Military Wiki
HMS Royal Sovereign (1786)
The day after Trafalgar; the 'Victory' trying to clear the land with the 'Royal Soveriegn' in tow to the 'Euryalus'.jpg
The day after Trafalgar, the Victory under canvas endeavouring to clear the land, the Royal Sovereign disabled and in tow by the Euryalus, in the collection of the National Maritime Museum; Nicholas Pocock; 19th century.
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Royal Sovereign
Ordered: 3 February 1786
Builder: Plymouth Dockyard
Laid down: 7 January 1774
Launched: 11 September 1786
Renamed: HMS Captain, 17 August 1825
Honours and

Participated in:

Fate: Broken up, 1841
Notes: Harbour service from 1826
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: 100-gun first rate ship of the line
Tons burthen: 2175
Length: 183 ft 10 12 in (56.0 m) (gundeck)
Beam: 52 ft 1 in (15.88 m)
Depth of hold: 22 ft 2 12 in (6.8 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship

100 guns:

  • Gundeck: 28 × 32 pdrs
  • Middle gundeck: 28 × 24 pdrs
  • Upper gundeck: 30 × 12 pdrs
  • Quarterdeck: 10 × 12 pdrs
  • Forecastle: 4 × 12 pdrs

HMS Royal Sovereign was a 100-gun first rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy,[1] which served as the flagship of Admiral Collingwood at the Battle of Trafalgar. She was the third of seven Royal Navy ships to bear the name. Designed by Sir Edward Hunt, she was launched at Plymouth Dockyard on 11 September 1786,[1] at a cost of £67,458, and was the only ship built to her draught. She was known by her crew as the "West Country Wagon" due to her poor manoeuvrability and speed.[citation needed]

In service

Royal Sovereign was part of Admiral Howe's fleet at the Glorious First of June, where she suffered 14 killed and 41 wounded.[2]

On 16 June 1795, as the flagship of Vice-Admiral William Cornwallis, she was involved in the celebrated episode known as 'Cornwallis' Retreat'.[2]


The first ship of the fleet in action at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, she led one column of warships; Nelson's Victory led the other. Due to the re-coppering of her hull prior to her arrival off Cádiz, Royal Sovereign was a considerably better sailer in the light winds present that day than other vessels, and pulled well ahead of the rest of the fleet. As she cut the enemy line alone and engaged the Spanish three decker Santa Ana, Nelson pointed to her and said, 'See how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action!' At approximately the same moment, Collingwood remarked to his captain, Edward Rotheram, 'What would Nelson give to be here?'[3]

Royal Sovereign and Santa Ana duelled for much of the battle, with Santa Ana taking fire from fresh British ships passing through the line, including HMS Mars and HMS Tonnant, while nearby French and Spanish vessels fired on Royal Sovereign. Santa Ana struck at 14:15, having suffered casualties numbering 238 dead and wounded after battling Royal Sovereign and HMS Belleisle. The Royal Sovereign lost her mizzen and mainmasts, her foremast was badly damaged and much of her rigging was shot away.[4] At 2.20 pm Santa Ana finally struck to Royal Sovereign.[5] Shortly afterwards a boat came from Victory carrying Lieutenant Hill, who reported that Nelson had been wounded. Realising that he might have to take command of the rest of the fleet and with his ship according to his report being "perfectly unmanegeable",[6] by 3 pm he signalled for the frigate Euryalus to take Royal Sovereign in tow.[5] Euryalus towed her round to support the rest of the British ships with her port-side guns, and became engaged with combined fleet's van under Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley, as it came about to support the collapsing centre.[7] Fire from the lead ships shot away the cable between the Royal Sovereign and the Euryalus, and the latter ship made off towards Victory.[8] Royal Sovereign exchanged fire with the arriving ships, until Collingwood rallied several relatively undamaged British ships around Royal Sovereign, and Dumanoir gave up any attempt to recover some of the prizes, and made his escape at 4.30pm.[9]

