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During the reigns of George II and George III Royal Caroline (or Caroline as she was more popularly called) was the principal royal yacht. This was a time when England, under the Hanoverian monarchy, was becoming a world power; this meant a sea power.

George II nurtured an almost exclusive interest in the military arts and was the last King of England personally to lead his army into battie (at Dettingen in 1743). His Queen, the energetic, cultured and intelligent Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, took a lively interest in politics, in which she played an important part. This was due to Robert Walpole's esteem for her and her influence over the King, who regularly appointed her Regent when he left for the Continent.

Queen Caroline died in 1737, leaving the King profoundly afflicted. Although the custom of the times allowed him a great deal of licence in his personal relationships, he had always been sincerely attached to his Queen and took no pains to conceal it, much to the amusement of the courtesans.

On his death in 1760, his grandson, 22-year-old George III, succeeded him. George III decided to marry soon afterwards and chose as his bride a very young German princess, Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who became Queen of England at the age of 17.

Charlotte, unlike Caroline of Ansbach, never became involved in politics, and George III, in contrast with his forebears, did not indulge in gallant affairs. The family life of these two monarchs was exemplary in its mutual affection and care for their many children. The thrifty Court habits, the King's invariable good humour and his simple, affable way with everyone created a wealth of popularity and respect which survived the two great tragedies of his very long reign, the American War of Independence and his illness. He governed English politics more directly than this predecessor. He did not personally handle military and naval operations, but he always held the supreme command, and wielded it sensibly. Then, in 1788 and at intervals until 1799, he was afflicted by a form of mental instability which modern pathologists might diagnose as porphyria, a rare hereditary disease. It became chronic after 1810 and a Regent was appointed. Charlotte died, heartbroken, in 1818, bu the King lived on for two more years in ignorance of this.

This is the setting for Royal Caroline, built in 1749 and broken up in 1820. These few words on her historical background are necessary because, as will be seen, the events of the life of the ship are intertwined with those of many famous characters. Moreover, she was not only a very beautiful yacht, perhaps the most splendid ever built, but also represented an important stage in the refinement of British shipbuilding. In those days progress was made empirically only, by testing in practical sailing in all weathers the favourable or unfavourable effect of a change made by intuition or arising from the wish to experiment. These changes were usually minimal, but in the very delicate balance which is set up in a sailing ship between the underwater part of the hull and the upperworks, wind force and water resistance, forward movement and leeway, the effects could be considerable and were not always favourable. Numerous experiments were judged failures for one reason or another.

On the other hand it will be seen below that the Admiralty used Royal Caroline as the prototype for a long series of frigates of various classes between 1750 and 1800.

It is surprising to find a yacht concerned with the design of warships. The size of Royal Caroline, however, was not far from the smallest class of frigate, and it must be remembered that a 'yacht' then was not exclusively a pleasure craft.

A brief note on this type of ship will be a help in understanding these aspects. Some of Royal Caroline's ancestors will be mentioned here, so it will be seen that her qualities as a sailing ship were not a happy accident, but rather the fruit of cautious, almost imperceptible refinements made to the lines of older designs, which had been very successful in the eyes of their contemporaries.


The word 'yacht' is Dutch in origin. A small, single-masted, fore and aft rigged craft was termed a jaghl in sixteenth and seventeenth century Holland. In Dutch and Low German jaght meant 'chase' or 'hunt'. This suggests that such vessels were originally used not for peaceful ends, but for privateering. Seventeenth century Dutch writers describe them as excellent sailing craft, fast, very easy to handle and used for ferrying passengers over short distances. Even then the word was often also used to denote a pleasure craft. We know, too, that the Dutch fleet had in its retinue many yachts, whose services were invaluable in exploration, carrying persons or despatches and escorting captured ships into home ports.

It is possible that the term jaght referred to different types of ships, though all were characterized by slim lines and ease of manoeuvre. Under the heading 'yacht', Aubin (Dictionnaire de Marine, 1702), distinguishes between speeljagt and avisjagt, that is, between a pleasure craft and a scout. This double meaning continued right down to the eighteenth century, not only in Holland but in England too, where the dual role of the vessel was more marked.

