STEPHEN RENARD

The Battle of Trafalgar, Collingwood Engaging the Enemy

The Battle of Trafalgar, Collingwood Engaging the Enemy

STEPHEN RENARD

Born 1947 

Title:    “The Battle of Trafalgar, Collingwood Engaging the Enemy”

Framed Size:     Height  44 inches          Width  67 3/4 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 second prong of the attack by the British on the Combined fleet, led by Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, a long-time friend of Nelson and his second in command. Collingwood's ship, the 100 gun HMS Royal Sovereign was freshly refitted and newly coppered and sailed faster than the rest of the fleet. It engaged the enemy several minutes before Nelson in the HMS Victory.  The second ship close behind Collingwood's column is the HMS Belleisle, a 74 gun that had been captured from the French in 1795 and was commanded by Captain William Hargood.  All ships had been ordered to fly all possible sails to close the enemy as quickly as possible but as there was little wind a lot of damage was sustained by sails and rigging during the long approach to the enemy line during which time the British were subjected to raking fire. Netting was rigged to help prevent falling debris landing on deck, and the yards were hung on chains to make them more secure.  Ships' boats were towed into action containing officer's dunnage after their cabins had been cleared for action.  Marines in red uniforms are stationed in the tops to fire down on enemy decks when the fighting was at close range.  The British were instructed not to fly the red ensign in case it was confused with French colors in the heat of battle. The ship on the right firing broadside is the Spanish flagship, the 110 gun Santa Anna under Admiral de Alava with whom Collingwood was closing and soon engaged with devastating effect.