Pirate FlagPirates and PrivateersPirate Flag
The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P. O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Thistles & Pirates

Sir Henry Mainwaring

Pirate, Pirate Hunter, and Royalist
By Cindy Vallar
I could easily be evidence, jury, judge, and executioner to myself.
Portrait of
              James I of England by John de Critz, c. 1606Henry Mainwaring’s honest assessment of his life as a pirate appeared in Of the Beginnings, Practices, and Suppression of Pirates, which he wrote in 1616 and presented to James I of England (right) two years later. Jean Chevalier of Jersey, who became acquainted with Mainwaring during the English Civil War, wrote of him:
[He] had been a terrible pirate in the flower of his youth, consorting with the King of Morocco, and carrying into his ports all prizes captured by him from English, French, Spaniards, and Flemings, indiscriminately. By such corsair-like pursuits he contrived to amass immense riches in gold and silver, and owned a large fleet of galleys, which was for a long time the terror of all traders navigating the Straits. (Life, II: 277)
How did an Englishman, educated at Brasenose College in Oxford, become a pirate? Who was Henry Mainwaring before he became a pirate? What did he do as a pirate? How did he retire from that life and what happened to him once he did?

Twenty-nine years into her reign, Queen Elizabeth I knew that King Philip II of Spain planned to send an armada against England. She sent Spain’s most feared enemy, Sir Francis Drake (El Draco) on a secret mission to thwart Philip. Drake sailed with a fleet of forty-two ships to “singe the beard of the King of Spain” on 12 April 1587. Seventeen days later, he attacked Cadiz harbor and, according to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, looted, burned, and sank twenty-four vessels with an estimated value of 172,000 ducats. Drake also destroyed cargoes of staves at Cape St. Vincent. The loss of these meant the Spanish couldn’t assemble barrels to hold the water and food that would be needed for the planned invasion fleet. In June he captured the San Felipe in the Azores.


The carrack was stuffed with pepper, cinnamon, cloves, calicoes, silks, ivories, gold, silver, and caskets of jewels. The total value was £114,000 ($32.01 million or £17.3 million [in 2007]) and three times the value of all the ships’ cargoes he had sunk, seized, or burned in Cadiz Bay. (Ronald, 305)

The financial loss, combined with the earlier destruction, ensured the Spanish armada wouldn’t sail for quite awhile.

Elizabeth I by Nicholas HilliardThat same year, 1587, a son was born to Sir George Mainwaring and his wife in Ightfield, Shropshire. Henry was their second son, and eventually he would have three brothers and two sisters. His mother’s father was Sir William More, Vice-Admiral of Sussex, who often played host to Queen Elizabeth (right) when she visited Loseley, his home in Surrey. Anti-Spanish sentiment ran so high throughout England that when she ascended to the throne, one speech announcing this news included "Queen Elizabeth, a princess, as you will, of no mingled blood of Spaniard or stranger, but born mere English here among us and therefore more natural unto us." (Ronald, 13) That hatred of Spain would influence Henry during his formative years, just as it had Drake.

He entered college at the age of twelve and was “assiduous in his studies, and books were more to him than objects to be placed in ‘openest view’ and seldom read.” (Life, I: 5) On 15 July 1602, he graduated and, as was the custom, he studied law at the Inner Temple under the tutelage of John Davies, “the most famous writing-master of his day, whose pupils were drawn from the noblest families in the land, and whose skill in penmanship was said to have been unequalled.” (Life, I: 5-6) In his Scourge of Folly (1611), he wrote the following poem “To my most dear pupil, Mr. Henry Mainwaring.”

Your soul (dear Sir, for I can judge of sprights
Though not judge souls) is like (besides her sire)
Those ever-beaming eye delighting lights
Which do heav’ns body inwardly attire;
For her superior part (your spotless mind)
Hath nought therein that’s not angelical;
As high, as lowly, in a diverse kind,
And kind in either; so belov’d of all.
Then (noble Henry) love me as thine own,
That lives but (with thy worths) to make thee known. (Life, I: 6)
Although it’s unknown what Mainwaring did after he left the Inner Temple, he may have gone to the Low Countries to fight in the Tactigjarige Oorlog (Dutch for 80 Years War, also known as the Dutch Revolt) against Spain. He possibly served under Sir Edward Cecil during the siege of Juliers in 1610.

