the Clyde, were full of us. Seriously, though, it was something I felt compelled to do. As those who’ve followed this blog for some time will know, I’ve always had a deep love of Scotland and a strong interest in Scottish history, as demonstrated by the fact that I spent ten years researching and writing an entire book about an aspect of it, the ‘Gowrie Conspiracy’ of 1600. The novelist Nigel Tranter was a major influence on my fiction, particularly on my first novel, Gentleman Captain, which was set in part on the west coast of Scotland. And as a Welshman, of course, I had rather more than a neutral’s interest in the outcome of the referendum; for whatever the result, it was bound to have profound consequences for Wales, its place in the United Kingdom and its form of government, as indeed seems to be becoming the case.

So, yes, I had to be there. I’d heard all the stories about the extraordinary levels of grass roots political commitment and heated discussions between ordinary people, so I wanted to experience some of that. But Kirkcudbright, the lovely ‘artists’ town’ whose most famous son is, perhaps ironically, John Paul Jones, the founding father of the United States Navy, provided me with a rude awakening in pretty much the first shop I went into.

‘Busy week in these parts, then,’ I said to the woman behind the counter.

‘Aye,’ she said, ‘we had a car boot sale yesterday.’

'Yes' in Kirkcudbright: definitely a lost cause

‘Yes’ in Kirkcudbright: definitely a lost cause

I put this down as an exception; surely I’d encountered the only person in Scotland who thought that the Kirkcudbright car boot sale was more important than the independence referendum? But no. In the pub that night, the sole topic of conversation was the same car boot sale - which had been a ‘f*****g fracas’, apparently, notably because of a shortage of toilets. I had essentially the same experience in Wigtown, Scotland’s town of books, the next day: ‘It’s frantic,’ said one shop owner, ‘we’ve got the Wigtown Book Festival next week’. And as I went around the area, it proved possible to go for mile upon mile and not actually realise a history-changing vote was about to take place. There were very few ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ signs on display, but the overwhelming majority of those that did exist were ‘No’, usually large placards in the middle of vast, rolling fields not too dissimilar to those of Bedfordshire. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the one and only Conservative seat left in Scotland (the party held the majority of seats in the country as recently, in historical terms, as 1955), and the obvious inference was drawn by pretty much the solitary display of ‘Yes’ support in Kirkcudbright, a display on a street corner, which castigated the wealthy local farmers in no uncertain terms. It was, perhaps, a sign of the lack of any violent political division in the town that the ‘Yes’ display remained forlornly in situ, not defaced, not damaged, not thrown into the nearby harbour; and ultimately, Dumfries and Galloway was, unsurprisingly, one of the areas that ended up with the highest proportion of ‘No’ votes.

(The highest proportion of all came from Orkney, where we were on holiday about a month ago. Although ‘Yes’ signs were more prominent up there, it was clear that the Orcadians, who don’t regard themselves as Scottish at all, were overwhelmingly hostile to independence – unless it was their own, from Scotland, a possibility that was seriously mooted near the end of the referendum campaign – and, if asked the question on the ballot paper, might even have preferred to rejoin Norway, still debatably their legitimate overlord.)

'Yes' in Largs: enthusiasm and a shortage of balloons

‘Yes’ in Largs: enthusiasm and a shortage of balloons

Driving across country from Kirkcudbright to Greenock, though, things began to change. The nearer I got to the Clyde coast, the more cars I saw flying saltires (one even had its wing mirrors painted over with the white diagonal on blue of Saint Andrew), and increasingly, ‘Yes’ posters proliferated. Then I got to Largs, and all hell broke loose. I have fond memories of Largs, one of my favourite ports of call during my days as a somewhat unlikely officer in the Royal Naval Reserve (CCF), tasked with instructing cadets in the arts of seamanship (which would obviously be of great use to them in Bedfordshire, one of England’s most land-locked counties) while simultaneous undertaking a crash-course in the finer points of the appreciation of single malt whisky. But the Largs I remembered wasn’t full of happy people clutching blue and white balloons, cheering loudly if cars honked when they passed. The atmosphere was electric, and I soon learned that this was because I’d literally just missed Alex Salmond, the SNP leader and First Minister, who’d given a barnstorming speech to the ‘Yes’ hordes. In the local ‘Yes’ campaign office, the energy was palpable, and no-one questioned the right of a Welshman to wander in off the street and purloin examples of campaign material; but then, people might have been distracted by the major crisis that had just developed, namely the fact that they’d run out of balloons.

'Royal Princess' alongside the Ocean Terminal in Greenock: one big unit

‘Royal Princess’ alongside the Ocean Terminal in Greenock: one big unit

And so to Greenock, once an industrial powerhouse with remarkably broad streets named after the places it traded with (Jamaica, Madeira) or else after great politicians of the day, the intersection of Fox Street and Eldon Street being undoubtedly the only context in which those two diametrically opposed political titans of George III’s reign ever intersected with each other in any way at all. Now, sadly, large swathes of Greenock are redolent of the urban decay apparent in so many British towns, such as my own home town of Llanelli, although a sharp counterpoint to this was provided by the enormous presence of the new cruise ship Royal Princessliterally towering above much of the town; Greenock is a regular port of call on the cruise ship circuit round the British Isles (as is Kirkwall, which often had two ships a day when we were there in August), and hopefully at least a few of the well-heeled passengers contribute something to the local economy. As the vast ship sailed, on the evening before the independence vote was due to take place, a pipe band on the quayside serenaded her with the likes of Highland Cathedral and Flower of Scotland. Would these prove to be the anthems of a new independent nation, and would this blog have to be retitled A Farewell to Caledonia?


