George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle


George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle
The Duke of Albemarle
George Monck 1st Duke of Albemarle Studio of Lely.jpg
George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle , part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series from the studio of Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666
Born 6 December 1608
Merton, Devon
Died 3 January 1670
Allegiance England England
Service/branch English Army
Years of service 1626-1660, 1665-1667
Rank Captain-General
Battles/wars Battle of Newburn
Irish rebellion
Battle of Nantwich
Battle of Dunbar
First Anglo-Dutch War
Second Anglo-Dutch War
Awards Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle, KG (6 December 1608 – 3 January 1670) was an English soldier and politician and a key figure in the restoration of Charles II.

Contents

Early life and career

He was born in 1608 at Great Potheridge House in Merton, Devon, second son of Sir Thomas Monk, a squire of a good Devon family but in straitened financial circumstances.[1] Having assaulted the undersheriff of the county in revenge for a wrong done to his father, he was forced to go abroad.[1] Becoming a soldier, he served as a volunteer in the expedition to Cádiz (1626),[1] and the next year fought well at the siege of the Île de Ré (an abortive attempt to aid French Protestants in the city of La Rochelle).[1][2]

In 1629 Monck went to the Netherlands, then a centre of warfare, and there he gained a high reputation as a leader and a disciplinarian. He fought bravely at the Siege of Breda (1637) when he was first in the breach amongst his men. In 1638 however he threw up his commission in consequence of a quarrel with the civil authorities of Dordrecht, and returned to England.[1] He obtained the lieutenant-colonelcy of the Earl of Newport's regiment.[1][2]

Service in the Royalist cause

During the operations on the Scottish border in the Bishops' Wars (1639–1640) he showed his skill and coolness in the dispositions by which he saved the English artillery at the Battle of Newburn (1640).[1][2]

At the outbreak of the Irish rebellion (1641) Monck became colonel of Lord Leicester's regiment under the command of Ormonde. All the qualities for which he was noted through life—his talent for making himself indispensable, his imperturbable temper and his impenetrable secrecy—were fully displayed in this post. The governorship of Dublin stood vacant, and Leicester recommended Monck.[1][2]

Charles I, however, overruled the appointment in favour of Lord Lambart, and Monck with great shrewdness surrendered the appointment without protest. The Duke of Ormonde, however, viewed him with suspicion as one of two officers who refused to take the oath to support the Royal cause in England, and sent him under guard to Bristol.[1][2]

Monck justified himself to Charles in person, and his astute criticisms of the conduct of the Irish war impressed the king, who gave him a command in the army brought over from Ireland during the English Civil War.[1] Taken prisoner by Parliament's Northern Association Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax at the Battle of Nantwich in January 1644, he spent the next two years in the Tower.[1] He spent his imprisonment writing his Observations on Military and Political Affairs.[1][2]

Career under the Commonwealth and Protectorate

George Albemarle, General Anglois. d'Apres Barlow undated French engraving

Monck's experience in Ireland, however, led to his release. He was made major general in the army sent by parliament against the Irish rebels.[1] Making a distinction like other soldiers of the time between fighting the Irish and taking arms against the king,[2] he accepted the offer and swore loyalty to the parliamentary cause.[1] He made little headway against the Irish led by Owen Roe O'Neill and concluded an armistice (called then a "convention") with the rebel leaders upon terms which he knew the parliament would not ratify.[2] The convention was indeed a military expedient to deal with a military necessity.[2] When in February 1649 Scotland proclaimed Charles II King of Scotland, the protestant Ulster Scots settlers did the same and following Charles's lead (one of cynical expediency had they but realised), took the Solemn League and Covenant. Most of Monck's army went over to the Royalist cause, placing themselves under the command of Hugh, Lord Ardes. However Monck himself remained faithful to his employers and returned to England.[3]

Although parliament, as expected, disavowed the terms of the truce, no blame was attached to Monck's recognition of military necessity.[1] He next fought at Oliver Cromwell's side in Scotland at the Battle of Dunbar, a resounding victory.[1] Made commander-in-chief in Scotland by Cromwell, Monck completed the subjugation of the country.[1][2]

In February 1652 Monck left Scotland to recover his broken health at Bath, and in November of the same year he became a general at sea in the First Anglo-Dutch War,[1] which ended in a decisive victory for the Commonwealth's fleet and marked the beginning of England's climb to supremacy over the Dutch at sea.[2]

On his return to shore Monck married Anne Radford (née Clarges).[1] In 1653 he was nominated one of the representatives for Devon in the Barebones Parliament.[4] He returned to Scotland, methodically beating down a Royalist insurrection in the Highlands. At Cromwell's request, Monck remained in Scotland as governor.[1][2]

