Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stayner, Richard

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STAYNER, Sir RICHARD (d. 1662), admiral, described by Le Neve (Pedigrees of the Knights, p. 112) as ‘of Greenwich’—which may, however, only mean that he was living there in 1660—had probably served in a subordinate rank in the parliamentary navy during the civil war (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 21 Dec. 1653). On 22 June 1649 he was appointed commander of the Elizabeth prize, ‘now a State's ship,’ though a very small one, her principal armament being two sakers, that is, six-pounders. She was specially fitted out ‘for surprising small pickaroons that lurk among the sands’ on the Essex coast, and for convoy service in the North Sea. In August he captured the Robert, a small frigate, apparently one of Prince Rupert's vessels, for which and other good services he was awarded 20l. and 5l. for a gold medal (ib. 13 April 1650). In November 1652 he commanded the Mermaid, fitting out at Chatham; but seems to have been moved from her in January to command the Foresight, which was one of the fleet with Blake in the battle off Portland on 18 Feb. 1652–3. He was certainly with the fleet in the following April, when he signed the declaration of the sea-officers on the dissolution of the parliament by Cromwell, which was, in fact, a resolution ‘not to meddle with state affairs, but to keep foreigners from fooling us’ (cf. Gardiner, Hist. of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, ii. 218).

In the battle off the Gabbard on 2–3 June 1653, Stayner commanded the Foresight in the white squadron under the immediate command of Penn, and was afterwards sent into the river in convoy of twelve disabled ships, eleven Dutch prizes, with 1,350 prisoners, and the body of Admiral Richard Deane [q. v.], which he was ordered to take to Woolwich (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 9 June 1653). He rejoined the fleet in time to take part in the decisive battle of 29–31 July, and continued with it till the end of the season. In December he was strongly recommended by Monck for a larger ship, and in the following January was appointed to the Plymouth, in which during the spring, till the peace with the Dutch, he was employed in active cruising in the North Sea, during which he made several captures, including one rich East Indiaman. In July he was appointed by Blake to the Catherine, and in September sailed for the Mediterranean with Blake, returning to England with him in October 1655 [see Blake, Robert]. In the following February he was in command of the Bridgwater and sailed again with Blake for Cadiz, which was kept closely blockaded.

In September, when the generals with the greater part of the fleet went to Aveiro, Stayner, then in the Speaker, was left off Cadiz in command of a small squadron of some six or seven ships. On 8 Sept. he fell in with the Spanish treasure fleet which, having information from a prize that the English had left the coast, was pushing on for Cadiz in such perfect confidence that, it is said, the Spaniards supposed Stayner's ships to be fishing-vessels; yet three of Stayner's ships at least, the Speaker, Bridgwater, and Plymouth, were each of more than nine hundred tons. Nothing could be done that night, and the next morning several of Stayner's ships had fallen to leeward. He had only three with him, but these were the powerful ships just named; and as they were now within twelve miles of Cadiz, he judged that delay was unadvisable, and attacked the Spaniards about nine o'clock in the forenoon. Of the four capital ships in the Spanish fleet, one escaped and ran for Cadiz, but struck on a rock and went to the bottom. The three others were captured, but two of them caught fire and were burnt with all their cargo and a great part of their men. The fourth remained in the possession of the English; some of the other ships also were taken. The value of the prize to the captors was estimated at about 600,000l.; but it was stated by the Spaniards that their loss was not less than nine million dollars, or nearly two millions sterling. The news of this tremendous blow reached England early in October. An official narrative of it was published on 4 Oct., and a thanksgiving service ordered to be held on the 8th in all the churches in London and Westminster (A true Narrative of the late Success … against the King of Spain's West India Fleet in its Return to Cadiz).

Shortly after this Stayner returned to England with Mountagu [see Montagu, Edward, first Earl of Sandwich]; but rejoined Blake early the next year, and took a brilliant part in the destruction of the Spanish ships at Santa Cruz on 20 April. For his conduct on this occasion he was knighted by Cromwell on his return to England in the following August. During the rest of the year and during 1658 he commanded in the Downs, nominally as second to Mountagu, who was most of the time in London, and really as commander-in-chief, with his flag as rear-admiral sometimes in the Essex, sometimes in the London, and towards the end of the time in the Speaker. His work was entirely administrative, and he had no active share in the operations against Mardyke and Dunkirk, though he was in constant communication with Goodsonn, by whom they were entirely conducted. In the summer of 1659 he was rear-admiral of the fleet with Mountagu in the Sound, and on 16 April 1660 was appointed by Mountagu to be rear-admiral of the fleet which went over to bring the king to England. For this service he was knighted on 24 Sept., his earlier knighthood, conferred by Cromwell, not being recognised by the royalists.

In the early summer of 1661 Stayner was again commander-in-chief in the Downs, and in June sailed for Lisbon and the Mediterranean as rear-admiral of the fleet under the Earl of Sandwich. When Sandwich went home in April 1662, Stayner, with his flag in the Mary, remained as vice-admiral of the fleet, under Sir John Lawson [q. v.] On 2 July it was reported from Lisbon that he had just arrived from Tangiers; on 20 July that he was dangerously ill; on 9 Oct. that he had died—apparently a few days before. In pursuance of his wish to be buried beside his wife, who seems to have died in 1658, his body was embalmed and brought home in the Mary, which arrived at Spithead on 3 Nov. He left a son Richard, who on 30 May 1663 was petitioning for repayment of 300l. which his father had advanced for the king's service. The claim was approved by Sandwich, but there is no mention of the money having been paid.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–63; Charnock's Biogr. Nav. i. 45.]

J. K. L.