Polling day: strangely quiet, at least where I was, with steady streams of voters striding purposefully towards polling stations. The thing that struck me was the good humour of it all, with family and friendship groups evidently turning it into a social occasion, cheerily saying hello to people they knew on the way in or out, while sixteen or seventeen year old schoolkids, having voted for the first time, proudly carried away their polling cards as souvenirs. And I couldn’t help thinking: this is the way democracy should be, not the turgid, unloved exercise it’s become throughout so much of the western world (and which, for my sins, I taught for several years, trying and failing to interest the exact contemporaries of those enthusiastic students in the delights of electoral systems and, ironically, devolution).

If I wanted any more proof, it came in the pub that evening. I deliberately sought out a down-to-earth, old fashioned town centre boozer, where I could listen in to the conversation. Unfortunately, there was one fundamental flaw in my strategy: I hadn’t spent a significant amount of time in the area for about twenty years, and had forgotten just how impenetrable the accent around the Clyde estuary can be. I couldn’t understand a word. But luckily, my saviours arrived in the shape of two garrulous and already distinctly ‘merry’ individuals, both probably in their sixties, who sat themselves down next to me with their pints and whisky chasers (this was at about 6 o’clock…) in order to watch the Celtic match. My heart sank. Was I going to be subjected to a barrage of incomprehensible abuse when they found I didn’t particularly support the Bhoys? (Not for any sectarian reasons, or because I’m Welsh and a rugby man; when it comes to Scottish football, and for reasons that are far too obscure to air here, I’ve always supported the mighty Stenhousemuir, despite never having seen them play. But I have been to their stadium.)

Not a bit of it. To my amazement, they launched into an animated discussion of – wait for it – the Barnett formula, bandying about national economic statistics with the confidence of Robert Peston, albeit with the deployment of rather more f-bombs than Pesto is wont to employ, at least in his pieces to camera. Even more remarkable, they were more engrossed in what was actually a remarkably sophisticated political argument than in the game they were meant to be watching – even to the extent of not realising that Celtic had scored their first goal until after it happened. After about 10 minutes, too, I was able to follow rather more than just every other word, and by now, my friends had moved on to economic globalisation – although they tended not to use that term, preferring to refer to ‘the f*****g Chinese’. The two extraordinary things about this were that the two, quite evidently very old friends and drinking cronies, were on opposite sides of the debate, and sitting next to them – sitting, in fact, in the midst of what was evidently a strongly ‘Yes’ clientele – was a man wearing a Union Jack t-shirt and a ‘No’ badge on the lapel of his jacket. But he, too, was engrossed in the Celtic match, and there was not a hint of malice anywhere in the bar. Whether that was still the case at 10 or 11 in the evening might have been a different matter, but I was long gone by then. To be exact, I was long gone to an Italian restaurant which was offering a special of the day: ‘Chicken Referendum’, no less, which apparently included haggis. It was tempting, but I had a pizza instead.


The morning of the result, which was announced on the BBC, just after 6, by fellow Llanelli Grammar School alumnus Huw Edwards: a first reaction of disappointment, both on behalf of those of my friends who had fought so hard for a Yes vote, and also, I suspect, on behalf of my much younger self, the idealistic student member of Plaid Cymru back in the 1970s; followed in fairly close order by a feeling of no doubt selfish relief, that so many of the certainties I’d known all my life hadn’t disappeared overnight. I decided to take a train into Glasgow to see what was happening there, and was barely out of Central Station before I spied a huge scrum of angry young men. My heart quickened. Might this be the last stand of the Yes supporters, a new Culloden, no less? No: it was the queue trying to get into the Glasgow Apple Store to buy the iPhone 6. Sic transit gloria mundi. I cut through George Square, where a few forlorn saltires were being waved limply by a half-dozen or so diehards, seriously outnumbered by the number of foreign TV crews around the square. (This was several hours before the evening’s brief but nasty sectarian spat in the same space.) But in many respects Glasgow, which had voted ‘Yes’ by a large margin, was already a city that had reverted to normal, as though the past few weeks and years had never happened. Tourists were wandering around the cathedral, students pulling bulging suitcases were trying to find their digs, and shoppers were thronging the likes of the St Enoch centre. Sic transit gloria Thursday.

'Yes''s last stand, outnumbered by TV crews: George Square, Glasgow

‘Yes”s last stand, outnumbered by TV crews: George Square, Glasgow

The afternoon brought news of Alex Salmond’s resignation, which no doubt would have delighted my ‘No’ friend from the pub the night before, who’d referred to the First Minister as a ‘f*****g pompous wee bastard’. The same sentiment was aired by the shop assistant who served me the next day, when I stopped at Thornhill in the Borders on my drive south. I bought a copy of The Scotsman, the front page of which consisted of a large photograph of a miserable Salmond, and the assistant pointed at it gleefully, saying ‘Tee hee,’ (trust me, he really, really did say ‘tee, hee’), ‘that’s the best result of this whole independence thing’.


