H.M.S. Canopus began her long life flying the tricolour although her career in the navy of Revolutionary France was a short one. Built at Toulon of Adriatic oak in 1797 and named Le Franklin (in honour of the distinguished American statesman Benjamin Franklin who acted as his country's first ambassador to France from 1783-85), she was a large two-decker of 2,257 tons measuring 194 feet in length with a 52½ foot beam and mounting 80 guns. Commissioned immediately upon completion, she subsequently joined Admiral Bruey's fleet which sailed for Alexandria with Napoleon's Egyptian expeditionary force in May 1798. Realising what was afoot, the Admiralty dispatched Nelson to prevent the invasion of Egypt and although he was too late to stop the landings there, he finally cornered the French fleet in Aboukir Bay and brought it to action on 1 August the same year. In a brilliant show of daring, the so-called Battle of the Nile proved one of his greatest victories and Franklin was one of six enemy prizes assimilated into the Royal Navy as a result. Napoleon reacted to the loss of his Mediterranean fleet with typical fury and, looking for an obvious scapegoat, issued a general order to the effect the "the Franklin struck her flag without being dismasted or having sustained any damage". Although a travesty of the truth in that she was an impotent wreck by the time she struck her colours, it was a measure of Bonaparte's vindictive nature to lay blame onto Bruey's innocent second-in-command Rear-Admiral Blanquet who had his flag in Franklin and who had fought so valiantly during the battle. Initially towed to Gibraltar for temporary repairs, the French prizes were then sent to Plymouth where they were completely refitted; at this point, Franklin was renamed Canopus - the ancient name for Aboukir - and entered service against her former compatriots as soon as a new crew could be mustered. Continuosly at sea thereafter, she was in action frequently whilst in the Mediterranean during the long blockade of Toulon (1803-05) and played a prominent role in Admiral Duckworth's defeat of the French fleet off the West Indian island of San Domingo on 6 February 1806. Also serving in the Eastern Mediterranean - including the famous 'Passage of the Dardanelles' in 1807, off Sicily in 1808 and then off Barcelona in 1809, she was considered such an excellent ship that, by the time peace was eventually concluded in 1815, she had been reclassed as an 84-gun Second Rate and was used as the model for the new Formidable class of large 84's built after the Napoleonic Wars had ended. As late as 1847, by which time she was fifty years old, she was still outperforming all comers in sailing trials even though her active service was drawing to a close, and in 1862 she was finally hulked, first as a receiving ship at Plymouth and then as a mooring hulk in 1869. Sold out of the service in October 1887, she was broken up shortly afterwards thereby ending a ninety-year career in which she had acquired an almost legendary reputation for speed which one admiral likened to "sweeping the crests like a seagull".