On the morning of Sunday July the 24th, two remberges and three frigates of the English Parliament appeared off Falmoutz to prevent her most Serene Majesty from leaving England, which vessels separated about ten o'clock, with the view not to alarm us. We deliberated upon sailing at noon, because the Parliamentary vessels were under the impression that we should not dare to sail except at night.
The vessel in which the Queen embarked was a Dutch ship mounting forty-six guns, and was the first to sail; she was followed by Captain Smitz's ship, in which I was, and which mounted thirty-eight guns: Then came two heavy English frigates and a Hambourg flutte, loaded with men and baggage. Within cannon-shot of Falmoutz the Dutchman hoisted the Dutch flag at the main-mast, as Admiral of the fleet, and gave orders to Captain Smitz to return shot for shot, if the Parliamentarians attacked us. As we continued our voyage the five vessels of the Parliament were descried, one of which hove too upon the Dutchman, and being equally distant from us fired two broadsides; one
p.52upon the Dutchman, and the other at us, to make us shorten sail. The Dutchman sheered off, and the remberge fired two or three shots at him, which took effect not far from the Captain's cabin which the Queen had left to go into the hold. The Dutchman being the swiftest sailer, but not so strongly built for action as the remberge, was not long in escaping. She had alongside her a small craft of the Felloukque cut, the crew of which was composed of six Bas-Bretons with oars, to save the Queen in case of a calm or an uncertain engagement. We soon lost sight of them; the two English frigates and the Hambourg flutte made for the pier, and we remained alone harassed by the two remberges and three of the enemy's frigates, firing our guns in our defence according to the order of our Admiral, who had left us in the lurch, and in consequence of the cowardice of the captains of the frigates who had abandoned us.
Captain Smitz seeing that we were over-matched, skilfully hove too between the two remberges in order to stand out to sea, because they are not such good sailers as the other vessels. The Admiral alone followed us with one frigate, and the Vice-Admiral gave chace to our flutte; and one of the frigates returned to London and the other to Milfort99 in Wales, to announce the news of the departure of the Queen.
The night was very clear, and we had the two vessels so near ours, that the guns of the remberge were able to hit the frigate which was on the other side of us. In the morning the wind freshened a little, and we passed them at some distance; but towards noon we again closed. Then Captain Smitz quietly spoke as follows:Harkee, my boys; I have once already been taken by the Parliamentarians, when my vessel was wrecked with Dutch troops on board for the service of His Majesty. I would rather die a thousand times than fall into their hands, because I promised them and swore upon the Gospel never to carry arms against them. Come all of you upon deck, in order to repel them if they should try to board us, for I am determined, after having made all the resistance possible, to set fire to the powder room, and to meet death in this manner. However, gentlemen, you are here eighteen brave cavaliers upon whom I rely. Let us not be dismayed by the struggle. Every one then showed himself with a musket and drawn sword to prove to the enemy that we were well manned. This stratagem deterred the frigate from boarding us, and she contented herself with firing at us balls, and chainshot hoping to dismast our vessel. We returned their fire, and cut away many parts of their rigging. After this running fight had lasted two days and two nights, we saw the coast of Brittany, and our enemies left us. At the same time our main-sail fell, the great rope being cut in two by a shot; if they
p.54had not put their helm about, they would have captured us, in consequence of our Captain not having taken the precaution to put chains to hold the yards, either because he had none, or that in the heat of the action it had slipped his memory; as our negligence only struck us after the danger was passed.
Having nearly reached Conquet, we put back to sea, on account of a fog which arose on the coast of Brittany, which is rendered dangerous by several rocks thereabouts. The following day we arrived at Conquet, a small town, where we took on board a pilot for Brest, which is seventeen miles distant. The pilot told us that there was no fault to be found with the Dutch captain for not fighting, since the Queen had forbidden him. This, however, so far from satisfying Captain Smitz made him fly into a passion, and he said thereupon all that anger could express, because the Dutch captain had ordered him to fire shot for shot, and had nevertheless abandoned him surrounded by five vessels.
Being both at Brest, her most Serene Majesty made up their quarrel, and reconciled them after a manner, but Captain Smitz never forgot the behaviour of his superior officer.
Brest is the depôt of the French Admiralty, where every thing is provided necessary for the equipment of vessels for sea. This place is of the highest importance, being the key of Lower Brittany. The harbour is the most capacious, and the finest which I ever saw, after that of Ormous I saw in
p.55this port the famous vessel la Couronne, of upwards of eighty guns, the largest of which were forty pounders. The hull of the vessel was 1636 tons. On the stem were figured the arms of the late Cardinal Richelieu, with these words written, SUBDIDIT OCEANUM. He has conquered the ocean. A device which might possibly have come to pass if this Minister had had health equal to his talent, and had been able to govern himself as he governed others.