Capture of the Princesa
Notes on Action
The Princesa was sighted at 9 A.M. on April 8th, 1740, and was at once chased by the three ships, viz., Lenox, 70, Captain Covill Mayne, Kent, 70, Captain Thomas Durell, and Orford, 70, Captain Lord Augustus Fitzroy. The chase was then under French colours; but, when the Orford drew up soon after half-past ten, she hoisted Spanish. About eleven the Lenox also drew close up. and opened fire with her chaserguns, being soon followed by the Orford. All three ships came into close action and gave her many broadsides, for the most part within pistol shot; but she made a most stubborn defence, and, though she became ungovernable, owing to the loss of her foretopmast, early in the engagement, she proved capable of a great deal of passive resistance. In explanation of this it was pointed out at the time that she was more heavily armed than the British 70's. The Spanish establishment was, 24-prs. on the lower deck, 18-prs. on the upper deck, and 8-prs. on the quarter deck and forecastle, as against 24, 12, and 6-prs. in the British Navy; but it is possible that the Princesa may have had heavier guns mounted. She was moreover of very stout scantling, and, having small portholes, was, defensively at any rate, a most powerful ship. It has also been suggested that, as a fresh breeze was blowing, the British ships could not use their lower deck guns. This was not so. Covill Mayne makes special mention of sending the enemy broadsides from his lower, upper, and quarter-deck guns. The reports clash some-what; but, roughly, the middle part of the action seems to have been fought with the Princesa out of hand, the Kent on her larboard beam, and the Lenox, or Orford on her starboard side, and the third ship always under her stern, raking her fore and aft. In the afternoon the Orford had her fore rigging so much disabled that she dropped astern and had to lie to to knot and splice; but meanwhile the raking fire from the Lenox had carried away the Princesa's main and mizen masts. The Orford, having repaired damages, drew up again; and thereupon the enemy struck her colours, having maintained an almost hopeless struggle with the utmost gallantry for close on seven hours. Not unnaturally Lord Augustus Fitzroy claimed that she had struck to him, and sent the first boat on board, following closely himself. To Covill Mayne's indignation he received the sword of her commander, Don Pablo Agustin de Aguirre, and took charge of her papers. There was some angry protest, but the matter seems to have blown over. The prize, rated as a 70, continued for some years as one of the best two-deckers in the British Navy.