Relief of Barcelona 8 May 1706; 35¾ x 53¼ signed P.Monamy: Pinxt:1725; inscribed Barcelona
Barcelona had been taken by Sir Clowdisley Shovell and the Earl of Peterborough in September 1705. After Shovell returned to England, Sir John Leake was left with a squadron in the Mediterranean, and sailed to Lisbon to refit. He subsequently had news that Barcelona was under siege from land and sea by a combined French force under the Marshall de Tessé (land) and the Comte de Toulouse (sea). Off Tortosa on 4th May (26th April OS) he received a letter from the Archduke Charles at Barcelona imploring him to make haste. He therefore set sail with winged speed to relieve the city, accompanied on his way by reinforcements under John Price, Hovenden Walker and George Byng.
Above, Sir John Leake in the Prince George, 90 guns, hastening to the relief of Barcelona. Below, the Fleet coming up behind him. Ahead right, Sir George Byng.
According to Charnock, John Price, Captain of the Somerset, had sailed from Spithead with five ships of war on February 25th, 1706, for Lisbon, where he was appointed: "commodore of a squadron ..... (which) consisted of four third and two fourth rates, English, together with six Dutch ships of the line. Having taken on board, at Lisbon, major-general Stanhope, ..... colonel Richards, with two English regiments, and several companies of Spanish deserters, he proceeded to Gibraltar in order to join sir John Leake ..... He was, consequently, present at the relief of Barcelona ...."
Tunstall, Vol I, p.100, relates that Byng had left Spithead in the Royal Anne at the end of March, and reached Lisbon on 11th April, leaving for the Mediterranean on 16th April (OS) with fourteen of the line. He met up with Leake about four days later, but contrary winds followed by a calm delayed matters until the Archduke's letter arrived, "upon which Leake ..... gave his orders for a general chase to the rescue."
Thinking that the land forces of the French might make a desperate assault on the city, Leake ordered Byng and the Dutch commander Wassenaer, to sail ahead. On hearing of Leake's approach, the Comte de Toulouse had quickly retired his force, and when Byng and Wassenaer arrived the French fleet was nowhere in sight. The allies entered the bay on 8th May (27th April, OS), 1706, and made haste to land a considerable number of men. This is the situation recorded in the painting.
Byng landed the relieving forces from a composite advance squadron, consisting of eleven ships of the Blue, and three Dutch ships, as shown and conjecturally named below.
The notes suggest that the queried vessel flying the Blue from her mizzen topmast could be the ship of Commodore Hovenden Walker. However, Charnock's biography of Walker only says that in 1706 Walker was "commodore of a small squadron, convoying some transports with troops, and sent to the Mediterranean, in the month of May, as a reinforcement to sir John Leake ..... Mr Walker does not appear to have been engaged in any thing very memorable, or beyond the ordinary routine of service." Charnock is not always accurate or complete, but his entry for Walker does suggest that something is adrift somewhere, and the names of the ships in the advance squadron may have to be adjusted.
The Royal Anne
The notes comment that "a number of boats are landing soldiers, whose red backs are seen as they stream up the hill towards the town." So that's what those dots are. It rather looks as if they might be the two regiments under Colonel Richards, mentioned by Charnock, being landed by Commodore John Price and not Hovenden Walker. In which case the queried ship would be Price's Somerset.
The Somerset ?
This account is based closely on notes accompanying the painting, possibly written by Brian Tunstall.
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