Christopher Myngs

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Christopher Myngs, by Sir Peter Lely, 1666, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series

Sir Christopher Myngs (1625–1666), English admiral and pirate, came of a Norfolk family and was a relative of another admiral, Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Pepys' story of his humble birth, in explanation of his popularity, is said to be erroneous. His name is often given as Mings.

Life[edit]

The date of Myngs's birth is uncertain, but probably somewhere between 1620 and 1625. It is probable that he saw a good deal of sea-service before 1648. He first appears prominently as the captain of the Elisabeth, which after a sharp action during the First Anglo-Dutch War brought in a Dutch convoy with two men-of-war as prizes. From 1653 to 1655 he continued to command the Elisabeth, high in favour with the council of state and recommended for promotion by the flag officers under whom he served.[1]

In 1655, he was appointed to the frigate Marston Moor, the crew of which was on the verge of mutiny. His firm measures quelled the insubordinate spirit, and he took the vessel out to the West Indies, arriving in January 1656 on Jamaica where he became the subcommander of the naval flotilla there, until the summer of 1657. [1] In February 1658, he returned to Jamaica as naval commander, acting as a commerce raider during the Anglo-Spanish War. During these actions he got a reputation for unnecessary cruelty, sacking and massacring entire towns in command of whole fleets of buccaneers. In 1658, after beating off a Spanish attack, he raided the coast of South-America; failing to capture a Spanish treasure fleet, he destroyed Tolú and Santa Maria in present-day Colombia instead; in 1659 he plundered Cumaná, Puerto Cabello and Coro in present-day Venezuela.

The Spanish government considered him a common pirate and mass murderer, protesting to no avail to the English government of Oliver Cromwell about his conduct. Because he had shared half of the bounty of his 1659 raid, about a quarter of a million pounds, with the buccaneers against the explicit orders of Edward D'Oyley, the English Commander of Jamaica, he was arrested for embezzlement and on the Marston Moor sent back to England in 1660. The later governor described him in an accompanying letter as "unhinged and out of tune".

The Restoration government retained him in his command however, and in August 1662 he was sent to Jamaica commanding the Centurion in order to resume his activities, despite the fact the war with Spain had ended. This was part of a covert English policy to undermine the Spanish dominion of the area, by destroying as much as possible of the infrastructure. In 1662 Myngs decided that the best way to accomplish this was to employ the full potential of the buccaneers by promising them the opportunity for unbridled plunder and rapine. He had the complete support of the new governor, Lord Windsor, who fired a large contingent of soldiers to fill Myngs's ranks with disgruntled men. That year he attacked Santiago de Cuba and took and sacked the town despite its strong defences. In 1663 buccaneers from all over the Caribbean joined him for the announced next expedition. Myngs directed the largest buccaneer fleet as yet assembled, fourteen ships strong and with 1400 pirates aboard, among them such notorious privateers as Henry Morgan and Abraham Blauvelt, and sacked San Francisco de Campeche in February. The atrocities led to an outrage and Charles II of England was forced to forbid further attacks in April, a policy to be carried out by the new governor, Thomas Modyford. Nevertheless a pattern had been set and large buccaneer attacks on Spanish settlements, secretly condoned by the English authorities would continue till the end of the century, gradually laying waste to the entire region.

During the attack on Campeche Bay Myngs himself had been severely wounded leaving Edward Mansvelt in charge of his pirate army. In 1664 he returned to England to recover. In 1665 he was made Vice-Admiral in Prince Rupert's squadron. As Vice-Admiral of the White under the Lord High Admiral James Stuart, Duke of York and Albany, he flew his flag during the Second Anglo-Dutch War at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, and for his share in that action received the honour of knighthood.

In the same year he then served under Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, as Vice-Admiral of the Blue and after the disgrace of Montagu under the next supreme fleet commander, George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. He was on detachment with Prince Rupert's Green squadron, when on 11 June 1666 the great Four Days' Battle began, but returned to the main fleet in time to take part on the final day, and in this action when his flotilla was surrounded by that of Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde he received a wound — being hit first through the cheek and then in the left shoulder by musket balls fired by a sharpshooter when his Victory was challenged by De Liefde's flagship, the Ridderschap van Holland — of which he died shortly after returning to London.[1]

References[edit]

Attribution