Biography of Admiral Edward Spragg 1620-1673
Around 1620 Admiral Edward Spragg was born.
Pepy's Diary. 18 Sep 1665. By and by was called a Council of Warr on board, when come Sir W. Pen (age 44) there, and Sir Christopher Mings (age 39), Sir Edward Spragg (age 45), Sir Jos. Jordan, Sir Thomas Teddiman, and Sir Roger Cuttance, and so the necessity of the fleete for victuals, clothes, and money was discoursed, but by the discourse there of all but my Lord, that is to say, the counterfeit grave nonsense of Sir W. Pen (age 44) and the poor mean discourse of the rest, methinks I saw how the government and management of the greatest business of the three nations is committed to very ordinary heads, saving my Lord, and in effect is only upon him, who is able to do what he pleases with them, they not having the meanest degree of reason to be able to oppose anything that he says, and so I fear it is ordered but like all the rest of the King's publique affayres.
Pepy's Diary. 11 Jan 1666. Up and to the office. By and by to the Custome House to the Farmers, there with a letter of Sir G. Carteret's (age 56) for £3000, which they ordered to be paid me. So away back again to the office, and at noon to dinner all of us by invitation to Sir W. Pen's (age 44), and much other company. Among others, Lieutenant of the Tower (age 51), and Broome, his poet, and Dr. Whistler, and his (Sir W. Pen's (age 44)) son-in-law Lowder (age 25), servant [lover] to Mrs. Margaret Pen, and Sir Edward Spragg (age 46), a merry man, that sang a pleasant song pleasantly. Rose from table before half dined, and with Mr. Mountney of the Custome House to the East India House, and there delivered to him tallys for £3000 and received a note for the money on Sir R. Viner (age 35).
Pepy's Diary. 15 Feb 1666. At noon to Starky's, a great cooke in Austin Friars, invited by Colonell Atkins, and a good dinner for Colonell Norwood (age 52) and his friends, among others Sir Edward Spragg (age 46) and others, but ill attendance. Before dined, called on by my wife in a coach, and so I took leave, and then with her and Knipp and Mercer (Mr. Hunt newly come out of the country being there also come to see us) to Mr. Hales (age 66), the Paynter's (age 57), having set down Mr. Hunt by the way. Here Mr. Hales' (age 66) begun my wife in the posture we saw one of my Lady Peters, like a St. Katharine1. While he painted, Knipp, and Mercer, and I, sang; and by and by comes Mrs. Pierce, with my name in her bosom for her Valentine, which will cost me money. But strange how like his very first dead colouring is, that it did me good to see it, and pleases me mightily, and I believe will be a noble picture.
Note 1. It was the fashion at this time to be painted as St. Catherine, in compliment to the Queen (age 27).
Pepy's Diary. 24 Jun 1666. But he did adde (as the Catholiques call 'le secret de la Masse'), that Sir Edward Spragge (age 46)-who had even in Sir Christopher Mings's (deceased) time put in to be the great favourite of the Prince, but much more now had a mind to be the great man with him, and to that end had a mind to have the Prince at a distance from the Duke of Albemarle (age 57), that they might be doing something alone-did, as he believed, put on this business of dividing the fleete, and that thence it came1. He tells me as to the business of intelligence, the want whereof the world did complain much of, that for that it was not his business, and as he was therefore to have no share in the blame, so he would not meddle to lay it any where else. That De Ruyter (age 59) was ordered by the States not to make it his business to come into much danger, but to preserve himself as much as was fit out of harm's way, to be able to direct the fleete. He do, I perceive, with some violence, forbear saying any thing to the reproach of the Duke of Albemarle (age 57); but, contrarily, speaks much of his courage; but I do as plainly see that he do not like the Duke of Albemarle's (age 57) proceedings, but, contrarily, is displeased therewith. And he do plainly diminish the commanders put in by the Duke, and do lessen the miscarriages of any that have been removed by him. He concurs with me, that the next bout will be a fatal one to one side or other, because, if we be beaten, we shall not be able to set out our fleete again. He do confess with me that the hearts of our seamen are much saddened; and for that reason, among others, wishes Sir Christopher Mings (deceased) was alive, who might inspire courage and spirit into them. Speaking of Holmes, how great a man he is, and that he do for the present, and hath done all the voyage, kept himself in good order and within bounds; but, says he, a cat will be a cat still, and some time or other out his humour must break again. He do not disowne but that the dividing of the fleete upon the presumptions that were then had (which, I suppose, was the French fleete being come this way), was a good resolution. Having had all this discourse, he and I back to White Hall; and there I left him, being [in] a little doubt whether I had behaved myself in my discourse with the policy and circumspection which ought to be used to so great a courtier as he is, and so wise and factious a man, and by water home, and so, after supper, to bed.
