Admiral Henry Gosset (1796-1877) entered the Royal Navy in June 1809 as a First Class Volunteer in the frigate Euryalus. Soon after taking part in the expedition against Flushing, his ship was sent to the Mediterranean where Gosset saw considerable action, first off Toulon, and then in the Adriatic, where he fought at the unsuccessful assault on Leghorn, the capture of several enemy forts and at the taking of Genoa. By now a Midshipman, he was transferred into H.M.S. Havannah which took him to North America where he participated in many of the operations in and around Chesapeake Bay during the 'War of 1812-14'. Returning to Europe just in time, he took part in one of the very last actions of the War - the cutting out of a valuable convoy and several armed vessels from Corrijou, near Brest, on 18th July 1815 - before joining the Northumberland in which vessel he helped escort Napoleon to exile on St. Helena. On his way home, Gosset disembarked at Ascension Island where he remained for just over a year, by which time he had been promoted Lieutenant. Afterwards serving in the Irish Sea and the West Indies, where he was given his first command, he was made Captain in 1829 but invalided home thereafter and did not return to sea. He finally retired as Admiral in 1865 and died at his London home in March 1877, aged 82.
In this first painting, the artist shows the action at its height, with Victory hotly engaging Rédoutable on her starboard side. Having broken the enemy line and rapidly disabled the French flagship Bucentaure, shown here (on the far right) after drifting away, Captain Hardy next turned Victory's attention to Rédoutable in a lengthy duel which, although ultimately successful, was overshadowed by Nelson's mortal wound by one of the French vessel's sharpshooters. Also seen towards the right is the mighty Spanish flagship Santisima Trinidad, already damaged but still in the fight, whilst Stuart has helpfully identified all the other principal participants engaged on the fateful afternoon.
Santisima Trinidad ["Most Holy Trinity"] was built in 1769 as a 116-gun three-decker but had an additional gundeck added during a refit just before the battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797). Constructed from cedar and painted a highly distinctive red, she was almost 200 feet in length and carried a remarkable armament of 136 guns when she went into action at Trafalgar. Unquestionably the largest wooden warship ever built - although not the longest - she was an awesome sight under full sail provided the weather was fair, as her great height made her very unstable in heavy seas. Despite being slightly undermanned, she fought gallantly at Trafalgar and, at various times during the battle, engaged Victory, Téméraire, Leviathan, Neptune, Britannia, Africa and Conqueror; by the time she eventually surrendered to Prince late in the afternoon, she was completely dismasted and, more seriously, badly damaged below the waterline. Thereafter, it proved a constant battle to keep her afloat until 24th October when Collingwood, beset with problems to all the damaged ships due to the violent storm which had been raging since the evening of the 21st, ordered her to be scuttled.