Blake was elected to the Short Parliament of 1640. He joined Oliver Cromwell's forces at the beginning of the Civil War, was soon made a lieutenant colonel, and gained a reputation by his defense of Lyme Regis and Taunton against Royalist forces. In 1649 he was appointed to a command in the fleet as one of the "generals at sea." He blockaded Prince Rupert's ships at Kinsale and, when they escaped, was sent in pursuit of them to the Tagus, and then into the Mediterranean, where he destroyed almost all of the Royalist fleet (1650). When the Dutch War broke out, he was appointed to the sole command of the fleet, and in May 1652 forced the Dutch admiral, Maarten H. Tromp, to withdraw after a four-hour battle in the Downs. In September 1652 he gained a victory, though not a decisive one, over Admiral Michel A. De Ruyter, off the mouth of the Thames; but in November, with rash folly, he attacked a superior Dutch fleet under Tromp, off Dover, and was badly defeated. The English fleet, reorganized during the winter, met Tromp again in February 1653, off Portsmouth; the result was very nearly another defeat for the English, largely owing to Blake's bad judgment, and he was seriously wounded. While recuperating, he sat as a member of the Little ("Barebones") Parliament. In 1654 he was sent to the Mediterranean to destroy a fleet of Barbary pirates at Tunis (1655); he succeeded in this mission and forced a friendly treaty from the Dey of Algiers. In April 1657 he destroyed the Spanish West Indian fleet, off Tenerife, in a brilliant and daring action which made naval history by establishing the vulnerability of land fortresses to naval gunfire. He died on the way home aboard his ship, the George, at the entrance of Plymouth Sound on Aug. 7, 1657, and was buried with pomp in Westminster Abbey. His remains, however, were removed by Charles II following the Restoration, and lie buried in Saint Margaret's churchyard, London. Though he did not go to sea until he was 50 years old, his exploits thereafter have caused him often to be ranked with Sir Francis Drake and Viscount Nelson among English naval heroes.