Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shovell, Clowdisley

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SHOVELL, Sir CLOWDISLEY (1650–1707), admiral of the fleet, was baptised at Cockthorpe in Norfolk on 25 Nov. 1650. His father, John Shovell (1625–1654) of Cockthorpe, a man of some property, was the younger son of Nathaniel Shovell, ‘gentleman,’ buried at Binham, near Wells, in 1636, and probably the same Nathaniel who was baptised at St. Saviour's, Norwich, in 1601, son of John Shovell, sheriff of Norwich 1606–7. The family appears to have been settled from early in the preceding century at Norwich, where a John Shovell was admitted a citizen on 21 Sept. 1554. His mother, Anne, was the daughter of Henry Jenkinson of Cley, by his wife Lucy, eldest daughter of Thomas Clowdisley of Cley. The neighbouring registers for the seventeenth century contain numerous entries of births, marriages, or deaths of Shovells and Clowdisleys; and during the latter part of the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth century there were many men of these names serving in the navy, for the most part in a subordinate rank.

Clowdisley Shovell first went to sea in 1664, under the care of his countryman, and probably kinsman, Sir Christopher Myngs [q. v.]; and, after Myngs's death, closely followed the fortunes of another countryman, also probably a kinsman, Sir John Narbrough [q. v.] That he was with Narbrough in his voyage to the South Sea and the battle of Solebay is probable but uncertain. The story of his swimming under the enemy's fire, with despatches in his mouth, though vouched for by family tradition, cannot be localised or dated. It is said to have happened while he was still a boy, which would fix it to the Dutch war of 1665–7. On 25 Sept. 1673 he was appointed second lieutenant of the Henrietta, in which he went out to the Mediterranean, and followed Narbrough to the Harwich in 1675. On 14 Jan. 1675–6 he commanded the boats of the squadron at the burning of the ships in the port of Tripoli, and on 3 May 1677 was appointed by Narbrough captain of the Sapphire, from which, in April 1679, he was moved by Herbert to the Phœnix; in May 1679 back again to the Sapphire by Narbrough; in July 1680 to the Nonsuch by Herbert; in September 1680 to the Sapphire again; and in April 1681 to the James galley—always in the Mediterranean, engaged in almost constant cruising against the Barbary pirates, and capturing or assisting in the capture of several of their ships, two of which, the Golden Horse and Half Moon, were bought into the service, and appeared in the navy lists for several years afterwards. He appears to have continued in the James galley till his return to England in November 1686. In 1687 he was appointed to the Anne, a 70-gun ship, from which in the following spring he was moved into the Dover of 48 guns, one of the fleet afterwards assembled under Lord Dartmouth to prevent the landing of the Prince of Orange [see Legge, George, Lord Dartmouth].

Shovell had no difficulty in transferring his allegiance to the new king, and in the next year commanded the Edgar in the battle of Bantry Bay, after which, on the return of the fleet to Spithead, he was knighted [see Herbert, Arthur, Earl of Torrington]. He was then appointed to the command of a squadron in the Irish Sea, and in the spring of 1690, still on the same service, was promoted to be rear-admiral of the blue. When the French fleet under Tourville came into the Channel and fought the battle of Beachy Head, Shovell brought his squadron to Plymouth, where, being joined by Henry Killigrew (d. 1712) [q. v.], they had a force the threat of which was able to some extent to control the movements of the French. Towards the close of the year he co-operated with General Kirke in the reduction of Duncannon Castle, and in the following January was with the squadron under Sir George Rooke that convoyed the king to Holland. On his return he joined the grand fleet under Admiral Russell; and though detached in the autumn, and again in the spring of 1692, to convoy the king from and to Holland, was with it in May, when, as rear-admiral of the red squadron, he had a very important share in the battle of Barfleur, and by breaking through the French line commenced the manœuvre which resulted in the complete defeat of the French [see Russell, Edward, Earl of Orford]. As junior admiral in the fleet after the death of Richard Carter [q. v.], it would have fallen to him in due course to command at the destruction of the French ships which took refuge in the bay of La Hogue. Unfortunately he was prevented by a sudden and sharp indisposition, and the duty fell to the lot of Sir George Rooke [q. v.]

