Born: 23 February 1633
Samuel Pepys (pronounced Peeps) is one of the most famous diarists of all time. He was born in London, near Fleet Street, in 1633 and was one of
eleven children. His father was a tailor and his mother was the sister of a butcher. At the age of nine, Samuel was sent to live with his
uncle in Huntingdonshire. His health was a concern to his parents, especially after several of his brothers had died of plague, and they
believed he would be better off in the country. While in Huntingdonshire, Samuel attended Huntingdon Grammar School, which was the same school
that Oliver Cromwell had attended.
In his teens, Samuel returned to London and went to St Paul's School. These years were turbulent ones to grow up in, as the country was fighting The English Civil War, but Pepys did well from his family connection to Edward Montagu, later Earl of Sandwich, an influential Parliamentarian who had Cromwell's trust. Montagu later changed sides and was involved in the restoration of Charles II to the throne. After graduating from Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1654, Pepys went to work for Montagu as his secretary.
In 1665 Pepys married a fifteen year old girl called Elisabeth de St Michel, the daughter of a Huguenot exile. It was not an unhappy marriage, but Pepys had an eye for the ladies and was not a faithful husband. He had affairs with a number of women, including with their own maids. One maid in particular Pepys was very fond of, Deb Willet, but Elisabeth found out about the affair and the girl was dismissed.
Most of what we know about Pepys in these years comes from his own diary. He had started writing it in 1660, the year of the restoration of the monarchy, and continued writing it until 1669, the year of his wife's death. Elisabeth contracted typhoid fever and died on the 10th of November, just 29 years old. Pepys was devastated and never remarried.
It is fortunate that Pepys kept his diary during the 1660s as it was one of the most important decades in British history. Not only did it see the restoration of the monarchy, but the Great Plague of London (1665) and the Great Fire of London (1666). Indeed, Pepys's diary is a vital source of information about the fire. Not only did he witness it, but he was involved in trying to put it out. By now, Pepys was a Naval Official and had the ear of King Charles II. He advised the King to pull down houses to stop the spread of the fire. The Mayor of London had already been pulling down houses, however, but the fire continued to spread. When Pepys realised that the fire could not be contained he and his wife left their home and removed their most valuable possessions, which included the diary.
As Pepys stopped writing his diary in 1669, less is known about his life afterwards. He continued his naval career, however, and is often credited as "the father of the modern Royal Navy" for his efforts to raise standards and stamp out corruption. During his long career he also served as a Member of Parliament, as Master of Trinity House, and as President of The Royal Society. Twice he was arrested, once on suspicion of selling naval secrets to the French and once on suspicion of being a Jacobite (supporter of James II), but both times the charges were dropped.
Pepys died in Clapham on 26 May 1703, at seventy years of age, and is buried with his wife in St Olave's Church.