In 1654, the timely discovery of a plot fomented by Robert Overton, his second in command, gave Monck an excuse for purging his army of all dissident religious elements, then called "enthusiasts", deemed "dangerous" to the Cromwell regime.[2]

In 1655 Monck received a letter from Charles II, a copy of which he at once sent to the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, who is said to have written to Monck in 1657: "There be [those] that tell me that there is a certain cunning fellow in Scotland called George Monck, who is said to lye in wait there to introduce Charles Stuart; I pray you, use your diligence to apprehend him, and send him up to me." Monck's personal relations with Cromwell were those of sincere friendship on both sides.[2]

Restoration of the monarchy

During the confusion which followed Cromwell's death on 3 September 1658, Monck remained silent and watchful at Edinburgh, careful only to secure his hold on his troops. At first he contemplated armed support of Richard Cromwell, but on realising the young man's incapacity for government, he gave up this idea and renewed his waiting policy. In July 1659 direct and tempting proposals were again made to him by the king. Monck's brother Nicholas, a clergyman, brought to him the substance of Charles's letter. He bade his brother go back to his books, and refused to entertain any proposal. But when Booth rose in Cheshire for the king, so tempting did the opportunity seem that he was on the point of joining forces with him, and a manifesto was prepared. His habitual caution, however, induced him to wait until the next post from England, and the next post brought news of Booth's defeat.[2]

When Fleetwood and Lambert declared against the parliament, to their surprise Monck not only refused to join them but on 20 October 1659 took measures to actively oppose them. Securing his hold on Scotland by a small but trusty corps of occupation, he crossed the border with the rest of his army.[1][2]

Holding Lambert in play without fighting until Lambert's army began to melt away for want of pay, Monck received the commission of commander-in-chief of the parliamentary forces on 24 November 1659. The navy, some of the English garrisons and the army in Ireland declared for the Rump parliament (against Fleetwood, Lambert and the other members of the Wallingford House party). Monck lead his army south from Scotland towards London, crossing the Tweed on the 2 January 1660. His army was inferior in number, but in all other respects superior to Lambert's, and Monck slowly marched on to London, disbanding or taking over on his way the detachments of Lambert's army which he met, and entered the capital on the 3 February.[2]

In all this his ultimate purpose remained mysterious. At one moment he secretly encouraged the demands of the Royalist City of London, at another he urged submission to the existing parliament, then again he refused to swear an oath abjuring the house of Stuart, and further he hinted to the Rump of the Long Parliament the urgent necessity of a dissolution.[5]

Monck allowed the Presbyterian members, 'secluded' in Pride's Purge of 1648, to re-enter parliament on 21 February 1660, the same time breaking up, as a matter affecting discipline, the political camarillas that had formed in his own regiments. He was now master of the situation. The reconstituted Long Parliament dissolved itself on 16 March 1660 after preparing legislation for a new Convention Parliament to be summoned.

Monck was elected Member of Parliament for both Devon[6] and Cambridge University[7] in the Convention Parliament of 1660. Though he protested his adherence to republican principles, it was a matter of common knowledge that the parliament would have a strong Royalist colour. Monck himself, now in communication with Charles II, accepted the latter's Declaration of Breda (issued on 4 April 1660), which was largely based on Monck's recommendations. On 1 May the newly convened Convention Parliament formally invited King Charles II to be the English monarch in what has become known as the Restoration.[1][8]

Soldier though Monck was, he had played the difficult game of politics in a fluid and uncertain situation with incomparable skill. That he was victor sine sanguine, i.e., "without blood", as the preamble of his patent of nobility stated, was generally applauded as the greatest service of all, especially after the violence of the Civil Wars.[8]

Charles II's gratitude

Charles II rewarded Monck suitably for his services in restoring him to his throne. He was made Gentleman of the Bedchamber,[8] Knight of the Garter, and Master of the Horse in the King's household.[1] Charles also raised him to the Peerage as Duke of Albemarle, Earl of Torrington, in the County of Devon, Baron Monck, of Potheridge in the County of Devon, Baron Beauchamp, of Beauchamp in the County of Devon, and Baron of Teyes, in the County of Devon, and he received a pension of £7,000 a year.[8] In 1661, he was granted the Forest of Bowland becoming 1st Lord of Bowland (second creation).[9]

He entirely concurred in the disbandment of the New Model Army, and only the regiment of which he was colonel, given the name Coldstream (Guards) after his death[10] survives unamalgamated to this day,[8] as such one of the oldest military formations in the world, becoming the last standalone representative of the New Model Army when the Blues and Royals merged in 1969.

