This collection of individual documents was formed soon after the foundation of the Museum and was conceived as a collection of autographs. As well as letters, it also came to include a small proportion of orders, reports and administrative documents. These remain in the collection, although new additions are now limited to individual letters. It contains over 1,500 documents, arranged by writer and almost exclusively naval. A number contain information relating to major events in naval history between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries and many of the most prominent figures in these events are among the correspondents. The documents of earliest date are two signed by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), one to his Chancellor, 1455 and 1468; thereafter, although some date from late in the reign of Elizabeth I, there are few until the mid-seventeenth century. Of these letters, particularly notable is one of 1643 from Henrietta Maria (1609-1669), asking for a reward to be given to Admiral Tromp for taking her to England; another from Admiral Edward Popham (1610?-1651) to Sir Henry Vane (1613-1662) reports the checking of the attempt of Prince Rupert to escape from the Tagus, 1650; and affairs in Jamaica in 1655 are described in a letter from Major Robert Sedgwick (d1656) to the Council of State. There is an account of the Four Days Battle, 1666, signed 'S.T.' (possibly Colonel Silias Titas), 1667; and orders to Prince Rupert for a descent into Holland are given in instructions, 1673, signed by Charles II (1630-1685). Correspondents of this period for whom there are a number of items are: Robert Blake (1599-1657), six items, 1651 to 1654; George Monck (1608-1670), five, 1652 to 1665; Admiral Sir John Lawson (d.1665), thirteen, 1663 to 1664; and Samuel Pepys (1633-1693), fifteen, 1663 to 1700. There are fewer documents for the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Howver, among them are nine signed by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650-1707), 1678 to 1707; five by Admiral Sir George Rooke (1650-1709), 1696 to 1705; thirteen by Admiral Sir Charles Wager (1666-1743), 1704 to 1717; six by Admiral Sir John Jennings (1664-1743), 1710 to 1715; and twenty-six by Admiral George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington (1663-1733), 1703 to 1732, including one of 1709 to Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745). Of later date is a letter from Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Thomas Cotes (d.1767) to his brother describing the attack on Cartagena, 1741; and one from Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Charles Watson (1714-1757) to Francis Gashry (fl.1738-1747), Navy Board Commissioner, containing an account of Hawke's engagement off Finisterre, 1747. Relating to events during the Seven Years War are a series of letters, seven by Admiral John Byng (1704-1757) relating to the battle of Minorca and to his subsequent recall and court martial, 1756; an account of the battle of Lagos is given in the report of Admiral Edward Boscawan (1711-1761), 1759; and among four documents, 1759 to 1767, signed by Admiral Edward Hawke (q.v) is his despatch to the Admiralty containing an account of events in Quiberon Bay, 1759. Of the same period are three letters from Admiral George Anson (1697-1762), 1747 to 1756, and seven from Lord Keppel (q.v.), 1748 to 1779. Correspondents at the same time of the War of American Independence include Lord Sandwich (q.v.), six items, 1779 to 1789; Admiral Sir George Rodney (1719-1792), twenty-six items, 1746 to 1783, mainly to his wife; and Captain (later Rear-Admiral) John Houlton (1740-1792), ninteen letters, 1780 to 1781; this last writer provides an account of the Moonlight Battle, 1780; one to Houlton from a midshipman on the MONTAGU describes Rodney's engagement with the French in the West Indies in April 1780; and two letters, one from Rodney and another from William Spry (d.1783), a midshipman, provide accounts of the Battle of the Saints, 1782. Twenty-six letters, 1775 to 1795, of Richard, Earl Howe (17

Administrative / biographical background
Letters - individual documents

Record Details

Item reference: AGC; GB 0064
Catalogue Section: Manuscript documents acquired singly by the Museum
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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