One of the earliest English yachts, Portsmouth, built at Woolwich in 1674 by Phineas Pett, armed with eight 3-pounder guns. She is cutter rigged, with a gaff mainsail, atopsail, a staysail and a jib. In 1688 the yacht was taken up for naval service and fitted out as a bomb ketch.

From a painting by Willem Van de Veide the Elder

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One of the earliest English yachts, Portsmouth, built at Woolwich in 1674 by Phineas Pett, armed with eight 3-pounder guns. She is cutter rigged, with a gaff mainsail, atopsail, a staysail and a jib. In 1688 the yacht was taken up for naval service and fitted out as a bomb ketch.

From a painting by Willem Van de Veide the Elder

In those days the distinction between warships and merchant ships was not as clear as it is today. Until the advent of radio communications, every fleet commander needed fast, light vessels to send and receive information and orders. We know what Dutch yachts looked like in the second half of the seventeenth century, which was not much different, we believe, from their appearance during the sixteenth century, apart from the mainsail, which was sprit rigged, since the gaff only came into use around 1630.

There is evidence that yachts were known outside the Netherlands in the late sixteenth century, but their renown is due mainly to Charles II's personal exploits, in contrast to many other small craft developed by the flourishing Dutch navy which never achieved fame outside their home waters. Charles II took refuge in Holland during Cromwell's Commonwealth. There he became familiar with Dutch yachts and yacht racing. During the Restoration he was taken in a Dutch yacht to Scheveningen, where the English fleet waited to escort him home. The King waxed so enthusiastic about this type of ship that the Burgomaster of Amsterdam asked leave to present him with one, which was renamed Mary after the King's sister.

Charles and his brother James made sailing and yachting popular sports in England, betting not inconsiderable sums on their own boats in races.

During this period many yachts were built in England. They were not copies of Mary, but more suited to English waters. The Dutch leeboards, flat bottoms and shallow keel, for moving in shallow waters, were abandoned. English-built yachts had a deeper hull and a more marked keel. The first yachts to follow the arrival of Mary were named Catherine and Anne. Both outdid their prototype in speed and seaworthiness, as had been foreseen by their builder, one of the Pett family, in the face of general scepticism. The Dutch immediately responded by producing the small yacht Bezan (1661), also presented to King Charles. She defeated both the three earlier vessels and another specially commissioned for the race by the King's brother. Samuel Pepys recorded this with delight as he was not over-fond of English shipbuilders, and particularly not of the Petts.

A ketch-rigged yacht from a painting by Charles Brooking (1723-1759).

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Gradually, bigger yachts were built, with a second mast. This 'ketch' rig was introduced by Phineas Pett (a grandson of the man who built Sovereign of the Seas) on Fubbs, built at Greenwich in 1682. These craft became so popular that the best naval architects vied with each other to produce them. This was not just a fashionable craze; these same shipbuilders were responsible for designing big warships and the fast cruising vessels later known as frigates. A perusal of the list of yachts built for the Royal Navy from 1660 to 1689 shows that their designers were almost invariably those who were responsible for the two- and three-deckers, the backbone of the English fleet. The list includes Peter and Christopher Pett, the two Phineas Petts (the second and third in this amazing shipbuilding family), Jonas and Thomas Shish, Daniel Furzer and, particularly, Sir Anthony Deane, author of the Doctrine of Naval Architecture.

Experimentation to improve the sailing qualities of fast warships thus came largely through yacht construction. They were indeed often confused with ships of the Sixth Rate, which included those armed with twenty or fewer guns. For example, Greyhound, built in Portsmouth by Deane in 1672 as a Sixth Rate, 16-gun ship, was long used as a royal yacht. Likewise, many royal yachts were lent to the Navy for normal service at different times.

In Holland during this same period many yachts were built for foreign royalty, following the English style. The plans of some Swedish vessels, (unfortunately rather rudimentary) have come down to us, in addition to various paintings and prints, such as the wonderful Hyorten (Deer) painted by Backhuizen in about 1657. Anthony Deane in England supplied Louix XIV of France with two yachts from Portsmouth in 1674—5. There is no evidence that these were ever used personally by the Roi Soleil, but it seems that they made a fine sight in Paris, riding at anchor in the Seine.

