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Howe
Howe
99

rigging comparatively intact. The picture of the battle by Loutherbourg, now in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, wrongly shows the Queen Charlotte on the Montagne's lee bow. 'If we could have got the old ship into that position,' Bowen is reported to have said on seeing the picture, 'we must have taken the French admiral.'

At the same time as the Montagne, the Jacobin also made sail, and Howe, seeing other French ships doing the same, made the signal for a general chase. The battle was virtually won within twenty minutes from the time of the Queen Charlotte's passing through the French line, and by noon all concerted resistance was at an end. The afternoon was passed in overwhelming and taking possession of the beaten ships. Seven were made prizes, of which one, the Vengeur, afterwards sank with a great part of her men still onboard [see Harvey, John 1740–1794]. That five or six more were not captured was ascribed to the undue caution of the captain of the fleet, Sir Roger Curtis [q.v.], upon whom devolved the command at the critical moment, Howe being worn out by years and the exertions of the previous days (Barrow,pp.251,253–8, and Codrington's manuscript notes, Bourchier, i.27). But though this lapse detracted on cooler consideration from the brilliance of the victory, popular enthusiasm ran very high, specially when Howe, with the greater part of the fleet, towed the six prizes into Spithead on 13 June. In numerical force the two fleets had been fairly equal, and what little disparity there was was in favour of the enemy; and of other differences no account was taken.

On 20 June the king, with the queen and three of the princesses, went to Portsmouth, and in royal procession rowed out to Spithead. There he visited Howe on board the Queen Charlotte, presented him with a diamond-hilted sword, and signified his intention of conferring on him the order of the Garter. The incident was painted by H. P. Briggs in an almost burlesque picture now in the Painted Hall. Gold chains were given to all the admirals. Graves and Hood were created peers on the Irish establishment. One circumstance alone marred the general happiness. Howe, in his original despatch, published in the 'Gazette' of 10 June, had not mentioned any officers by name except the captain of the fleet and the captain of the Queen Charlotte. On arriving at Spithead he was desired by the admiralty to send in 'a detail of the meritorious services of individuals.' A few days later the order was repeated. On the 19th he wrote privately to Lord Chatham, deprecating the proposed selection, which he feared 'might be followed by disagreeable consequences.' But on the order being again repeated, he sent off a list on the 20th made up hastily, adding a note to the effect that it was incomplete. Howe had directed the several flag-officers to send in the names of those who had distinguished themselves, and they, supposing the required list to be a mere useless form, filled it up in a modest, perfunctory, or careless manner, and many notable names were omitted [see Caldwell, Sir Benjamin; Collingwood, Cuthbert, Lord]. The list was, however, not only gazetted, but the honours which the king freely bestowed were regulated by it; and Howe was accused of having cast an unmerited slur on the reputation of his comrades in arms.

It is said by Sir Edward Codrington (Barrow, manuscript note, pp.250, 264) that Howe and the Earl of Chatham were on bad terms, and that Howe's recommendations for promotion were not attended to. A more direct slight was offered by Chatham's brother, the prime minister, who represented to Howe that it would be for the advantage of the public service that he should forego the king's promise of the Garter. As a compensation he offered him a marquisate, on his own responsibility, but this Howe coldly declined (ib. p.262). The king, however, conferred the Garter upon him 2 June 1797.

On 22 Aug. Howe sailed from St. Helens with a fleet of thirty-seven ships of the line, and cruised between Ushant and Scilly till the end of October, when he was driven by stress of weather into Torbay. On 9 Nov. he again put to sea, and on the 29th returned to Spithead. The state of his health made him wish to be relieved from the command, but yielding to the king's wishes he retained it, on being allowed to be absent on leave during the winter. In the spring of 1795, on the news of the French fleet being out, he again hoisted his flag on board the Queen Charlotte, and put to sea in quest of it; but returned, on the news of its having gone back to Brest, much damaged in a gale. He continued nominally in command for two years longer, but was during most of the time at Bath, the fleet being actually commanded by Lord Bridport [see Hood, Alexander, Viscount Bridport]. Howe, as Bridport's senior and nominal commander-in-chief, expected a degree of deference which Bridport did not pay, and the neglect offended Howe, who attributed the ill-feeling which sprang up to incidents which had occurred more than seven years before, while he was at the admiralty. He wrote to Curtis on 24 Oct. 1795, that if he resumed 'the command at