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A short history of Pepys’ life

Samuel Pepys was born in February 1633 in Salisbury Court in the City of London. He was baptised in the pre-fire church of St.Bride, next door to his birth place. His father John Pepys, a tailor, was descended from a family which had grown to some importance in the fens. Of his mother little is known; she was a Londoner.

After education at Huntingdon Grammar School, St.Paul’s School and Magdalene College Cambridge, Sam entered the service of his second cousin, Sir Edward Montague, later created first Earl of Sandwich.

Due to the Earl’s good offices Sam was appointed in June 1660 to the Navy Board as its clerk. He very soon became its most active member. Over the next 28 years he rose in importance becoming, by 1688, when he resigned his office, the most senior civilian in charge of the Royal Navy. He died in May 1703 at the age of 70.

He married his wife, Elizabeth, at St. Margaret’s Westminster in 1655 and kept his famous diary from 1660 to 1669. It was written in a system of shorthand, which had been  available for many years, by Thomas Shelton.

Elizabeth, died after a short illness in November 1669 aged 29. He never remarried.

During his life he achieved distinction in a wide variety of ways, holding at times the offices of JP, MP, FRS, and indeed in the year in which Newton published his Principia, PRS. He was also a Baron of the Cinque Ports, in which role he carried one of the four poles holding the canopy over the head of King James II as he walked in his Coronation Procession. He was Master of the Clothworkers’ Company, Master of Trinity House, the body responsible for maintaining lighthouses and in the 17C responsible for Pilotage in the Port of London and several other ports. After retirement he became Treasurer of Christ’s Hospital, then in the City of London, and established a Mathematical Scholarship, which exists to the present day.

Both Sam and Elizabeth are buried in the Navy Office church, St. Olaves Hart Street, close to the Tower of London, where their memorials may be seen.