The accession of William of Orange to the English throne was, however, the end of royal enthusiasm for sailing. The construction of numerous yachts continued nevertheless because of the frequent journeys of court personages between Holland and London. During William Ill's reign a very special yacht, a distant relation of Royal Caroline, was built; it is a curious story and worth a small digression here. In 1698, Czar Peter the Great came to England for three months. Prior to this he had spent some time in Holland, working in a shipyard to acquire practical experience of shipbuilding and a grasp of its theory. His purpose was to learn so as to be able later to impart both theory and practice to his subjects, using his own, highly individual, didactic methods. The English were most anxious for a trade agreement which would give them direct access to the Moscovite markets, and heaped honours on their guest. Among other things, they presented him with a yacht, Royal Transport, a model of which still exists in Leningrad Naval Museum. Probably the promise of this gift was one motive for Peter's visit to England. Both the hull and masting of Royal Transport were unusual. Her rigging was one of the earliest examples of the schooner type, of which very few seventeenth-century examples exist. The hull was entirely experimental, since her cross section had a slightly concave bottom, a shape only found in Portuguese 'muletas'. This unusual section seems to have been inspired by certain experiments which had been carried out with double hulls in imitation of Polynesian boats. In any case, Royal Transport turned out to be perhaps the fastest ship built in England up to that date. Historians of the Russian Navy (which Peter the Great created from nothing) record that she was taken as the model for other ships, but it is not known how many and which these were. She was designed by an amateur, Peregrine, Lord Danby (later the Marquis of Carmarthen), an English gentleman and admiral whose life and adventures were much talked about. He became boon friend and drinking companion of the Czar and was responsible, in no small measure, for the success of the Anglo-Russian trade negotiations mentioned. In 1697 Carmarthen persuaded William III to allow him to design another ship, which was named Peregrine Galley in honour of the Marquis himself, as a replacement for Royal Transport. Neither the shipyards nor the Admiralty were pleased at the King commissioning the Marquis to design ships; nevertheless, Peregrine was exceptionally successful and the Admiralty had no choice but to accept the ship, launched at Chatham in 1700, into its service.

Peregrine was a small 190-ton frigate with twenty small-calibre cannon and a dozen swivel guns. Although she had been originally designed for the Royal Navy, she was often used as a yacht during Queen Anne's reign (1702-1714). We do not know if this was the reason for certain modifications to improve her habitability. In 1714, Peregrine was chosen for George I's voyage from Oranienpolder in Holland to Greenwich, to ascend the throne. In 1716 she was officially converted to a yacht and renamed Carolina, in honour of the Princess of Wales, and George II's future queen, Caroline of Ansbach.

The original plans of Peregrine Galley have not survived, but those of her conversion to a royal yacht still exist. These are the plans of the yacht Carolina of 1716. The plans do not give measurements, but these can be calculated from the scale given. The hull between perpendiculars has a length of 86ft 7in (26.47m) and a maximum internal beam of 22ft 6in (6.91m). Depth in hold was 10ft 7in (3.22m). These measurements differ only slightiy from those which other sources give for Peregrine-, (for example, her length is given as 86ft lOin). The small discrepancy can easily be explained by an inexact plan or calculation, so it is likely that the changes made to the Marquis of Carmarthen's


Royal Caroline




ft in

ft in

Length of upper deck inside planking

90 1

86 10

Maximum width inside planking

24 0

22 6

Depth in hold at mainframe section (from upper face

of keel to upper face of beam)

12 2

10 7

Keel from heel to start of curve of rabbet

72 2Vz

72 8

Keel from heel to start of cutwater curve

81 4

77 7

Peregrine in refitting her as a royal yacht did not involve the hull, but only the upperworks and internal arrangements. This is all the more likely as Peregrine was only 16 years old when she was refitted, and the documents speak of 'refitting', not 'rebuilding' (a euphemism which often masked the construction of a completely new ship). Carolina was rebuilt later at Deptford in 1733, and rechristened Royal Caroline as George II had succeeded to the throne and Caroline of Ansbach was now Queen. Whether the lines of the 1716 Carolina were or were not essentially unchanged from Carmarthen's Peregrine, it is interesting to compare them with those oí Royal Caroline of 1749 and pick out their similarities and differences. The measurements (in feet and inches) of the two ships are given in Table 1.