Mainwaring reappears in the historical record in 1611 with orders to hunt pirates in the Bristol Channel. Rumors surfaced in 1610 that the “Notorious Pirate” Peter Easton sailed off the mouth of the river Avon. Fearing that he planned to capture as many vessels as he could, Bristol merchants appealed to Charles Howard, Lord High Admiral and Earl of Nottingham, for help. He sent Mainwaring, but no record provides evidence as to whether he captured any pirates. By the time he received this commission, Easton was back in Newfoundland, his pirate base. From this point forward, Mainwaring and high seas adventure were inextricably linked.

In 1612 he made the acquaintance of Sir Robert Shirley, an Englishman who spent time in Persia and now served as the Shah’s envoy to King James. Although lavishly entertained at Hampton Court, Shirley failed to gain assistance in the Shah’s struggle against the Ottoman Empire. He returned to Persia, and Mainwaring went with him. One year later, Mainwaring was a pirate, which he claimed happened by accident: “. . . I fell not purposely but by mischance into those courses.” (Life, II: 9) Once a Barbary corsair, though, he always “strove to do all the service I could to this State [England], and the merchants [English].” (Life, II: 9) The Venetian ambassador wrote that he had no equal when it came to “. . . [n]autical skill, for fighting his ship, for his mode of boarding and for resisting the enemy. (Earle, Pirate, 31)

Barbary corsairs after
              attacking a merchant shipMainwaring, like many other English pirates, operated out of Mamora, the Portuguese name for Al-Ma’mora, a town at the mouth of the Sebu River in Morocco. Unlike many of his countrymen who followed this path, he refused to convert to Islam. These men brought with them their ships – vessels powered by sails, rather than oars, that could travel far beyond the Strait of Gibraltar and required smaller crews – and they could be found throughout the Barbary States. “Between 1604 and 1615 it is estimated that there were several hundred Englishmen operating on corsair ships from Tunis.” (Earle, Corsairs, 50) There were so many of them that “nulli melius piraticam exercent quam Angli” (None make better pirates than the English) became a well-known maxim. (Life, I: 10)

Mainwaring’s ship was the Resistance, which he purchased from Phineas Pett in 1612 for approximately £700. She was 160 tons, fast, and amply armed. His principal targets were Spanish vessels, and he often lay in wait off Cape Spartel, the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar.

[H]e soon proved himself a scourge and a terror, for hardly a ship passed his lair without either suffering damage or capture. By this means he soon found himself at the head of a powerful fleet . . . . (Life, I: 12)

Those successes also guaranteed that he never wanted for crews to man his ships. For the Spanish, it was as if El Draco had returned to haunt them.

His influence and power became such that he basically controlled the coming and going of all pirate ships. “[T]here were some 30 sail of Pirates in Mamora,” and before any of them embarked on a voyage of plunder, “I suffered none to go in or out, but with condition not to disturb any of your Majesty’s subjects.” (Life, II: 10)  Nor would he knowingly plunder such vessels, and when he did, he made restitution according to a report in the Calendar of State Papers for Ireland.

He . . . stopped two merchantmen . . . with cargoes for a Spanish port. After taking what he required of their lading, he dismissed the ships, and left the crews to continue their voyage. As soon as the vessels . . . reported their loss . . . a complaint was afterwards lodged by a Galway merchant, Valentine Blake, that the goods taken out of these foreign vessels were his, and that they were consigned to his factor in Spain, Anthony Lynch, for sale. This was brought to Mainwaring’s knowledge, and he forthwith anchored off the port, and sent for the factor to come aboard his ship, in order to test the truth of Blake’s statement. Having received satisfactory evidence that such was the case, Mainwaring immediately restored the whole of his plunder, which amounted to about [£]3000 . . . (Life, I: 13)

Felipe III de Espana by Pedro Antonio
              VidalHis attacks on Spanish ships continued unabated and became such a problem that King Philip III (right) sent an emissary to Mainwaring. The Duke of Medina told him:

If you will deliver up Mamora to the King of Spain, his Majesty in return for this gracious favour will be pleased to bestow on you a free pardon and a considerable sum of money. (Life, I: 14)

If he agreed, he would be permitted to keep his ships and plunder. Medina also offered him “a high command in the Spanish royal fleet.” (Life, I: 14) Mainwaring refused. Nor was Philip the only ruler to offer pardons.

