Nelson Forcing the Passage of the Sound, 30 March 1801, prior to the Battle of Copenhagen

During the French Revolutionary War, Denmark's position and neutrality made her relationship with the principal protagonists, France and Britain, especially difficult. British insistence on searching neutral ships for contraband destined for France led to a deterioration of relations with Copenhagen and, in the autumn of 1800, Tsar Paul of Russia took up the Danish cause against the British. By sequestering British property he invoked part of the Armed Neutrality with Sweden and persuaded Denmark to join them. The following March a British fleet was dispatched to the Baltic to break this alliance.

Early on the morning of 30 March 1801 the British fleet sailed for the narrow neck of the Sound between Kronborg Castle, at Elsinore, and Sweden, the event recorded in this painting. Although very narrow the range was too great for the Danish batteries to inflict any damage. The leading British ship, the 'Monarch', 74 guns, commanded by Captain James Robert Mosse, is in the right foreground, almost bow on and in port-bow view. She is followed to the right by the 'Elephant', 74 guns, in starboard-bow view, with Nelson flying his flag as Vice-Admiral of the Blue. These leading ships and several others following to the left have passed the batteries of Kronborg Castle, but those following in the centre background are in action, including the Commander-in-Chief's, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, whose flag can be seen above the smoke.

Kronborg Castle stands on the left, this side of the gun-smoke in the middle distance, with a little harbour for small craft in the left foreground. The rearmost British ships are in the left background, in starboard-bow view, leaving the Kattegat to enter the Sound. They cleared the Sound the same day to anchor off the Swedish island of Hven, ready for the attack on Copenhagen.

Object Details

ID: BHC0522
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Dodd, Robert
Events: Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Copenhagen, 1801
Vessels: Monarch (1765); Elephant (1786)
Date made: 1801-1815
People: Royal Navy; Denmark: Navy
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 610 x 914 mm; Frame: 705 mm x 1010 mm x 70 mm

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