1694, Robert Mackarrell, a merchant, asserts his loyalty to William III and begs for compensation after his ships were seized

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1690s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Robert Mackarrell, merchant. SP 63/356 f. 140 (1694).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Robert Mackarrell merchant


That your peticoner haveing about four months since by his peticion att large layd before your majestie his deplorable case which your majestie was gratiously pleased to referr to the right honourable the lords commissioners of Ireland for their examinacon and report the same is accordingly returned from Ireland and lodged with the right honourable Sir John Trenchard your majesties principall secretary of state but through some pressing occasions of your petitioner whereby hee was held here in towne and could not pay his attendance on their lordshipps att the time of settling their said report severall too harsh reflections hath thereby been innumerated upon his unfortunate yett innocent [slight?] from the [yoake?] of France and other as considerable instances of his sufferings ommitted to the utter concealment of the truth of his case and [perverting perhapps?] of your majesties tender and mercifull inclinations towards your petitioner who with his scatterd family are objects soe justly filled for your princely pitty and royall compassion. 

The premisses considered your petitioner humbly prayes your majestie att the time of reading their said report the following head unnotyfied thereby may be togeather taken into your gratious consideration which are all ready to be attested upon oath according to the perticulars following videlicet.

His having been an inhabitant of France for 18 yeares, his marrying, setling with his family and acquiring his estate there by which meanes impossible of removeing of his estate att one

His suffering imprisonment there as a friend to your majestie when Prince of Orange before the warr, his escaping with 4 of his shipps from France att the breaking out of the warre, entring them in your majesties transport service in Ireland for which is still oweing to him upwards of 2000 pounds there being taken by the French after their discharge condemnd as prize and he himselfe in one of them, made a prisoner againe, by two arrayes of councill (ready to be produced) in August 89 and February 90, declared an enemy to that crowne, proceeded against as such in their court of admiralty sentenced there in February 92 to pay back money received for goods actually sold and delivered to them before the warr proclaymed and seized after in May 92 againe sentenced to pay charges insurers subjects of France upon plaint brought against them upon a [lasse?], by vertue of the aforesaid arrayes pronouncing him an enemy

His leaving severall lands, his house and furniture untoucht behinde him in France the better to cover his escape and avoyd suspicion his risques and hazzards in transporting, his children his wife his servants etc

All humbly submitted to your majesties most gracious results att whose royall feet hee with all loyall devotion and dutyfull obedience prostrates himselfe imploreing your sacred majesties protection in the innocency of these his difficult adventures undergon for noe sake of trade as their lordshipps report through mistake seems to insinuate soe much as to free himselfe and persecuted family from the bondage and injustice of France and to give England the advantage of those fruites of his industry and labour he could escape with mercyes allowed the refugees of France who have plentifully tasted thereof from your majestie on the like but less dangerous occasions and what your petitioner humbly hopes will not bee denied him: a refugee though not a native of that kingdome.

 And your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray etc: 

Report by Lesley Scott-Stapleton 

In this petition, Robert Mackarrell, merchant to the King, claimed that he had previously petitioned about his financial difficulties. Mackarrell said he had pressing business in town and could not appear before the House of Lords. He spent 18 years trading in France but had to leave in haste leaving his possessions behind. He was imprisoned there because of his support for William, Prince of Orange. At the outbreak of war he provided four ships entering them into service as transports to Ireland, for which he was allegedly still owed over £2,000. He was condemned in August 1689 and February 1690 and declared an enemy to the Crown, sentenced in February 1692 to repay money for goods actually delivered by him before the war, and seized in May 1692 again sentenced to pay charges.

Robert Mackarrell

At his own information, Robert Mackarrell was a Scottish merchant and factor, who lived and traded for some eighteen years in the French port of La Rochelle; there he married a French Protestant. His Protestantism – and more particularly his practical support for Prince William of Orange (who had waged several wars against the Catholic King Louis XIV of France) – caused him to be imprisoned. He was able to escape from France with his whole family, and some effects, but was forced to leave some property behind. He was one of several Scottish merchants who frequently traded with France, even during the Nine Years War (1688–1697). There are records of passes being granted by the French government in 1692 to allow him to trade during this time.[1]

Mackarrell was the owner of (or had at least had an interest in) several ships. Four un-named are referred to, then the following: Mary, Fortune, Francis, Dolphin, May Flower, Concorde, Providence.[2] Two further ships, and the ones that were involved in his initial cause, were the Endeavour of Belfast whose master was Josiah Leathes, and the Defence of Bristol of which the master was John Rosse.[3]  Records of the same time list a Jean Mackerel, otherwise recorded as Irish, but freighting ships for Scotland. Although speculation, he would appear to be related.

