The Capture of "Le Superbe" - 1798

 

Le Superbe was designed by the most renowned marine engineer of the eighteenth century, Jacques Sane.

 

She was launched at the shipyard in Brest in 1784, representing a class of famous French battleships built during the waning years of the monarchy. Although she carried 74 cannon and was one of the largest (and most beautiful) warships afloat at the time, she was considered to be as fast and manoeuvrable as a frigate.

 

When Napoleon ascended to power, Le Superbe formed part of the powerful French fleet led by Admiral Villaret Joyeuse.

 

Napoleon had determined to challenge the British fleet by severing its maritime communications with India which went through the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt. His fleet was engaged by the British, under Admiral Horatio Nelson, off Alexandria in what has become known as the Battle of the Nile and which proved to be the most decisive naval engagement of the 18th century.

 

The naval battle went on for a day and a night with heavy losses on the French side, even though their ships were considered to be superior.

 

Of Napoleon's grand fleet, the flagship went to the bottom, four other large ships went aground, and six ships of the line, including the Superbe, struck their colours and were captured.

 

Repaired and refitted, she was subsequently commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Superb.

 

Napoleon responded by rebuilding his shattered fleet, strengthening his army, assembling a huge flotilla of landing barges, and planning an invasion of England.