Despite being sunk at the battle of the 'Glorious 1st of June' -- the first fleet action of the French Revolutionary Wars -- Le Vengeur du Peuple fought so magnificently that her loss proved a major source of inspiration to the French Navy throughout the twenty or so years of continual conflict with England that only ended with Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The sequence of events culminating in the battle on 1st June 1794 are well known but bear repeating when told in conjunction with the epic fight of Le Vengeur du Peuple against, at the finish, overwhelming odds.
Admiral Lord Howe, at sea with orders to prevent a vital grain convoy from the Americas reaching France where there were already serious food shortages resulting from the Royal Navy's blockade, sighted both the convoy and the French fleet escorting it on 28th May. After a running fight lasting three days during which the French had the advantage of heavy weather, Howe seized the initiative on the morning of 1st June and attacked. His strategy was not entirely successful however, as the convoy was able to make port safely whilst the battle raged nearby; nevertheless, six French ships-of-the-line were taken as prizes and a seventh, Le Vengeur du Peuple, was sunk after a tremendous duel with H.M.S. Brunswick.
The celebrated fight between Le Vengeur, under Captain Renaudin, and Brunswick, both 74-guns, began early in the day when Brunswick ran against Le Vengeur broadside on and the two ships began to pound each other mercilessly. Brunswick gave Le Vengeur a fearful battering and then grappled herself to the Frenchman, thereby gaining the final advantage with her more rapid rate of fire. Other British vessels joined in the affray later but only Le Trente-et-Un Mai was able to give Le Vengeur some temporary support in her unequal struggle. At about 4.30pm., Renaudin realised that his ship was sinking beneath him and he ordered her colours to be struck. The victors sent their boats to take off her crew, but Le Vengeur sank before all could be saved. Renaudin's tenacity soon became the stuff of legend and few other losses in the coming years entered the consciousness of the French nation as deeply as the sinking of Le Vengeur du Peuple.