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Kings of the Sea (Hardback)

Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy

Seaforth Royal Navy Naval

By J.D Davies
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781848324008
Published: 19th September 2017


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It has always been widely accepted that the Stuart kings, Charles II and James II, had an interest in the navy and more generally in the sea. Their enthusiastic delight in sailing, for instance, is often cited as marking the establishment of yachting in England. The major naval developments in their reigns on the other hand – developments that effectively turned the Royal Navy into a permanent, professional fighting force for the first time – have traditionally been attributed to Samuel Pepys.

This new book, based on a wide range of new and previously neglected evidence, presents a provocative new theory: that the creation of the proper ‘Royal Navy’ was in fact due principally to the Stuart brothers, particularly Charles II, who is presented here, not as the lazy monarch neglectful of the detail of government, but as a king with an acute and detailed interest in naval affairs. The author also demonstrates that Charles’ Stuart predecessors were far more directly involved in naval matters than has usually been allowed, and proves that Charles’ and James’ command of ship design and other technical matters went well beyond the bounds of dilettante enthusiasm.

It is shown how Charles in particular, intervened in ship design discussions at a highly technical level; how the brothers were principally responsible for the major reforms that established a permanent naval profession; and how they personally sponsored important expeditions and projects such as Greenvile Collins’ survey of British waters. The book also reassesses James II’s record as a fighting admiral.

It is a fascinating journey into the world of the Stuart navy and shows how the ‘Kings of the Sea’ were absolutely central to the development of its ships, their deployment and the officer corps which commanded them; it offers a major reassessment of that dynasty’s involvement in naval warfare.

The book is copiously illustrated, adding a visual appeal to the reader’s enjoyment of the very high standard of writing in this work, which is most readable and engaging, often gripping in its narrative and reading almost as compulsively as a novel, a medium in which the author is indeed also very accomplished.

Thoroughly recommended as a ‘good read’ quite apart from the reader’s personal favorites in period or nautical subject.

Ships in Scale, Winter 2017 - reviewed by Roger Marsh

An interesting book, providing a look into the history of the Stuart dynasty's involvement in the Royal Navy.

Military History Monthly, January 2018 – reviewed by Amy Adams

Having enjoyed the author’s ‘Pepy’s Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation’ I looked forward with anticipation to this new volume. The book is a fascinating journey into the world of the Stuart navy showing how the Kings of the Sea were absolutely central to the development of its ships, their deployment and the officer corps. This is the real beginning of what would become the greatest navy in the world.

Julian Stockwin action-adventure historical fiction

Another brilliant volume of maritime history, this time from the era of Charles II and James II. The detail is amazing and the narrative is both educational and entertaining.

Books Monthly

About J.D Davies

DAVID DAVIES, formerly Deputy Headmaster of Bedford Modern School, is the country's leading historian of the navy of this period and the author of the critically-acclaimed Gentlemen and Tarpaulins.

Former Chairman of the Naval Dockyards Society. Chair, Research and Programmes Committee, the Society for Nautical Research. Chair, Media, Marketing and Membership Committee, the Navy Records Society

Shortlisted for the Mountbatten Literary Award for Britannia's Dragon: A Naval History of Wales. Winner of the Samuel Pepys Prize for Pepys's Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89.

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