Rainborow, William (DNB00)

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RAINBOROW, WILLIAM (d. 1642), naval commander, second son of Thomas Rainborow, mariner, was in 1626 master of the king's ship Sampson. In the following year he was living at Wapping. From this time he seems to have been counted as one of the most experienced seamen in the service of the crown, and to have been frequently consulted on practical questions. In April 1632 he was associated with Best, Mansell, Mervin, Trevor, and other men of repute, in a commission on manning the king's ships. In December 1635 he was one of a commission on the Chest at Chatham, and in December 1636 was examined as to the defects of the ships and the faulty administration of the navy. In 1635 he was captain of the Merhonour in the fleet under the Earl of Lindsay, probably also in 1636 under the Earl of Northumberland. In February 1636–7 he was appointed to the Leopard and the command of a squadron ordered to proceed to Sallee ‘for the suppressing of Turkish pirates and redeeming his Majesty's subjects whom they have taken and detain captives,’ and to capture or sink such pirates as he should meet on the way. The squadron, consisting of eight ships, anchored off Sallee on 24 March and instituted a rigid blockade, which, without any serious fighting, brought the Moors to terms and obtained the release of 339 captives—men, women, and boys. In October he returned to England, and in the following January sent in a series of proposals for the release of the captives in Algiers. To obtain this by treaty, he wrote, had been found impossible; to redeem them by money was impolitic; but the end might be gained by blockading their port with a fleet of sufficient strength. If this was continued for three or four years, the trade of the Moors would be destroyed, their ships would become worm-eaten and unserviceable, and the sale—in Spain or Italy—of such prisoners as were taken would furnish money for the redemption of English captives. At the same time the maintenance of the fleet would be much to the king's honour. The king's absolute want of means and the state of affairs at home prevented the suggestion being then acted on; but it appears to be the origin of the plan which was effectually carried out some forty years later, under Narbrough, Allin, and Herbert. In April 1638 Rainborow was one of a commission to inquire into frauds in the importation of timber. In 1640 he was member for Aldborough in the Long parliament, but died in February 1641–2. He was buried on the 16th, when he was described as ‘grand-admiral and general captain,’ a style which can scarcely have been official. He was married, and left issue several daughters and sons, one of whom, Thomas [q. v.], is separately noticed. He wrote his name with the spelling here given.

[Archæologia, xlvi. 11; John Dunton's Journal of the Sally fleet, with the Proceedings of the Voyage (4to, 1637); Cal. State Papers, Dom.]

J. K. L.