The Duke of Savoy sent me my pardon. The Duke of Florence sent me my pardon . . . . . The Dey of Tunis . . . swore . . . that if I would stay with him he would divide his estate equally with me, and never urge me to turn Turk, but give me leave to depart whensoever it should please your Majesty [James I of England] to be so gracious as to pardon me. (Life, II: 11)

To stay true to his pledge not to harm Englishmen and shipping, Mainwaring negotiated the release of all Christians enslaved by the corsairs of Salé (present-day Rabat), Morocco.

Piracy also flourished off Newfoundland, where many European fishermen harvested cod. It had earlier drawn Peter Easton to seek his fortune, and now Mainwaring decided to venture there in 1614.

Captain Mainwaring with divers other captains arrived . . . on the 4th of June, having 8 sail of war-like ships, one whereof they took at the bank, another upon the main of Newfoundland, from all the harbours . . .  of every six mariners they take one, and . . . one fifth part of their victuals; from the Portuguese ships they took all their wine and other provisions, save their bread; from a French ship . . . they took 10,000 fish . . . after they had continued three months and a half in the country, taking their pleasure of the fishing fleet, the 14th of September 1614, they departed, having with them from the fishing fleet about 400 mariners and fishermen; many volunteers, many compelled. (Gosse, History, 118-19)

Barbary corsairWhile Mainwaring prowled these waters, King Philip III had had enough of the pirates of Mamora. He sent a fleet of 99 ships there in the summer of 1614. With most of the corsairs absent, few men were left to defend the city, but they sank two ships at the mouth of the harbor to prevent the Spanish invaders from swooping in. Once Spanish guns decimated the spars and yards that blocked the entrance, the corsairs realized the hopelessness of their situation and torched their ships before fleeing. Once they were gone, Spain seized control of the pirate haven.

Unable to return to Mamora, Mainwaring moved his base of operation to Villafranca and resumed his crusade against Spanish shipping. In six weeks, his six ships plundered 500,000 crowns from the Spaniards. Fed up with such piracy, Philip III issued letters of marque to any of his subjects who wanted them, and ordered a fleet of five royal ships to hunt down Mainwaring. In July 1615, they battled his three vessels, which decimated the Spanish fleet; it only managed to escape complete destruction by slipping away during the night.

[The Spaniards] were so beaten by them, that with loss of many of their men and great hurt done in their ships were fain to use all diligence for the recovery of the port of Lisbon. (Earle, Pirate, 31)

According to Mainwaring, Philip again offered to pardon him and give him an annual allowance of 20,000 ducats if he served as “General of that squadron.” (Life, II: 12)

With Mainwaring’s continued successes, the ambassadors of Spain and France lodged frequent complaints against him in London. James could no longer afford to ignore their entreaties, but neither did he wish to wage war with these countries. He sent an emissary to Mainwaring with two choices. Either he accept “a free pardon . . . and abandon piracy” or the king would “send a fleet of sufficient strength that would compel him to surrender, even in the harbours of his ally the Emperor of Morocco.” (Life, I: 29) The last thing Mainwaring wished to do was anger his sovereign, so he sailed to Ireland in November 1615, and sent friends to England to negotiate his surrender.

While he waited, he received many offers from Irish seamen who volunteered to serve with him, but he declined them all. On 9 June 1616, at the behest of influential nobles, James granted the pardon because Mainwaring “had committed no great wrong”. (Life, I: 30)

But Mainwaring’s connection to piracy didn’t end with this pardon. Like Benjamin Hornigold would do a century later, Mainwaring became a pirate hunter.

In 1616 seven ships departed Newfoundland for England. Thirty pirate ships descended upon them, sinking two vessels.1 The brigands plundered the other five, including the Mary Anne, which belonged to the port of London. These losses impelled the Levant Company to seek the king’s support in suppressing the pirates. Appointed to this task, Henry Mainwaring zealously hunted for any pirates prowling English waters. He discovered three such vessels anchored in the River Thames. Upon boarding one near Leigh-on-Sea, located on the north bank just thirty-four miles east of London, he found Christian captives, whom he freed.