At the outbreak of the Williamite War in 1689, as ‘a friend of the King’, Mackarrell provided ‘two of his ships in the English transport service, until they were discharged, after the first siege of Limerick, September 1690, when he followed the King in person, as he did at the Boyne, 1 July 1690 for which services there is still owing to him upwards of 2,000 l.’.[4] However, after a year of pressing his petition, the narrative is that his ships were impressed at Carrickfergus rather than being volunteered. There also seems to have been complicating circumstances in that these ships were seized for being French; the suggestion being that this was retaliation for Mackarrell’s part in a complaint against Christopher Carleton, a Commissioner of Revenue.[5] Because of the ships being released, the outstanding £2,000 claim was reduced to £211 17s. 10d, but had still not been paid, on account of his having been a prisoner in France when reimbursements were made.[6]

Only having been able to find information produced by Mackarrell, little has yet been verified. There is a problem in this situation regarding some of his assertions. He states: ‘on the breaking out of the war, entered two of his ships in the English transport service, until they were discharged, after the first siege of Limerick, when he followed the King in person, as he did at the Boyne’, and also ‘he himself […] made a prisoner; by two decrees of the French Council, in August, 1689, and March, 1690, he was declared an enemy to that crown, and proceeded against as such in their [the French] Court of Admiralty’.

James II and VII landed in Ireland in March 1689 and the First Siege of Limerick ended in September 1690, with the Battle of the Boyne two months earlier. If he actually ‘followed the King in person’, then it is not immediately clear how he could be detained by the French in either August 1689 or March 1690. It is not impossible that just his ships were detained, and that he exaggerated the case to either strengthen it or improve the outcome. Potential support for this assertion lies in his obtaining passes from the French government allowing him to trade in 1692. Had he been imprisoned as an enemy two years earlier it seems unlikely that passes would be granted so soon.


[1] S. Talbot, Conflict, Commerce and Franco-Scottish Relations, 1560–1713, p. 125.

[2] British History on-line ‘Entry Book: April 1694, 21-30’, in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 10, 1693-1696, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1935), pp. 597-606. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol10/pp597-606

This on 23 April 1694 after two previous appearances at court without apparent outcome, see: ‘2 April 1694 Entry Book: April 1694, 1-10′, in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 10, 1693-1696, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1935), pp. 563-576. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol10/pp563-576

16 April 1694 William and Mary: April 1694′, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: William and Mary, 1694-5, ed. William John Hardy (London, 1906), pp. 83-122. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/will-mary/1694-5/pp83-122.

[3] ‘Volume 42: December 22-31, 1696’, in Calendar of Treasury Papers, Volume 1, 1556-1696, ed. Joseph Redington (London, 1868), pp. 565-574. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-papers/vol1/pp565-574

Uncertain date, 1696, 1965, or earlier, but had been previously heard on 10 November 1694 see: ‘Entry Book: November 1694, 1-15’, in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 10, 1693-1696, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1935), pp. 815-825. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol10/pp815-825.

[4] ‘William and Mary: January 1694’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: William and Mary, 1694-5, ed. William John Hardy (London, 1906), pp. 1-16. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/will-mary/1694-5/pp1-16.

[5] ‘In his (Carleton) defence he offered the books of his office, and claimed the whole issue was invented by Babe and Mackarrell as revenge, because he had been responsible for seizing Mackarrell’s six ships for trading with France’: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/30695631.pdf, pp. 140-1; Christopher Carleton, collector first of Strabane and then Dundalk. In March 1720, having previously served as surveyor of excise at Killybegs, he was raised to the collectorship of Strabane. Upon the death of   the incumbent in September 1726, he was promoted to become collector at Dundalk. P. Walsh, ‘“The Sin of With-Holding Tribute”, Contemporary Pamphlets and the Professionalisation of the Irish Revenue Service in the Early Eighteenth Century’, Eighteenth-Century Ireland 21 (2006), p. 61: https://www.jstor.org/stable/30071277. Quoting Minute Book of the Revenue Commissioners, 24 March 1720, 28 September 1726, TNA Cust. 1/14 and 1/19, Walsh, p. 66.

[6] ‘Volume 31: December 11-31, 1694’, in Calendar of Treasury Papers, Volume 1, 1556-1696, ed. Joseph Redington (London, 1868), pp. 407-421. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-papers/vol1/pp407-421.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of James II, William III and Mary II, 1685-1699’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.