In 1745, with England deeply involved in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and most of her army engaged on continental Europe, Prince Charles Edward Stuart 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' and his French alllies believed that the time was ripe for another attempt to restore the House of Stuart to the English throne. Initially it was planned to place the Prince at the head of a French invasion of England, but when this idea lost support, the Prince decided to make his own way to Scotland, raise his standard there and march on London from the north. Believing the French would then feel obliged to come to his aid, the plan seemed destined for success and it was with high hopes that the Prince and his slender retinue boarded the Dentelle, a small French vessel placed at his disposal by a Nantes merchant of Irish extraction, at St. Nazaire on 7th July 1745.
Arriving off Belleisle, the Dentelle was joined by the 64-gun Elizabeth which had been despatched by the French government to act as escort for the Prince's party on their journey to the Hebrides. The appearance of the warship aroused an even greater optimism aboard Dentelle but this was rudely shattered on 9th July when, as the two vessels crossed the approaches to the English Channel, they were sighted by the 58-gun H.M.S. Lion which immediately gave chase. Late in the afternoon, at about 5 o'clock, Lion ran alongside the Elizabeth and poured a broadside into her at close range. Dentelle then positioned herself behind the combatants so as to try and assist her consort but was soon beaten off by Lion's stern-chasers. As it became apparent that there would be no decisive outcome to the duel between Lion and Elizabeth, the Dentelle crowded on all sail and made her escape. Meanwhile, the main engagement continued until 10 o'clock when the Elizabeth was finally able to break off and get away. Lion's rigging had been so severely damaged that she was unable to make sail and follow with the result that 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' reached his destination safely, thereby setting in train the second (and last) Jacobite Rebellion.
Another work depicting this action, from the opposite perspective, was painted by Dominic Serres the Elder and is held in the National Collection at Greenwich, see their Concise Catalogue of Oil Paintings, p. 350 BHC 0364.