HMS Foudroyant, Nelson's First Great Flagship

Published 4th June 2014

HMS Victory is perhaps the most iconic ship of Nelson’s career, but what of her predecessor?

HMS Foudroyant is a ship perhaps better known to the Victorians than to many people today, but her significance in Nelson's career was equally as important as the Victory.


 hms foudroyant wall cabinet constructed form ship's timbers and copper est £5000-7000

HMS Foudroyant wall cabinet constructed form ship's timbers and copper. Est £5,000-£7,000.


Laid down in 1789, this was the second ship to be given the name Foudroyant and was the second two-decker to be built carrying 80 guns. Modelled upon the French Foudroyant, Nelson took great interest in her development and had intentions of making her his flagship as soon as she was launched, but took the Vanguard instead as Foudroyant had not yet been completed.

Nelson transferred his flag to the Foudroyant in 1799 while dealing with the return of the Neapolitan Royal family to Naples, she returned under the flag of Captain John Clarke Searle in June 1801. Foudroyant returned home after the Napoleonic wars to become the guardship of Plymouth in 1819 and was converted to a gunnery training ship in 1862, a role she undertook until 1894 when she returned to port duties.

In 1891, she was sold out of service and immediately resold to a German shipbreaking company, the ensuing public protest led to her being repurchased by Wheatly Cobb who refitted her as a training ship. In order to recoup the £20,000 cost of refitting she was taken around English seaside resorts for exhibition, but was wrecked at Blackpool in 1897 during a violent storm. The wreck was sold for £250 to a Mr Hayhurst who began to dismantle the ship, but relinquished the task when a passer by was injured by a dynamite blast, after which she was purchased by the Manchester firm of Goodall Lamb & Heighway.

This cabinet is styled in the form of the stern of the great ship and should attract a great deal of interest in the Maritime Sale of 11th June 2014 (MA14/179).

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