In 1691 he was nominated major of the first regiment of marines; in 1692 he was made lieutenant-colonel, and in 1698 colonel of the second regiment of marines—appointments which his constant service at sea shows to have been honorary, or rather lucrative sinecures. He was also appointed, on 20 April 1693, extra commissioner of the navy, and in March 1699 comptroller of the victualling, an office which he held till 25 Dec. 1704.

On the supersession of Russell, in the autumn of 1692, the command of the fleet was put into commission, and Delavall, Killigrew, and Shovell were appointed ‘joint admirals.’ After the disaster to the Smyrna convoy [see Rooke, Sir George] the joint admirals were at once superseded; but in the following year Shovell was vice-admiral of the red under Lord Berkeley in the abortive expedition to Camaret Bay, and after Berkeley's return was in command of the squadron off Dunkirk. In 1695 he was again second in command under Berkeley in the attack on St. Malo and Dunkirk, and wrote to Berkeley strongly condemning the ‘machine ships,’ which he considered ‘an invention to swell the projectors' accounts’ [see Berkeley, John, third Lord Berkeley; Benbow, John, (1653–1702)]. In April 1696 he commanded the squadron which covered the bombardment of Calais. In October he was promoted to be admiral of the blue, and during the rest of the war commanded the fleet in the Channel and off Brest. In 1698 he was returned to parliament as member for Rochester, which he continued to represent in successive parliaments till his death.

In 1699, and again in 1701, he commanded a squadron for the guard of the Channel. On the accession of Queen Anne he was promoted to be admiral of the white, and in October 1702 joined the main fleet under Sir George Rooke, four days after the attack on the combined French-Spanish fleet at Vigo. He was then left by Rooke to bring home the treasure and prizes, a service of some difficulty, considering the disabled state of many of the ships. In 1703 he commanded a squadron in the Mediterranean, and in 1704 was sent out with a large reinforcement to the fleet under Sir George Rooke, whom he joined off Cape St. Mary on 17 June, and afterwards took part in the capture of Gibraltar and in the action off Malaga on 13 Aug., where he commanded the van of the English line. In September he returned to England with Rooke, and on 26 Dec. was appointed rear-admiral of England. On 13 Jan. 1704–5 he was appointed admiral and commander-in-chief of the fleet, to wear the union flag at the main; and on 1 May 1705 was appointed, by special commission, commander-in-chief of the fleet, jointly with the Earl of Peterborough [see Mordaunt, Charles, third Earl of Peterborough]. The fleet sailed from St. Helen's in the end of May, and after a delay of six weeks in the Tagus went on to Barcelona, where, on Peterborough's landing, the conduct of the fleet was left entirely to Shovell, by whose voice, it would appear, the council of war was mainly decided to continue the siege, and who, by landing guns and seamen to work them, largely contributed to the ultimate success. After this Shovell with the greater part of the fleet returned to England, where he remained during most of the following year, although his commission as joint commander-in-chief was renewed on 10 March. It was not till September that he sailed for Lisbon, where on 7 Nov. he was appointed sole commander-in-chief, and a few days later was ordered to carry large reinforcements for the army under the Earl of Galway round to Alicante.