Note 1. This division of the fleet was the original cause of the disaster, and at a later period the enemies of Clarendon charged him with having advised this action, but Coventry's communication to Pepys in the text completely exonerates Clarendon.
Pepy's Diary. 24 Jun 1666. By and by the Council rises, and Sir W. Coventry (age 38) comes out; and he and I went aside, and discoursed of much business of the Navy; and afterwards took his coach, and to Hide-Parke, he and I alone: there we had much talke. First, he started a discourse of a talke he hears about the towne, which, says he, is a very bad one, and fit to be suppressed, if we knew how which is, the comparing of the successe of the last year with that of this; saying that that was good, and that bad. I was as sparing in speaking as I could, being jealous of him and myself also, but wished it could be stopped; but said I doubted it could not otherwise than by the fleete's being abroad again, and so finding other worke for men's minds and discourse. Then to discourse of himself, saying, that he heard that he was under the lash of people's discourse about the Prince's not having notice of the Dutch being out, and for him to comeback again, nor the Duke of Albemarle (age 57) notice that the Prince was sent for back again: to which he told me very particularly how careful he was the very same night that it was resolved to send for the Prince back, to cause orders to be writ, and waked the Duke, who was then in bed, to sign them; and that they went by expresse that very night, being the Wednesday night before the fight, which begun on the Friday; and that for sending them by the post expresse, and not by gentlemen on purpose, he made a sport of it, and said, I knew of none to send it with, but would at least have lost more time in fitting themselves out, than any diligence of theirs beyond that of the ordinary post would have recovered. I told him that this was not so much the towne talke as the reason of dividing the fleete. To this he told me he ought not to say much; but did assure me in general that the proposition did first come from the fleete, and the resolution not being prosecuted with orders so soon as the Generall thought fit, the Generall did send Sir Edward Spragge (age 46) up on purpose for them; and that there was nothing in the whole business which was not done with the full consent and advice of the Duke of Albemarle (age 57).
Pepy's Diary. 21 Jul 1666. Up and to the office, where all the morning sitting. At noon walked in the garden with Commissioner Pett (age 55) (newly come to towne), who tells me how infinite the disorders are among the commanders and all officers of the fleete. No discipline: nothing but swearing and cursing, and every body doing what they please; and the Generalls, understanding no better, suffer it, to the reproaching of this Board, or whoever it will be. He himself hath been challenged twice to the field, or something as good, by Sir Edward Spragge (age 46) and Captain Seymour. He tells me that captains carry, for all the late orders, what men they please; demand and consume what provisions they please. So that he fears, and I do no less, that God Almighty cannot bless us while we keep in this disorder that we are in: he observing to me too, that there is no man of counsel or advice in the fleete; and the truth is, the gentlemen captains will undo us, for they are not to be kept in order, their friends about the King (age 36) and Duke, and their own house, is so free, that it is not for any person but the Duke himself to have any command over them. He gone I to dinner, and then to the office, where busy all the afternoon.
Pepy's Diary. 01 Apr 1667. So home and to the office, where late, and then home to supper and bed. This evening Mrs. Turner (age 44) come to my office, and did walk an hour with me in the garden, telling me stories how Sir Edward Spragge (age 47) hath lately made love to our neighbour, a widow, Mrs. Hollworthy, who is a woman of estate, and wit and spirit, and do contemn him the most, and sent him away with the greatest scorn in the world; she tells me also odd stories how the parish talks of Sir W. Pen's (age 45) family, how poorly they clothe their daughter (age 16) so soon after marriage, and do say that Mr. Lowther (age 26) was married once before, and some such thing there hath been, whatever the bottom of it is. But to think of the clatter they make with his coach, and his owne fine cloathes, and yet how meanly they live within doors, and nastily, and borrowing everything of neighbours is a most shitten thing.
