Height 8.00 inch.
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An exceptional carved limewood Maquette
of the figurehead for the flagship HMS Queen Charlotte, 1790.
The lime wood model showing the Queen facing forward with the orb and sceptre in her hands, sheltered by a fringed canopy, she is flanked by cherubs blowing trumpets and allegorical figures, set on a wooden stand within a glass dome.
Provenance: Admiral of the Fleet Sir Graham Eden Hamond (1779-1862) and thence by descent.
Footnote: HMS ‘Queen Charlotte’, of 100 guns, was one of the largest ships in the Navy and launched in 1790. The flagship’s role in the battle is graphically illustrated as the centre-piece of Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg’s giant painting now in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Her figurehead of the Queen proudly holding aloft orb and sceptre is clearly depicted in the thick of battle.
Once the name of such an important addition to the fleet had been decided, the procedure by which the design of a suitable figurehead was agreed was long and complicated. The outcome of initial intense discussion would be a written specification setting out the design followed by drawings and finally a scale model or maquette for approval by the authorities, culminating with the Navy Board and perhaps the King himself. In this case, almost uniquely, the original specification has survived in the archives of Chatham Dockyard. It reads: “In the head is Her Majesty in her robes with orb and sceptre in her hands, standing erect under a canopy with two doves thereon, which is supported by two boys, the emblems of peace, one holding a dove, the other a palm branch: under which on the starboard side is Britannia sitting on a lion and presenting a laurel: on the larboard side is Plenty sitting on a sea-horse offering the produce of the sea and land; on the starboard trail board Justice and Prudence with emblems; on the larboard trail board are two boys, Hope and Fortitude, with their emblems.”
Three versions of the model for the ‘Queen Charlotte’ figurehead are known: one now in the National Maritime Museum, one with the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and the present. This last is more elaborate than the others and differs from them in significant respects. It is regarded as being the most complete and closest to the specification.
The iconography of this remarkable design is typical for such a royal subject: emblems of Peace and Plenty, Britannia and the traditional lion, Justice and Prudence, Hope and Fortitude, all supremely surmounted by Her Majesty holding the symbols of Sovereignty, the orb and sceptre.
This model is a tour-de-force of the British woodcarver’s art and two carvers working at the Chatham Dockyard at the time have the credentials to undertake such a commission: William Savage and George Williams, who may have worked together on the project. The quality and size of the model required very close-grained wood such as lime or pear wood.
We are deeply indebted to Mr. Richard Hunter, Figurehead Historian, for his detailed and exhaustive report on this model, and other versions, from which all relevant material above has been drawn and to Mr Alan Russett, author, for the historical background to the battle.
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