Map of river Thames in 1840

Two years later, King James knighted the thirty-one-year-old Mainwaring while the two were at Surrey. That same year he also became “a gentleman of the royal bedchamber”, and the king often consulted with Mainwaring on maritime policy.2 His knowledge in this sphere was known worldwide. Pietro Contarini, the Venetian ambassador to England, wrote:

There is here an English gentleman, a certain Captain Mainwaring, of yore a most famous pirate, who has repeatedly cruised in the Levant and in the Indies, and taken a number of vessels, having had as many as six or eight of his own; and for nautical skill, for fighting his ship, for his mode of boarding, and for resisting the enemy, he is said not to have his superior in all England. (38)

. . . I find that for nautical experiences and sea-fights, and for a multitude of daring feats performed afloat when he was a pirate, he is in high repute, being considered resolute and courageous, and perfectly suited to that profession, understanding the management of large ships better, perhaps, than anyone . . . on this very day his Majesty sent me a very earnest message in recommendation of him. (40)

Having acquired such experience, Mainwaring decided to share his knowledge with others. After reading his forty-eight-page discourse , these influential people persuaded him to share it with King James, which he did in 1618 as a thank you for his pardon. Of the Beginnings, Practices, and Suppression of Pirates was never officially published, but “affords to the student of English history a vivid picture of piracy as it flourished during the early part of the 17th century. The tactics adopted by the pirates, with an account of their various haunts when in need of a refit or victuals, together with advice on their suppression, are all discussed at length in a shrewd and learned manner by a former follower of the ‘trade’.” (Life I: 46)

Although Mainwaring never elaborated on what led him to follow the path of piracy – a course he never planned to take – Ambassador Contarini told his superior, the Doge of Venice:

[M]any years ago Mainwaring undertook to go with three ships to the Indies, but owing to the intervention of the Spanish ambassador, the projected voyage did not take place. Disgusted at this treatment, he went off with a number of vessels; and by way of revenge on the Spaniards, proceeded to capture any of their ships that chanced to cross his path, finally finding himself at the head of thirty or forty sail, mostly taken at the expense of the Spaniards. (Life, I: 50)

When Mainwaring wrote his Suppression of Pirates, he had five specific goals that he hoped to achieve.

The purpose of this discourse consists in showing:
  • Their beginnings, and how they relieve themselves within your Majesty’s Dominions.
  • The ground of opinion which encourages men in this course of Piracy; and of those are called Perforst-men.
  • How they use to work at Sea.
  • Where and what times they use to be where they must water, ballast, wood, trim their ships, and sell their goods.
  • A means as well to prevent as suppress them. (Life, II: 13)3
Another reason for this treatise stemmed from the upsurge in piracy since James became king. “[S]ince Your Highness’s reign there have been more Pirates by ten to one than were in the whole reign of the last Queen.” (Gosse, History, 123) A 1563 count of known pirates identified 400 of them. Elizabeth I died forty years later, and James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Between 1608 and 1614, as many as 1,000 men, aboard some 300 ships, had turned to piracy.4

Between 1620 and 1623, Mainwaring served as Lieutenant of Dover Castle and Deputy Warden of the Cinque Ports. Dover, Sandwich, Hastings, Romney, and Hythe had banded together around 1050 as the Confederation of Cinque Ports. Their primary purposes were to defend against invasion from the English Channel and to provide Edward the Confessor with men and ships. After the fourteenth century, the fortifications and ports fell into decline. When Mainwaring assumed his duties, they had decayed even further. The guns at Dover Castle “were without gunpowder, and in lieu of it ashes and sand were substituted!”, while none “were able to defend the coast from attacks of ships of war, nor defend their own merchantmen who sought refuge there.” (Life I: 72-3) During his tenure, he remained vigilant and pursued the duties of his office with the same diligence with which he attacked everything he did in life. In appreciation of his service, Dover elected him to Parliament in 1622.

Dover Castle, photograph by Webzooloo from France,
Dover Castle

In 1614 James proposed an alliance between his country and Spain by suggesting a marriage between his son, Charles, and Philip III’s daughter, Infanta Maria Anna. There were a variety of roadblocks to surmount, however, not least of which was the fact that she was a Catholic and Charles was a Protestant. Nine years later, James sent Mainwaring to Calais to collect the Spanish ambassador in hopes that the two monarchs might finally come to terms. Tired of the protracted negotiations, Charles decided to take matters into his own hand. Accompanied by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the Prince of Wales traveled incognito to Spain so he could woo Maria Anna himself. These two men were just beginning their journey when Mainwaring unwittingly crossed paths with them, while escorting Ambassador Boischot to London.

