Charles Brooking (British, 1723-1759) The celebrated English privateer squadron known as the 'Royal Family' engaging enemy ships during the War of the Austrian Succession
Lot 119
Charles Brooking
(British, 1723-1759)
The celebrated English privateer squadron known as the 'Royal Family' engaging enemy ships during the War of the Austrian Succession
Sold for £86,500 (US$ 135,747) inc. premium

Lot Details
Charles Brooking (British, 1723-1759)
The celebrated English privateer squadron known as the 'Royal Family' engaging enemy ships during the War of the Austrian Succession
signed 'C. Brooking P.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
49.5 x 80cm (19 1/2 x 31 1/2in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Mr. and Mrs. Baussey
    with Richard Green Fine Paintings Ltd., 1987
    J. W. Robertson Esq., 1994 (bought from the above together with lot 118, as a pair)

    Exhibited
    Richard Green Fine Paintings Ltd., Exhibition of British Marine paintings, 1987, no.5

    Literature
    Richard Green Fine Paintings Ltd., Exhibition of British Marine paintings, 1987, no.5 illustrated in colour
    David Joel, Charles Brooking 1723-1759 and the 18th Century British Marine Painters, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2000, no.361, p.165


    The so-called 'War of Jenkins' Ear', which began in 1739 as a simple conflict between England and Spain, soon developed into a far wider European struggle known as the War of the Austrian Succession. Once hostilities were extended, the old rivalry between England and France quickly began to dominate matters and even though most of the campaigning was land-based, there was still ample scope for action at sea where a buccaneering squadron of English privateers attracted not only the nation's attention but also a huge profit for its backers.

    Commanded by Captain James Talbot, the squadron initially consisted of three armed ships, the 500-ton 30-gun flagship Prince Frederick, the 300-ton 20-gun Duke (Captain Morecock) and the much smaller Prince George, although the latter capsized and sank five days out from Cowes, on 2nd June 1745, with the loss of all but twenty of her crew. The two remaining ships continued out into the North Atlantic however where, on 10th July, they sighted, chased and captured two French vessels – the Marquese d'Antin and the Louis Erasme – returning home from Lima loaded with an extraordinarily rich cargo comprising 1,093 chests of silver bullion, along with large quantities of gold and silver plate and many other valuables. When the privateers and their prizes made port at Bristol on 8th September, the captured treasure was quickly assessed and then transported to London in forty-five wagons guarded by armed sailors on horseback. Arriving at the Tower, the treasure was officially valued at £700,000 (some estimates put it as high as £1 million) which the owners promptly loaned to the Government to finance the operations to put down the Jacobite Rebellion; when the proceeds were finally divided, even the most humble sailor received £850. Talbot himself, now an extremely rich man, retired from the sea to join the merchants' syndicate which soon funded the celebrated privateer squadron which succeeded his own, and which came to be known as the 'Royal Family'.

    The following year (1746), the newly-christened 'Royal Family' – now under the command of Commodore George Walker and expanded by the addition of new ships all named for various members of King George II's family – enjoyed further profitable cruises and the next year (1747) saw the capture of another extremely valuable prize, the Spanish 74-gun Glorioso whose cargo was valued at £700,000. This seizure took place in October 1747, after which the 'Royal Family' returned home for the winter prior to being disbanded following the end of the War in 1748.

    Charles Brooking seems to have been the sole recorder of the colourful adventures of the 'Royal Family', although it is clear from works by other (unknown) hands in the National Collection at Greenwich that contemporary copyists abounded, such was the demand for these narrative battlescapes. Brooking's originals were also widely engraved, mostly by J. Boydell, and eagerly purchased by a population whose patriotic sentiments were stirred by such exploits. The work offered in this catalogue is undoubtedly one of the finest oils of the series and also one of the best pictures by Brooking to appear on the market for some years. The various actions in which this legendary squadron was involved, the paintings which Brooking executed to commemorate them, and the engravings which resulted from them, are all discussed at length in David Joel's highly informative monograph published in 1980.


    Works by Brooking are in the collections of the National Gallery, Dublin (1), Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery (1), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (21), Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull (1), Tate Britain (2) and the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut (7).
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