Mariner and crew certificates are mandatory for modern-day seafarers on commercial and merchant ships of a number of flag states, according to the STCW code. However, these certificates were used as far back as the 18th century. Lorrendraaier is in possession of just such an antique piece filled in for a Francis Beaumont.
Crewing a Royal Navy ship was no minor task – especially large frigates such as the HMS Andromeda, Ardent, Brilliant, and Thames. The original warships, 18th-century frigates, could reach up to 50 metres in length — around the length of an Olympic swimming pool. And our Francis Beaumont crewed multiple.
However, sailors and crewmen on such Royal Navy ships needed paperwork, as set out by the Lord’s Commissioners of the Admiralty — the board who presided over operational command of the Royal Navy until it merged with other ministries to create the Ministry of Defense in 1964.
Examining Francis Beaumont’s Royal Navy Mariner Certificate
The name, age, and seafaring experience of the crewman, as well as their dates of service and ships crewed, were standard information on mariner certificates of this age. However, formats and details varied per flag state and naval organisation. Our piece is printed, featuring blank spaces to fill in any specified information.
The majority of Francis Beaumont’s Royal Navy service appears to have been on the HMS Andromeda and Ardent frigates, with a small stint on the HMS Brilliant. Three current-day warships — the HMS Andromeda (F57), HMS Ardent (F184), and HMS Brilliant (F90) — also bear these names. The name of the fourth ship he served on is hard to decipher but may be the HMS Thames — a much older refitted frigate first launched in 1758.
Francis Beaumont served as a seaman and midshipman (a rank above a naval cadet and below a sub-lieutenant) on various Royal Navy ships at the turn of the 18th century.
An experienced seafarer, Francis spent just over six years serving on Royal Navy warships. During this time, he honed his skills, including splicing, knotting, reefing a sail, and navigating, amongst other things. However, since this particular section of the certificate is printed, understanding these particular skills was likely required to pass as a midshipman or seaman.
The certificate also mentions the years, months, weeks, and days, as well as the rank he served as on each craft. Additionally, the names of his captains and the examiners and notary who examined him and notarized the mariner’s certificate.
A Small Addition
Also accompanying our mariner’s certificate is an album leaf with a hand-drawn pen, ink, and watercolour card that may be of significance. It features various naval flag combinations and information on their significance.
Warships needed to communicate with each other when sailing to or in battle. As such, a numerary code was developed consisting of various naval flag combinations. When hoisted, each unique flag or combination thereof signalled an action, such as annulling fighting, an enemy in sight, to keep station, anchor, or leave off the chase.
Lord Howe, who served as First Lord of the Admiralty, spent some of his tenure improving this code from 1783 to 1788, just before Beaumont entered the Navy. The flag combinations listed in our card are likely inspired by Howe’s system and the many books he wrote on the topic.
Sailors on Royal Navy warships utilised flag code cards to memorise the action or significance of each hoisted numerary code flag or the combination thereof.
Francis Beaumont’s Exploits
Francis served mainly during the French Revolutionary Wars, being discharged in 1802 when they concluded and peace was (briefly) declared before the Napoleonic Wars. During his six years and one month as a Royal Navy seafarer, he took part in some notable battles.
Most interestingly, he just missed crewing the HMS Andromeda during the Raid on Dunkirk in July 1800, as he was discharged from her service in May 1800. However, he did serve under Captain Henry Inman and Captain William Taylor, who took part in the raid. Captain Taylor had served as a midshipman on Captain James Cook‘s third voyage of discovery himself and was the last-surviving member of this expedition on his death in 1842.
Francis did crew the HMS Ardent under Captain Thomas Bertie during The Battle of Copenhagen. Bertie was quite the innovator whose experiments were key in introducing lifebuoys to the Navy and improving carronade ballast and recoil for its entire fleet. Similar to a cannon, it was a piece of equipment that was vital during the battle when the Ardent was amongst the first five ships to engage the enemy with hers.
The captains whom Francis served under give a clue as to the expeditions and battles he took part in.
Beaumont’s certificate also mentions him producing journals while on the Andromeda and Ardent, as well as the Thames. If not the HMS Thames, this reference is likely regarding the river itself, where the Ardent served the rest of the Revolutionary Wars guarding its (the Thames) estuary. Francis’s last stint on the Ardent from May to July 1801 may have engaged him in just such duties.
Francis also served on the HMS Brilliant, famous for capturing Gueppe, a flush-deck privateer, in Galicia, Spain, in 1800 under the direction of Captain Samuel Hood. It’s unlikely Beaumont partook in the daring cutting-out siege, which saw the privateer taken in mere 15 minutes. However, he did serve under Admiral Hood, a monument to whom is erected in Somerset, England.
Francis was on board the Brilliant from July until August 1801, and it’s unknown what he was up to then. The names of the other captains or lieutenants Beaumont served under are lesser known and somewhat illegible. Though, the text seems to mention a Wodehouse and Lieutenant P King (Philip Gidley King). Best known as the third Governor of New South Wales, the majority of his career was spent serving in the Navy.
Who Was Francis Beaumont?
Our Francis is also not to be confused with the Francis Beaumont (born 1787), who served on HMS Juste. Entering into the Royal Navy in March 1796 until 1802, when he definitely (purportedly) “appeared” to be over the age of 25 years, he must have been born in the 1770s or before.
Not much else can be found out about Francis Beaumont, but his surname is of Norman origin. Sharing the coastline of the English Channel with England, this region forms part of France — the enemy of England during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
However, since both countries are close-by and known for centuries of seafaring prior to the borders and immigration laws we have today, some integration did occur. For the most part, English citizens of Norman ancestry also immigrated due to the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. Hence why Francis may have landed up fighting for the “enemy.”