The Fighting Temeraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship that Inspired J. M. W. Turner's Most Beloved Paintingby Sam Willis
The extraordinary story of the mighty Temeraire, the ship behind J. M. W. Turner's iconic painting.The H.M.S. Temeraire, one of Britain’s most illustrious fighting ships, is known to millions through J. M. W. Turner’s masterpiece, The Fighting Temeraire (1839), which portrays the battle-scarred veteran of Britain’s wars with Napoleonic France. In this evocative new volume, Sam Willis tells the extraordinary story of the vessel behind the painting.This tale of two ships spans the heyday of the age of sail: the climaxes of both the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) and the Napoleonic Wars (1798–1815). Filled with richly evocative detail, and narrated with the pace and gusto of a master storyteller, The Fighting Temeraire is an enthralling and deeply satisfying work of narrative history.
Willis (Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare, 2008, etc.) follows the adventures of theTemeraire, which played an integral role in British military successesand was the subject of J.M.W. Turner's masterpieceThe Fighting Temeraire (1839).
A little-known fact about the Temeraire is that two famous ships carried the name; the first was a French warship that the British captured in the Battle of Lagos in 1759. She was so symbolic in stature and design that the British, 15 years later, named their most important new ship after her. Immediately the newTemeraire was in the thick of the Napoleonic Wars, battling not only the enemy, but the more common disturbances found at sea—constant battles with scurvy, lack of fresh supplies and mutiny. So hazardous was the mutiny of 1801 that the ship was forced to return to England, and 12 mutineers were hanged in a highly publicized trial. Not long afterward, Horatio Nelson was named leader of the fleet designated to (once again) wage war with France. Under his command, the Victory and Temeraire fought side-by-side at the famed Battle of Trafalgar. It was in this battle that the mighty Temeraire lived up to its fame as one of the best British warships of all time. Just as the lead ship, theVictory,was compromised and Nelson injured, "theTemeraireappeared out of the smoke...and rammed the [French ship] Redoutable with such force" that the French were ultimately forced to surrender. Upon the great ship's heroic return to Britain, masses thronged the port to catch a glimpse. It's possible that Turner, already a successful artist at the time, was one of the revelers, and drew on this experience later when he created his famous painting. In this compelling narrative, Willis captures the atmosphere of great change that marked the era, writing with infectious enthusiasm about the warship and the art it inspired.
Exciting and informative—every detail contributes to a greater understanding of British maritime history.
- Pegasus Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)
Meet the Author
Sam Willis has lectured at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, and consults on maritime painting for
Christie's. Sam spent eighteen months as a Square Rig Able Sea-man, sailing the tall ships used in the Hornblower television series and award-winning film Shackleton. He is the author of Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare and the highly successful Fighting Ships series.
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