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general neglect and remissness of the commanders, captains, and other officers of the fleet, in not performing the duty of their respective places, according to the General Instructions: therefore, for the prevention of the like neglects, and their fatal consequences in future, his Majesty hath thought fit to order, and it is hereby accordingly ordered, that all flag-officers, captains, and other officers, &c., when on sea-service, shall receive double their present pay; and when on shore, shall receive half-pay,” &c.
Such a sweeping reprimand to the whole body of the navy, and from a new sovereign, with no hereditary claim, and moreover a foreigner, was a bold measure, and required some soothing expedient like that administered by the Dutchman to gild the bitter pill, which completely answered the purpose; and the efficiency of the navy was much improved during the continuance of his reign.
William, however, was not quite steady. In the first printed list of naval lieutenants (in the Records of the Admiralty), in 1700, consisting of 330, it is headed that 100 will from time to time be entitled to half-pay when unemployed on shore, according to their seniority in the list.
The first printed list of captains (that appears in the Admiralty in the year 1717-18) consists in the whole of 214.
Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne of England under very discouraging circumstances. Her subjects were divided and harassed by discordant religious opinions: the exchequer exhausted, and financial concerns in the greatest disorder; her title to the Crown disputed; the Scots in a state of rebellion in favour of their own queen ; the country inundated by Catholic bishops and priests, encouraged by the late sovereign and her bigoted husband, who, before the ashes of his wife were cold in the grave, unfeelingly proposed marriage to Elizabeth, which she treated with scorn; but it contributed to make a bitter enemy of the most powerful monarch of Europe, both by sea and land; while her own navy and army were in a low and deplorable condition, while her forts and castles along the sea-coast, the only true defence (coupled with a navy) of an insular empire, were in a state of neglect all these accumulated evils, with the cares and anxieties of governing a great but distracted empire, were to be met by a young princess of five and twenty years of age.
But the energy of her mental powers, strengthened by a sound and solid education and a clear understanding, added to that unconquerable spirit in maintaining what she deemed her right, (which she inherited from her father, and in which she was supported by wise and honest ministers,) enabled her to overcome the many difficulties that opposed her first entrance on the arduous task set before her. She met it boldly; and the first work of labour
which this young princess encountered and successfully completed, was the glorious Reformation; an undertaking no less difficult than dangerous, but which she happily accomplished for the future peace of the realm.
The navy claimed her early attention, and the death of Lord Lincoln, the Lord High Admiral, left a vacancy, which Elizabeth conferred on Lord Charles Howard of Effingham, a man on whom she bestowed her highest confidence, and in whom she found an officer devoted to the service, and well disposed to take an active part in all the duties of this important office, both civil and military, which his predecessor had not been called upon to attend to.
It is to this most honourable, faithful, and excellent man, that the autograph letters, mentioned in the title-page, chiefly apply. Hitherto none of them have met the public eye. They were found bundled up in the State Paper Office, “that mine” (as some writer observes), “wherein much unfruitful soil requires to be removed, but by diligent digging and a practised eye a rich vein may perhaps be hit upon, to reward the labours of the search.”
It is a matter of some surprise, that so good and eminent a character has had so little recorded of his life and transactions. The old naval chronicles mention him as commanding against the Spanish Armada, and at the capture of Cadiz; but
before and after these two events we hear little of him, except by his splendid embassy to Spain in the reign of James I. But, during the whole war, his letters display an unceasing degree of vigilance, anxiety, and great humanity. These letters have no pretension to fine or correct writing, or brilliant talent; their orthography is that of the time; their plain, honest, and homely style, alike to the Queen as to Secretary Walsingham, exhibits character in a remarkable degree : as Sir Harris Nicolas observes of Nelson's letters, so it may here be said of Howard's,—they have not been altered into “ a fitting epistolary shape, as if a hero could never think, write, nor speak naturally, but must always appear in a full dress.” Lord Charles Howard of Effingham shall speak, think, and write in his own homely dress, which, if none of the smartest, will convey at least the honest, undisguised sentiments of an ingenuous and upright man.
SIR MARTIN FROBISHER.
1576 to 1594.
FIRST VOYAGE, 1576. The history of the British Navy, from a very early period down to the present day, affords more splendid examples of high moral and heroic courage, of unflinching fortitude and self-devotion, and its officers and seamen have performed more gallant deeds, than those of any other nation, at any period of its history, can boast of. At the same time, the narratives of these exploits and daring adventures, while they impart delight, are frequently calculated to fill the mind with melancholy reflections, that so many brave fellows should have sacrificed their lives in devotion to their country's service, whether in battle, or in the peaceful attainment of some cherished object of science or discovery, for the common benefit of the human race.
Among the first and foremost of the distinguished naval officers, and thorough-bred seamen, who flourished in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and under her auspices, was Sir Martin Frobisher. Brilliant as his services were, both in battle and discovery, it