The differences between the mutinies occurring sequentially at Spithead and The Nore can best be explained by the leadership.
The self styled “President of the Fleet” during the mutiny at The Nore was a failed midshipman, failed teacher, named Richard Parker. The head of the mutiny at Spithead is unknown but the presumed guiding hand was provided by a 27 year old quartermaster’s mate from the HMS Royal George, the flagship of Alexander Hood, Lord Bridport.
We posted yesterday that we would start a series of posts on the mutinies of the Royal Navy at Spithead and The Nore. We will be using G. E. Mainwaring’s The Floating Republic: an account of the mutinies at Spithead and The Nore in 1797 as our primary source with some commentary when Mainwaring seems to run far afield.
By the time of the Spithead and Nore mutines, the war against Revolutionary France was not going well. Britain’s Continental allies had been driven from the field and though the British navy had been victorious, it was now on the defensive. It could not operate in the Mediterranean and was pinned down blockading French and Dutch ports to prevent an invasion of Great Britain.
King’s Captain covers the career of Dewey Lambdin’s naval hero Alan Lewrie from Valentine’s Day 1797 through the collapse of the Nore Mutiny in June 1797.
Following his adventure in Jester’s Fortune, Lewrie finds himself and Jester still under the command of Admiral Sir John Jervis in his Mediterranean Fleet that now, by the loss of Toulon, Corsica, and the Italian states, has been effectively expelled from the Mediterranean.
Major spoilers follow.
Spithead was the great anchorage of the Royal Navy located adjacent to the port city of Portsmouth. Spithead continues to be the scene of naval reviews such as Trafalgar 200 International Fleet Review. This image provides a view of Spithead to the right foreground an is oriented up The Solent towards Southampton.
Spithead provided a very sheltered anchorage, heavily defended by land fortifications, that had the advantage of allowing ships to exit under most wind conditions.
Spithead was also the site of one of the two great mutinies of the Royal Navy in 1797, unlike the later one at the Nore, the Spithead mutiny was settled peacefully and resulted in substantial reforms in the Royal Navy.
For fans of C. S. Forester and Horatio Hornblower, Spithead is where Midshipman Hornblower began his naval career on the HMS Justinian and became famed as the midshipman who was seasick at Spithead.
If you are interested in what Portsmouth, Spithead, and The Solent look like from a glider be sure to drop by this site.