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When he was young, Howard and his Royalist family were forced to leave England during the civil war. His grandfather, the Earl of Arundel, was the foremost patron and collector of art after the king, but his magnificent collection was dispersed as a result of the war. Howard returned to England after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. He was appointed Ambassador-Extraordinary to Morocco in 1669, so the ships may refer to his mission. Soest was probably born in the Netherlands in about 1605, and seems to have arrived in England in the late 1640s.

April 2007