M. Brown. “To the Lord’s Commissioners of the Admiralty. This Print of The Celebrated Victory obtained by The British Fleet under the Command of Earl Howe, over The French Fleet On The Glorious First Of June 1794, Is by Permission humbly Dedicated...”
A striking and quite scarce engraving showing the British naval victory over the French on the “Glorious First of June, 1794.” In early 1793 shortly after the execution of Louis XVI, Revolutionary France declared war on the alliance of the German Empire, Spain, Holland and Great Britain. The first naval battle of the subsequent “Wars of the French Revolution” was fought on June 1, 1794 west of Ushant, off the Brittany Peninsula. A French fleet of 26 warships, under Admiral Louis Villaret de Joyeuse, was escorting a convoy of grain ships across the Atlantic when he was intercepted by a similar British fleet under Admiral, Lord Richard Howe. In this decisive action, six French ships were captured and one was sunk, giving the British a “glorious” victory, despite the fact that the supply ships were able to slip away into the harbor at Brest as the British fleet was too battered to pursue them. The British were quite frightened at the time of the entire Revolutionary movement in France, so the British public was exhilarated by this victory, to the extent that thereafter it was always known as the “Glorious First of June.”
This excellent engraving is after a painting by M. Brown, “Historical Painter to their R.H. the Duke & Duchess of York,” and was engraved and published by Daniel Orme, “Historical Engraver to his Majesty & his R.H. the Prince of Wales.” It was issued very shortly after the event and it was a celebration of the victory to be hung in prominent homes in England. Lord Howe is shown standing center, while near him is shown one of his dying officers, held in the arms of his companions. The image glorifies the sacrifice of British youth, while showing Howe, though sad at the death, pointing to the battle–shown raging in the background–for the British must fight on despite their sacrifices. Filled with detail, drama, and pathos, this print would have stirred the blood of the patriotic British citizens who would have viewed and purchased this print in London and other British cities in 1795. It is a wonderful example of the iconography of the time, a rare and exquisite British naval print.