Pepy's Diary. 04 Apr 1667. So to the office till noon, busy, and then (which I think I have not done three times in my life) left the board upon occasion of a letter of Sir W. Coventry (age 39), and meeting Balty (age 27) at my house I took him with me by water, and to the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) to give him an account of the business, which was the escaping of some soldiers for the manning of a few ships now going out with Harman (age 42) to the West Indies, which is a sad consideration that at the very beginning of the year and few ships abroad we should be in such want of men that they do hide themselves, and swear they will not go to be killed and have no pay. I find the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) at dinner with sorry company, some of his officers of the Army; dirty dishes, and a nasty wife at table, and bad meat, of which I made but an ill dinner. Pretty to hear how she talked against Captain Du Tell, the Frenchman, that the Prince and her husband put out the last year; and how, says she, the Duke of York (age 33) hath made him, for his good services, his Cupbearer; yet he fired more shot into the D. Gawden's ship, and others of the King's ships, than of the enemy. And the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) did confirm it, and that somebody in the fight did cry out that a little Dutchman, by his ship, did plague him more than any other; upon which they were going to order him to be sunk, when they looked and found it was Du Tell, who, as the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) says, had killed several men in several of our ships. He said, but for his interest, which he knew he had at Court, he had hanged him at the yard's-arm, without staying for a Court-martiall. One Colonel Howard, at the table, magnified the Duke of Albemarle's (age 58) fight in June last, as being a greater action than ever was done by Caesar. The Duke of Albemarle (age 58), did say it had been no great action, had all his number fought, as they should have done, to have beat the Dutch; but of his 55 ships, not above 25 fought. He did give an account that it was a fight he was forced to: the Dutch being come in his way, and he being ordered to the buoy of the Nore, he could not pass by them without fighting, nor avoid them without great disadvantage and dishonour; and this Sir G. Carteret (age 57), I afterwards giving him an account of what he said, says that it is true, that he was ordered up to the Nore. But I remember he said, had all his captains fought, he would no more have doubted to have beat the Dutch, with all their number, than to eat the apple that lay on his trencher. My Lady Duchesse, among other things, discoursed of the wisdom of dividing the fleete; which the General said nothing to, though he knows well that it come from themselves in the fleete, and was brought up hither by Sir Edward Spragge (age 47). Colonel Howard, asking how the Prince did, the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) answering, "Pretty well"; the other replied, "But not so well as to go to sea again".-"How!" says the Duchess, "what should he go for, if he were well, for there are no ships for him to command? And so you have brought your hogs to a fair market", said she1. One at the table told an odd passage in this late plague: that at Petersfield, Hampshire, I think, he said, one side of the street had every house almost infected through the town, and the other, not one shut up. Dinner being done, I brought Balty (age 27) to the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) to kiss his hand and thank him far his kindness the last year to him, and take leave of him, and then Balty (age 27) and I to walk in the Park, and, out of pity to his father, told him what I had in my thoughts to do for him about the money-that is, to make him Deputy Treasurer of the fleete, which I have done by getting Sir G. Carteret's (age 57) consent, and an order from the Duke of York (age 33) for £1500 to be paid to him. He promises the whole profit to be paid to my wife, for to be disposed of as she sees fit, for her father and mother's relief. So mightily pleased with our walk, it being mighty pleasant weather, I back to Sir G. Carteret's (age 57), and there he had newly dined, and talked, and find that he do give every thing over for lost, declaring no money to be raised, and let Sir W. Coventry (age 39) name the man that persuaded the King (age 36) to take the Land Tax on promise, of raising present money upon it. He will, he says, be able to clear himself enough of it. I made him merry, with telling him how many land-admirals we are to have this year: Allen at Plymouth, Devon [Map], Holmes at Portsmouth, Hampshire [Map], Spragge for Medway, Teddiman at Dover, Smith to the Northward, and Harman (age 42) to the Southward. He did defend to me Sir W. Coventry (age 39) as not guilty of the dividing of the fleete the last year, and blesses God, as I do, for my Lord Sandwich's (age 41) absence, and tells me how the King (age 36) did lately observe to him how they have been particularly punished that were enemies to my Lord Sandwich (age 41). Mightily pleased I am with his family, and my Baroness Carteret (age 65) was on the bed to-day, having been let blood, and tells me of my Lady Jemimah's being big-bellied.
