ALS, signed as Duke of York ("James"), to Samuel Pepys
ALS, signed as Duke of York ("James"), to Samuel Pepys

ALS, signed as Duke of York ("James"), to Samuel Pepys.

The Hague: April 24, 1679.

Bifolium with integral blank & autograph address leaf, monogrammed red seal. 4to. Some old folds, paper slightly toned, but very good. In quarter morocco slipcase with the bookplate of Robert S. Pirie. Samuel Pepys, Diary and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys ... in the Reigns of Charles II and James II ... (London, 1883) vol 4, p211. Item #302656

Prior to becoming king, James II acted as lord high admiral from 1660-73. ODNB says, he was "no mere figurehead ... but took an active interest in naval affairs." He had a small board of seven men to assist him, Samuel Pepys served among them as clerk of the acts. James took his role so seriously that he was present on ships engaged in both the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars until being forbidden by Charles II from further endangering his life. This letter was written at the time of the Popish plot, and in order to quell any suspicion of involvement, James went abroad to Brussels and later Scotland where he was "virtual viceroy".

Pepys lasting claim to fame is, of course, his diary. However, the substance of his life's work and thus the diary itself was through his work as an official in the Admiralty, not least as Secretary of the Royal Navy when he was commissioned to report on the condition of the Navy, which, after "five years of uninterruped Peace" and incompetent administration, had been reduced "to a Condition of being with difficulty kept above Water". In addition to assisting James II, Pepys had also been on a committee to run Tangiers from 1672-79. So it was only natural that the two would correspond on matters regarding it.

The letter is an excellent example of his correspondence with Pepys. It reads in part, "I had recived yours in which you gave an account of the losse of the marigold prise at Tanger. I hope that we shall now sone heare of the arrival of Sr. J. Narborough for then we shall have some more strength at home, though not so much as I thinke aught to be at sea, considering the French are fitting out..."

John Narborough had been stationed in the Mediterranean for the previous five years in order to combat attacks by corsairs on British shipping. At the time of writing he was in command of the Plymouth with a fleet of thirty-five vessels. He still encountered difficulties against the strength of Algerine forces. The fate of the Marigold was emblematic of Narborough's troubles. The 44 gun fourth rate ship that was captured in 1677 and then wrecked in 1679, the same year the fleet was called back to England.

A fine letter involving three vital figures in the Royal Navy.

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