The Navy in the English Civil War

The Navy in the English Civil War. Michael Lea-O’Mahoney.
The Navy has often been overlooked in studies of the English Civil War. It was one of the
great ironies of history that King Charles I, having built up his Navy with the controversial
levy of ship money, saw his ships and sailors stand firmly with Parliament when war erupted.
I aim to discuss why. During the conflict, Parliament’s use of the Navy was a key component
in its success, helping to keep besieged outposts such as Hull and Plymouth supplied in the
face of fierce Royalist pressure. Furthermore, the fleet was a vital instrument with which to
block the Royalists’ supplies of arms from the continent. Yet Parliamentarian neglect of
naval finance, against the warnings of the Earl of Warwick, commander of the fleet, left the
Irish Sea virtually unguarded in 1643 and allowed the Royalists to ship thousands of
reinforcements into England at a crucial moment in the war. The importance of sea power
was made clear: Parliament thereafter could not afford to rest on its laurels. My research
aims to uncover the role played by the Navy during the war, with due emphasis also being
placed on the countermeasures taken by the Royalists at sea, namely the use of privateers
and hired merchantmen. The paper can fit in with the conference’s themes of integration by
discussing naval loyalties and the xenophobia displayed towards captured Irish sailors. It will
also touch on themes of anti-Catholicism, i.e. Protestants’ fears of a different faith.