1647, the owners of the ship the Constant Warwick ask to be authorised to seize enemy vessels

The owners of the ship Constant Warwicke. SP 16/515/2 f. 85 (1647)

To the right honourable the committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque ports

The humble petition of the owners of the shippe Constant Warwicke


That your petitioners haveing provi ded the said friggott for a voyadge at sea to bee imployed as a private man of warre uppon the Constant Warwicke

They humbly pray that your hon nours would please to grant your instructions of reprizall for the said friggott accordinge to the ordinance of Parliament of the 29th of January 1645 and to approve of Captaine Robert Dare to commaund in the said friggott for his service.

And your petitioners shall pray etc

[paratext:] Die Martis 2o Novembris 1647 At the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque ports. / Ordered that instructions bee given the petitio ners for the said friggott the Constant Warwicke accordinge to the ordinance of Parliament of the 29th of January 1645 with power to employ the same under the command of the captaine mentioned in the petition and that the same shallbee registred in the Courte of Admiralty and se curity taken by the judge of the Admiraltye for the said vessell and a testimoniall or certificate thereof under the seale of the Admiralty to bee given them accordinge to the tenor of the said ordinance

Report by Larry Sequira

The ship at the centre of this petition, the Constant Warwick, was the first frigate built in England constructed on the model of a French frigate in the time of the Commonwealth. The frigate had 32 guns in its armament, a crew in 1645 of 120, and had as its commanders firstly John Gibson and then Robert Dare. It was part of the naval mutiny in the Downs in 1648, a year after this petition.[1]

The petitioners asked for instructions for reprisal, under the Ordinance of Parliament passed in 1645/6, which enabled authorised private ships to ‘to seize, surprize, and take, all and all Manner of Ships and Vessels which they shall meet withall, in or outwards bound, from any Port or Place within any His Majesty’s Dominions being in Hostility against the Parliament’.[2]

This request was granted by the Committee of the Admiralty, which included Thomas ‘Raineborowe’, more usually spelled Rainsborough, who ‘was the highest-ranking officer to support the Levellers’. In autumn 1647, at around the same time as the petition, ‘was a leading speaker at the Putney Debates, where he sided with the Leveller radicals, calling for the Army and Parliament to break off negotiations with the King and to force through a new constitution on their own terms’.[3]


[1] ‘British hired frigate ‘Constant Warwick’ (1645)’, Three Decks, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_ship&id=11391

[2] ‘January 1646: Ordinance regarding Reprisals.’, in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, ed. C H Firth and R S Rait (London, 1911), pp. 825-827. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/pp825-827.

[3] ‘Thomas Rainsborough, c.1610-48’, British Civil War Project, http://bcw-project.org/biography/thomas-rainsborough.


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.