It was a privilege to be in Scotland for the ‘whole independence thing’. As for the consequences, for good or ill, the fallout from the referendum looks set fair to drag the British constitution and, perhaps, at least some of the British political elite, kicking and screaming, into the, umm, nineteenth century. I only hope that just a fraction of the enthusiasm and involvement that I witnessed spills over into England and Wales, and produces similar results: but somehow, I think that might be an uphill struggle, as the blatant political posturing from the Westminster parties since the result was declared undoubtedly demonstrates. Still, Scotland might not have resumed its place in the world as a sovereign nation (yet…?), but surely it’s proved that there is a different way of doing things, that it is possible to engage ordinary people in politics, that in a democracy, every vote really can count. At the very least, too, it’s proved that if you’re allowed to marry and have a child at the age of sixteen, you’re more than qualified to have a vote at the same age, and any argument to the contrary is simply perverse. Dare one suggest, too, that if we really do have a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union in the foreseeable future – and surely the unexpected closeness of the Scottish result will make the Westminster elite even more determined than ever to ensure that it never happens – then we might see the same degree of engagement throughout the component nations of that peculiar, anachronistic, but still somehow functioning, political union as we’ve seen in Scotland? Might I be able to go into my local pub and witness heated, but still amicable, discussion between old friends about the merits of majority voting on European budgetary issues – and one that’s not based simply on idiotic tabloid headlines?

Somehow, I doubt it. But I really hope I’m proved wrong!



I went to the Historical Novel Society conference in London on Saturday. This was a very jolly affair, for all sorts of reasons – it was good to see old friends and meet new ones, to have a delegate come up to me and launch into gushing praise of Gentleman Captain, and to attend some very enjoyable sessions, notably Conn Iggulden’s knockabout keynote talk and a hilarious panel debating whether ‘My Period is Better Than Yours’, a session punctuated by frequent references to Giles Kristian’s big axe. But all of that laughter conceals another side to the conference. Quite a lot of the questions, and many of the informal discussions between people during the breaks, were deadly serious, and there was a fair amount of earnestness, not to say angst, in certain quarters. Now, I won’t deny that there are certain topics about which authors of historical fiction ought to be very serious: getting published, for one; getting readers to read one’s books, for another; and, of course, getting one’s research right. But beyond that, it seems to me that some of my fellow authors tend to take the whole business rather too seriously for comfort, as if doing justice to the past, and proving oneself as a ‘proper writer’, means treating it all as though one is crossing a minefield while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The consequence is that I’ve read quite a few historical novels which are meticulously researched, well written, set in an interesting period and dealing with what should be interesting people – but which end up being deadly dull, simply because the author has forgotten that people in the past actually had senses of humour. (As supporting witnesses for my assertion, I summon the likes of G. Chaucer and W. Shakespeare. I then rest my case, m’lud.) Consequently, pretty well all of my favourite historical fiction books have generous lashings of humour. It’s why I prefer Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin over the distinctly more po-faced Horatio Hornblower, or why I’d go for Dorothy Dunnett’s (literally) weighty Lymond books over the equally shelf-straining tomes by Monaldi and Sorti. One of the great-granddaddies of the entire genre is Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, a book that contains plenty of good laughs – a lesson that Dumas forgot as he churned out the ever-darker sequels.

Of course, there are some things that probably shouldn’t be the subject of humour in fiction. For instance, I take the writing of my battle scenes very seriously indeed, and certainly wouldn’t make a joke of someone’s death; as I’ve said before in this blog, I’m often writing about real battles in which real people died, and they deserve exactly the same degree of respect currently being accorded to the casualties of World War I. On the other hand, perceptions of what might or might not be considered suitable subjects for humour in historical fiction clearly change over time, and topics that were once taboo are now fair game. Who’d have thought in 1945 that one day, we’d get Springtime for Hitler, and very few people would ever have expected the Spanish Inquisition… (And if you’re not a fan of the Pythons, maybe this remarkably authentic footage of the activities of the Inquisition will be more to your taste.) Last night, we went to see the acclaimed new play, King Charles III, in the West End. This is a very well constructed and well written piece (in iambic pentameter, no less!), with plenty of deliberate echoes of Shakespeare, some more or less plausible than others – Charles as a King Lear figure, William as a Henry IV, Kate Middleton as Lady Macbeth (!), even the ghost of Princess Diana. But it also contained plenty of humour, much of that provided by the kebabs-at-dawn character of Prince Harry, and proved the point that even the most serious themes – in this case, issues of where constitutional power truly lies, the power of the press, and the dysfunctional recent history of the royal family – are best treated by leavening them with a laugh or ten. (A digression: I had to watch the second half standing at the back of the auditorium, due to the crippling lack of leg room. Let’s face it, London theatres, if you were airlines, you’d never be allowed to fly…)

My point is that, for all of the reasons outlined above, the Quinton Journals have always contained quite a lot of humour. This is also partly a consequence of personal inclination – I actually wrote quite a lot of satire at one point, notably at college – but is also simply a reflection of the times I’m writing about. After all, this was the age of Restoration comedy and the court wits (Rochester makes an appearance as a major character in the latest book, The Battle of All The Ages), and having Samuel Pepys as a recurring character pretty well guarantees that there’ll be a few laughs along the way. The same will be true of the next novel, which will have an even greater amount of humour than usual, principally because -

Ah, but that’s a blog for another day, when I reveal all about the very, very different story that will be ‘Quinton 6’!


