Keeling, William (d.1620) (DNB00)

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KEELING, WILLIAM (d. 1620), naval commander and agent of the East India Company, was captain of the Susan in the second voyage set forth by the East India Company under Sir Henry Middleton [q. v.], which sailed from Gravesend on 23 March 1603–4. When Middleton went on to Moluccas he left the Hector and Susan at Bantam. There a terrible sickness fell on them. The captain of the Hector died, and Keeling, left in command, moved into her, and in all haste quitted the deadly port. The sickness continued; the Susan was lost on the passage; and when the Hector fell in with the admiral off the Cape of Good Hope she had only ten men still living. They reached England in May 1606, and on 12 March 1606–7, Keeling in the Dragon sailed again in command of the company's third voyage, and with him Captain William Hawkyns (d. 1613) [q. v.] in the Hector. While touching at Sierra Leone on the outward voyage, Keeling's crew, according to a passage professing to be printed from his manuscript journal in the Hakluyt Society's edition of 1848, played ‘Hamlet’ on 5 and 31 [sic] Sept. and ‘Richard II’ on 30 Sept. But the leaves that should contain these entries, if they are genuine, have long been missing from the manuscript in the India Office. After touching at the Cape of Good Hope the ships went on to Socotra, where they separated, Keeling in the Dragon going to Bantam, and having there filled up with pepper and spices, he sailed for England, where he arrived in May 1610. Early in 1615 he again sailed for the East Indies with a special commission to use martial law during the voyage, and to be captain and commander-in-chief of all the English in India. As it seems to have been intended that he should remain in India, he applied for leave to take his wife out with him, but this, after a lengthy discussion, was refused, Keeling being given 200l. as a compensation (Cal. State Papers, Col. East Indies, 10 Dec. 1614). The prohibition, however, determined him to come home, and after obtaining a grant for trading in pepper from the king of Acheen, and establishing a factory at Teko on the west coast of Sumatra, he returned to England apparently in 1617.

Keeling was some little time afterwards appointed captain of Cowes Castle (cf. ib. 22 Dec. 1618), where, apparently in 1620, he was authorised ‘to levy one penny per ton on every ship that passed Dungeness light’ (ib. 1619–23 p. 210, 1625–6 p. 524). His will, dated 16 Oct. 1620, and proved in London on 20 Nov. 1620, described him as of the Park, in the parish of Carisbrooke in the Isle of Wight. His wife, Anne Keeling was left sole executrix, and, to provide for the children should she die, his brothers-in-law, Edward Bromfield and Thomas Overman, leather-sellers, of London, were to act as executors, and the estate, which is ‘much mingled and dispersed abroad in the East Indies and other places,’ was to be divided in equal shares among the eldest son, Edward, and the other children as they attain the age of twenty-one or marry.

[Purchas his Pilgrimes, i. 170, 188, 703; Harris's Collection of Voyages, 2nd edit. i. 875; Lancaster's Voyages to the East Indies, ed. Markham (Hakluyt Society) (see index); Cal. State Papers, Colonial, East Indies.]

J. K. L.