At 4.40 pm one of Victory's boats, carrying Captain Henry Blackwood and Lieutenant Hill came alongside and Blackwood reported Nelson's death to Collingwood.[10] This left Collingwood in command of the fleet, and with a storm rising, and disregarding Nelson's final order to bring the fleet to anchor, Collingwood ordered Blackwood to hoist the signal to all ships to come to the wind on the starboard tack, and to take disabled and captured ships in tow.[11] Royal Sovereign was by now almost or totally unmanageable and virtually uninhabitable.[12] As she had most of her masts shot away she could not make signals.[11] Having his ship too much disabled by enemy fire[13] at just before of 6 pm Collingwood, who had succeeded Nelson in command of the fleet had to transfer himself and his flag to the frigate Euryalus,[13] while Euryalus sent a cable across and took Royal Sovereign in tow for second time.[11] At the end of the action Collingwood signalled from the frigate to the rest of the fleet to prepare to anchor. HMS Neptune took over the tow on 22 October, and was replaced by HMS Mars on 23 October.[4][14] Royal Sovereign lost one lieutenant, her master, one lieutenant of marines, two midshipman, 29 seamen and 13 marines killed, and two lieutenants, one lieutenant of marines, one master's mate, four midshipman, her boatswain, 69 seamen and 16 marines wounded.[15]

After Trafalgar

Royal Sovereign returned to duty in the Mediterranean the next year and remained on the blockade of Toulon until November 1811, when she was ordered to return home to the Channel Fleet. After her useful active life she was converted to harbour service as a receiving ship at Plymouth before being renamed HMS Captain[16] on 17 August 1825. Hulked in June 1826, Captain was finally broken up at Plymouth,[1] with work being completed on 28 August 1841. Four of her guns were saved and are incorporated in the Collingwood Memorial in Tynemouth.[citation needed]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p178.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ships of the Old Navy, Royal Sovereign (1).
  3. Heathcote. Nelson's Trafalgar Captains. p. 41. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Adkin. The Trafalgar Companion. p. 323. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Clayton. Trafalgar. p. 214. 
  6. Newbolt. p.124
  7. Clayton. Trafalgar. p. 243. 
  8. Clayton. Trafalgar. p. 249. 
  9. Clayton. Trafalgar. pp. 242–5. 
  10. Goodwin. The Ships of Trafalgar. p. 19. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Clayton. Trafalgar. p. 257. 
  12. Pocock p.141
  13. 13.0 13.1 Duke Younge p.334
  14. Clayton. Trafalgar. p. 301. 
  15. William p.45
  16. Ships of the Old Navy, Royal Sovereign (2).


  • Adkin, Mark (2007). The Trafalgar Companion: A Guide to History's Most Famous Sea Battle and the Life of Admiral Lord Nelson. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 1-84513-018-9. 
  • Clayton, Tim; Craig, Phil (2004). Trafalgar: The Men, the Battle, the Storm. London: Hodder. ISBN 0-340-83028-X. 
  • Goodwin, Peter (2005). The Ships of Trafalgar: The British, French and Spanish Fleets October 1805. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 1-84486-015-9.
  • Heathcote, T. A. (2005). Nelson's Trafalgar Captains and their Battles: A Biographical and Historical Dictionary. Barnsley: Pen& Sword Maritime. ISBN 1-84415-182-4. 
  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line – Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650–1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
  • Duke Yonge, Charles. The history of the British navy V2, from the earliest period to the present time R.Bentley Publishing. ISBN 1-104-39362-X
  • San Juan, Victor. (2009) Trafalgar. Tres armadas en combate (Spanish Edition) (Kindle Edition) ASIN B00332FJT4
  • Pocock, Tom. (2005) Trafalgar: An Eyewitness History . Penguin Best sellers. ISBN 0-14-144150-X
  • Williams, James. The naval history of Great Britain from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV, Conway Maritime Press Ltd (2003). ISBN 0-85177-905-0
  • Henry Newbolt. (2008) The Year Of Trafalgar Being An Account Of The Battle And Of The Events Which Led Up To It, With A Collection Of The Poems And Ballads Written Thereupon Between 1805 And 1905, Loney Press. ISBN 443718726
  • Winfield, Rif (2007) British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714–1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84415-700-6.
  • Michael Phillips. Royal Sovereign (100) (1786) (1). Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy. Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  • Michael Phillips. Royal Sovereign (100) (1786) (2). Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy. Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  • Lincoln P. Paine. Warships of the world to 1900 Mariner Books. [1]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).