The third vessel to bear the ancient name of Pallas in the Royal Navy was one of the seven 'Thames' class frigates ordered for the fleet early in 1804. Built remarkably quickly at Plymouth, Pallas's keel was laid in June 1804 and she was launched at 4.30pm. on the afternoon of 17th November the same year, along with her sister Circe. Measured at 667 tons, she was 127 feet in length with a 34 foot beam and mounted 32-guns including a main armament of 26-12pounders on her upper deck.
Commissioned that December under Captain Lord Thomas Cochrane, Pallas sailed from Plymouth in February 1805 carrying despatches for Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, Thomas's uncle, who was in command of the fleet stationed off the Iberian Peninsular. In March , whilst cruising off the coast of Spain, Pallas sighted the treasure galleon Il Fortuna to which Cochrane immediately gave chase, engaged and captured after a short but spirited action. To the delight of Cochrane and his crew, the prize was found to be carrying an immensely valuable cargo estimated to be worth 300,000 pounds sterling, half of which consisted of coin and half of bullion, plate and other precious objects. When Pallas returned home to Plymouth the following month, the port's sailors instantly dubbed her the 'Golden Pallas' after she sailed in with five-foot high gold candlesticks lashed to each of her mastheads.
A year later, in April 1806, Cochrane attacked three French merchantmen at the mouth of the Garonne and drove them ashore even though most of Pallas's crew were absent on another mission and only forty men remained aboard to work her. On 10th May, Cochrane landed with his men on the French coast and destroyed three of the enemy's vital semaphore stations, adding further humiliation by carrying off their signal flags as trophies. Four days later, Cochrane took Pallas into the Aix Roads to engage the 40-gun frigate La Minerve and would have taken her had it not been for the untimely arrival of two other French frigates. Severely damaged in the ensuing fight, Pallas limped home to Plymouth for repairs and Cochrane was given a new command, the 44-gun Impérieuse. Pallas herself was duly refitted for sea but her career was cut short when she was wrecked in the Firth of Forth in December 1810.
Cochrane's command of H.M.S. Pallas lasted just eighteen months (December 1804 - May 1806) but during that time, the vessel probably put into Lisbon on several occasions since Portugal was England's ally and the Tagus provided a safe anchorage to revictual and refit when necessary. Arguably, Pallas was Cochrane's favourite ship and it is likely that he chose Thomas Buttersworth to paint her as the artist had made his reputation during the previous decade - whilst himself a serving sailor - depicting the numerous naval events, most notably the battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797) and the blockade of Cadiz, off the coasts of Spain and Portugal.
Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775-1860) was one of the most colourful and conspicuously successful naval officers of his time. Entered for the Navy when only five years old, he first went to sea in 1793 in a ship commanded by his uncle, Captain [later Admiral Sir] Alexander Cochrane, and was promoted Lieutenant by 1796. In 1800, when in command of the sloop Speedy, he captured the Spanish frigate El Gamo, a feat which not only made his name but also gained him immediate promotion, whilst his subsequent exploits off the coast of Spain in Pallas and later Impérieuse brought him both fame and fortune. Elected M.P. for Honiton in 1806, his political career proved a turbulent one due mostly to his persistent criticism of government policy and his attacks on the competence of some of his superior officers. Inevitably this led the Admiralty to deny him further employment and, after his dismissal from the service following a Stock Exchange scandal in 1814, he accepted an invitation to command the Chilean navy in their country's struggle for independence from Spain in 1817. His notable success in that role led to similar appointments in Brazil (1823) and then Greece (1827), in turn leading to his reinstatement into the Royal Navy in 1832 with the rank of Rear-Admiral. Successively promoted thereafter, he was bitterly disappointed not to be given a command in the Crimean War despite being in his eightieth year when it began in 1854. Almost immortalized by the time he died in 1860, even Cochrane's critics were never able to deny his brilliance as a tactician and he remains one of Britain's greatest sea officers. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 14 November.
Thomas Buttersworth, born on the Isle of Wight on 5 May 1768, was a seaman-painter. In 1795, he was enlisted aboard His Majesty's Receiving Ship Enterprise, moored off the Tower, and was transferred in August of that year to the Caroline, a new frigate at Deptford. He was appointed a master-at-arms in November 1796 and was a midshipman by 1800. Buttersworth was invalided out of the Navy shortly after this date, however, he had already begun to paint and took the opportunity to become a professional marine artist, drawing on his thorough knowledge of the sea and shipping.