The so-called War of the English Succession (1689-97) was fought as a result of the accession of the Dutch Prince of Orange to the English throne (as William III) and the consequent alliance of England with Holland against the territorial ambitions of France under Louis XIV. Control of the English Channel was a vital priority to both sides in the conflict and three major naval engagements took place in its waters between 1690 and 1693, the first and last of which proved decisive victories for the French.
Known to history as the Battle of La Hogue, the second of these three engagements was a more favourable affair beginning with a spirited action off Barfleur on 19th May 1692 which, due to fog, ended indecisively. When, the next day, the fog lifted, a general chase of the French fleet ensued which resulted in its partial destruction almost a week later. After Barfleur, the French - under the Comte de Tourville - retreated westwards along the northern coast of the Cotentin Peninsular towards the Channel Islands. Many of their original force of forty-four ships-of-the-line managed to escape but fifteen French vessels were caught by the floodtide and, unable to find a safe anchorage, were swept back eastwards into the open bays of Cherbourg and La Hogue. It was there that Admiral Russell and his large Anglo-Dutch fleet found the enemy and brought him to action in a succession of attacks between 22nd and 24th May which are referred to collectively as the battle of La Hogue.
The first of these attacks took place on 22nd May when Sir Ralph Delevall's squadron found de Tourville's flagship, the huge 106-gun Soleil Royal, in company with Admirable, 90-guns, and Triomphant, 74-guns, all stranded in Cherbourg Bay. Unable to take his capital ships in because of the low water, Delevall sent in three fireships along with the boats of his squadron to attack the enemy. Despite fierce resistance by the French, supported by their shore batteries, the fireship Blaze made for and burnt Soleil Royal, her sister Wolf destroyed Triomphant, and the boats took and burned Admirable. With this success achieved, the main Anglo-Dutch fleet then moved on to La Hogue where, by nightfall on 24th May, the last of the enemy ships had also fallen victim to the same fireship strategy. With French supremacy in the Channel temporarily eclipsed, this was not only a decisive victory against France within sight of her own shores but it also effectively ended any hope of restoring the Jacobite House of Stuart to the English throne.