There won’t be a post next week as I’ll be in Scotland, taking in the final days of the referendum campaign and the result itself. I’ve always had a deep love of the country and a strong interest in its history, as witnessed by the fact that I spent ten years researching and writing a book on an aspect of it, so I felt I simply had to be there for what will be a remarkably historic occasion, regardless of the result. So in a couple of weeks’ time, I’ll blog my first-hand impressions of what might or might not be the end of the United Kingdom as we know it.



And now for the third and final part of my account of the Battle of the Texel/Kijkduin, 11/21 August 1673. Apologies for the week’s delay in posting this – twenty-first century real life always trumps seventeenth century history, at the end of the day!

I’ll post what would have been the appendix of my proposed book on the battle, namely an attempt to reconstruct the order of the fleet in its line of battle, on my website.


Prince Rupert and his critics

On 16 August 1673 a seaman calling himself ‘Tom Tell Truth’, from Kempthorne’s flagship, the Saint Andrew, wrote a short note to the secretary of state, Henry Coventry: ‘This is to let you understand that Prince Rupert ran away from the Dutch fleet, and that if you doe not acquaint his Majesty with it you do the nation a great wronge’.75 Rupert’s entire command of the 1673 fleet had been controversial, and by the time of the battle of the Texel the prince’s reputation was not what it once had been. Even in June, one commentator in London had remarked ‘God sende him better luck than I feare is generally wisht’, and his lack of success in the two battles of the Schooneveld provoked widespread criticism, some of it, at least, encouraged by the supporters of the duke of York – perhaps even by the duke himself, whose relationship with his cousin had always been frosty.76 Even the king was reported to have said that Rupert needed a victory to remove the question-marks against him. His hostility to the French was well-known, although he had made an effort to construct a working relationship with d’Estrées and to give the French praise when it was due (albeit with blatant bad grace).77 Rupert did not trust his second-in-command, Spragge, who had been foisted on him by Charles and James in preference to the prince’s own client, Sir Robert Holmes; Spragge reciprocated the feeling, and his journal is full of explicit and implicit criticism of Rupert’s tactics.78 Many of the prince’s subordinates were unhappy with his command. In addition to those who were closely tied to the interests of the duke of York, even more independent captains like George Legge resented Rupert’s appointment and promotion policies, and the way in which a few of Rupert’s favourites (notably Sir William Reeves, flag captain of the Sovereign) dominated their master.79 In the light of all these internal jealousies and divisions, it is hardly surprising that Rupert’s own conduct at the battle of  the Texel should have been subjected to serious criticism. Although he remained popular in the country at large, and his interpretation of the battle had been largely accepted (as it has been by most historians), a few more sceptical voices were being heard in the coffee-houses as early as September 1673: ‘The Prince is much adored by the people, and chiefly, it’s thought, for his hatred to the French, but all say his Highness wants that which makes a happy Commander, success…’.80 Moreover, a good case can be made for claiming that much of the criticism of Rupert’s conduct was perfectly justified.

Rupert’s own relation of the battle begins at daybreak on 11 August. This fact may well be significant; the prince had apparently researched the events of the previous day, and may have omitted them because he realised they did not reflect well on him.81 On 10 August, as noted earlier, Rupert had a clear advantage of the wind over the Dutch, and many in the fleet expected that he would engage that day; one critic claimed that instead, ‘the Prince only edg’d towards ym to ye great amazement of ye English as well as ye French commanders who could not guess ye reason, why he should omitt takeing soe fayre an advantage’.82 This was certainly the feeling of d’Estrées and Martel, who were to agree about so little else, and they were supported by Legge, who believed that ‘if we had borne more roundly upon them we might easily have been engaged by 4 a clock’ and privately attacked Rupert for ‘not making use of good opportunities…meeting the enemy with disadvantage though theye did yecontrary’.83 The fact that the combined fleet faced the Dutch ‘with disadvantage’ on the morning of 11 August was, of course, due to the fact that it had lost the wind during the night. In The Exact Relation and other pro-Rupert accounts, the prince’s faction attempted to blame the French for this, suggesting that d’Estrées in the van deliberately shortened sail twice during the night despite express orders to the contrary. D’Estrées, on the other hand, claimed that he was only acting under orders when he shortened his sails, and this seems to be supported by Legge, by John Narbrough, Ossory’s flag captain on the Saint Michael, and by Arthur Herbert, captain of the Cambridge, all of whom implicitly or explicitly blamed Rupert for the peculiar manoeuvring during the night.84 Moreover, this rather introspective analysis of the reasons for losing the wind fails to give due weight to the fact that the wind changed in any case, and to the brilliance of the Dutch manoeuvre – as one commentator on the Royal Katherine put it, ‘had wee maid saile we had kept it [the wind] but drifting along with an easy sayle and being darke they like Cunning fellows maid sayle and stood under our bowsprits’, a manoeuvre assisted by the Dutch captains’ naturally superior knowledge of their own coastal waters.85

