Sir Edward Spragge, (c. 1629–1673)

Edward Spragge (c. 1629 - 1673), Admiral of the Blue  *watercolour  *8.3 x 6.6 cm  *circa 1665

The Battle of Lowestoft, 3 June 1665, showing HMS 'Royal Charles' and the 'Eendracht'. Hendrik van Minderhout. BHC0283

The Battle of Lowestoft, 13 June 1665, showing HMS Royal Charles and the Eendracht by Hendrik van Minderhout, painted c. 1665

British admiral of the Restoration period. Born c. 1629, Edward Spragge was a son of the royalist governor of Roscommon Castle, Ireland. Prior to the Restoration, he had spent time as a slave in Algiers, may have served in Prince Rupert’s squadron in 1648–1653, and had captained a Dunkerque privateer. He entered the navy as captain of the Portland in 1661.

Spragge commanded the Lion at the 3 June 1665 Battle of Lowestoft and was knighted for his bravery. In May 1666 he was widely blamed for providing information, which turned out to be false, that a French fleet was about to enter the English Channel to combine with the Dutch and for the near disastrous division of the English fleet that followed.

Nevertheless, Spragge was captain of the Dreadnought in the resulting Four Days’ Battle and became vice admiral of the blue shortly afterward, serving as such in the St. James’s Day fight. He commanded a squadron of frigates and fireships as part of the desperate defense against the Dutch attack on the Medway in June 1667. He was identified as a potential scapegoat for the disaster—his Irish background led to unjustified charges of Catholicism—but he managed to deflect this criticism.

In 1669 Spragge became vice admiral of the fleet in the Mediterranean, rising to command it when Sir Thomas Allin went home in 1670. On 8 May 1671, he mounted a daring attack on Bugia Bay that led to the destruction of several Algerine vessels. As he was returning to England, he encountered in the English Channel a squadron commanded by his archrival, Sir Robert Holmes, and it was long believed that their jealousy led to a failure to combine forces for an attack on the Dutch Smyrna convoy. In fact, the two forces never communicated with each other at all.

Spragge was vice admiral of the red at the 28 May 1672 Battle of Solebay and subsequently became admiral of the blue. He served in the same post in 1673, but he was bitterly hostile to his commander, Prince Rupert, and in the critical 22 August Battle of the Texel, he deliberately backed his squadron’s sails, separating himself from the rest of the fleet, so he could fight a private battle with another old enemy, Admiral Cornelis Tromp.

In the middle of the action, while he was attempting to transfer his flag for the second time from a shattered flagship, Spragge’s boat was hit, and he drowned.


Anderson, R. C., ed. Journals and Narratives of the Third Dutch War. London: Navy Records Society, 1946.

Davies, J. D. Gentlemen and Tarpaulins: The Officers and Men of the Restoration Navy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Latham, Robert, and William Matthews, eds. The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 11 vols. London: Bell & Hyman, 1970–1983.


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