Coming towards London . . . we meet three disguised with hoods and false beards, and presently after followed one from Gravesend to tell Sir Lewis Lewkener and myself that they came out of Essex, and would not leave at the ordinary bridge, and had false beards and pistols, which suspicious fashion make me send a packet after them to stay them. (Life I: 93)

Charles I of England by Arthur Van
                Dyck, 1633Amaria Anna of
                Spain by Diego Velasquez, c. 1628
Charles I (left) by Arthur VanDyck and Maria Anna of Spain (right) by Diego Velasquez

The problem with Charles’ decision was that his presence in Spain opened the possibility that Philip could hold him hostage. Rather than allow that to happen, arrangements were made to bring him home. Mainwaring was named captain of the Prince Royal, flagship of a fleet of naval vessels under the command of Admiral, Earl of Rutland. The flotilla succeeded in extracting Charles and returned home in October. News of the prince’s homecoming was greeting with so much joy that “[a] cartload of offenders on their way to Tyburn were set at liberty, and bonfires were lighted all along the Prince’s route” to London. (Life I: 116)

Villiers had been appointed Lord High Admiral in 1619, and he surrounded himself with able and experienced seamen who could advise and assist him in improving the navy. Mainwaring was one of these men, and he presented Buckingham, “my most honoured Lord and Patron,” with a treatise on seamanship that he had written between 1620 and 1623 while at Dover Castle. Other navigational publications had appeared prior to this, but his work combined “the practice of mechanical working of ships, with the proper terms belonging to them.” (Life I: 134)

He also became involved in a variety of other naval matters. He proposed that Portsmouth should become a permanent naval base. Buckingham endorsed and eventually adopted this recommendation. Mainwaring became Surveyor of the Navy and played a major role in deciding what ships should be refitted, repaired, or decommissioned as the nation prepared for war with France, which broke out in 1627. A 1622 survey identified thirty ships in the Royal Navy, but when James I died three years later, two-thirds of those vessels were unseaworthy. This stemmed partly from the lack of funds in the royal treasury and from rampant corruption and embezzlement, abuses which Mainwaring and others investigated between 1626 and 1627.

In 1630 Mainwaring fell in love with and married Fortune Gardiner, the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Gardiner of Basing’s Manor in Peckham. Her father apparently didn’t approve of the match, so the couple eloped. Gardiner mentioned the affair in a letter to the king.

But my youngest daughter . . . without my consent or knowledge, mounted up to top of Paul’s, the nearer to heaven, for to shew God there, how wise she was in her actions, and there she was married unto Sir Henry Mainwaring; and yet she was not there taken up in heaven, but came down again upon earth, here further to trouble me before I die, although the great care and charge I had in breeding her up did not deserve such disobedience. (Life I: 214)5

But their time together was brief. Lady Mainwaring died in three years later and was buried at St. Giles Church in Camberwell.

Trinity House,
              photograph nby Matthew Ross, 2007During the reign of Henry VIII, a group of seafarers had banded together and called themselves the Guild of the Holy Trinity. Initially, their purpose was to regulate the piloting of ships in local waters. Over the years the guild expanded to become the Corporation of Trinity House (left). Mainwaring joined this brotherhood in 1627; three years later, he was elected its Master. He was later re-elected to the post in 1642, the same year that year civil war erupted in August. Ever a faithful adherent to the Royal House of Stuart, Mainwaring sided with the Royalists. Those who defended the constitution and the rights of all Englishmen were Parliamentarians. Since Trinity House held a royal charter and favored the king, Parliament considered the Corporation a suspicious organization and called for the removal of any officials who supported His Majesty. On 9 November, the House of Commons passed the following resolution:

That Sir Henry Mainwaring be forthwith sent for as a Delinquent, by the Sergeant at Arms attending this House. That this House holds it not fit, that Sir Henry Mainwaring should any longer continue Master of the Corporation of the Trinity House. (Life I: 301-2)

They also banned him from its membership and later, in 1647, dissolved the Corporation’s charter.