Once the battle began on the morning of the eleventh, the scope for alternative interpretations of events becomes even more apparent. Although Rupert criticised the other two squadrons for deserting him, the French complained that Rupert had effectively abandoned them by fighting off to leeward, before unilaterally sailing off to join the blue, and that rather than Spragge not supporting him, he had not supported Spragge.86 These contentions seem to be supported by several journals from the red squadron, in which the authors expressed considerable surprise that they had stayed on the larboard tack for virtually the entire battle regardless of changes of wind.87 Of course, it was possible for Rupert and his clients to attack the dead Spragge with impunity, and they had a good case for charging him with breach of orders – though as Legge judiciously observed, ‘if he had lived this battaile would have proved more succesfull to ye English, & not had so much durt thrown in his face as hath beene upon his ashes’.88 Moreover, Rupert could hardly censure the French for stretching ahead and attempting to gain the weather gage – this was what they had been specifically ordered to do.89 Thereafter, many aspects of Rupert’s conduct of the battle came in for criticism. The fact that at one point he was sailing with de Ruyter in his wake – presumably the stage of the battle to which ‘Tom Tell Truth’ alluded – led one critic to claim that it was the first occasion in history when an English admiral had fired his stern chase guns during a battle, a sure sign that he was running away: ‘the Pr[ince] for reasons best knowne to himselfe had as fully betray’d the honor of ye English nation as d’Estrées of ye French: and in playne English a Coward’s a Coward be he wt Countryman he will!’90 Rupert’s cruise to rejoin the blue squadron in the early and mid-afternoon astonished Narbrough, who could not believe that two fleets could sail along within range of each other without exchanging fire – although, of course, this was just as much de Ruyter’s doing as Rupert’s.91 Several critics, including Herbert and Narbrough, claimed that when Rupert had rejoined the blue squadron he could have won the battle anyway if he had tacked, with or without the assistance of the French, and this does not seem to have been altogether wishful thinking.92

As the battle came towards its close, the infamous blue flag at the mizzen peak became one of the most bitter bones of contention between Rupert and the French. There is no doubt that the French saw the signal, but that remains one of the few certainties in the matter. Most commentators have assumed that the signal was unequivocal, but this was not necessarily the case – even the Exact Relation presented two explanations of the signal, one that it was an order to fall on the enemy, the other that it was a sign to fall into the admiral’s wake (the interpretation that Rupert himself claimed he put on it). When d’Estrées presented his detailed reposnse to Rupert’s charges in November 1673, he claimed that Charles II had agreed with his claim that the signal was confusing, and it was subsequently felt that the instructions had to be clarified to cover such eventualities. However, d’Estrées also admitted that the meaning of the signal was effectively irrelevant, as he had no intention of obeying it in any case. Both he and Seignelay agreed that it was vital for him to keep the wind ahead of an anticipated engagement the next day, rather than becoming entangled (as Rupert had done) among the disabled ships of the blue squadron.93 Therefore, the final French charge against Rupert was that he failed to resume the battle on 12 August, but instead stood away to the westward, and it was reported that many English captains also held this opinion. Rupert himself tacitly admitted that he could have engaged on the following day when he admitted, rather lamely and disingenuously, that the only reason he failed to do so was because he could not guarantee that d’Estrées and many of his own captains would behave better than he believed they had done on the eleventh.94 He certainly had the powder and shot to engage again – the Ordnance office later claimed that even the Prince had expended only a third of her shot, and the fleet as a whole expended only about a sixth of its supply.95 Apart from the Prince, which had been completely dismasted, there were only five other ships which were considered so badly damaged that they had to be sent home as soon as possible.96 However, many ships had been damaged in their rigging, with virtually all the surviving accounts from the English, French and Dutch forces mentioning the prevalence of this type of damage; several ships had been forced to drop out of the battle to make repairs or had found their manoeuvrability restricted by damage to masts and sails, but on the whole repairs to this sort of damage were made rapidly and should not have affected the ability of most individual ships to resume the fight on a new day.97 If disgust with his subordinates was the only reason for Rupert’s failure to resume the engagement, then the French undoubtedly had a case, and in this they were supported by one of the best seamen in the English fleet, Narbrough, who wrote of the end of the action:

Thus the enemy and our fleet parted; we having the weather gage of the enemy, stood away from them, a sight unpleasant to the English seamen. I had rather fall in the battle than ever to see the like more, that so mighty a fleet of ships as ours is to stand away, as now we do, from so mean a fleet as the Dutch fleet is to ours, without the loss of one ship or any other damage considerable to us.98


Ultimately, the various mutual recriminations about individuals’ and squadrons’ conduct at the battle of the Texel are just as difficult to resolve in the present day as they were at the time. For example, it is ironic that the Exact Relation, the various rejoinders to it, and many comments in letters from August 1673 onwards, should have explicitly recognised the existence of factions in the English squadrons and the problems which this posed for analysing the battle, while at the same time accepting Martel’s relation as gospel. In fact, there is good reason to suppose that Martel’s attack on d’Estrées was a product of a factional quarrel of which the English admirals would have been proud: there had been bad blood between the two before the battle, since Martel had joined d’Estrées relatively late in the campaign from the Mediterranean and they had become embroiled in a dispute over precedence and Martel’s role in the fleet.99 It has been suggested that Martel, a far more experienced seaman, resented being under the command of the recently ‘converted’ army officer, d’Estrées, and that perhaps as a marquis he also resented being under a mere comte.100 Martel was certainly taking a great risk by presenting his version of events to the English and ended up in the Bastille as a result, but it could have been part of a clumsy attempt to discredit and thereby supplant d’Estrées – an attempt based on the criticism of Martel’s own actions by d’Estrées and Hérouard and perhaps on a complete misunderstanding of the likely reaction to his actions in both London and Paris.101

