Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Holmes, John (1640?-1683)

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HOLMES, Sir JOHN (1640?–1683), admiral, brother of Sir Robert Holmes [q. v.], was in 1664 lieutenant of the Jersey, commanded by his brother Robert in her eventful voyage to the Guinea coast and New York. From the Jersey he was moved into the Centurion, was lieutenant of the Paul in the action off Lowestoft on 3 June 1665, and commanded her in the four days' fight, 1–4 June 1666. In the St. James's day fight, 25 July 1666, he commanded the Bristol, one of his brother's seconds, but remained in the line with the red squadron when Sir Robert was obliged to quit his station. He was afterwards detached in the squadron which, under his brother's command, destroyed the Dutch shipping at Vlie and Schelling, and in recognition of his service on that occasion was advanced to the command of the Triumph, a second rate. In 1668 he successively commanded the Falcon and the Kent, and in 1669 he went out with Sir Thomas Allin to the Mediterranean in command of the Nonsuch. He was afterwards captain of the Bristol and of the Diamond under Sir Edward Spragge [q. v.] during the Algerine war of 1670–1. In 1672 he commanded the Gloucester, one of the ships which reinforced Sir Robert Holmes in the attack on the Dutch Smyrna fleet, and took a distinguished part in the renewed action on 13 March, in which he was severely wounded by a small shot in the breast (Sladdon to Ellis, 15 March, State Papers, Dom. Charles II, cccxx.; Relation of the Engagement with the Dutch Smyrna fleet, ib.) For his gallantry on this occasion John received the honour of knighthood, and was appointed to the Rupert, which he commanded in the battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672, and in the three several actions of 1673. After the last of these, on 11 Aug., he was appointed to the Royal Charles as first captain to Prince Rupert, in which capacity he served till the peace. From 1677 to 1679 he was admiral and commander-in-chief in the Downs, with his flag on board the Montague, and afterwards the Captain, in which last he is said, though on perhaps doubtful authority, to have been authorised to hoist the union flag at the main (Charnock). It was his last service at sea. In February 1676–7 he was returned to parliament for Newtown, Isle of Wight, which he represented in successive parliaments till his death in 1683. During the short parliament of February–July 1679 his colleague in the representation of Newtown was John Churchill, afterwards duke of Marlborough. In June a scandalous adventure of Churchill's was related to the king by Holmes in a manner which Churchill thought to his prejudice. He accordingly challenged Holmes, ‘who, fighting, disarmed him, Churchill’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. 473 a). He was buried at Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight on 23 June 1683 (Yarmouth Register, communicated by the Rev. G. Quirk); but letters of administration to his will were granted in London on the 13th, ten days earlier.

On 4 April 1668 he married Margaret, daughter of Sir William Lowther of Marske, first baronet of that branch of the family. He is described as at this time a bachelor aged about twenty-eight, the bride as about twenty (Chester, London Marriage Licenses). The marriage, Pepys says, was ‘by stealth, which I was sorry for, he being an idle rascal and proud, and worth little, I doubt; and she a mighty pretty well-disposed lady, and good fortune’ (Diary, 8 April 1668). The marriage seems to have been displeasing to Sir Robert Holmes, but the brothers cannot have quarrelled permanently, for Robert was named the guardian of John's six children, all minors at his death, and in his own will in 1692 remembers two sons, Robert and John, and a daughter Elizabeth, as well as their mother, Dame Margaret. The other children would seem to have died in infancy. The John Holmes, a naval captain in 1667 and 1672, who is described by Charnock (Biog. Nav. i. 293) as a son of Sir John, does not appear to have been any relation.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 104; other references in the text.]

J. K. L.