William Penn (Royal Navy officer)

William Penn (Royal Navy officer)

Sir William Penn (23 April 1621 – 16 September 1670) was an English admiral, and the father of William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania. Penn was born in St. Thomas Parish, Bristol to Giles Penn and Margaret Gilbert. On 6 June, 1643 he married Margaret Jasper. They had three children: Margaret, Richard and William.

In the First Anglo-Dutch War, he served in the navy of the Commonwealth of England, commanding squadrons at the battles of the Kentish Knock (1652), Portland, the Gabbard and Scheveningen (1653).

In 1655 he commanded the fleet that launched a bungled attack on La Hispaniola; afterwards the less desireable island of Jamaica was seized for the Commonwealth regime.

At the Restoration he was sent in the "Naseby" (later the "Royal Charles") to fetch king Charles II over to England.

In the Second Anglo-Dutch War he was captain of the fleet at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665 under James Stuart, Duke of York.

The key source for the adult life of Penn is the Diary of his next door neighbour Samuel Pepys. In 1660 Penn was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy Board where he worked with Pepys, Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board.

Like Pepys and the Earl of Sandwich (Pepys' patron at the Navy Board) Penn was a "moderate" Roundhead who had succeeded in maintaining his position at the Restoration. Unsurprisingly, Penn appears several times in Pepys diary most vividly in an entry for 1665 when we read,

"At night home and up to the leads [roof] , were contrary to expectation driven down again with a stinke by Sir W. Pen's shying of a shitten pot in their house of office"

A native of the West Country Sir William Penn is buried in the church of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. His helm and half-armour are hung on the wall, together with the tattered banners of the Dutch ships that he captured in battle.


* Street, Lucie. "An Uncommon Sailor A Portrait of Admiral Sir William Penn : English Naval Supremacy." New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.
* [http://www.familysearch.org/ familysearch.org] Accessed November 3, 2007
* [http://www.renderplus.com/hartgen/htm/penn.htm "Penn Family Genealogy"]

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