Myngs, Christopher (DNB00)
|←Mylne, William Chadwell||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 40
MYNGS, Sir CHRISTOPHER (1625–1666), vice-admiral, is said by Pepys to have been of very humble origin, ‘his father being always, and at this day, a shoemaker, and his mother, a hoyman's daughter, of which he was used frequently to boast’ (Diary, 13 June 1666; cf. 26 Oct. 1665). This is certainly exaggerated, if not entirely false. His parents were of well-to-do families in the north of Norfolk. His father, John Myngs, though described in the register of Salthouse, where he was married on 28 Sept. 1623, as ‘of the parish of St. Katherine in the city of London,’ seems to have been a near kinsman, if not a son, of Nicholas Mynnes, the representative of a good old Norfolk family (Blomefield, Topographical History of Norfolk, Index; cf. Add. MS. 14299, ff. 55, 143), one of whose sons, Christopher, was baptised at Blakeney on 8 March 1585 (Marshall, Genealogist, i. 38–9). His mother, Katherine Parr (baptised at Kelling on 16 June 1605), was the daughter of Christopher Parr, the owner of property in the neighbourhood. The son, Christopher, was baptised at Salthouse on 22 Nov. 1625 (Kelling and Salthouse registers, by the kindness of the rector, the Rev. C. E. Lowe). It is probable that from his early youth he was brought up to the sea in the local coasting-trade; but while still a mere lad he entered on board one of the state's ships, and served, as a shipmate of Thomas Brooks [q. v.], for ‘several years’ before 1648 (State Papers, Dom. Interregnum, ciii. 128). In 1652 he was serving in the squadron in the Mediterranean under Commodore Richard Badiley [q. v.], probably as lieutenant or master of the Elizabeth. On the homeward passage in May 1653 the captain of the Elizabeth was killed in an engagement with a Dutch ship (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 16 June 1653; cf. Lediard, p. 551 n.), and Myngs was promoted to the vacancy. On arriving in England, the men of the Elizabeth, with those of the other ships, insisted on being paid off; but the ship was refitted and remained as soon as possible (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 24–27 June 1653), and, under Myngs's command, took part in the final action of the war, 29–31 July 1653 (Add. MS. 22546, f. 185). On 3 Oct. she had just carried the vice-chancellor of Poland and his retinue across to Dieppe, when, on her return voyage, she fell in with a fleet of Dutch merchant-vessels under convoy of two men-of-war, which, after a sharp action, Myngs brought into the Downs. He reported the affair on the 4th, and on the 6th it was ordered by parliament ‘that the Council of State take notice of the captain of the Elizabeth, and consider the widow and children of the master,’ who had been killed in the fight (Cal. State Papers, Dom.). The Elizabeth afterwards carried Whitelocke, the ambassador to Sweden, to Gothenburg, where he arrived on 15 Nov. The ship was detained there by contrary winds, and her men became very sickly; ninety men, Myngs wrote, were sick, and five had died. She was thus so weak that when, on her way home, she met a Dutch convoy, she was obliged to leave them after an interchange of shot (ib. 2 Jan. 1654). Myngs continued to command the Elizabeth in the Channel and on the coast of France during 1654 and the early months of 1655. On 30 Jan. 1654–5 his old shipmate and friend, Thomas Brooks, wrote to the commissioners of the admiralty, recommending him for preferment. ‘He is,’ he said, ‘a man fearing the Lord; a man of sound principles, and of a blameless life and conversation; he is one of much valour, and has shown it again and again in several engagements and by the prizes he has taken. Vice-admiral Goodsonn and Vice-admiral Badiley, if they were here, would underwrite this writing from their knowledge of him and their love to him: more than I have written I have heard them say’ (State Papers. Dom. Inter. ciii. 128).
