Designed and built at Chatham under the direction of Sir Phineas Pett, great nephew of the builder of Charles I's fabled Sovereign of the Seas, the Prince was one of three First Rates dating from 1670, all of which were laid down to replace the capital ships destroyed or captured by the Dutch during their infamous raid on the Medway in June 1667.
Prince was measured at 1,395 tons and was 167 feet in length with a 44½ foot beam. Mounting 100 guns, she was a powerful as well as handsome vessel and was first commissioned in 1672, on the outbreak of the Third [and last] Anglo-Dutch War. Her Lieutenant - later her Captain - Sir John Narbrough called her "a great and brave-contrived ship" and found that she "wrought very well in staying and bearing up, and steereth mighty well." Throughout the Third Dutch War (1672-74), Prince acted as flagship for several high-ranking officers including the Duke of York, the King's brother and the future James II, and thereby attracted the enemy's special attention. At the battle of the Texel (11th August 1673) she was subjected to a particularly determined assault by a group of Dutch ships and barely avoided destruction in what proved an epic defence that soon became the stuff of legend within the Royal Navy.
Extensively rebuilt at Chatham in 1691-2, which increased her beam to 47 feet 10ins., she was renamed Royal William upon completion of the work and saw her first action under her new name at Barfleur on 19th May 1692; this and the even more decisive action at La Hogue a few days later effectively ended French naval superiority in the Channel and thereby greatly influenced the successful outcome of the so-called 'War of the English Succession' (1689-97). Rebuilt a second time in 1719, this essentially new ship - but one which incorporated all the usable parts of the original Prince - then achieved her own fame by her remarkable longevity. After participating in the capture of the great Canadian fortress of Louisburg in 1758 and then the city of Quebec the following year, she was last in action at the battle off Cape Spartel when Lord Howe defeated a large Franco-Spanish fleet on 20th October 1782. Hulked in 1790, "Old Billy" as she had become affectionately known was finally broken up in 1813 at which time her ancient timbers were said to be "tough enough to turn the strongest nails."
An autograph version of this composition (dated 1736) is held in the National Collection at Greenwich (see Concise Catalogue of Oil Paintings in the National Maritime Museum, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, 1988, cat. no. BHC1039, p.349 illustrated).
Samuel Scott admired the paintings of Canaletto when he came to London in the 1740s, and that influence can be seen in the exactness of Scott's work, not only in his London views but also in his large-scale naval paintings. Painting from his studio in Covent Garden, he attracted many commissions through his social connections, but he was plagued greatly by sea-sickness, and thus did not make many sea voyages.