Maritime Art

The Mary Rose Action and the Barbary Pirates (1669)

By W. Holler (1669)

Wenceslaus Hollar was born in Prague in 1607 and became one of Europe’s most famous artists of the seventeenth century. Hollar was immensely well travelled and spent much of his life in the service of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, a significant politician and diplomat in the reigns of both James I and Charles I. Hollar subsequently moved into the service of the Duke of York, lived in exile in Antwerp as a Royalist during the Civil War and thereafter went back into Royal service after the Restoration. In 1669 he was then sent by Charles II to Tangier in Morocco with a commission to draw the town and forts and travelled on the 4th-rate frigate Mary Rose (1654 – originally built during the Commonwealth as the Maidstone) under the command of Rear-Admiral John Kempthorne. The Mary Rose was escorting a fleet of merchantmen when they were attacked by a fleet of seven Barbary pirate ships operating out of Algiers. Hollar, an eyewitness, recorded the action in detail. Mary Rose was attacked by six of the pirate ships but successfully fought them off, though suffering severe damage. On his return to England Kempthorne was knighted for ‘his very great valour and conduct shown against the pirates of Algiers.’

The Society has published a number of articles on this period and topic in the Mariner’s Mirror.

Eminent Marine Artists Part VI Wenceslaus Hollar explores Hollar’s career. His etchings of shipping are accepted as most correct in their details. In the British Museum’s collections, there are a number of Hollar’s works dealing with naval subjects. These include the St James’ Day Battle (1666), together with a list of the English ships and captains present (three plates in total); the burning of 150 Dutch vessels and town of Ter Schelling (1666) with two accompanying plans and the engagement between the Mary Rose and seven Algerine men-of-war (1669) with the narrative printed below.

Note: Wenceslaus Hollar provides additional information concerning Hollar who was featured in MM Volume 1, Issue 8. Hollar lived in England in 1639 and one of his engravings in the British Museum is part of a history of Kent. Its nautical research interest lies in the fact that it depicts the English, Spanish and Dutch fleets lying at anchor prior to the Battle of the Downs.

Tangier, the Navy and its Connection with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 explores the influence Admiral Arthur Herbert exerted on the events that culminated in William of Orange replacing James II on the English throne. Tangier, England’s largest outstation at the time, had by 1680, a large garrison and an even larger fleet commanded by Herbert, who ironically, although he owed his appointment to James’s patronage, had agreed with his officers that William would not be prevented from landing in England to usurp James. These officers by 1688, held important posts and in the crux of the article Peter Le Fevre explores, with extensive references, how Herbert, by patronage and even money achieved this.

The Corsairs of North Africa explores the broad history of the operations of north African corsairs from the 15th to 19th centuries, from Algiers, Salé and Tunis and European operations against them. The article gives names, dates and achievements of principal Rais and pay and prize money distribution arrangements. From early 17th century corsairs moved from galleys, often with paid rowers, to larger, sailing vessels and ranged as far as Newfoundland Banks, Nova Scotia, Southern Ireland and St Georges Channel. In later centuries most ships were state owned. Corsairs were privateers operating under a state flag and rigid code. The French captured Algiers in 1830. Privateering continued from Tunis until 1843.

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