In October 1655 Myngs was appointed to the Marston Moor, which had come home from Jamaica, and whose men were in a state of mutiny on being ordered back to the West Indies (cf. ib. 1 Oct. 1655). When Myngs joined the ship at Portsmouth, he found the men ‘in such an attitude as did not admit of further employment.’ They were mostly all strangers to him, he said, so that he had no personal influence with them (ib. 12 Oct.). Some of the worst were made prisoners; the rest were paid their wages, and within a few days the ship sailed for the West Indies, where during the next six or seven years ‘he came into great renown’ (Pepys, 13 June 1666), though the particulars of his service there have not been preserved. In July 1657 the Marston Moor returned to England, was paid off and ordered to be refitted. Myngs, meanwhile, obtained leave of absence and was married (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 7, 14 July, 31 Aug. 1657); but by the beginning of December was again, with the Marston Moor, in the Downs, waiting for a small convoy he was to take to Jamaica. He seems to have been still in the West Indies at the Restoration, and to have been one of the very few who were not affected by the change of government. In 1662 he was appointed to the Centurion, in which he was again at Jamaica in 1663 (cf. Cal. State Papers, America and West Indies, 31 July 1658, 1 and 20 June 1660, 25 May 1664). In 1664 he commanded, in quick succession, the Gloucester, Portland, and Royal Oak, in which last he hoisted his flag as vice-admiral of a Channel squadron commanded by Prince Rupert. In 1665 he was vice-admiral of the white squadron, with his flag in the Triumph, in the battle of Lowestoft on 3 June; and for his services on this day was knighted on 27 June (Le Neve, Pedigrees of the Knights). When the Duke of York retired from the command and the fleet was reorganised under the Earl of Sandwich, Myngs became vice-admiral of the blue squadron, and served in that capacity during the autumn campaign on the coast of Norway and at the capture of the Dutch East Indiamen [see Montagu, Edward, first Earl of Sandwich]. Afterwards, with his flag in the Fairfax, he commanded a strong squadron for the winter guard and the protection of trade. In January 1665–6 it was reported from Portsmouth that ‘by sending out ships constantly to cruise about, he hath kept this coast very free from all the enemy's men-of-war’ (Gazette, No. 18); and again, some weeks later, ‘his vigilance is such that hardly anything can escape our frigates that come through the Channel’ (ib. No. 39). In March he convoyed the Hamburg trade from the Elbe to the Thames; and in April when the fleet assembled for the summer, under Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle, he hoisted his flag in the Victory as vice-admiral of the red squadron (State Papers, Dom. Charles II, cliv. 128). On 29 May he was detached to the westward with the prince (ib. clvii. 40, 41; cf. Monck, George, Duke of Albemarle; Rupert, Prince), and was thus absent during the first three days of the great battle off the North Foreland, 1–4 June. On the fourth day, Myngs, in the Victory, led the van, and engaged the Dutch vice-admiral, De Liefde, broadside to broadside, the yardarms of the two ships almost touching. De Liefde's ship was dismasted, whereupon Myngs made an unsuccessful attempt to burn her with a fireship. The Dutch pressed in to support De Liefde; the two admirals, Van Nes and Ruyter, brought up other ships, and the battle raged fiercely. Myngs was shot through the throat. He refused to leave the deck, even to have the wound dressed, but remained standing, compressing it with his fingers till he fell, mortally wounded by another bullet which, passing through his neck, lodged in his shoulder (Brandt, Vie de Michel de Ruiter, pp. 359, 363; State Papers, Dom. Charles II, clviii. 48; Pepys, 8 June 1666). The wound was, it was hoped on the 7th, ‘without danger;’ but on the 10th Pepys recorded the news of the admiral's death. As he was buried in London on the 13th, it would seem probable that he died at his own house in Goodman's Fields, Whitechapel. Pepys, who was at the funeral, noted that no person of quality was there but Sir William Coventry [q. v.], and described how ‘about a dozen able, lusty, proper men came to the coach side with tears in their eyes, and one of them, that spoke for the rest, said to Sir W. Coventry, “We are here a dozen of us that have long known and loved and served our dead commander, Sir Christopher Myngs, and have now done the last office of laying him in the ground. We would be glad we had any other to offer after him and in revenge of him. All we have is our lives; if you will please to get his Royal Highness to give us a fireship among us all, choose you one to be commander, and the rest of us, whoever he is, will serve him, and if possible, do that that shall show our memory of our dead commander and our revenge”’ (Diary, 13 June; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 28, 29 June 1666). ‘The truth is,’ continues Pepys, ‘Sir Christopher Myngs was a very stout man, and a man of great parts, and most excellent tongue among ordinary men; and as Sir W. Coventry says, could have been the most useful man at such a pinch of time as this. … He had brought his family into a way of being great; but dying at this time, his memory and name will be quite forgot in a few months as if he had never been, nor any of his name be the better by it; he having not had time to will any estate, but is dead poor rather than rich.’ By his will (at Somerset House, Mico, 167) he left 300l. to Mary, his daughter by his first wife; and his lands, in the parish of Salthouse, to his second wife, Rebecca, and after her death, to his son by her, Christopher Myngs, who commanded the Namur in the battle of Malaga in 1704; was afterwards commissioner of the navy at Portsmouth, and died in 1725, leaving issue (Charnock, ii. 188; Le Neve, Pedigrees of the Knights; Marshall, Genealogist, i. 38–9; will, proved February 1725–6). There was also a daughter, Rebecca, born of the second wife. The John Myngs whom he requested to have appointed surgeon of the Gloucester (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 27 May 1664) may have been his brother. Myngs's portrait, by Sir Peter Lely, one of those mentioned by Pepys, 18 April 1666, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich; there is a contemporary engraved portrait in Priorato's ‘Historia di Leopoldo Cesare’ (1670, ii. 714).[The memoir in Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 82 is very imperfect; the details of Myngs's career are only to be found in the Calendars of State Papers, Domestic; and, more fully, in the State Papers themselves. There are also many notices of him in Pepys's Diary. The writer has also to acknowledge some notes and suggestions kindly furnished by the Rev. G. W. Minns, himself a member of the same family, by Mr. G. E. Cokayne, and by Mr. Daniel Hipwell. The spelling of the name here followed is that of Myngs's signature. It is not improbable that he adopted it as a difference from that of the elder branch of his family, which retained the form Mynnes. But other writers have invented a very great number of diverse spellings—among them Minns, Mims, Minnes, Mennes—
which have led to occasional confusion with Sir John Mennes [q. v.] So far as can be ascertained, the two families were not related.]