The ratio between deck length and maximum width inside planking was 3.81:1 in Carolina, ex-Peregrine. It was 3.75:1 in Royal Caroline. Relating the beams to the length of the respective keels also gives similar results, but with the ratios inverted: 3.31:1 for Carolina and3.38:l for Royal Caroline. SoRoyal Caroline had a slightly fuller main frame in relation to overall length and a slightly longer keel in relation to beam. These differences are almost imperceptible, as is borne out by the substantial similarity of the two hulls, but such differences in detail are not negligible. If we look at the longitudinal section of the two ships, we can see that Royal Caroline's stem rises at a more acute angle and is more curved than that of Carolina, while her sternpost is nearer the vertical (the rake is 10 degrees compared to 14 on Carolina). Royal Caroline's upper deck was considerably higher (about 1ft 5in). The ratio between beam and depth in hold was 2.1:1 in Carolina and 2:1 in Royal Caroline. The main cabin bulkheads are placed in exactly the same position in the two ships, and even the positions of the capstan and the mainmast coincide. It is obvious that the designer of Royal Caroline worked with the plans of the earlier ship in front of him. If we look at the body plan we see immediately that the outline of the main frame is almost identical below the waterline. Forward and aft, however, Royal Caroline has sharper lines which are more visually pleasing. It is not known how her designer remedied the resultant loss of buoyancy fore and aft, which would have reduced the seaworthiness of the hull, making it dip into a rough sea instead of riding the waves. Perhaps the balance was re-established by redistributing the weights. The very open V-shaped bottom of Carolina became a rounded, more aesthetically pleasing line in Royal Caroline. The very strange bell-shaped cross section of Caroline'a keel disappeared in Royal Caroline. Sections like this were advocated by some authorities (for instance Robert Dudley, in Arcano del Mare) during the seventeenth century, though it is surprising to find that such designs were taken seriously. The Carolina plan is a builder's document, however, and therefore reliable. When a ship is being

Sheer elevation of Carolina(1716), from the plans in the National Maritime Museum. The plans probably show what Peregrine Galley of 1700 looked like, apart from the changes to Improve her habitability. Designed by the Marquis of Carmarthen, an aristocratic amateur outside the Navy Board's control, Peregrine did not have the shortcomings of English light craft of the early eighteenth century.

Longitudinal section of Carolina( 1716), from the plans In the National Maritime Museum.

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Longitudinal section of Carolina( 1716), from the plans In the National Maritime Museum.

blown off course, a keel with this sort of section offers greater resistance to lateral movement and is better at countering a tendency to drift. This idea has been taken up again in modern times in giving finned keels to racing yachts. We do not believe that keel sections of the Carolina type were still being used on ships built during the eighteenth century. This would seem to confirm that the hull of Peregrine of 1700 remained unchanged in Carolina of 1716. The Royal Caroline keel was 2in (about 5cm) deeper outside the planking by way of compensation.

Royal Caroline's bulwarks slope inwards much less and the chainwales are placed much higher. It is known that Anson had to fight against the opinion of the Navy Board to win this point and change the established rules.

The various companionways to the cabins and the lower deck were simplified on Royal Caroline, with a considerable saving in space, particularly around the main mast. This was done to the detriment of the habitability of the stateroom below, which, in Carolina, received light and air from two windows onto the main deck, while in Royal Caroline it received no light whatsoever.

The 1716 Carolina was also luxuriously decorated and had three masts with square sails. Seen sailing in company with the later ship, she would have been difficult to distinguish from Royal Caroline but, as we have shown, the two hulls were not completely identical.

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