Uniforms of the Royal Navy During the Napoleonic Wars
The twenty-two years between 1793, when the French National Convention declared war on Britain, and the final overthrow of the Emperor Napoleon in 1815, are the most eventful in the long history of the Royal Navy. Despite early successes at sea, the war started badly, and it was not long before Britain's survival was in the balance. By 1805, however, the fleets of France, Spain, Holland and Denmark had been swept off the seas in a series of resounding victories, and the crisis was over. After this the Navy's task was to retain the upper hand by maintaining a relentless blockade along almost the whole coast of Europe, and to organise the transportation, protection and supply of the various military expeditions to the continent which, thanks to the Navy, were now possible. It is true that these enterprises were not always successful, and that the Navy suffered some reverses particularly at the hands of the U.S. Navy during the war of 1812. Nevertheless, the tradition and the training instilled into the Royal Navy by Nelson and his contemporaries had a profound effect on the course of the war, and it was only right and proper that, when the end came, Napoleon decided to surrender himself to the captain of a British ship of the line.