HMS Royal Charles (1655)
Royal Charles was an 80-gun first-rate three-decker ship of the line of the English Navy. She was built by Peter Pett and launched at Woolwich Dockyard in 1655, for the navy of the Commonwealth of England. She was originally called Naseby, named in honour of Sir Thomas Fairfax's decisive 1645 victory over the Royalist forces during the English Civil Wars. She was ordered in 1654 as one of a programme of four second rates, intended to carry 60 guns each. However, she was altered during construction to mount a complete battery of guns along the upper deck (compared with the partial battery on this deck of her intended sisters, on which there were no gunports in the waist along this deck), and so was reclassed as a first rate.
|Ordered:||3 July 1654|
|Builder:||Peter Pett II, Woolwich Dockyard|
|Launched:||12 April 1655|
|Renamed:||Royal Charles, 23 May 1660|
|Captured:||12 June 1667, by the Dutch|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap, 1673 (by Dutch navy)|
|General characteristics |
|Class and type:||80-gun first-rate ship of the line|
|Tons burthen:||1129 (bm) on completion, later increased to 125817⁄94 bm|
|Length:||131 ft (39.9 m) (keel)|
|Beam:||42 ft 0 in (12.8 m) on completion, later increased to 42 ft 6 in (13.0 m)|
|Depth of hold:||18 ft (5.5 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full-rigged ship|
|Complement:||500 - later raised to 550 then 650|
|Armament:||80 guns of various weights of shot|
In the run-up to the Restoration of the monarchy in May (June, New Style) of 1660, she was anchored in The Downs off Deal, where her laurel-crowned figurehead of Oliver Cromwell was removed before sailing to the Dutch Republic at the head of the fleet sent to bring King Charles II back to England, captained by Sir Edward Montagu and still under her Parliamentary name. On arrival in Scheveningen she was renamed HMS Royal Charles and took Charles and his entourage (including Samuel Pepys) on board, landing them at Dover.
Under her new name, she thus joined the Royal Navy, which formally came into being in 1660. At 1,229 tons, Naseby was larger than Sovereign of the Seas, the first three-deck ship of the line, built by Phineas Pett, Peter's father. Unlike Sovereign of the Seas, which was in service from 1637 to 1697, Naseby was to enjoy only twelve years in service.
As Royal Charles she took part in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1665, she fought in the Battle of Lowestoft under the command of the Lord High Admiral, James Stuart, Duke of York, her captain being Sir William Penn. During that battle she probably destroyed the Dutch flagship Eendracht. In 1666, she participated in two further actions, the Four Days Battle and the defeat of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter in the St. James's Day Battle off the North Foreland.
In 1667, flagging English national morale was further depressed by the Raid on the Medway in which a Dutch fleet invaded the Thames and Medway rivers and on 12 June captured the uncommissioned Royal Charles, removing her with great skill to Hellevoetsluis in the United Provinces. The Dutch did not take her into naval service because it was considered that she drew too much water for general use on the Dutch coast. Instead the Royal Charles was permanently drydocked near Hellevoetsluis as a tourist attraction, with day trips being organised for large parties, often of foreign state guests. After vehement protests by Charles that this insulted his honour, the official visits were ended when she was auctioned for scrap in 1673.
The wooden carving showing the royal arms, originally placed on the ship's transom, was, however, preserved. After remaining at Hellevoetsluis for a while, it was brought to a naval shipbuilding yard in Rotterdam in the nineteenth century, and in 1855 was transferred to the Dutch navy's model collection. It is now on display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which took most of the naval collection in the 1880s.
- Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p160.
- Parliamentary Intelligencer, 30 April – 7 May 1660, in Random Edition
- Rijksmuseum website: Stern carving from the Royal Charles, anonymous, c. 1663 - c. 1664
- Rijksmuseum website: Ship models
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to HMS Royal Charles (ship, 1655).|
- Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650–1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
- Royal Charles stern piece, preserved at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. (Object number: NG-MC-239)