Book Review: Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy


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

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close