Note 1. It was pretty to hear the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) himself to wish that they would come on our ground, meaning the French, for that he would pay them, so as to make them glad to go back to France again; which was like a general, but not like an admiral.
Pepy's Diary. 30 Jun 1667. Thence back to the docke, and in my way saw how they are fain to take the deals of the rope-house to supply other occasions, and how sillily the country troopers look, that stand upon the passes there; and, methinks, as if they were more willing to run away than to fight, and it is said that the country soldiers did first run at Sheerenesse [Map], but that then my Lord Douglas's (age 21) men did run also; but it is excused that there was no defence for them towards the sea, that so the very beach did fly in their faces as the bullets come, and annoyed them, they having, after all this preparation of the officers of the ordnance, only done something towards the land, and nothing at all towards the sea. The people here everywhere do speak very badly of Sir Edward Spragge (age 47), as not behaving himself as he should have done in that business, going away with the first, and that old Captain Pyne, who, I am here told, and no sooner, is Master-Gunner of England, was the last that staid there.
Pepy's Diary. 24 Jul 1667. At noon home to dinner, where my wife mighty musty, [Dull, heavy, spiritless] but I took no notice of it, but after dinner to the office, and there with Mr. Harper did another good piece of work about my late collection of the accounts of the Navy presented to the Parliament at their last session, which was left unfinished, and now I have done it which sets my mind at my ease, and so, having tired myself, I took a pair of oares about five o'clock, which I made a gally at Redriffe [Map], and so with very much pleasure down to Gravesend, Kent [Map], all the way with extraordinary content reading of Boyle's (age 40) Hydrostatickes, which the more I read and understand, the more I admire, as a most excellent piece of philosophy; as we come nearer Gravesend, Kent [Map], we hear the Dutch fleete and ours a-firing their guns most distinctly and loud. But before we got to Gravesend, Kent [Map] they ceased, and it grew darkish, and so I landed only (and the flood being come) and went up to the Ship [Map] and discoursed with the landlord of the house, who undeceives me in what I heard this morning about the Dutch having lost two men-of-war, for it is not so, but several of their fire-ships. He do say, that this afternoon they did force our ships to retreat, but that now they are gone down as far as Shield-haven: but what the event hath been of this evening's guns they know not, but suppose not much, for they have all this while shot at good distance one from another. They seem confident of the security of this town and the River above it, if the enemy should come up so high; their fortifications being so good, and guns many. But he do say that people do complain of Sir Edward Spragg (age 47), that he hath not done extraordinary; and more of Sir W. Jenings, that he come up with his tamkins1 in his guns. Having discoursed this a little with him, and eat a bit of cold venison and drank, I away, took boat, and homeward again, with great pleasure, the moon shining, and it being a fine pleasant cool evening, and got home by half-past twelve at night, and so to bed.
Note 1. Tamkin, or tampion, the wooden stopper of a cannon placed in the muzzle to exclude water or dust.
Pepy's Diary. 27 Jul 1667. This morning news is come that Sir Jos. Jordan is come from Harwich [Map], with sixteen fire-ships and four other little ships of war: and did attempt to do some execution upon the enemy, but did it without discretion, as most do say, so as that they have been able to do no good, but have lost four of their fire ships. They attempted [this], it seems, when the wind was too strong, that our grapplings could not hold: others say we come to leeward of them, but all condemn it as a foolish management. They are come to Sir Edward Spragg (age 47) about Lee, and the Dutch are below at the Nore.
