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William Monson (Royal Navy officer)

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Title: William Monson (Royal Navy officer)  
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Subject: Sir Thomas Monson, 1st Baronet, 16th-century Royal Navy personnel, Álvaro de Bazán, 2nd Marquis of Santa Cruz, Baron Monson, Pett dynasty
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William Monson (Royal Navy officer)

Sir William Monson (1569 – February 1643) was an English admiral and politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1601 and 1626.


  • Life 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Family 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Monson was the third son of Sir John Monson of South Carlton, Lincolnshire. He matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, on 2 May 1581 at the age of 14.[1]

Monson ran away to sea in 1585, being then according to his own account sixteen. His first services were in a Earl of Cumberland (1558–1605), whom he followed in his voyages of 1589, 1591 and 1593. A voyage in 1592 led to the capture of the rich carrack Madre de Deus. After this, in another venture Monson was taken prisoner by the Spaniards in a recaptured prize after an engagement off Berlengas Islands, and was for a time detained at Lisbon in captivity. He was awarded MA at Oxford on 9 July 1594 and was also a student of Gray's Inn in 1594.[1] His cruises must have brought him some profit, for in 1595 he was able to marry. The Earl offended him by showing favour to another follower, and Monson turned elsewhere. In the expedition to Cádiz in 1596, he commanded the Due Repulse and was also knighted there. From this time until the conclusion of the war with Spain he was in constant employment. In 1602 he commanded the last squadron fitted out in the reign of Queen Elizabeth by defeating a Spanish and Portuguese fleet at Sesimbra Bay near Lisbon capturing a rich large carrack. He also took prisoner the same man who captured Monson at Berlengas nearly ten years earlier.

Monson was elected Member of Parliament for Malmesbury in 1601. In 1604 he was appointed Admiral of the Narrow Seas, the equivalent of the Channel Fleet of modern times. In 1614 he was sent to the coasts of Scotland and Ireland to repress the pirates who then swarmed on the coast. Monson claimed to have extirpated these pests, but it is certain that they were numerous a generation later. After 1614 he saw no further active service till 1635. He was elected MP for Reigate in 1626. In 1635 he went to sea as vice-admiral of the fleet fitted out by King Charles I with the first ship money. He spent the last years of his life in writing his Tracts.

Monson died in February 1643 and was buried at St Martin in the Fields.[1]


His claim to be remembered is not based on his services as a naval officer, though they were undoubtedly honourable, but on his Tracts. These treatises consist in part of historical narratives, and in part of argumentative proposals for the reform of abuses, or the development of the naval resources of the country. They form by far the best account by a contemporary of the naval life and transactions of the reign of Elizabeth I and the beginning of the reign of King James. Monson takes care to do himself full justice, but he is not unfair to his contemporaries. His style is thoroughly modern, and has hardly a trace of the poetry of the Elizabethans. He was the first naval officer in the modern sense of the word, a gentleman by birth and education who was trained to the sea, and not simply a soldier put in to fight, with a sailing master to handle the ship for him, or a tarpaulin who was a sailor only. The one authority for the life of Sir William Monson is his own Tracts, but a very good account of him is included by Southey in his Lives of the Admirals, vol. v. The Tracts were first printed in the third volume of Churchill's Voyages, but they have been edited for the Navy Record Society by Mr Oppenheim.


Monson's elder brother,

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Henry Knyvet
Thomas Estcourt
Member of Parliament for Malmesbury
With: Sidney Montagu
Succeeded by
Sir Roger Dallyson
Sir Thomas Dallyson
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Bludder
Sir Roger James
Member of Parliament for Reigate
With: Sir Thomas Bludder
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Bludder
Charles Cockayne
  • , v. 43, 1912 (London, 1913)Publications of the Navy Records Society, in The Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson

External links

  1. ^ a b c 'Alumni Oxonienses, 1500-1714: Michaelson-Morcombe', Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714 (1891), pp. 1007-1026. Date accessed: 21 May 2012
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