“This day will be launched his majesties ship the Victory, estimated the largest and finest ship ever built. Several of the Lords of the Admiralty, Commissioners of the Navy, and many persons of quality and distinction, are expected to be present, for whose receptions great preparations are making through the Town”, London Public Advertiser 7th May 1765
The order for the Victory to be built at Chatham was signed by the Navy Board on the 7th July 1759. Work started almost immediately and the first timbers, those for the keel were brought together at the Old Single Dock on the 23rd July 1759 in a ceremony that even William Pitt the Elder – the then Prime Minister, and the future Earl of Chatham is thought to have attended.
Once her frame was complete she was left to ‘season in frame’ until the Seven Years War had ended and work restarted on her. Launched on 7th May 1765 she was completed and fitted out – not for war, but for the reserve fleet.
It was not until 1778 that she left Chatham for sea service – as Augustus Keppel’s flagship. Following the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797) she returned to Chatham where she underwent a Great Repair – before returning to sea as Nelson’s flagship and the battle of Trafalgar.
The Battle of Trafalgar ended Napoleonic France’s ambitions to invade Britain and her Navy’s ability to threaten Britain’s worldwide Command of the Oceans. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 ushered in a century of ‘Pax Britannica’ Britain’s undisputed naval power and position as global superpower – and laid the foundations for much of the modern world we know today.