Cutting through all the claims and counter-claims, it is clear that there were certain problems inherent in the conduct of the battle of the Texel over which neither Rupert nor his subordinates had much, or any, control. In the first place, the quality of the English gunnery seems to have been markedly inferior to that of the Dutch.102 The sheer length of the allied line-of-battle was commented on by several in the fleet, and this may well have caused some of the problems with seeing and obeying signals – indeed, an anonymous commentator on the fighting instructions apparently in use at the time was able to call on the events of the battle to suggest a whole series of improvements, including the introduction of repeating ships.103 The fighting instructions themselves proved to be inadequate in several instances. Apart from the dispute over the blue flag signal, another example of the inadequacy of the existing system was provided by the fleet’s tack to form into its line-of-battle at six a.m. – as no signal existed to order the whole fleet to tack together, Rupert improvised one by flying simultaneously the signals for the van and rear squadrons to tack.104 The need for one particularly critical new instruction was revealed by Spragge’s death: the fact that he had taken the blue flag with him, and that it was lost with him, was not an eventuality covered by the instructions, whereas his opposite number, Tromp, also made a series of changes of flagship but ensured that his flag was flying at all times, thereby giving no advantage to the English and giving a clear focus for captains seeking new orders which the blue entirely lacked after Spragge’s death.105 The weather played its part as well. The change of wind direction during the small hours of the eleventh helped to give the Dutch the advantage when the battle began, and it changed again shortly after midday to the south-west, and this threw the battle between the blue and Tromp into confusion for some time, although it also gave most of the allied ships the wind again and an opportunity which they failed to take.106 During the morning, a heavy cloudburst followed by a couple of hours’ persistent drizzle, at the very time when the three allied squadrons were starting to lose contact with each other, virtually prevented any communication between them; thereafter the perennial problem in naval battles of the sailing era, smoke, severely restricted the visibility from individual ships.107

Even if the French could plead mitigating circumstances up to a point, namely the debatable nature of Rupert’s tactics and the many other problems which beset the combined fleet at the battle, the fact remains that by their own admission they did not take as great a part in the engagement on 11 August as they could have done. The emphasis which d’Estrées and his political masters placed on the textbook manoeuvre of gaining the wind, and the obvious pride which the French subsequently took in the quality of that manoeuvre, suggests that perhaps they were going very much by the textbook, rather than responding flexibly to circumstances as they arose. In a way, this is hardly surprising. Compared with both the English and the Dutch, the French were very inexperienced, both individually and as a unit; given the newness of Colbert’s magnificent navy as a whole, the battle of the Texel must be placed in context as the first major line battle which the French navy had ever fought in the open sea – the previous battles of the third Dutch war, at Solebay and the Schooneveld, had all been curious affairs fought in coastal waters (indeed, Solebay had been a case of hurried improvisation in response to what was effectively an ambush by de Ruyter). The French performance in all the previous battles had been called into question, not always fairly, but this fact in itself explains why Rupert’s and the francophobes’ version of the battle of the Texel gained such widespread popular acceptance in the autumn of 1673 – there was a general expectation that the French would perform badly, so in that sense their behaviour at the Texel was very much a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy.108 The lack of confidence in the French squadron’s ability was perhaps demonstrated most clearly in the way in which it had been moved around from one position in the line-of-battle to another during the 1672 and 1673 campaigns, as if the English commanders were trying to hide it wherever it would have the least opportunity to do damage to its own side; only a fortnight before the battle of the Texel, the French had formed the centre squadron with Rupert and the red in the van.109 As a result, and not unnaturally, the French had very little experience of operating as the van squadron.

