THE broad outline of English affairs in the years 1672-4 is well known, and fresh research is unlikely to alter it. On the other hand, the meaning of many of the events has been contested several times over. Likewise, although the naval battles have been studied in detail, there is no proper history of the war in which they were set. The object of this chapter is to weave together the development of diplomatic, military, and political policy more tightly than has been done hitherto, and to contest one or two recent beliefs about the process. One bonding theme runs through all: however cautiously he approached it, Charles made this war his own and fought it with determination till its end was forced upon him.
From March to June 1672 the main business of the Committee for Foreign Affairs consisted of getting the fleet mustered, manned, armed, and supplied. Charles normally presided over this complicated business in silence, although he could not restrain one outburst of anger and incredulity when victuals calculated to last for eight months were consumed in one ( Clifford admitted that no accounts existed to explain the error, the Navy Board was duly scolded, and the whole business remained mysterious). In addition, he met naval and financial officials in the Treasury or in Arlington's lodgings, listened to their problems, and issued orders upon their advice. As in the previous war, a period of frenetic activity and anxiety produced (despite the occasional lapse such as the one concerning victualling) a remarkable success. This time the reinforcement from the French meant that the English could put out fewer ships, and of better overall quality. By early May Charles could boast that his fleet was ready, without his having to hire and convert any merchantmen, and with bigger guns and crews than before. He was able to order local officers not to send any more pressed men to it, as it was actually filled up. 1
The King played a more direct part in strategic planning than he had done before, repeatedly taking his yacht down to the fleet and spending nights upon it between conferences. A pinnace full of armed sailors sometimes guarded him as he slept. These visits enabled him to show off his knowledge of winds and currents, but also to take part in the councils