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Pepys and Prince Rupert*

Alec Samuels

Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I and cousin of Charles II, was a brave and gallant man, if somewhat impetuous. He distinguished himself as a soldier in the Civil War. After the Restoration in 1660 he played a prominent part in public affairs for some twenty years. Admirals had previously been seen as Generals-at-sea, but Rupert developed the concept that the principal role of the Admiral was to destroy the enemy fleet, as opposed to ferrying soldiers for a soldiers’ battle on board.

In the second and third Dutch wars Rupert was naval commander in chief, and fought with intelligence and bravery, with success in the second war but not in the third war.

Samuel Pepys, the civil servant effectively administering the Navy, did not care much for Rupert, whom he perceived as a rival to his (Pepys’) patron, Sandwich. Rupert was not an easy man to manage, disliking criticism and given to outbursts of anger. When Pepys was constantly pointing to the shortages and difficulties, trying to raise money for the Navy, Rupert unfairly saw this as an implied criticism of his command. Pepys recognised the necessity of influencing the King and the Duke of York. However, he loyally gave his support to Rupert, who mellowed in the 1670’s as First Lord, and lent his wide experience and appreciation to the support of Pepys. Together Rupert and Pepys overcame the threat of Dutch naval dominance.

* Prince Rupert, Admiral and General-at-Sea, Frank Kitson, Constable, 1998.

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