The end of November found him in Oxford with the Royalist army, and while scant documentation exists as to what he did during this time, the university bestowed a degree of Doctor of Physic upon him on 31 January 1643.

The following year, Parliamentarians came across his unpublished treatise on seamanship entitled Nomenclator Navalis. Since Parliament controlled the Royal Navy (or Parliamentarian navy as it was known during this time), it deemed Mainwaring’s manuscript worthy of publication. John Booker, who held the license to publish it, considered the book “so universally necessary for all sorts of men, that I conceive it very fit to be at this time imprinted for the good of the Republic.” (Life, I: 303) Entitled The Sea-mans Dictionary: or, an Exposition and Demonstration of all the Parts and Things belonging to a Ship. Together with an Explanation of all the Terms and Phrases used in the Practique of Navigation. Composed by that Able and Experienced Sea-man Sir Henry Manwayring, Knight: and by him presented to the late Duke of Buckingham, the then Lord High Admiral of England, the book could be purchased from “John Bellamy at the sign of the three golden Lions in Cornhill.” (Life, I: 303)

It was the practice of the period to appoint gentlemen (courtiers) to command warships, rather than installing trained seamen to captain them. These gentlemen were landsmen who had little, if any, nautical expertise or knowledge of naval affairs. Instead they possessed influence, which enabled them to gain these appointments, “much to the disgust of the seamen who had been bred to the profession.”  (Life I: 305) This practice had spurred Mainwaring to write The Sea-Mans Dictionary.

My purpose is not to instruct those, whose experience and observation, have made them as sufficient (or more) than myself . . . but my intent and the use of this book is to instruct one whose quality, attendance, indisposition of body (or the like) cannot permit to gain the knowledge of terms, names, words, the parts, qualities and manner of doing things with ships, by long experience . . . . It being so, that very few gentlemen (though they be called seamen) do fully and wholly understand what belongs to their profession; having only some scambling [slipshod or bungling] terms and names belonging to some parts of a ship. But he who will teach another must understand things plainly and distinctly himself . . . . (Life II: 83-4)6

It was in essence “the text-book of seventeenth-century seamanship” and Mainwaring believed those who studied it would “in six months . . . know more, be a better seaman, and speak more properly to any business of the sea . . . .” (Life II: 85-6) Mainwaring, and others like him, were professional seamen and constituted a new breed of officers who came to be known as “tarpaulin captains,” rather than “gentlemen captains,” because of their expertise in sea matters. During his tenure as a Navy Office clerk under Samuel Pepys, Richard Gibson noted the difference between these two types of captains.

. . . it was once my happ to trace a gentleman captain’s sea-journal of a 4th rate ship, in which I found he was at times 460 days in port, and but 164 days at sea, during the voyage. (Life II: 280)

Christopher Myngs by Sir Peter Lely,
              1666Gibson also compiled a list that showed nineteen tarpaulins, who went to sea as cabin boys, rose to the rank of admiral. The men who served under gentlemen captains had little confidence in or respect for their officers, who “had ‘a sentinel at his cabin door (to keep silence in the belfry)’.” (Life II: 281) The opposite was true of a tarpaulin captain, because he “made himself familiar with his men, talking to them on the watch, and in foul weather cheering the most active of the crew with ‘a dram of the bottle’.” (Life, II: 281) One example of a tarpaulin captain was Sir Christopher Myngs (right), a former buccaneer who became a Vice-Admiral in Charles II’s navy. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, Myngs was fatally wounded. His men held him in such high esteem that “[a]fter his funeral, a dozen lusty seamen . . . petitioned that they might be given a fireship, so that if possible they could do ‘that that shall show our memory of our dead commander and our revenge.’” (Life, II: 281) Seamen would rarely have volunteered to sacrifice their lives for a gentleman captain.