The English lack of confidence in the French seems to have been shared by the Dutch. De Ruyter’s strategy of virtually ignoring the French and concentrating the bulk of his forces on the centre and rear squadrons of the combined fleet was to be held up in later years as the classic tactic for an admiral in command of a smaller fleet, but whether de Ruyter hit upon it by accident or by design remains to be seen: while the records of the councils-of-war of the Dutch fleet survive for every other campaign of the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars, those for the 1673 campaign are missing, and the surviving Dutch journals suggest that they had originally intended the entire Zeeland squadron to engage the French.110 Nevertheless, it may well be that recent experience suggested to de Ruyter that the French were too incompetent or too inexperienced to present much of a threat, but even so, keeping only Evertsen’s eight ships engaged against their van and allowing them to gain the weather gauge was a remarkably dangerous gamble. It is possible, therefore, that when Banckert’s main force broke off from the French in order to join de Ruyter against Rupert, it was not doing so as part of a pre-conceived strategic plan but as a hurried response to what was perceived to be a crisis, particularly after the French had successfully weathered them and tacked.111 As the French were to prove later in the 1670s, often against de Ruyter himself, and in 1690 against the self-same Arthur Herbert of the Cambridge, when they did actually engage an enemy they often fought impressively. Indeed, the little fighting in which the French actually took part at the Texel saw them more than hold their own against the veteran Zeeland crews, and the thirty deaths on d’Estrées’ flagship La Reine was a respectable return by any standards.112 De Ruyter has usually been praised by modern naval historians for his genius, and for effectively saving the Dutch republic by using brilliant defensive tactics, but he may well have come closer than has been realised to losing everything in a battle which, after all, had been foisted on him by William of Orange and the VOC. The survival of the Dutch, and of the career of William himself, may have had rather more to do with the poor tactics of Prince Rupert, the ineptitude of the French, the conditions on 11 August 1673, and on the factional squabbles among the English and French. Ironically, de Ruyter’s fleet had been divided by quarrels which were, if anything, more vicious and deep-rooted than those among his opponents, namely the traditional inter-provincial rivalry which, for instance, had sometimes prevented de Ruyter and Tromp serving together in the same fleet; but in the autumn of 1673 these divisions took second place to the paramount need to play their part in the last-ditch defence of their country.113 Rupert’s fleet had no such great cause to fight for – it was fighting a war which was already deeply unpopular in England, and was at sea to support an invasion project which had already effectively been abandoned.

Perhaps the final words on the battle of the Texel should be left to one of the very few complete neutrals to have commented in detail on the events of that summer, the Venetian ambassador, Alberti. When the fleet originally set out for the 1673 campaign he had observed ‘the success and glory of so great a preparation depend for the most part on accidents and it never yields profit to the winner’, while over five weeks before the battle of the Texel he had written prophetically of ‘the inherent vanity of this nation, holding the Dutch in no account, [which] anticipates easy victory and unfairly accuses the commanders [and, he may have added, their allies] when the result is not in accordance with the national vanity’.114 The near-hysterical public response to the events of the battle of the Texel may well have played a significant part in bringing about the end of the Anglo-French alliance, but it also provides an early example of that particularly unattractive characteristic of the English in wartime, the belief that they have an innate right to win.


75. Coventry MS 95, fo. 404.

76. Quotation: Sir Charles Harbord to Sir Justinian Isham, 19 June 1673: NRO, Isham MS 778; Alberti to Doge and Senate, 6/16 and 20/30 June 1673: CSPVen 1673-5, 59, 67; Yard to Williamson, 29 Aug 1673: Letters to Williamson, I, 195; Davies, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins, 165-71.

77. Ibid., 172-3. Report of Charles II’s doubts about Rupert: Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 22nd document in folder (‘A Full Answer’ – cf Davies, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins, 167), p16. Cf Alberti to Doge and Senate, 21 Feb/3 Mar 1673, and Giustinian to Doge and Senate, 16/26 July 1673: CSPVen 1673-5, 20, 78.

78. Journals and Narratives, 315-30, especially pp 320-3, 327-8.

79. Cf document cited in n72 above

80. Ball to Williamson, 1 Sept 1673: Letters to Williamson, II, 2.

81. Ball to Williamson, 5 Sept 1673: ibid., I, 13; CSPD 1673, 520-2.

82. Quotation: Staffs R.O. MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 22nd document (‘A Full Answer’), p 17.

83. Ibid, 19th and 23rd documents (cf ns 48 & 72 above); Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 319 (Martel), ??

84. Criticism of French manoeuvring: ibid., 302, 304; Journals and Narratives, 380-1. Criticism of Rupert: Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 313 (d’Estrees); ?? (Legge); Journals and Narratives, 353-4 (Narbrough); Bod, Carte MS 38, fo 34 (Herbert); Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 22nd document in folder, p 1.

85. Quotation: document cited at n54 above. Cf Staffs R.O. MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 9th document in folder – ‘The Reasons how the Dutch came to get the Weather Gage of Our Fleet’, a purely factual account which lays no charges against either Rupert or the French.

86. Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 314, 329, 352-3, 355-8.

87. Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 4th document (anonymous journal), 8th document (journal by Thomas Fletcher, midshipman and master’s mate on Royal Katherine); PRO ADM 51/588 (log of Mary Rose); Journals and Narratives, 311. Remaining on the larboard tack in this way, given the wind directions on 11 August, would have been contrary to the fighting instructions: Corbett, Fighting Instructions, 153 (third instruction).

88. Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 23rd document (‘Legge Rejoinder’), fo 13.

89. Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 303, 352.

90. Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 22nd document (‘A Full Answer’), pp 2, 18.

91. Journals and Narratives, 359.

92. Ibid., 360-1; Bod., Carte MS 38, fo 35. Cf Staffs R.O. MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 23rd document, fo 16, where Legge takes the same line.

93. Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 328n, 356, 358; Journals and Narratives, 383-4. Cf Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 22nd document (‘A Full Answer’), p 19. The fighting instructions support Rupert’s interpretation (see n103), and the French certainly had been issued with copies of these in translation: BL Add MS 34,729, fos 135, 190-2. Cf James, duke of York, to d’Estrees, 2 May 1672: BL Add MS 38,846, fos 27-8. However, Seignelay’s rebuttal of Rupert’s charges casts some doubt (perhaps speciously!) on d’Estrees’ possession of such a copy: Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 358. Ultimately, of course, the most obvious flaw in d’Estrees’ and Seignelay’s defence of the ‘strategy’ of waiting for a resumption of the battle the next day is that it hinges on the wind remaining the same between dusk on 11 August and dawn on the twelfth – hardly a certainty in the light of what had already happened on the tenth and eleventh!