Pepy's Diary. 09 Aug 1667. He tells me how weary he hath for this year and a half been of the war; and how in the Duke of York's (age 33) bedchamber, at Christ Church, at Oxford, when the Court was there, he did labour to persuade the Duke to fling off the care of the Navy, and get it committed to other hands; which, if he had done, would have been much to his honour, being just come home with so much honour from sea as he did. I took notice of the sharp letter he wrote, which he sent us to read yesterday, to Sir Edward Spragg (age 47), where he is very plain about his leaving his charge of the ships at Gravesend, Kent [Map], when the enemy come last up, and several other things: a copy whereof I have kept. But it is done like a most worthy man; and he says it is good, now and then, to tell these gentlemen their duties, for they need it. And it seems, as he tells me, all our Knights are fallen out one with another, he, and Jenings, and Hollis (age 25), and (his words were) they are disputing which is the coward among them; and yet men that take the greatest liberty of censuring others! Here, with him, very late, till I could hardly get a coach or link willing to go through the ruines; but I do, but will not do it again, being, indeed, very dangerous.
Pepy's Diary. 18 Oct 1667. By and by we were called in and did our usual business, and complained of the business yesterday discovered of our officers abusing the King (age 37) in the appraisement of the prizes. Here it was worth observing that the Duke of York (age 34), considering what third rate ships to keep abroad, the Rupert was thought on, but then it was said that Captain Hubbert was Commander of her and that the King (age 37) had a mind for Spragg (age 47) to command the ship, which would not be well to be by turning out Hubbert, who is a good man, but one the Duke of York (age 34) said he did not know whether he did so well conforme, as at this lime to please the people and Parliament. Sir W. Coventry (age 39) answered, and the Duke of York (age 34) merrily agreed to it, that it was very hard to know what it was that the Parliament would call conformity at this time, and so it stopped, which I only observe to see how the Parliament's present temper do amuse them all.
Pepy's Diary. 23 Oct 1667. Up, and Sir W. Pen (age 46) and I in his coach to White Hall, there to attend the Duke of York (age 34); but come a little too late, and so missed it: only spoke with him, and heard him correct my Lord Barkeley (age 65), who fell foul on Sir Edward Spragg (age 47), who, it seems, said yesterday to the House, that if the Officers of the Ordnance had done as much work at Shereness in ten weeks as "The Prince" did in ten days, he could have defended the place against the Dutch: but the Duke of York (age 34) told him that every body must have liberty, at this time, to make their own defence, though it be to the charging of the fault upon any other, so it be true; so I perceive the whole world is at work in blaming one another.
Pepy's Diary. 25 Oct 1667. Another by Crispin, the waterman, who said he was upon "The Charles"; and spoke to Lord Bruncker (age 47) coming by in his boat, to know whether they should carry up "The Charles", they being a great many naked men without armes, and he told them she was well as she was. Both these have little in them indeed, but yet both did stick close against him; and he is the weakest man in the world to make his defence, and so is like to have much fault laid on him therefrom. Spragg (age 47) was in with them all the afternoon, and hath much fault laid on him for a man that minded his pleasure, and little else of his whole charge. I walked in the lobby, and there do hear from Mr. Chichly (age 53) that they were (the Commissioners of the Ordnance) shrewdly put to it yesterday, being examined with all severity and were hardly used by them, much otherwise than we, and did go away with mighty blame; and I am told by every body that it is likely to stick mighty hard upon them: at which every body is glad, because of Duncomb's pride, and their expecting to have the thanks of the House whereas they have deserved, as the Parliament apprehends, as bad as bad can be. Here is great talk of an impeachment brought in against my Lord Mordaunt (age 41), and that another will be brought in against my Chancellor (age 58) in a few days. Here I understand for certain that they have ordered that my Lord Arlington's (age 49) letters, and Secretary Morrice's (age 64) letters of intelligence, be consulted, about the business of the Dutch fleete's coming abroad, which is a very high point, but this they have done, but in what particular manner I cannot justly say, whether it was not with the King's leave first asked. Here late, as I have said, and at last they broke up, and we had our commissions again, and I do hear how Birch (age 52) is the high man that do examine and trouble every body with his questions, and they say that he do labour all he can to clear Pett, but it seems a witness has come in tonight, C. Millett, who do declare that he did deliver a message from the Duke of Albemarle (age 58) time enough for him to carry up "The Charles", and he neglected it, which will stick very hard, it seems, on him. So Sir W. Pen (age 46) and I in his coach home, and there to supper, a good supper, and so weary, and my eyes spent, to bed.
