Biography of Samuel Pepys

Portrait of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys was a seventeenth century civil servant in London famous for keeping an extensive diary.

When and Where was he Born?

23rd February 1633, Salisbury Court, London, between Fleet Street and the River Thames, England.

Family Background:

Samuel Pepys was born over his father’s tailors shop. He was the fifth child and eldest survivor of eleven children.


Huntingdon Free School. (formerly attended by Oliver Cromwell) St. Paul’s School and Trinity Hall, London. Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Timeline of Samuel Pepys:

1642: The Pepys family moves to Brampton in Cambridgeshire as they feared the plague in London, from which several of his brothers and sisters had died. He lives with his Uncle Robert. This is the year of the outbreak of the English Civil War.

1645: Samuel returns to London and is sent to St Paul’s school.

1649: He is one of the crowd to witness the execution of King Charles the First on 30th January outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

1650: Pepys attends Magdalene College in Cambridge.

1653: He returns to London after graduating.

1655: Pepys enters the personal service of his cousin Edward Mountague who was later to become the Earl of Sandwich. On 10th October he marries Elizabeth le Marchant de St. Michael, aged 15, a Huguenot.

1658: He is appointed as a clerk in the Exchequer working for George Downing. Oliver Cromwell dies on 3rd September.

1659: Pepys sails on a ship to the Baltic on a mission for Mountague.

1660: He begins his celebrated diary written in his own shorthand on January 1st in this year. In May he sails to Holland in order to escort the future King Charles the Second back to England. His circumstances looked up at the Restoration of the monarchy. He was able to receive greater patronage from First Earl of Sandwich. With his help he got a job and rose rapidly in the admiralty. In July he is appointed as the Clerk of the Acts and moves to a new house in Seething Lane near the Admiralty Offices.

1661: He attends the Coronation of King Charles the Second at Westminster Abbey on 23rd April. Attends one of the early meetings of the group that is later to become the Royal Society of London.

1665: Pepys describes the months of the Great Plague in his diary. He is elected a full member of the Royal Society. During the Great Plague the Navy Office moves out of London.

1666: He gives a vivid account of “the Great Fire of London” which takes place on 2nd September. He tells the King of the events and organises the evacuation of the Navy Office and his own house.

Great Fire of London Plaque
Plaque Commemorating the site of the Great Fire of London in 1666 which started in Pudding Lane (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1667: The Dutch burn the English fleet in the Medway River.

1668: Pepys is called to defend the actions of the Navy at the Bar of the House of Commons and gives a noteworthy three hour-long speech.

1669: The final entry in his diary is written on 31st May as he is beginning to lose his sight and worries about going completely blind. In August he visits Paris and Brussels with his wife. She dies on 10th November and is buried at St Olave’s Church near their home.

1670: He is again called upon to justify the Naval administration at a Parliamentary Enquiry. The King and the Navy become financially independent of Parliament. He helps equip the French Navy in their fight with the Dutch.

1672: The Earl of Sandwich is killed as his ship is blown up at the start of the Third Dutch War.

1673: The King promotes Pepys to Secretary to the Office of Lord High Admiral of England. He has a new official residence at Derby House. He is also elected as a Member of Parliament for Castle Rising in Norfolk.

1676: He becomes Master of Trinity House and a governor of Christ’s Hospital.

1677: He is made Master of the Clothworker’s Company in London.

1679: Pepys becomes Member of Parliament for Harwich. He is sacked from his job as he was implicated in the Popish plot of that year although it was never substantiated and he was accused of selling secrets to the French. He was briefly imprisoned in the tower of London in March for six weeks. He is released on bail in July and goes to live with Will Hewer in Buckingham Street and prepares to defend himself at the forthcoming trial although the charges are later dropped.

1682: He travels with the Duke of York to Scotland as his assistant.

1683: Pepys organises the evacuation of the English base at Tangiers with Lord Dartmouth. Then visits Spain with Hewer.

1684: He is re-appointed to his old post at the Admiralty and he moves the office to his house in Buckingham Street. He also became President of the Royal Society of London in December

1685: Pepys carries the canopy at the Coronation of King James the Second, the former Duke of York. He is re-elected as MP for Harwich and installed as Master of Trinity House. He becomes Deputy Lieutenant of Huntingdonshire and is re-elected as President of the Royal Society.

1686: He allows Isaac Newton to publish his “Principia Mathematica”.

1687: Pepys accompanies the King on his Royal progress to Bath, Gloucester and Worcester.

1688: On 5th November William of Orange lands in England and takes over the crown from James who flees abroad in what has become known as the Glorious Revolution. Pepys continues working for the Admiralty.

1689: Pepys fails to get re-elected as an MP and resigns his state appointments like every official in the country. Unlike others though he decides not to reapply as he feels it is time to retire from public life.

1690: In June he is arrested on suspicion of having Jacobite sympathies. He is quickly released on bail and all the charges are dropped.

The Cock Tavern
The Cock Tavern in Fleet Street a favourite watering hole.

1699: He is appointed as a Freeman of the CIty of London.

1701: Due to failing health he leaves London and moves to Hewer’s country house at Clapham.

(1825:) The diaries, which had been lodged at Magdalene College, Cambridge, were deciphered and edited for the first time.

When and Where Did he Die?

26th May 1703, London, England from toxaemia, secondary to sepsis. A post mortem revealed seven stones in his left kidney.

Age at Death:



10th October 1655 to Elizabeth le Marchant de St. Michael, aged 15, a Huguenot.

Site of Grave:

St. Olave’s Church, Hart Street, City of London, England.

Places of Interest:


Magdalene College.


Exhibition, Prince Henry’s Rooms, 17 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA.
Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

Old Royal Naval College
The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

British Library.
Monument to the Great Fire of London.

The Monument, London
The Monument to the Great Fire of London
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