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The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar


Born 1947

Title:    “The Battle of Trafalgar”

Framed Size:    Height 42 inches          Width  66 inches  

Renowned as one of Britain’s top marine artists, Stephen Renard was born at Huddersfield, England in 1947, and graduated from the Liverpool University with a degree in the natural sciences.  He spent three years at training college and while head of Biology in a Liverpool school, he developed a passionate interest in sailing.  Abandoning teaching, Renard began to make a living as a portrait artist and became a freelance illustrator. Renard then decided to concentrate on yachting subjects, and over the years he has amassed a great following for his superb examples of early 20th century yacht races. In addition, he was asked to work for the Royal Thames Yacht Club. For his first commission, he produced a painting of the Spithead review, honouring the birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

This superbly detailed example of Stephen Renard’s work depicts the Battle of Trafalgar (October 21 1805), a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy  against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars  (1796–1815). 

Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory  defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under the French Admiral Villeneuve in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar, near the town of Los Canos de Meca. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. It was the most decisive naval battle of the war, conclusively ending French plans to invade England.  The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the eighteenth century and was achieved in part through Nelson's departure from the prevailing naval tactical orthodoxy.   Conventional practice, at the time, was to engage an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy, to facilitate signaling in battle and disengagement, and to maximize fields of fire and target areas. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns directed perpendicularly against the enemy fleet, with decisive results.

During the battle, Nelson was shot by a French musketeer; he died shortly thereafter, becoming one of Britain's greatest war heroes. Villeneuve was captured along with his ship Bucentaure.  Admiral Federico Gravina, the senior Spanish flag officer, escaped with the remnant of the fleet and succumbed months later to wounds sustained during the battle. Villeneuve attended Nelson's funeral while a captive on parole in Britain.

The action in this scene depicts the British flagship HMS Victory having seriously mauled the French flagship Bucentaure and now come to rest against the Redoubtable, a French second rater which threw grapnels to hold them together, but the aftermost ones gave way leaving the ships held at the bow.  Captain Lucas of the Redoubtable was aware of the deficiency of French gunnery but had highly trained his men in musketry, mortars and grenades. He ordered his lower gun ports closed and his men into the rigging. Their firepower cleared HMS Victory's upper decks and mortally wounded Nelson.  Shortly afterwards the French massed to board the much-larger HMS Victory but experienced difficulty because of the greater height of the British flagship. At this point the Temeraire, the second ship in the British windward column appeared out of the smoke and fired a broadside that wiped out two hundred of the boarders before locking alongside the French Redoubtable.  To the right of the painting the first-rate British flagship Neptune is raking the Santissima Trinidad, the Spanish flagship and largest warship in the world and is about to engage the French second-rate Neptune which is firing on the HMS Victory.