By the middle of March 1707 he was back at Lisbon, but sailed again in the end of April, with orders to co-operate with the Duke of Savoy in a contemplated attack on Toulon. By the end of June he had arrived off Nice and Antibes, and, in consultation with the Duke of Savoy, undertook to drive the enemy out of the works which they had constructed to guard the line of the Var, but which were open in the rear to the fire of the ships. This was effectively done without loss, and the passage for the army opened to Toulon, where they arrived on 15 July. The French had meantime been making every effort for the defence of the place, and the force with the allies proved utterly insufficient. On 10 Aug. they raised the siege and retired into Piedmont, the only gain being the destruction of the enemy's ships of war, most of which the French sank to prevent their being set on fire, and the larger part of them when raised were found to be not worth repairing. Eight such ships, of from sixty to ninety guns, are named by Brun, and two others as having been destroyed by fire. So far as England was concerned the result was decisive, for the French Mediterranean fleet had ceased to exist; and Shovell, having covered the retreat of the allies till they had recrossed the Var, sailed for England.

On 22 Oct. the fleet came into the soundings. The weather was cloudy, there had been a succession of strong westerly winds, and the fleet was set to the north by the action of the current, then not understood, but since known by the name of Rennell, who first called attention to it (see Rennell, James; Laughton, Physical Geography, p. 211). During the night they found themselves unexpectedly among the rocks of the Scilly Islands. Most of the ships escaped with great difficulty. The Association, carrying Shovell's flag, struck on the Bishop and Clerk and broke up. Two other ships, the Eagle and Romney, were lost at the same time. The body of Shovell, still living, was thrown on shore in Porthellick Cove, but a woman, who was the first to find it, coveting an emerald ring on one of the fingers, extinguished the flickering life. Near thirty years after, on her death-bed, she confessed the crime and delivered up to the clergyman the ring, which thus came into the possession of Shovell's old friend, the Earl of Berkeley, to one of whose descendants it now belongs. The body was afterwards taken on board the Salisbury, and carried to Plymouth, where it was embalmed by Dr. James Yonge [q. v.], then in private practice at Plymouth (Yonge's MS. Journal, by the kindness of the family): it was then sent to London, and buried, at the cost of the government, in Westminster Abbey, where an elaborate monument in very questionable taste was erected to Shovell's memory.

He married, in 1691, Elizabeth, daughter of John Hill, and widow of Sir John Narbrough, and left issue two daughters, of whom the elder, Elizabeth, married Sir Robert Marsham, created Lord Romney in 1716, and had by him several children. She married, secondly, John, earl of Hyndford, for many years the English minister at the court of Frederick the Great. The younger daughter, Anne, married the Hon. Robert Mansell; and, secondly, John Blackwood, by whom she left issue.

A portrait, by Michael Dahl (full-length), is in the National Portrait Gallery; another, by Dahl (half-length), is in the Painted Hall, Greenwich; a third, by Dahl, belongs to Mrs. Martin-Leake; another, by an unknown artist, is in the town-hall of Rochester. Shovell's christian name has been spelt in at least twenty-five different ways. He himself usually wrote Clowd, but occasionally at full length, Clowdisley or Cloudisley.

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. ii. 15; Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, iii. 362; Naval Chronicle, xx. 130, xxxiii. 177; Hist. of Rochester (1817, 8vo), p. 241; Nichols's Herald and Genealogist, iii. 31, 191; Burchett's Transactions at Sea; Lediard's Naval History; Boyer's Life of Queen Anne; Edye's Hist. of the Royal Marine Forces; Duckett's Naval Commissioners; History of the Siege of Toulon, translated from the French, 1708, 12mo; Brun's Guerres Maritimes de la France: Port de Toulon; J. H. Cooke's Shipwreck of Sir Cloudesley Shovell in the Scilly Islands (Gloucester, 1883); Commission and Warrant Books in Public Record Office; Sussex Archæol. Coll. xiv. 109; Notes and Queries, passim, but especially 6th ser. x. 518, and 8th ser. vii. 41. The mystery which has so long clouded the family history of Shovell has been cleared away only within the last few years by the researches among the Norfolk registers of the Hon. R. Marsham-Townshend and Mr. F. Owen Fisher, who have kindly placed their notes at the service of the present writer.]

J. K. L.