FATHER OF THE ROYAL NAVY

Robert BLAKE is the father of the Royal Navy

To boys trained at HMS Ganges, Shotley Gate, Suffolk, his name will be extremely familiar whether one was in the Blake Division or in any other the other seven divisions in the Establishment named after other admirals.

Robert was very much a west country squire, an army man [yes army] through and through, a champion of the Parliamentary Forces led by Oliver Cromwell,  a darling of the roundheads, and a sworn enemy of the cavaliers led by the Royalists under King Charles 1 and his military tactician Prince Rupert, a German. At the near defeat of the King, he was a General of the Cromwellian New Army and a Commonwealth General of the Sea, and that's where the navy bit starts.

As a General of the Sea, he was of course an admiral, and made his mark in the Dutch Wars which immediately followed the English Civil War, the Dutch, after a few skirmishes [minor wars] were sent packing falling into line with countries like Spain and Portugal whose diplomatic missions honoured the new British establishment of a Commonwealth run by an elected Parliament and not by a despotic monarch, who aligned himself with God as a 'divine ruler'. Other nations soon followed suit.

The unreasonable demands made by the King and his unwillingness to cede power to Parliament, ultimately led to his execution in 1649. The heir to the throne, also a Charles fled the country, only to return as a hero in 1660, when he restored the monarchy and was crowned Charles II.

Throughout the dynastic proceeding, Admiral Blake had absolutely no involvement in the trial or execution of King Charles I, and throughout engaged himself with the legal aspects of Parliament, but more importantly with military/naval matters and the aspirations of Britain's enemies, within and without, with the Irish and Scottish campaigns and Royalist uprisings being foremost.

Admirals Walter Raleigh and  Robert Blake were  unique amongst British admirals.  The former because he was incarcerated in prison under two monarch's, Elizabeth I and James I, and executed by James I; the latter because  he had the full patronage of Parliament and not of Royalty.  When Blake died aged 59 in August 1657,  Cromwell gave him  a heroes funeral allowing him to be placed in King Henry VII's Chapel - father of King Henry VIII - in Westminster Abbey [that's the chapel at the back of the Abbey directly facing the Houses of Parliament and Cromwell's magnificent statue in Parliament territory], although there is evidence to suggest that he would have preferred to be back in his native Plymouth.

Thirteen months later in September 1658 and also when aged 59, Cromwell died, and this time Parliament granted him a resting place also  in King Henry VII's Chapel quite close to his friend Blake. Other confidents of Cromwell were afforded the same privilege. On Cromwell's death his son Richard took over but he proved to be inept and was forced to resign after just nine months in office. He died peacefully in 1712 at the rare age [for those days] of 85. General George Monck took over and paved the way for the return of the monarchy and to welcome back Charles II.

At the restoration in 1660, Charles II bided his time for an act of deep [perhaps sweet] revenge. In January 1661, exactly 12 years to the day of his father execution, he ordered that Oliver Cromwell's body [with others] should be ripped from its resting places and taken to Tyburn [London's infamous place of gruesome executions for the living guilty] and there given a ritual execution of great depravity, culminating in the severing of Cromwell's head which was displayed in London for many years thereafter. His pathetic remains were then thrown into a pit where roaming dogs could take their fill.

At the same time, the King ordered that Admiral Robert Blake after four years rotting in his resting position, should also be deprived of it, and disposed of elsewhere.  Some say that he too went to Tyburn, but just as many say that a pit was dug nearby and his remains dumped in it.  This is said to be the churchyard of St Margaret's Westminster, which is almost a part of Westminster Abbey, famous for several things, but for our purposes, the annual remembrance garden with almost uncountable numbers of crosses bedecked with poppies which is set-up prior to the Whitehall Cenotaph Service, and also it was where Lord Louis Mountbatten got married with King Edward VIII as his best man. That King later abdicated.

It is also stated that conscious of the very likely Royalist backlash post the restoration, Cromwell's body was moved around the country for temporary re-burials, so as to avoid his corpse being publically mutilated. No one can be certain that the corpse taken to Tyburn was that of Cromwell. Additionally, the King had quite overt leaning toward Catholicism and knew well the reason for purgatory as Dante's Divine Comedy points out, and purgatory, even for the highest of Catholics, has a finite timing. Four years in his grave would have placed his soul safely in heaven. He therefore could not damage Cromwell's soul, and skin and bone, most probably bone only by then, was for naught! It is probable that in ordering this punishment, the King wanted to ridicule Cromwell's deep and sincere religion which was the corner stone of Cromwell's life - only Anglicans were deep and sincere in their beliefs, so said the Anglicans! The Stuarts on the other hand were known to use religion to suit their needs!

In conclusion the father of our navy was a good and faithful Englishman, always on guard against the Scots and their warlike association with the French against England.  Even today, under the leadership of Madam Sturgeon and her lapdog Salmond, we would do well to be circumspect.

Take care and good bye.