Keigwin, Richard (DNB00)

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KEIGWIN, RICHARD (d. 1690), naval and military commander, was third son of Richard Keigwin (1605–1647) of Penzance, by Margaret, daughter of Nicholas Godolphin of Trewarveneth. He was in 1665 appointed lieutenant of the Santa Maria, one of the blue squadron in the four days' fight 1–4 June 1666. In 1672 he was promoted by Prince Rupert to the command of the Eagle flagship, but was shortly afterwards moved into the Assistance as lieutenant under Commodore Richard Munden [q. v.] In the attack on the island of St. Helena, 4 May 1673, he commanded the boats and the men who landed in Prosperous Bay, at the spot since known as 'Keigwin's Rock,' and swarmed up the cliff at 'Hold fast, Tom.' When Munden left the island he appointed Keigwin governor. A few months later the East India Company, to whom the island was assigned, recalled him, promising to reward him as his merits deserved. He was accordingly sent out to Bombay and appointed commandant of the garrison and of the company's forces by land and sea, including a troop of horse, some three hundred foot, and a small flotilla of armed vessels. In this capacity he seems to have insisted on the necessity of energetic measures in restraining the threatening attitude of the Mahrattas, and on 18 Oct. 1679, in command of the company's ship Revenge, fought a remarkable action with Sivajee's 'Armada' just outside Bombay. The native vessels which formed his squadron fled; one commanded by an Englishman was captured. The Revenge, a ship mounting 18 guns, was left alone. The Mahratta fleet numbered some forty or fifty, many of them quite as large as the Revenge, and crowded with men. Keigwin in writing to the council says that he reserved his fire till the enemy's boats came within pistol shot, when he opened upon them so smartly that ‘in half an hour we beat them from their guns and muskets and brought them by the lee. Some was seen to go down to the bottom.’ The rest fled.

Before the news of this affair had reached England orders arrived at Bombay to reduce the garrison, to disband the troop of horse, and to send Keigwin home. Keigwin accordingly went to England, to come out again in the course of 1681 with the rank of captain-lieutenant, and third in the council. But the following year this seat in the council was taken from him and his pay and allowances were reduced. A similar measure of economy applied to the garrison produced very great discontent, which finally in December 1683 broke into open revolt. Keigwin felt that he had been scurvily treated and that the whole settlement was endangered by the hesitating policy of the company. He threw in his lot with the troops, seized Ward, the deputy-governor and brother-in-law of John (afterwards Sir John) Child [q. v.], and such members of council as adhered to him, and declared the island subject only to the king. Keigwin was elected governor; he took possession of the company's ships and money, and wrote to the king explaining the causes of his action, and his intention of holding the island for his majesty, till his pleasure should be known. Meantime he exercised the government with energy and discretion. He repressed the insolence of the native belligerents, and induced Sambhajee to pay compensation for the losses inflicted by the Mahrattas. In England the king referred the matter to the directors of the company, and on their report sent out orders (August 1684) to Keigwin to deliver up the island. Child was named admiral and captain-general of the company's forces, and the Phœnix frigate was sent to support him. But Sir Thomas Grantham [q. v.] arrived at Surat in October 1684, and at Child's request undertook to bring Keigwin to reason, ‘either by hostile means or otherways.’ He came to Bombay on 3 Nov., Keigwin readily gave in his submission on a general pardon being signed, and on the 19th the garrison returned to its obedience. From first to last there had been no bloodshed, and little beyond the threat of violence. Keigwin was taken home by Grantham, and arrived in England in July 1685. In May 1689 he was appointed captain of the Reserve frigate, from which he was soon after moved into the Assistance, and early in 1690 was sent to the West Indies under the orders of Commodore Lawrence Wright [q. v.] At the attack on St. Christopher's on 21 June, he was landed in command of the ‘marine regiment,’ or, as it would now be called, the ‘naval brigade,’ and fell at the head of his men as he was leading them on to the assault of Basseterre. The order from Charles II to Keigwin commanding the restoration of Bombay is Rawlinson MS. (Bodl. Libr.) A. 257, fol. 75, and a letter from Keigwin to the king in 1684 is ib. fol. 102.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 337; O'Callaghan, in Illustrated Nav. and Mil. Mag. (October 1884), i. 254; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. iii. 1251; Brooke's History of the Island of St. Helena, pp. 57–63; Anderson's English in Western India, 2nd edit. pp. 122–3, 174, 222–6; Bruce's Annals of the East India Company, ii. 512–17, 522–8, 536–42; Yule's Diary of Hedges (Hakluyt Society), ii. 168–84.]

J. K. L.