Pepy's Diary. 25 Oct 1667. Thence with Sir W. Pen (age 46) to the Parliament Committee, and there we all met, and did shew, my Lord Bruncker (age 47) and I, our commissions under the Great Seal in behalf of all the rest, to shew them our duties, and there I had no more matters asked me, but were bid to withdraw, and did there wait, I all the afternoon till eight at, night, while they were examining several about the business of Chatham, Kent [Map] again, and particularly my Lord Bruncker (age 47) did meet with two or three blurs that he did not think of. One from Spragg (age 47), who says that "The Unity" was ordered up contrary to his order, by my Lord Bruncker (age 47) and Commissioner Pett (age 57).
Pepy's Diary. 26 May 1669. To White Hall, where all the morning. Dined with Mr. Chevins (age 67), with Alderman Backewell (age 51), and Spragg (age 49). The Court full of the news from Captain Hubbert, of "The Milford", touching his being affronted in the Streights, shot at, and having eight men killed him by a French man-of-war, calling him "English dog", and commanding him to strike, which he refused, and, as knowing himself much too weak for him, made away from him. The Queen (age 30), as being supposed with child, fell ill, so as to call for Madam Nun, Mr. Chevins's (age 67) sister, and one of her women, from dinner from us; this being the last day of their doubtfulness touching her being with child; and they were therein well confirmed by her Majesty's being well again before night. One Sir Edmund Bury Godfry (age 47), a woodmonger and justice of Peace in Westminster, having two days since arrested Sir Alexander Frazier (age 59) for about £30 in firing, the bailiffs were apprehended, committed to the porter's lodge, and there, by the King's command, the last night severely whipped; from which the justice himself very hardly escaped, to such an unusual degree was the King (age 38) moved therein. But he lies now in the lodge, justifying his act, as grounded upon the opinion of several of the judges, and, among others, my Lord Chief Justice (age 62); which makes the King (age 38) very angry with the Chief-Justice, as they say; and the justice do lie and justify his act, and says he will suffer in the cause for the people, and do refuse to receive almost any nutriment. The effects of it may be bad to the Court. Expected a meeting of Tangier this afternoon, but failed.
Evelyn's Diary. 12 Mar 1672. Now was the first blow given by us to the Dutch convoy of the Smyrna fleet, by Sir Robert Holmes (age 32) and Lord Ossory (age 37), in which we received little save blows, and a worthy reproach for attacking our neighbors ere any war was proclaimed, and then pretending the occasion to be, that some time before, the Merlin yacht chancing to sail through the whole Dutch fleet, their Admiral did not strike to that trifling vessel. Surely, this was a quarrel slenderly grounded, and not becoming Christian neighbors. We are likely to thrive, accordingly. Lord Ossory (age 37) several times deplored to me his being engaged in it; he had more justice and honor than in the least to approve of it, though he had been over-persuaded to the expedition. There is no doubt but we should have surprised this exceeding rich fleet, had not the avarice and ambition of Holmes (age 32) and Spragge (age 52) separated themselves, and willfully divided our fleet, on presumption that either of them was strong enough to deal with the Dutch convoy without joining and mutual help; but they so warmly plied our divided fleets, that while in conflict the merchants sailed away, and got safe into Holland.
On 21 Aug 1673 the Battle of Texel was a naval battle between the English and Dutch. Prince Rupert Palatinate Simmern 1st Duke Cumberland (age 53) commanded the Allied fleet of about 92 ships and 30 fireships. Jean II d'Estrées commanding the van, and Sir Edward Spragge (age 53) the rear division. The Dutch fleet of 75 ships and 30 fireships was commanded by Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (age 66).
Although there were no major ship losses, many were seriously damaged and about 3,000 men died, two-thirds of them English or French.
The Gloucester fought.
On 21 Aug 1673 Admiral Edward Spragg (age 53) died.