This model of the HMS ALEXANDER of the British Navy, is a highly detailed and fine example of the artistic craftsmanship of the prisoners, mostly French but some Dutch and British, held during the Napoleonic Wars (1795-1815). These superbly accurate and elaborate models are considered by enthusiastic collectors worldwide as some of the most desirable and important ship models ever created.
This particular model is of excellent and rare size, being nearly 30 inches in length. Her notable features include her well carved stern and quarter galleries, unique crossed lines on the gunnel, carved ropework detail on the sides, on deck features like the bell tower, capstan and many belaying pins set with carved posts. Even the launches have carved interiors and details.
The ship is named for Macedonian hero/king Alexander the Great. By the end of the late 18th century, when this ship was built, Europe's Greek revival period was in full swing. It was common for ships to be named for such legendary heroes whose brave deeds and adventures might inspire the ship's crew to their own acts of bravery.
Given that the ship was held by both the British and French, and her participation in the Battle of the Nile it is possible that this model was made by French prisoners who had been sailors aboard her or aboard ships that fought against her.
Genuine period Prisoner-of-War bone models are very rare and available in very few numbers, their historical importance and aesthetic appealing making them desirable. This is a fine model of outstanding size and presentation that would be an excellent addition to any collection.
HMS ALEXANDER was a 74-gun third-rate of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1778, she went on to have an active career for both the French and British navies in the French Revolutionary Wars.
In 1794 the ship was escorting a convoy to Spain alongside HMS CANADA when they were set upon by eight French Naval ships. After intense fighting the ALEXANDER was damaged by several close broadside attacks and was forced to surrender. HMS CANADA escaped with the ALEXANDER's Master, Rear-Admiral Richard Rodney Bligh, who was later acquitted of any blame for her capture. Bligh bears no relation to the notorious Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty Fame.
The French took her to Brest for repairs and rechristened her with the French version of the same name, ALEXANDRE. She served with the French navy until June of 1795 when she set upon by the British Channel Fleet under Lord Bridgeport off the Island of Belle Île, Brittany. The British chased the French ships including ALEXANDRE and brought them to action in the Battle of Groix. During the battle the British recaptured ALEXANDRE and she was towed back to Plymouth.
In May of 1798, the restored HMS ALEXANDER was sent into the Mediterranean with several other ships under Admiral Lord Nelson. The fleet encountered heavy winds and weather and ALEXANDER was forced to withdraw to Sardinia towing another ship to safety.
Later in the same year the ALEXANDER would again come under the command of Lord Nelson when she took part in the Battle of the Nile, under the direct command of Captain Alexander Ball, first serving as a scout ship alongside HMS SWIFTSURE and later as a direct combatant.
ALEXANDER was the second ship to fire upon the French fleet, engaging the French flagship, L'ORIENT. The ALEXANDER sank three French ships before she had to withdraw due to a small fire on board. The three day battle would be hailed as one of the greatest British naval victories, turning the tide of the war and establishing British naval dominance in the region. Though each side started the battle with 13 ships the entire French fleet was lost or captured versus while only a few British ships were only damaged, none lost. Captain Bell would go on to be one of "Nelson's Band of Brothers" as he called the Captains who served under him at the Nile, with Nelson going on to directly praise Bell in a letter to his commander, "His activity and zeal are eminently conspicuous even amongst the Band of Brothers - each, as I may have occasion to mention them, must call forth my gratitude and admiration."
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