HMS Royal Sovereign was a 1st Rate Ship-of-the-Line of the Royal Navy, bearing 100 guns. She was launched from Plymouth Dockyard in 1786 and developed somewhat of a poor reputation from her crew, supposedly dubbed « West Country Wagon » owing to poor manoeuvrability and speed.
Prior to her famous role at the Battle of Trafalgar, she participated in the battles of « The Glorious First of June » as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Thomas Graves, and was Cornwallis’ flagship in his famous retreat of 16 June 1795. In the latter battle, after a day’s pursuit, a far larger French fleet came within firing range of the entire Brtish fleet.
Realising the danger to his rearguard, Cornwallis brought Royal Sovereign southwards imposing his vessel between the two fleets, using the power of the 1st rate’s broadside to dissuade the pursuing French. In doing so, he managed to delay the French long enough until the appearance of an unknown fleet spooked the French into their own retreat.