Captain Elizabeth Kempe's background and information
I grew up to the stories of glory and duty. My grand father had loyally served one of the great heroes of the seas. One Henry Morgan had led his men through thick jungle and disease to fall upon the Spaniards and a babe of an army at Panama some 1700 strong. How it had been a victory that would forever tell history that the English would not bow to any nation.
I must admit that my heart stirred every time my father would sit in his studies twirling a glass of wine whilst my brother and I would demand encore after encore.
My grand father was but a handful of men who stood by Sir Morgan during the court martial of 1672. With no coin and no family, my grand father took what employ was available to a shipless sailor and for two years, survived through sheer tenacity. When Sir Morgan was finally acquitted of the charges, he was knighted alongside those men who had not left his side.
Because of my grand father, sir Martin Kempe, the Kempe were renewed and our line continue to serve his majesty in the Caribbean.
When my grand father returned, he was appointed 2nd lieutenant of the HMS Oxford much to the disdain of the admiralty. Sir Henry wished to conquer the superstition of the previous mistake. Though he never captained a ship after the court martial, Sir Henry did command a small fleet which was loosely under the admiralty’s jurisdiction.
The HMS Oxford carried out missions for Sir Henry for more than 4 years before coming under attack from the Papillon, a French frigate, outside of Santa Cruz. Though she had prevailed, the HMS Oxford was too damaged to make the travail home.
During those times, my father, who was mere 3, witnessed his mother’s slow decline in health. When finally my grand father returned to Jamaica, his wife had already found the death bed. He says that his father had never recovered from his absence and blamed himself.
Unable to look his son in the eyes, my father was placed in the care of sir Henry himself. Hiring some of the most famous tutors, my father lived like a true nobleman in London. He tends to remember those years fondly, though a pinch of longing always creeps under the smile he would give my brother and I. I do not believe my brother ever noticed, too occupied with the rapture of sir Henry’s stamp upon our father.
My grand father went on to captain the HMS Sedgemoor when sir Henry was asked to send officers to the defense of England. In the year of our lord 1689, the HMS Sedgemoor was found wrecked. By this time, my father was already lord of sir Henry’s estate, the only true heir in his will. At a mere age of 13, he appointed long time tutor Thomas Herbert to oversee all matters until he reached his majority.
Pride would be summoned when he was introduced to sir Herbert’s guests at his town house in London. To captain a fourth rate ship of the line was no laughing matter, it was a great privilege bestowed by the king. To have entrusted a Kempe with such a task, my brother could dream of no greater honour.
With sir Herbert’s help as First Lord of the Admiralty in the year of our lord 1690, my father was appointed 3rd Lieutenant of the HMS Britannia, a 100 gun First Rate ship of the line. Though he was but 15, he carried himself with authority and the crew loved him. He attributes this to his breeding, but my father was a man few hated and even his enemies found nothing to dislike but the nation for which he had pledged his loyalties.
Sir Herbert was quite fond of my father. I could see it in his eyes every time he would come over. After 5 solid years of service to his majesty the king, my father came back a hero and a father to a 2 year old boy by the name of Thomas Kempe. Soon after that, his favourite pup was joined by none other than one Elizabeth Kempe.
I daresay my brother was never fond of his name. He had much rather be named after our grand father Martin or the great sir Henry Morgan. It was a frequent topic when he first enlisted into the navy.
“To be named after a politician, a teacher.” he would scoff kicking dirt around outside of our town house. “Better to be named after our chef, at least that requires some skill.”
“Father saw it fit to honour our grand father,” I would reply, “you do realize that sir Thomas Herbert is indeed the father of our mother, do you not?”
To this, he would usually say nothing and idly kick more dirt. From time to time he would not even stay long enough for the dirt to settle before storming away. In front of my father, he never mentioned his disdain, he merely pressed for more heroics and talked tactics. Of course, time with our father was very scarce and I doubted my brother wanted to spoil those moments.
I was named after my mother’s younger sister who passed away early on due to complications. My mother was a soft soul and took my father’s absence quite well, though I’ve found myself straining to hear the muffled sounds of tears on more occasions than I’d like to recall.
“Of course I miss your father, love.” she’d say with tight lips white knuckles squeezing her handkerchief. “But what he does, he does for his king and country. We can do nothing but give him loyalty that he might have reason and courage to carry out his duty and find his way home.”
It was after one of these moments that I understood what it was that my brother saw within our grand father Martin Kempe and sir Henry Morgan. He aspired to becoming a legend, a man who would leave his hearth and know that his loved ones were awaiting his return with cheers. He aspired to greatness through steel and not idle chit chat around the card tables of some political campaign. I felt the tug as well, I must say, though I knew it not before then.
How my spirits lifted with the sea breeze, how my heart leapt every time we boarded a ship, how my father looked upon me with fond eyes when I would climb the riggings of his ship.
I wanted to follow his footsteps, follow those of sir Henry Morgan, those of sir Martin Kempe. Men whose actions shaped a nation. Back then, I was naïve enough to wear a captain’s hat made out of paper and shout commands to our servants. My mother thought it adorable, the maids were charmed and my brother just laughed as he put his nose back into books of seamanship.
“Laugh all you want, dear brother, but I promise you, I will sail the seas and make our history proud.” I’d proclaim standing tall and fixing my captain’s hat, back straight, shoulders squared.
“I pray not, Eli, for I would hate to see the admiralty make a fool of our dear sir Thomas Herbert for having such a foolish grand daughter.” he’d say with more spite than I care to relive. That was the day youthful daydreaming became somewhat more.
“We have two grand fathers, Thomas,” I nearly spited the words out, “both of whom I plan to make proud.”