As a further token of Charles II's gratitude, in 1663 Albemarle was named one of eight Lords Proprietors given title to a huge tract of land in North America which became the Province of Carolina, the present-day American states of North and South Carolina. The Albemarle Sound in North Carolina is named after him.[11]

End of career

In 1664 Monck had charge of the admiralty when James, Duke of York, commanded the fleet, and when in 1665 much of the populace deserted London on account of the Great Plague, Monck, with all the readiness of a man accustomed to obey without thinking of risk, remained in charge of the government of the city.[8]

At the end of 1665, he was called upon to fight again, being given a joint commission with Prince Rupert against the Dutch in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The whole burden of the preparations fell upon him. On 23 April 1666 the admirals joined the fleet, and on 1 June 1666 began the great Four Days Battle, in which Monck showed not only all his old coolness and skill, but also a reckless daring which had seemed hitherto foreign to his character. As this recklessness had cost the English many ships, command of the fleet was taken from him and given to Rupert, whom he would accompany in the St James's Day Battle, the last battle at sea in which he would participate. Later in the same year he maintained order in the city of London during the Great Fire.[8]

His last service occurred in the Raid on the Medway of 1667, when the Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames, and Monck, though ill, hurried to Chatham to oppose their farther progress.[8] From that time he lived generally privately (although he officially served as First Lord of the Treasury).[1] He died of dropsy on 3 January 1670, "like a Roman general with all his officers about him".[8] He is buried in Westminster Abbey.[8]

His titles were inherited by his only son, Christopher, Earl of Torrington (1653–1688),[1] on whose death they became extinct.[8]

His character

Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715) in his The history of my own times commented unflatteringly of Monck:

At the king's first coming over, Monck and Montague were the most considered; they both had the Garter. The one was made duke of Albemarle, and the other earl of Sandwich, and had noble estates given them. Monck was ravenous, as well as his wife, who was a mean, contemptible creature. They both asked, and sold all that was within their reach, nothing being denied them for some time, till he became so useless, that little personal regard could be paid him. But the king maintained still the appearances of it; for the appearance of the service he did him was such, that the king thought it fit to treat him with great distinction, even after he saw into him, and despised him.
—Gilbert Burnet.[12]

The editor of the 1850 edition of Bishop Burnet's history of his own time adds a footnote to Burnet's comment:

If the duke of Albemarle's character is estimated from a view of his talents and courage as a commander, either of land or sea forces, he must rank very high in the scale of merit; but if we consider his worth as a statesman or as a private individual, he sinks decidedly to mediocrity. He was at first attached to the royalist cause; then he united with Cromwell whilst in the ascendant ; and, finally, when the popular feeling again vacillated to the Stuarts, he was judiciously active in securing the Restoration. It is possible that throughout he was a royalist—in that case he was base and perjured, for he took the covenant; but the most probable conclusion to be drawn from the facts of his life is, that he was willing to be any thing by profession that would best serve his interests. If the characters of him, given by his friends, as well as by his enemies, be compared, they amount to this outline, that he was courageous, cunning, and selfish. He died in 1670.

Anne, his wife, had been his mistress. Aubrey says, that when Monk was confined in the Tower, his sempstress, Nan Clarges, a blacksmith's daughter, was kind to him in a double capacity. It must be remembered that he was then in want, and that he was indebted to her for substance. She became pregnant by him, though it is certain that he could not be fascinated either by her beauty or cleanliness. She never could lose the manners of her early life; but when of the highest dignity in the peerage gаvе way to the most violent bursts of rage, and when under their influence poured forth a most eloquent torrent of curse-sprinkled abuse. Her husband was unquestionably afraid of her; she was always a royalist, and as he had a high opinion of her mental qualifications, she probably influenced him considerably in the course he adopted. If this is doubtful, it is not at all so that she aided with the utmost care and natural rapacity in obtaining all the rewards she could for his services. — Skinner's Life of the Duke of Albemarle — Sir P. Warwick's Memoirs, 408, &c. — Continuation of Clarendon's Life, ii. 25.

—Burnet's editor's comment.[12]

Notes

References

Attribution

Further reading

Military offices
New title Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
1660–1670
Vacant
Title next held by
James Scott
Honorary titles
English Interregnum Lord Lieutenant of Devon
1660–1670
Succeeded by
The Earl of Bath
Custos Rotulorum of Devon
1660–1670
Preceded by
The Earl of Dorset
The Earl of Berkshire
Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex
1662–1670
Succeeded by
The Earl of Craven
Political offices
Preceded by
Edmund Ludlow
(Lord Deputy)
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
1660–1662
Succeeded by
The Duke of Ormonde
Preceded by
Prince Rupert of the Rhine
Master of the Horse
1660–1668
Succeeded by
The Duke of Buckingham
Preceded by
The Earl of Southampton
(Lord High Treasurer)
First Lord of the Treasury
1667–1670
Succeeded by
The Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
(Lord High Treasurer)
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of Albemarle
2nd creation
1660 - 1670
Succeeded by
Christopher Monck

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