Print of the Month - August 2019

The first royal review of the fleet took place in 1415 when Henry V reviewed his ships before sailing to France where he was victorious at the Battle of Agincourt. Since then there have been 46 royal navel reviews. Some reviews were commemorative to mark for example the coronation and royal jubilees of the reigning monarch, whilst some have been to celebrate victories such as the one in 1919 after World War 1. But originally reviews of the fleet were either held when a mobilisation for war was carried out, or as a show of strength of the fleet to potential enemies.

17 royal reviews of the fleet happened during the reign of Queen Victoria, although the last two were presided over by her son, the Prince of Wales, due to the Queen’s fragility. Queen Victoria’s fifth and probably most significant review was on 11 August 1853 when the fleet was mobilised for the imminent war against Russia (The Crimean War).

‘The Times’ of August 12th 1853, recorded: “Some faint idea may be formed of yesterday’s review from the aggregate of guns, horse-power and tonnage of the Fleet, and from the number of men required for the full complement of each ship. There were employed 1,076 guns, the power of 9,680 horses, 40,207 tons of shipping, and ships’ companies that should altogether have amounted to 10,423 hands. The Fleet thus comprised about the same number of men as are encamped at Chobham, only that instead of being distributed in tents they are cooped up in 25 ships of war - 13 of which are screw steamers - nine paddle wheel, and three sailing ships of the line”

Baxter published his print in 1854. It is signed on the extreme right, in one of the stones of the battery, “Published May 31st, 1854, by G. Baxter, Patentee and Proprietor,” in five lines. It was produced from a steel plate and twelve blocks. The print measures 12.5cm in height and 24.5cm in width.

Baxter produced several other prints to mark significant events relating to the Crimean war. “Charge of the British Troops on the Road to Windlesham”, CL 198, was published in 1854 as a companion print to “Review of the British Fleet” and depicts army exercises on Chobham Common prior to the breakout of war with Russia, whilst “The Siege of Sebastopol”, CL 199, shows the allied fleets bombarding the Russian stronghold of Sebastopol which fell on the 8th September 1855, after a siege of 349 days.

Other Baxter prints show portraits of distinguished persons connected with the Crimean War whilst a more personal side of the Crimean War is shown in “The Soldier’s Farewell” in which a guardsman says goodbye to his family as he departs to the Crimea War, with his father presenting him with a Bible.