Sir Robert Slingsby, 1st Baronet

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Sir Robert Slingsby, 1st Baronet (1611-1661) was an English baronet, author and Naval commander, and in his last years a much-loved colleague of Samuel Pepys.[1]

He was born at Bifrons near Canterbury, second son of Sir Guylford Slingsby, Controller of the Navy, and Margaret Walter.[2] He was the grandson of Sir Francis Slingsby of Scriven and thus a first cousin of Sir Henry Slingsby, 1st Baronet. His eldest brother Guildford Slingsby was a promising young lawyer and politician who was killed early in the English Civil War.[3]

He entered the Navy as a boy and when only 22 was given his first command, the Eighth Lyon's Whelp; in 1636 he commanded the Third Lyon's Whelp, and then the Expedition, in which he transported arms from the Tower of London to Edinburgh in 1640. He then commanded a small squadron in the English Channel, and in 1642 escorted the Portuguese Ambassador to Lisbon in the Garland.[4]

On the outbreak of the Civil War he declared for Charles I, but his men mutinied and he was imprisoned. On his release he joined the King at Oxford and in 1644 went to the Continent to raise funds. He and his brother Walter were with Prince Rupert when he surrendered Bristol, then went to Brussels to join their brother Arthur, who in 1658 was created first of the Slingsby baronets of Bifrons.[5] Robert later returned to England alone, and in 1650, like so many defeated Royalists, he compounded i.e. paid a fine in return for being left with sufficient means to live on. According to his sister Dorothy, he was then living with their widowed mother at York.[6] Robert was then described as being "infirm and wounded, and not likely to live long".[7]

At the Restoration, he was given his father's old office of Controller of the Navy, and made first and last of the Slingsby baronets of Newcells. He had already presented the King with his book "The Past and Present State of His Majesty's Navy" which argued for regular payment, prohibition of trading by officers and the encouragement of merchant shipping. Samuel Pepys praised the great efforts Slingsby had taken over it, but added drily that he had too high an opinion of his own work.[8]

Despite such occasional jibes, a warm friendship sprung up between Slingsby and Pepys: Slingsby invited Pepys regularly to his house, read him his verses, and drew on his memory of the Navy to explain how Pepys' own office, Clerk of the Acts, had been performed when he was young. Bryant remarks that Pepys respected Slingsby as he could never respect other colleagues like Sir William Batten..[9]

Slingsby did not enjoy office long: on 22 October 1661 Pepys noted that he was sick of ague and fever (an intermittent fever which killed several thousand people in London in 1661-4),[10] and on the 24th he 'continued ill, which makes them all afeared for him'.[11] He died on 26 October to Pepys' grief : 'he being a man that had loved me and had many qualities that made me love him above all the officers and Commissioners in the Navy'.[12] Pepys was distressed that there was no memorial service, which he regarded as a deliberate slight on Slingsby's memory from other colleagues like Batten and Sir William Penn, who in Pepys' opinion had regarded Slinsgby as a check on their greed and ambition. Both Batten and Penn professed grief at Slingsby' death, but Pepys regarded them as a pair of hypocrites.[13]

He married firstly Elizabeth Brooke of Newcells and secondly Elizabeth Radcliffe, widow of Sir Walter Fenwick, whom Pepys praised as a "good woman".[14] He had no son and the title died with him; according to Pepys he had at least one daughter.[15]


  1. ^ Secombe, Thomas "Robert Slingsby" Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900 Vol. 52 p. 378
  2. ^ Secombe p.378
  3. ^ Secombe p.378
  4. ^ Secombe p.378
  5. ^ Secombe p.378
  6. ^ Clay, John William editor Yorkshire Royalist Composition Papers Vol. 3 Cambridge University Press 2013 reprint p.23
  7. ^ Clay p.24
  8. ^ Secombe p.378
  9. ^ Bryant, Arthur Samuel Pepys- the Man in the Making Reprint Society Edition 1952 p.144
  10. ^ Diary of Samuel Pepys 22 October 1661
  11. ^ Pepys' Diary 24 October 1661
  12. ^ Pepys' Diary 26 October 1661
  13. ^ Pepys' Diary 30 October 1661
  14. ^ Pepys' Diary 15 April 1661
  15. ^ Pepys' Diary 2 January 1661