Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837) The French '74 'Hercule' surrendering to H.M.S. 'Mars' off Brest, 2
Lot 88
Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837) The French '74 'Hercule' surrendering to H.M.S. 'Mars' off Brest, 21st. April 1798 61 x 86.3cm. (24 x 34in.)
Sold for £26,400 (US$ 44,347) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
(n/a) Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837)
The French '74 'Hercule' surrendering to H.M.S. 'Mars' off Brest, 21st. April 1798
signed 'Luny' and dated 1827 (lower left)
oil on canvas
61 x 86.3cm. (24 x 34in.)


  • The 74-gun third rate ‘Mars’ was built at Deptford and launched on 25th October 1794. Initially assigned to the formidable Channel Fleet upon completion, she was still serving in Home Waters when, on 12th April 1798, she sailed from St. Helens, Isle of Wight, as part of Admiral Lord Bridport’s squadron bound for Brest. On 21st April, whilst cruising in company with H.M.S. ‘Ramillies’ and two frigates, ‘Mars’ sighted two French vessels closely followed by a third enemy warship to which they all gave chase. The biggest quarry proved to be the 74-gun ‘Hercule’ and, after three hours, ‘Mars’ brought her to action in what was to prove a classic engagement between two perfectly matched adversaries. With ‘Ramillies’ trailing behind due to a lost foretopmast and the frigate ‘Jason’ too far off to participate, the two opposing 74’s soon became entangled thanks to fouled anchor cables and opened fire at 10.30pm. After a merciless pounding lasting two hours, ‘Hercule’ could withstand it no longer and struck her colours shortly after midnight. Damage to both vessels was extensive, with each ships’ starboard side burnt cinder black, whilst losses were high on both sides, including the commander of the ‘Mars’, Captain Alexander Hood. A nephew of Lord Bridport as well as of Lord Hood, Captain Hood was mortally wounded about twenty minutes into the action and died just as ‘Hercule’ surrendered. The battered ‘Hercule’ was coaxed back into Plymouth, repaired at a cost of £12,500, such was the damage inflicted on her by her opponent’s thunderous broadsides, and eventually commissioned into the Royal Navy under her own name.
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