Saturday, December 6, 2008

1st Duke of Albemarle

George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle, was born 400 years ago today. He was an English soldier and a key player in the restoration of Charles II. He was not a diarist (as far as I know) but Samuel Pepys mentioned him often in his diary, and called him ‘a dull fellow’. He didn’t, however, lead a dull life.

Monck was born on 6 December 1608, near Torrington in Devon, into a respectable family but one suffering from money problems. He became a soldier, fighting with the Dutch against the Spaniards from 1629 to 1638, and earned himself a reputation as a leader. He distinguished himself further by suppressing a rebellion in Ireland, before returning to England to fight for King Charles I against the Parliamentarians. He was imprisoned for two years in the Tower of London. Then, from 1646, he sided with the Parliamentarians for whom he went to Ireland to fight against the rebels there.

Subsequently, Oliver Cromwell sent him to Scotland where he fought (with Cromwell) at the important Battle of Dunbar. Monck was then made commander-in-chief in Scotland, and completed the subjugation of the country. In 1652, he was appointed one of three generals at sea fighting in the First Anglo-Dutch War. On his return, he married Anne Clarges, and went back to Scotland, to beat down a Royalist insurrection. At Cromwell’s request, he remained there as governor.

During the confusion which followed Cromwell’s death in September 1658, Monck at first supported Cromwell’s son and successor Richard, but did not oppose the overthrow of the Protectorate and the recall of the ‘Rump’ of the Long Parliament. The Rump was forcefully dissolved by General John Lambert, but Monck refused to recognise the new military regime and led an army from Scotland in early 1660 against Lambert. 

When the new Convention Parliament was elected, it quickly invited Charles II to return to England as king. For his services in contributing to a peaceful restoration of the monarchy, Monck was made Duke of Albemarle and a Knight of the Garter, and was awarded a large annual pension. He returned to sea and battle once more, in 1666 commanding the English fleet in the Second Anglo-Dutch War, but died in 1670.

Samuel Pepys, who worked for the Navy Board, was a regular visitor at the Duke’s house during 1665, for business and society. Here are a few of Pepys’s diary entries from November that year (taken from The Diary of Samuel Pepys website).

Sunday 12 November
‘. . . After dinner I by water to the Duke of Albemarle, and there had a little discourse and business with him, chiefly to receive his commands about pilotts to be got for our Hambro’ ships, going now at this time of the year convoy to the merchant ships, that have lain at great pain and charge, some three, some four months at Harwich for a convoy. They hope here the plague will be less this weeke. . .’

Tuesday 14 November
‘. . . and down I went to Greenwich to my office, and there sat busy till noon, and so home to dinner, and thence to the office again, and by and by to the Duke of Albemarle’s by water late, where I find he had remembered that I had appointed to come to him this day about money, which I excused not doing sooner; but I see, a dull fellow, as he is, do sometimes remember what another thinks he mindeth not. My business was about getting money of the East India Company; but, Lord! to see how the Duke himself magnifies himself in what he had done with the Company; and my Lord Craven what the King could have done without my Lord Duke, and a deale of stir, but most mightily what a brave fellow I am. Back by water, it raining hard, and so to the office, and stopped my going, as I intended, to the buoy of the Nore, and great reason I had to rejoice at it, for it proved the night of as great a storme as was almost ever remembered. . .’

Wednesday 22 November
‘Up, and by water to the Duke of Albemarle, and there did some little business, but most to shew myself, and mightily I am yet in his and Lord Craven’s books, and thence to the Swan and there drank and so down to the bridge, and so to the Change, where spoke with many people, and about a great deale of business, which kept me late. I heard this day that Mr. Harrington is not dead of the plague, as we believed, at which I was very glad, but most of all, to hear that the plague is come very low; that is, the whole under 1,000, and the plague 600 and odd: and great hopes of a further decrease, because of this day’s being a very exceeding hard frost, and continues freezing. . .’

Monday 27 November
‘Up, and being to go to wait on the Duke of Albemarle, who is to go out of towne to Oxford to-morrow, and I being unwilling to go by water, it being bitter cold, walked it with my landlady’s little boy Christopher to Lambeth, it being a very fine walke and calling at half the way and drank, and so to the Duke of Albemarle, who is visited by every body against his going; and mighty kind to me: and upon my desiring his grace to give me his kind word to the Duke of Yorke, if any occasion there were of speaking of me, he told me he had reason to do so; for there had been nothing done in the Navy without me. His going, I hear, is upon putting the sea business into order, and, as some say, and people of his owne family, that he is agog to go to sea himself the next year. Here I met with a letter from Sir G. Carteret, who is come to Cranborne, that he will be here this afternoon and desires me to be with him. So the Duke would have me dine with him. So it being not dinner time, I to the Swan, and there found Sarah all alone in the house. So away to the Duke of Albemarle again, and there to dinner, he most exceeding kind to me to the observation of all that are there. . .’

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