SPRAGGE, Sir Edward (d.1673).
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Family and Education
s. of Lichfield Spragge of Roscommon, Ireland by Mary, da. of Edward Legge of Geashill, King’s Co., Ireland. m. by 1654, Clara, da. of Jacques Colaert, gov. of Dunkirk, s.p.; 2s. illegit. 1da. illegit. by Dorothy Dennis. kntd. 24 June 1665.1
Capt. RN 1661, v.-adm. 1666, adm. 1672-d.; capt. of ft. Portsmouth 1662; freeman, Dover 1673.2
Spragge’s grandfather was an Elizabethan officer in Ireland. His father lost his life in the royalist cause as governor of Roscommon. Nothing definite is known of Spragge before 1654, but he may have served under his uncle William Legge I in the Civil War and at sea under Prince Rupert. He married into a famous Flemish seafaring family and obtained a commission as a French privateer during the Interregnum. But in July 1660 his ship, the Charles, was captured by the Dutch. He claimed a loss of £10,000, but how much satisfaction he received is unknown. Abandoning his wife after spending all her portion, he entered the English navy and served with distinction in both Dutch wars and against the Algerian corsairs. He was knighted after the battle of Lowestoft, but much criticized for his failure to protect Sheerness against the Dutch in 1667. He was regarded as the great favourite of Prince Rupert until supplanted by Sir Robert Holmes. Samuel Pepys found him good company, and he was sufficiently polished to be sent on a complimentary mission to the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, for which occasion he took out a grant of arms. For the action at Bugia Bay in 1671, in which he destroyed the Algerian fleet, he was awarded 3,000 ounces of plate and a pension of £1,000 p.a.3
Spragge fought in the battle of Sole Bay, in which the 1st Earl of Sandwich (Edward Montagu I) lost his life. Lord Hinchingbrooke (Edward Montagu) succeeded to the peerage, thereby creating a vacancy at Dover, where the governor, John Strode II, was Spragge’s ‘very true friend’. He visited the town in August 1672, treating the freemen to a brace of bucks, but there were three other candidates in the field, and his chances were not reckoned good. However Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury issued the writ during the recess, taking his opponents by surprise. The mayor created 52 new freemen to outvote the ‘fanatics’, and Spragge, passing through Dover on a diplomatic mission to France, was able to attend the election in person. He was duly returned, but when Parliament met the election was declared void owing to the irregularity in the issue of the writs. Spragge was again successful ten days later, but his opponent Thomas Papillon at once petitioned, he never took his seat, and the result was reversed after his death. He went to sea again in the summer, vowing either to capture the Dutch admiral Tromp or perish in the attempt. He made his will on 22 May, ‘being ready to engage the enemy and not doubting that it may please the Almighty to take me away by death’. At the battle of Texel on 11 Aug. Anglo-Dutch naval rivalry reached its bloody climax, while the French, despite Spragge’s negotiations during the winter, remained aloof. ‘Spragge and Tromp fought until the sea around was littered with wreckage and bodies; both admirals had to transfer their flag three times, and at the third change of flag Spragge was killed.’ In his will he made specific bequests of £4,800, ‘all I have or can call mine in the world’, most of it to his illegitimate children.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Add. 14294, f. 29; First Dutch War (Navy Rec. Soc. vi), 20-21; CSP Dom. 1664-5, p. 156.
- 2. SP29/47/126; Add. 29625, f. 109.
- 3. Mariner’s Mirror, xxix. 59; PC2/56/674; CSP Dom. 1665-6, p. 494; Pepys Diary, 11 Jan., 24 June 1666; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 240; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 902, 1262.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1672, p. 553; 1672-3, pp. 510, 542; PCC 151 Pye; D. Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II, 375-6.