If you’ve been reading the Funny Names Blog, you may know that merely having an amusing name isn’t always enough to become a true funny name legend. It will greatly work to your advantage if you also led an impossibly interesting life, came into contact with other amusingly named people, and preferably were born in a town called Cockthorpe.
Happily, Sir Cloudesley Shovell ticks all these boxes. He was indeed born in Cockthorpe, England in 1650. A distant relative, Sir Christopher Myngs, was an admiral at the British navy at the time, and young Cloudesley went off to sea at the age of 14 as a cabin boy.
In the next four decades he steadily climbed the ranks at the Royal Navy. He was commended for his efforts in battling pirates, becoming Johnny Depp’s worst enemy. He gained more responsibility quickly, serving on HMS Plymouth, as captain of HMS Sapphire, and during a particularly triumphant spell, aboard HMS Prince (which was later renamed “the Vessel Formerly Known as HMS Prince”). His career reached its peak as the Commander-in-Chief of the British fleet in the early 1700s.
Of course, all good things come to an end, and so it was with Sir Cloudesley’s life. He is quite sadly perhaps best remembered for the manner of his death. His ship, HMS Association, struck some rocks near the Isles of Scilly in 1707, and went down within minutes, along with three other ships in his fleet, killing maybe as many as 2000 sailors.
Many legends were born over the exact manner of his death, as his body was found some seven miles from the site of the shipwreck. Legend has it, he survived the crash, made it to shore at the Islands, only to be murdered by a young woman who wanted the priceless ring on his finger. As great a story as that would make, it is probably untrue. It is more likely that he managed to get on a boat (apparently bringing his dog with him), and drowned trying to reach shore. Nothing Scilly about that.
Sir Shovell was interred at Westminster Abbey, where the sure-to-be-covered-here-in-the-future Grinling Gibbons sculpted a large monument in his memory. It is unknown whether he used a shovel to do so.