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Cromwell's order to his 'faithful' servant, Admiral Penn. The Lord Protector's policy in Ireland was to plant in every shire an English colony, and when he gave a patch of land to any favourite, he was careful that it should be near a castle or a fort. Macroom was strong enough to shield an English colony. A troop of horse and company of foot were stationed in the town, and Penn had been authorised and expected to send out a body of skilful husbandmen. His term of power had been too short for much to have been done; but some few English had arrived whose industry had much increased the worth of Cromwell's gift.
For more than three years Admiral Penn resided with his wife and little ones at Macroom, engaged in planting his estate. His eldest son, to whom this planting was a lesson of immense importance, was a bright and forward lad from twelve to fifteen years of age. Though tall and slim the boy was firmly knit. He liked to run and ride, to scull and sail, and had a passionate delight in country sports. In things of business he was almost like a man.
Besides the castle, town, and manor of Macroom, Penn held the neighbouring castle, town, and manor of Killcrea, the whole containing many thousand acres of good land, with much convenient wood . He bought more land from Roger Boyle, his friend and neighbour, whom he joined in drinking secret healths to Charles. He also prayed Lord Henry Cromwell, son of Oliver, for leases of some districts near his property, alleging that he wished to tenant them with English hands. With sure and patient toil, assisted by his active son, who seemed to have a natural bent that way, the Admiral improved his lands; here mending roads, there forming nurseries, in a third place planting gardens, in a fourth place building farms. In three years the estate had risen in rental from something like three hundred pounds a-year to eight hundred and fifty-eight pounds ayear.
Good tutors were in plenty at Macroom and Cork, and Penn the Younger made such rapid progress in his learning that at fifteen he was ripe for Oxford, and the Admiral, on talking with his friends, Ormonde and Boyle, resolved that he should go to Christ Church.
This matter was arranged in 1659; a year of many changes in the Admiral's prospects. Cromwell died . So soon as sure intelligence of his death arrived in county Cork the Admiral put himself into correspondence with his royalist friends, Boyle and Ormonde; but on seeing how affairs went on in London they concluded that it would be well to wait events and not commit themselves by any overt act. They had not long to wait. Six months sufficed to wear out Richard Cromwell's force, and when the news of his deposition reached Macroom, Penn threw away his mask, declared for Charles the Second, and immediately set out for the Low Countries to kiss his master's hand.
Charles was so glad to see the Admiral that he knighted him on the spot, and promised him his lasting favour. Penn returned to England, where he found himself, on Monk's suggestion, called to serve in parliament, with his old comrade, Sea-general Montagu, for the town of Weymouth. When the resolution for recalling Charles the Second was adopted by the two houses, Montagu was named commander of the royal fleet, and Penn took ship with him, in order to be one among the first to throw himself at his future sovereign's feet.
The King was kind to him; but Charles had friends much closer to his heart than Admiral Penn. Among these closer friends was Lord Muskerry, his father's partizan, whom he had recently created Earl of Clancarty. Lord Clancarty's house was that Macroom which Penn had been improving with his capital and skill. The King was fixed on giving Lord Clancarty all that he had lost; the Penns must therefore quit Macroom. His Majesty was pleased to say that they should have some other lands; but they must leave at once, in order that Clancarty might go home in peace. To soften this hard blow, the King appointed Penn a Commissioner of the Navy, with a salary of five hundred pounds a-year, and lodgings in Navy Gardens, and he promised to make the Lords Justices of Ireland find among the forfeited estates of Roundheads something that would more than pay him for his losses in Macroom.
Lady Penn being housed in her fine lodgings at the Navy Gardens, Admiral Penn was happy, though he had to keep a wistful eye on the Irish lands. He gave good dinners, kept high company, resorted, as the fashion led him, to the playhouse and the cockpit. Lady Penn set up her coach. The Admiral, who had been a Puritan among the Puritans, became a roystering blade with the returning Cavaliers. He supped at the Dolphin and the Three Crowns, took the comedians into his favour, lived on easy terms with the play-writers, and paid his compliments to every pretty hussy on the stage. Dick Broome, the profligate author of 'The Jovial Crew/ became a guest in his house. Pepys calls this libeller 'Sir William's poet;' and the Navy Gardens were a scene for romps and jinks that faintly echoed the festivities of Whitehall.
Sir William followed in the wake of greater men, for he was bent on rising in the world. His Irish friends were gaining great rewards from Charles. Boyle was created Earl of Orrery, and named Lord President of Munster. Ormonde, with the higher grade of marquis, was become Lord Steward of the Household and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Penn was made Governor of the town and Captain of the fort of Kinsale; a post which gave him the title of Admiral of Ireland, with fees amounting to four hundred pounds a-year. Penn had therefore gained in these two offices of Naval Commissioner and Governor of Kinsale nine hundred pounds a-year from the grateful King. But Charles, who wished to bind him closer to his person, wrote with his own hand to the Lords Justices in Dublin that a good estate, of equal value to the one restored to Lord Clancarty,, must be set aside for Penn in county Cork, as near as might be to his port and castle of Kinsale.
When Admiral Penn had put his house in order, he was anxious that his son,—whose talents seemed to him of the finest order, and whose love of business and open-air exercises promised to make him a man of active habits and worldly ambition,—should proceed to the University. In October Penn the Younger went to Oxford, where he matriculated as a gentleman commoner at Christ Church. Oxford was then the seat of wit as well as of scholarship. In the chair of the Dean sat the famous controversialist, Doctor John Owen, soon to become an object of royalist persecution. South, too long repressed, had now obtained a hearing, and, as Orator to the University, he was preparing those sermons which are still regarded by lovers of old literature as models of grace. Jack Wilmot too was there, scattering about him those gleams of wit and devilry which in after-life endeared the Earl of Rochester to his graceless King. Most notable of all the ornaments of Oxford was John Locke—an unknown student of Christ Church, devoting in a sequestered cloister his serene and noble intellect to the study of medicine. Being twelve years older than Penn, it is not probable that these two men contracted more than a casual acquaintance at Christ Church; but in later life they met again—rivals in legislation, and mediators for each other in the hour of need.