Following the Hanoverian succession of George I to the British throne in 1714, the King frequently returned to his native Hanover. These journeys were each an occasion of state, with the royal suite conveyed across the Channel or North sea in either a large man-o'war or a royal yacht under escort by other vessels from the fleet. This important early work, almost certainly detailing the 100-gun First Rate H.M.S. Royal George (launched in 1715), has many similarities with Robert Woodcock's 1720 composition of the Royal William (see F.B. Cockett, Early Sea Painters, Woodbridge, 1995, p.128, pl.42) which was in itself almost a direct copy of the younger van de Velde's 1703 portrayal of the Royal Sovereign.
The traditional identification of the scene as The Landing of William III at Torbay (which derived from an inscription on the reverse), is doubtful. In addition to the standard of the Lord High Admiral of England, the main ship in the composition is flying the Royal Standard, a presumption unlikely to have been made by William on his arrival in 1688.
Richard Kingzett (op.cit.) lists three drawings related to the present picture: Man of War and other Yachts becalmed close inshore, pen and sepia ink, 6¾ x 9½ in., 'a rough idea of the composition'; A Flagship becalmed with Fishermen hauling in their nets, black chalk heightened with white on grey paper, 8¾ x 13½ in., 'a more finished study'; and Seascape with Man of War firing a Salute and other small Craft, black chalk heightenened with white on blue grey paper, 9½ x 14½ in., 'a sketch for the principal vessel' [the first two: London, National Maritime Museum; the third: San Marino California, The Huntingdon Library].
Augustus Schýtz was Keeper of the Privy Purse and Master of the Robes to King George II, while his brother, Johann, was Keeper of the Privy Purse and Master of the Robes to Frederick, Prince of Wales. Mercier painted a conversation piece in which both appear which passed to Augustus' descendants, who also owned the version of his portrait of the Prince of Wales and his three sisters now at Cliveden (The National Trust) (J. Ingamells and R. Raines, 'A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings and Etchings of Philip Mercier', The Walpole Society, XLVI, 1978, nos. 38 and 85.