94. CSPD 1673, 522; Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 358.

95. A Just Vindication of the Principal Officers of His Majesty’s Ordnance, from the False and Scandalous Aspersions Laid upon them in a Printed Libel, Entituled ‘An Exact Relation…’ (1674), 7-9.

96. Rupert to Charles II, 14 August 1673: CSPD 1673, 494. Cf Legge’s comments about the lack of damage in the fleet as a whole: Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 23rd document (‘Legge Rejoinder’), fo 16.

97. In addition to the journals and accounts enumerated in ns 50, 52, 53 and 55 above, cf also PRO, ADM 106/284/327; ADM 106/285/1, 50, 248, 250, 300; ADM 106/27, fo 31 (reports of damage); Bod., Carte MS 38, fos 55-6 (damage to Saint Michael); Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 331 (newsletter from Amsterdam, 15/25 Aug 1673: damage to Dutch ships’ masts). It was said that between them, even thirty of the ships which had remained in the fleet (rather than being sent in for repairs) would require sixty new masts: Yard to Williamson, 5 September 1673: Letters to Williamson, II, 9.

98. Journals and Narratives, 361.

99. D’Estrees to Seignelay, 2/12 Aug 1673; Seignelay to d’Estrees, 3/13 Aug 1673; Martel to Colbert de Croissy, 27 Aug/6 Sept 1673: Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 297, 298-9, 339.

100. Ekberg, Failure, 164.

101. Criticisms of Martel’s part in the battle: Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 314, 327, 342, 353-4; P. de Villette-Mursay, Mes campagnes de mer sous Louis XIV, ed M Verge-Franchesci (Paris, 1991), 147-8.

102. Journals and Narratives, 355-6.

103. Ibid., 327; Bod., Carte MS 38, fo 38. As Sir Julian Corbett noted (Fighting Instructions, 140) there is no clear evidence to determine which instructions were in use in the 1673 campaign. On the other hand, the weight of negative evidence – ie the absence of any new set of instructions from all the relevant major collections of naval papers (eg those of Kempthorne, Legge and the Admiralty itself); the fact that Charles and James had limited Rupert’s freedom to govern the fleet in 1673 in many other ways (cf Davies, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins, 166, 169-70); and the formalisation of the set of orders issued in 1672 – all this suggests that the instructions followed were those of the previous year. For discussions, see Corbett, Fighting Instructions, 133-45; B Tunstall, Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail (1990), 38-41, 43-5. For an overview of line tactics in this period, see Maltby, ‘Sailing-Ship Tactics’, 53-63.

104. Corbett, Drawings, 36-7.

105. Journals and Narratives, 358-9; Corbett, Instructions, 162. Cf Maltby, ‘Sailing-Ship Tactics’, 56-7.

106. Confusion caused by change of wind at midday: Bod., Carte MS 38, fo 30r; Journals and Narratives, 356; Corbett, Drawings, 40-1 & plate VII.

107. Smoke: Bod., Carte MS 38, fo 30r; deposition by John Dawson, Advice, 26 Sept 1673: B.L., Harleian MS 6845. fo 183. Rain in the morning: inter alia, Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 4th & 17th documents; Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 303.

108. Journals and Narratives, 15.

109. Ibid., 30-1, 37, 44, 330. Cf Aungier to Essex, 20 May 1673: B.L. Stowe MS 202, fo 50.

110. Bruijn, Oorlogvoering, 89-90, 152, 185. Council of war resolutions are preserved in Algemeen Rijksarchief, Den Haag, Collectie de Ruyter, inventory Those for 1672 constitute piece no. 54, but the only remaining pieces in this sequence, nos. 55 and 56, are the minutes for 1674 and 1675 respectively. The most detailed Dutch account of the Texel remains that by J. C. de Jonge, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche zeewezen, ii (Haarlem, 1859 edn), 410-24.

111. Even one pro-Rupert account admitted that Banckert’s whole squadron could not engage the French because the latter were carrying so much sail (which, of course, was what Rupert had ordered them to do), and that it was for this reason alone that Banckert fell back against the red: Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 303. On the other hand, Legge suggested that the deployment of Banckert’s squadron was part of a deliberate strategic plan, although he also claimed that Banckert’s subsequent retirement to join de Ruyter was a direct response to the French having weathered him: Staffs R.O., MS D(W)1778/Ii/355, 23rd document, fos 13-14.

112. The most detailed summary of French casualties is in d’Estrees’ first account of the battle: Colenbrander, Bescheiden, 315.

113. See J R Jones, ‘The Dutch Navy and National Survival in the Seventeenth Century’, International History Review, X (1988), 30-2 and 18-32 passim; J R Bruijn, The Dutch Navy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Columbia, South Carolina, 1993) 10-11, 89-90, 113-14, 122.

114. Alberti to Doge and Senate, 11/21 April, 20/30 June 1673: CSPVen 1673-5, 38, 67.


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