Edward D'Oyley

Edward D'Oyley was a committed parliamentarian who served in the New Model Army in Wiltshire and in Ireland, where he received a land grant in recompense for his services. In December 1654 D'Oyley, now a lieutenant-colonel in General Robert Venables's regiment, sailed for the West Indies. Cromwell had dispatched Venables and his men in order to advance the western design, by which he hoped to gain control of the lucrative and strategically important islands of the Caribbean by defeating the Spanish forces there, and simultaneously stamping out the pro-royalist sentiment which flourished among many English settlers. Having arrived in Barbados in March 1655, Venables raised a local regiment, of which he appointed D'Oyley colonel. From then on D'Oyley rose slowly but steadily within the ranks; after Major-General Richard Fortescue's death in November 1655 the parliamentarian commissioners in Jamaica selected him as commander-in-chief of the island's forces, which were embroiled in a struggle to defeat the Spanish and gain control of the island for England. Although Doyley was temporarily superseded by the Cromwellian proteges Robert Sedgwick and William Brayne, neither man survived for long, and after September 1657 the Jamaican command devolved permanently upon D'Oyley.

D'Oyley soon proved himself worthy of his responsibilities, leading his men successfully against Spanish forces sent from Cuba with the intention of reconquering Jamaica. In 1657 he defeated General Ysassi's troops at Ocho Rios, and did the same the following year at Rio Nuevo, in the largest single engagement ever fought on Jamaican soil. Having inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Spaniards and established himself as Jamaica's first English governor, he described his endeavours in a pamphlet entitled A narrative of the great success God hath been pleased to give His Highness forces in Jamaica,: Against the King of Spains forces; together with a true ... at the Massachusetts historical society), which was printed in London in 1658.

Although D'Oyley was a staunch parliamentarian, he was sufficiently competent as a governor that, upon the Restoration, Charles II confirmed him in his post and requested that he establish a council to assist in the task of governing the island. In one historian's evaluation D'Oyley was 'too much a soldier to feel much enthusiasm for the institution of civil government and, beyond swearing in the councillors as Justices of the Peace and establishing courts of law at Morant Bay, Port Royal, and Spanish Town, he did little to alter the shape of things'. It was in his role as commander-in-chief that D'Oyley made his mark; he succeeded in defending Jamaica against all Spanish attempts to reconquer it. He was willing to take unorthodox measures in order to defeat the Spanish, as is shown by his inviting the English buccaneers of nearby Tortuga to transfer their headquarters to Jamaica in order that he might use them as a deterrent to Spanish attack. By the early 1660s approximately 1500 buccaneers had settled in the environs of Port Royal, which became notorious as a pirates' haven until its destruction by earthquake in 1692.

In 1662 D'Oyley was superseded as governor by Thomas, Lord Windsor, later first earl of Plymouth, a protege of Charles II. Upon Windsor's arrival in Jamaica, Doyley returned to England, where he established himself in the London parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He is not known to have married and died in London in March 1675.

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by Stephen Luscombe