When Parliament published The Sea-mans Dictionary, Mainwaring was still in England. In spite of having lost control of the Royal Navy, King Charles still had ships at his disposal. Most were converted merchantmen, one of which the forty-gun St. George or Great George. Mainwaring commanded this ship and had instructions to transport Prince Charles to the Scilly Isles, which lay to the southwest of Falmouth, should danger arise. In the interim, Mainwaring and the prince, as well as the royal entourage, stayed at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth. On 12 February 1646, they learned “of a design to seize the . . . Prince, and that many persons of quality of the country were privy to it,” including some of his servants. (Life I: 306) Then word came that Parliamentary forces were advancing on the city, so the king’s ships embarked for Scilly. Mainwaring was prevented from carrying out the king’s order because the governor of Pendennis Castle insisted he and his ship help defend the garrison.

Pendennis Castle, photograph by Willhsmit, 2005
Pendennis Castle

Two fortifications, built during the reign of Henry VIII, protected the entrance to Falmouth Harbor. Perched on a promontory 200 feet above the sea, Pendennis Castle had a commanding view from the west bank, while St. Mawe’s Castle protected the entrance from the opposite direction. After the Parliamentarians attacked on 19 March 1645, one officer wrote about Mainwaring’s ship.

The man-of-war that hath 40 pieces of ordnance in him which lieth aground on the north side of the fort let us pass very quietly through Pennycomequicke and to Arwenack, which lies within half musket shot of the enemy’s outworks, but is blinded by the houses and the trees, so that they cannot see those that are on the other side of the house; but when we came off and were past Pennycomequicke, and advanced into an open field on our way back to Penryn, the ship that lay on the north side of the castle let fly at us, but their shot (by God’s mercy) did us no harm, though the bullets flew very near us, and one grazed not far from me, which we found, as a bullet of some 12 lb. weight. (Life I: 309)

Charles II of EnglandWhen the Parliamentarians failed to rout the Royalists, they lay siege to Pendennis.7 In mid-April, the remaining Royalists, most likely including Mainwaring, joined Prince Charles in Scilly. From there, they sailed for Jersey in the Channel Islands. Mainwaring, who was nearly sixty years old, found himself without much money. The fortune he had amassed as a pirate was gone, and a nephew was his only attendant. During the interlude on Jersey, many historians believe the sixteen-year-old Prince of Wales gained his knowledge of ships and sailing from Mainwaring.

Eventually, Prince Charles and his retinue sailed for France, but Mainwaring remained on the island to help shore up its defenses. After twenty-two months on Jersey, he sailed for Helvoetsluys in the Netherlands where his sovereign and the royalist fleet had sought refuge. Mainwaring became captain of the Antelope, which mounted thirty guns. The royalist squadron sailed for the Thames under the command of Vice-Admiral Lord Willoughby, taking prizes along the way. The captured cargoes provided much-needed resources for Charles to fund his navy. One vessel taken was a merchantman from London bound for Rotterdam with a cargo of cloth valued at £40,000. A fully laden East Indiaman made “an excellent man-of-war” for Charles’ navy.

After the squadron returned to Helvoetsluys, the Antelope was deemed unfit. Her ordnance was sold, the proceeds from which victualled the other crews and fitted out the remaining ships. Prince Rupert succeeded Lord Willoughby as supreme commander. The men weren’t overly fond of their new leader, but Rupert had little trouble restoring order, not after he threw “two or three seamen overboard by the strength of his own arms.” (Life I: 332)

On 12 January 1649, Parliament executedCharles Stuart, King of England.” (Life I: 332) The news of his father’s death arrived in The Hague four days later, and for the next six months Charles II remained there with his staunchest cavaliers, including Sir Henry Mainwaring. They believed the new king’s “only chance of regaining the throne depended on what measure of success attended his efforts on the sea.” Prince Rupert’s lack of success, however, convinced Mainwaring that Charles’ cause was lost.8 Two years later, exhausted and feeling his age, Mainwaring returned to England in dire straits. He owned only a horse and clothing valued at £8. For siding with the king, he was fined £1 6s. 8d. and given six weeks to pay. Someone anted up the sum on 18 December 1651.

