What's going on in 'The Defining Moment'?

(from left to right)

Captain Jean-Jacques Lucas, Rédoutable's 74 guns, gallantly positions his ship to try and prevent Nelson's 100 gun Victory from breaking the line.

Victory, Temeraire and Neptune, being the leading ships in the weather column, had been under sustained fire from the French-Spanish van for some time. Victory and Temeraire were particularly badly damaged in their sails and rigging from this sustained fire. Victory broke the line astern of Vice Admiral Villeneuve's Bucentaure 80 guns, at 12.45 pm approximately.

Bucentaure, with backed main topsail, flies Vice Admiral Villeneuve's flag of command at the main top mast. At her fore and mizzen top mast, is the flag signal number 5, (communicated by a single flag) 'Every ship which is not in action is not at its post and must take station to bring herself, as speedily as possible, under fire'.

To the right of the painting, the mighty Spanish four-decked 130 gun Santísima Trinidad, Rear Admiral Báltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, lies with mizzen and main topsails backed.

Between these two vessels can be glimpsed the small 64 gun British Africa, Captain Henry Digby, which having got out of station, now sails with all sails set, down the Franco-Spanish van's line, exchanging fire with all.

'The Defining Moment - Trafalgar 1805',  first in the 'Battle of Trafalgar' series of paintings

'The Defining Moment - Trafalgar 1805' by Robin Brooks

Back to the 'Battle of Trafalgar' Series | Read Robin's article about the Bucentaure

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