HMS Prince (1788)
|Ordered:||9 December 1779|
|Laid down:||1 January 1782|
|Launched:||4 July 1788|
|Fate:||Broken up, 1837|
|General characteristics |
|Class and type:||London-class ship of the line|
|Tons burthen:||1871 tons (1901 tonnes)|
|Length:||177 ft 6 in (54.10 m) (gundeck)|
|Beam:||49 ft (15 m)|
|Depth of hold:||21 ft (6.4 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full rigged ship|
She saw relatively little action during her career and seems to have been a relatively poor sailer—she sailed, according to one observing captain, 'like a haystack.'
By 1805 she was in service with the Channel Fleet under Captain Richard Grindall. At the Battle of Trafalgar, in October that year, she was passed by her whole division, and took over two hours to cover the two or three miles to reach the battle. By the time she arrived most of the enemy fleet was in British hands or had fled, leaving few targets for Prince's massive broadsides. She did fire on the Spanish flagship Principe de Asturias and Achille, but was not attacked and suffered no damage or casualties. 
Whilst engaging Prince, Achille's fore top caught fire, and the next broadside against her brought her blazing main mast down, engulfing the ship in flames. At this point, knowing that Achille's fate was sealed and making the most of his unique position, Grindall ceased firing and wore round to clear her, before placing boats in the water to rescue French seamen from Achille and elsewhere. Though this proved hazardous due to Achille's abandoned but loaded guns were set off by the intense heat now raging below decks (only 100 men could be rescued from her, before and after she exploded at 5.45 pm), Prince and nearby British ships were able to rescue hundreds of sailors from the water.
In the week of ferocious storms which followed the battle the sturdy Prince was invaluable, providing replacement stores to more battered ships, towing those that needed it, and saving many men from the heavily-damaged other ships. She and the other undamaged British ships saved many others that would otherwise have sunk and at one point saved 350 men from the sinking Santíssima Trinidad who would otherwise have drowned, taking them to Gibraltar. Upon arrival there, however, she was ready to sail again in a matter of hours.
Citations and notes
- Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p179.
- Maev Kennedy, Trafalgar anniversary resurrects haystack jibe, The Guardian, 23 October 2006.
- 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.