Execution of Charles I of England,
                German print, 1649
Beheading of Charles I outside Banqueting House, Whitehall in London (German print, 1646)

Mainwaring died eighteen months later at the age of sixty-six and was buried on 15 May 1653, in the same cemetery as his beloved wife. His biographer, G. E. Mainwaring, wrote:

A linguist and a scholar of no mean ability, he wielded a pen with as much dexterity as he handled a ship, and was never happier than when committing his views to paper on any subject connected with the Navy and the naval art. Of a studious nature, his indefatigable industry and quickness of perception placed him among the foremost English of the time. A true patriot at heart, he is one of those forgotten worthies whose enterprise and courage helped to make the British flag known and respected in all seas, and of him it may truly be said, that in his life was exemplified the motto of his family – ‘Devant si je puis.’ (Life, I: 339)9

1. Some reports put the number of ships in the pirate fleet at eighty.

2. Gentlemen of the Bedchamber were the monarch’s most intimate servants. They were often friends, peers of the realm, or other men of rank, who provided companionship for the king. They influenced his decisions and policies, as well as attending to specific duties related to helping him dress, waiting on him during meals, and guarding access to him when in his privy chambers.

3. If the authorities captured them, perforst-men claimed they had been forced into piracy. In actuality, when their ship was taken and the pirates asked for volunteers, these men willingly followed the sweet trade. Part 3 of this article will discuss Mainwaring’s discourse on piracy and its suppression at greater length.

4. According to David Starkey, the influx of pirates had waned by 1615. A year later they had virtually disappeared.

5. Paul’s refers to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

6. Although Captain John Smith’s The Seamans Grammar and Dictionary was published in 1626, its content pales in comparison to that of Mainwaring’s volume.

7. The garrison finally capitulated on 17 August, the last royalist stronghold to surrender.

8. After Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658, the Protectorate crumbled and his son resigned the following year. Unrest followed, and the exiled Charles finally returned to England on 29 May 1660, and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy began.

9. This translates to “Foremost if I can.”

For more information, I recommend the following resources:

Appleby, John C. “Women and Piracy in Ireland” in Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader edited by C. R. Pennell. New York University, 2001, 283-98.

Davies, J. D. “Sir Henry Mainwaring (1587-1653)” in Naval Warfare: An International Encyclopedia edited by Spencer C Tucker. ABC Clio, 2002, 2:650-1.

Earle, Peter. Corsairs of Malta and Barbary. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1970.
Earle, Peter. The Pirate Wars. Thomas Dunne, 2003.

Finnemore, John. Barbary Rovers. Adam & Charles Black, 1912.
Friel, Ian. Maritime History of Britain and Ireland c. 400-2001. British Maritime Press, 2003.

Gosse, Philip. The History of Piracy. Rio Grande Press, 1995.
Gosse, Philip. The Pirates’ Who’s Who: Giving Particulars of the Lives and Deaths of the Pirates and Buccaneers. Rio Grande Press, 1924.

Hicks, Robert D. Voyage to Jamestown: Practical Navigation in the Age of Discovery. Naval Institute Press, 2011.
Hunt, E. “Sir Henry Mainwaring,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1. University of Toronto, 1966.

Jamison, Alan G. Lords of the Sea: A History of the Barbary Corsairs, Reakton Books, 2012.

Lavery, Brian. Royal Tars: The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy, 875-1850. Naval Institute Press, 2010.
The Life and Works of Sir Henry Mainwaring edited by G. E. Mainwaring, volume 1 and volume 2. The Navy Records Society, MDCCCCXX.

Little, Benerson. Pirate Hunting: The Fight against Pirates, Privateers, and Sea Raiders from Antiquity to the Present. Potomac Books, 2010.
Lloyd, Christopher. The British Seaman 1200-1860: A Social Survey. Fairleigh Dickinson, 1970.

Pym, Katherine. “Pirate Extraordinaire and Friend to the Crown,” English Historical Fiction Authors, 7 August 2012.

Rogozinski, Jan. Pirates!: Brigands, Buccaneers and Privateers in Fact, Fiction, and Legend. Facts on File, 1995.
Ronald, Susan. The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire. HarperCollins, 2007.

“Sir Henry Mainwaring,” The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea edited by Peter Kemp. Oxford, 1976.
Starkey, David J. “Pirates and Markets” in Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader edited by C. R. Pennell. New York University, 2001, 107-124.

“Trinity House,” The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea edited by Peter Kemp. Oxford, 1976, 889.

Wilson, Peter Lamborn. Pirate Utopias: Moorism Corsairs and European Renegadoes. Autonomedia, 1995.

Copyright © 2013 Cindy Vallar
Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Thistles & Pirates

Contact Me
Click on the Cannon to Contact Me