by J. D. Davies
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2017. Pp. 288.
Illus., append., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1848324006
England’s First ‘Sailor Kings”
Davies, a leading specialist on the Restoration navy, and the author of Pepys’s Navy, takes a look at the role of the last Stuart kings in the creation of English maritime dominance.
Davies opens by pointing out that most earlier histories of the period have neglected the role of the navy, and the important parts that Charles II and his brother James II, the former noted primarily for his hedonism and latter for his Catholicism, and both supposed authoritarians, in laying the foundation of English maritime primacy.
Davies shows how each man worked hard to improve the fleet, facilitating the administration of the Navy and the conduct of operations, and even promoting improvements in ship design through their interest in yachting. He also notes the James, while Lord High Admiral of the fleet, during the Dutch Wars (1665-1667, 1672-1674), not only proved an excellent administrator, but an admiral of some skill, coordinating the capture of the New Netherlands in 1665 and doing well in several battles, winning Lowestoft, albeit drawing Solebay against the brilliant De Ruyter. James was, in fact, so proud of the fleet that he even praised it’s work against his interests during his exile.
Davies not only covers the royal pair’s influence on the Royal Navy, but he includes a look at England’s domestic religious politics, the changing patterns of international relations, and more.
Kings of the Sea is an essential read for anyone interested in the birth of England’s naval supremacy.
Note: Kings of the Sea is also available in several e-editions