David Mitchell (Royal Navy officer)

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Sir David Mitchell
Portrait of Sir David Mitchell, painted by an artist of the British school between 1688 and 1690
Born c. 1650
Died 1 June 1710
Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Allegiance  Kingdom of England
 Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch  Royal Navy (1672–1707)
 Royal Navy (1707–1710)
Years of service 1672–1710
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held Ruby

Third Anglo-Dutch War

Nine Years' War

Sir David Mitchell (ca. 1650 – 1 June 1710) was a Scottish admiral, courtier and parliamentary official.

He came from humble origins, being descended from, as John Charnock put it, a family "more distinguished for their integrity than their riches."[1] When he was sixteen years old, his father apprenticed him to the master of a trading vessel from Leith. Having served this apprenticeship, he acted as mate aboard various vessels engaged in the Baltic trade.[2]

On the outbreak of the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, he was pressed into service in the Royal Navy.[3] He is recorded serving as a midshipman aboard the Swallow in the Mediterranean from 31 October 1673 to 15 October 1674, under the captaincy of Edward Russell. He followed Russell to the Reserve in 1676, and participated in his voyage to Newfoundland.[2] Still serving under Russell, he was promoted to second lieutenant aboard the Defiance on 16 January 1678, and as first lieutenant aboard the Swiftsure on 26 March 1679. Passed over for promotion, he remained with Russell, becoming first lieutenant of the Newcastle on 10 August 1680.[1] When Russell fell from favour following his cousin's involvement in the Rye House Plot, Mitchell remained in the service and became first lieutenant of the Tyger on 8 May 1682.[1] He served aboard this vessel under the command of vice admiral Arthur Herbert in the Mediterranean, and returned home with him in July 1683.[2]

On 5 February 1684, Mitchell was promoted to captain and given his first command: the Ruby. He sailed this vessel to the West Indies, where he spent two years convoying slave ships and pursuing Joseph Bannister and other pirates. He was discharged from the Ruby in October 1686 and given no other command. Eventually he made his way to the Netherlands and joined the group of naval defectors collecting around William of Orange.[2]

Following the Glorious Revolution, Mitchell was given command of the Elizabeth which served as Herbert's flagship at the battle of Bantry Bay, and also took part in the battle of Beachy Head. In August 1690, Mitchell was one of four candidates put forward to Queen Mary for promotion to admiral, the others being George Churchill, Matthew Aylmer and Francis Wheler. Not being one of the two chosen, he remained on the Elizabeth until given command of Russell's flagship, the Britannia, in January 1691. Apart from a four-month sojourn in the winter of 1691, when he was major of the 1st Maritime Regiment, he commanded this ship until January 1693 and led her into the battles of Barfleur and La Hogue.[2]

On 8 February 1693 he was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue,[4] hoisting his flag aboard the Essex to escort the king across to Holland.[3] He then joined the main fleet under joint admirals Shovell, Delaval and Killigrew, with the Duke as his flagship.

He was knighted by William III, apparently informally, about May 1694 before he joined Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford's grand fleet, but was officially dubbed a Knight Bachelor at Kensington, London, on 6 December 1698.

He was a Commissioner of the Admiralty from 1699 to 1702 and a Member of the Lord High Admiral's Council 1702 to 1708. He obtained numerous royal honours and appointments, including that of Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. Because of his naval knowledge, he became a close professional friend of Czar Peter the Great. David Mitchell's coat of arms are stated by De Neve to be appropriated for his tomb without justification from the Mitchells of Tillygrieg ('he bears arms, but hath no right', citing his humble background).

During the Grand Embassy of Tsar Peter the Great in 1697-1699 Mitchell captained the flagship HMS York which brought him to England. During the voyage the Tsar was given instruction on ship handling by Mitchell—mostly in Dutch since they were both fluent in it. At the Tsar's request Mitchell was assigned as his official escort and translator during the nearly six months Peter was in London.


  1. ^ a b c Charnock, John (1795). Biographia Navalis, Volume 2. London: R. Faulder. pp. 105–112. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hattendorf, John B. "Mitchell, Sir David". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18836.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b  Laughton, John Knox (1894). "Mitchell, David". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 38. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 66–67. 
  4. ^ "No. 2843". The London Gazette. 6 February 1692. p. 2. 


Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Fleetwood Sheppard
Black Rod
Succeeded by
Sir William Oldes