gentlemen captains

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Samuel Pepys (1633—1703) naval official and diarist




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Court favourites of the Tudor and Stuart kings and queens of England who were appointed to command ships in the British Navy without having had to work their way up by promotion from lower ranks. Very often they had no knowledge of the sea or the ways of a ship, but solicited these appointments for the opportunities of plunder and prize money which they offered. Such captains were disliked by the crews of the ships they commanded and particularly by tarpaulin captains. Equally disgusted by this backstairs method of appointment was Samuel Pepys who, as secretary of the Admiralty, 1673–9 and 1684–9, made the lives of gentlemen captains a misery by insisting that they remained on board their ships unless given official leave. He also required them to forward log books for their ships punctually every month to the Navy Office. Under this strict regime few courtiers found it worthwhile to solicit appointments to command ships and the practice was effectively stamped out.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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