chapter  6
16 Pages

‘Great Neptunes of the Main’

Myths, Mangled Histories, and ‘Maritime Monarchy’ in the Stuart Navy, 1603–1714
ByJ.D. Davies

The royal brothers Charles II and James II of England wholeheartedly believed in, and deliberately projected, a naval ideology centred on the concept of the ‘sovereignty of the [British] seas’, a legal claim that had its origins in late Tudor and early Stuart polemic, and which had originally found a champion in their father, Charles I. Although much of the supposed historical basis for these claims was myth or downright untruth, the ideology was expressed explicitly and loudly in both court and popular culture: in literature, theatre, music, and above all in art, most notably in the work of Antonio Verrio at Windsor. Meanwhile at sea, Stuart warships exchanged broadsides with the ships of their enemies, and often with those of their supposed allies too, in attempts to assert the monarchs’ pretension to ‘the salute to the flag’.