The figurehead is of the bust of Vice Admiral John Benbow, the commander-in-chief of the West Indies during the War of Spanish Succession, who died of wounds sustained in a battle with a French squadron in 1702. He wears a brown curly wig and white cravat as shown in contemporary portraits. The figure wears armour and the lower part is draped in red cloth.
This figurehead was once full length so it was presumably made before the Navy Board cut costs and busts became the most usual type. All that is left now is a bearded head wearing a helmet wreathed with laurels. The contemporary model of the ship at the Science Museum, London, shows a full-length figure straddling the bow, holding a buckler and what is probably a sword and is dressed in a suit of roman armour.
Stern carvings of the greek god Atlas from the captain's stern gallery.
The figurehead is that of Eurydice, wife of the musician Orpheus. Tragically, Eurydice was bitten by a snake and died. Her distraught husband followed her to the underworld where Hades, its ruler, told Orpheus his wife could return to him—on one condition. He must not look back until he reached the mortal world. Orpheus was just about to reach the open air when he could not resist the urge to look back at his wife, breaking his promise to Hades and loosing Eurydice forever. The figurehead’s pose is that of Eurydice reaching out to her husband in longing and despair. The figure is loosely draped in a blue and red tunic revealing her breasts. The tunic is secured with a brooch. In the original design by Hellyer an imp was carved on the trailboard, almost pulling her to the Underworld. Below the imp a snake is carved slithering down the bow. The trailboard carvings did not survive.
This bust figurehead is the representation of sailor. The bearded male figure wears a sennit hat and blue sailor’s uniform, with medals on the left breast and gold button details.
This figurehead is a portrayal of the Greek hero, Bellerophon, a warrior. He fought the Chimera and also caught the winged horse Pegasus using Minerva’s magic, as it is told in Greek myth. Before it was damaged the figurehead represented Bellerophon as a nude figure draped in a red cloak riding Pegasus, his right arm raised, holding a javelin. The horse’s wings were spread. All that remains is the helmeted head. The figurehead would have been painted white during its time in service. In 1814 the Navy Board approved more use of gilding and colours for figurehead decoration.
The figurehead is of Apollo, son of Jupiter. He represented the mythological embodiment of the sun and is typically represented as an archer. A semi-nude bust draped in blue cloth with long hair crowned by a laurel wreath.
This figurehead represents the mythological character, Actaeon. Actaeon was a hunter who stumbled upon Diana, goddess of the hunt, bathing with her nymphs. The angry Diana turned Actaeon into a stag and he was hunted down and killed by his own hounds. The figurehead itself is a semi-nude bust with long black curly hair and draped in a red tunic. Leaves decorate the stem of the carving.
This female bust wears a red tunic with blue sash and belt. The figures blonde hair is also covered with a blue hat.
This figurehead depicts Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson (1758-1805). The bust wears a full-dress uniform embellished with the stars of the Order of the Crescent,(Turkey) the Order of St Ferdinand(Naples & Sicily) and the Order of Bath with a Naval Gold Medal around the neck. The figure also wears a gold-laced hat.
Within a scroll are two oval shields with the royal arms on the starboard side and the arms of Prince Albert on the port side. The whole is surmounted by a crown.
Bow decoration carved in the simplified form of the royal arms in oval curved form surmounted by a crown and surrounded by gold scrolling
The present carving which is a replacement is an oval shield bearing the Hanovarian Royal Arms with cherubs as supporters. This is thought to be the design in use at Trafalgar.
Carved as a half-length nude female figure with bunches of grapes held in both hands, her left breast is covered by sash over her shoulder. Her hair is decorated with vine leaves and small bunches of grapes suggesting the victualling stores that would have been included in the items that she provided to the fleet.
An unusually small figurehead a quarter the usual size. The crowned figure wears a yellow tunic with one arm outstretched as if in supplication and the other holding a trident. She possibly represents Britannia although the vessel was named after the consort of William IV. At the base of the carving along the ship’s bow there are two shields with the British flag.
This figure is a bust portraying the character of Rolla from the 1799 play by August von Kotzebue ‘Pizarro; the Spaniards in Peru; or the Death of Rolla’— Rolla is the heroic Peruvian general. He was played by Kemble, who is shown in this role, dressed in a semi-classical style, in contemporary prints including one by Robert Dighton. The bust is draped in a red tunic with a badge at the centre (probably originally intended to represent a sunburst). The base of the carving is decorated with foliage.
Union flag in rope border with a crown above and the Royal Arms below.
Three-quarter-length female bust, her hair tied back. She wears a headdress, a tightly fitted mid-Victorian bodice with a pinked collar and a full skirt. The figure terminates in scrolls with a petrel carved in relief on the sides.
This male figurehead is a portrayal of Orestes, son of Agamemnon and king of Mycenae and Argos. He avenged his father’s death by killing his mother. The clean shaven male bust wears a helmet with armour protecting his upper arms over which is draped a classical tunic.
The figurehead is a bust representing the goddess Minerva, the daughter of Jupiter and Roman goddess, patron of war and the arts. The figure is helmeted and wears scaled armour. The base of the bust is draped in carved cloth.
This male bust figurehead wears classical armour over a shirt and a plumed helmet. He has a moustache. In the original sketch by Hellyer & son, the figurehead depicted an Indian man wearing a striped shirt and turban.
The figurehead is presumed to have been a bust with intricate tropical fruit carving on the trailboards. The African male nude figure was designed by Edward Hellyer & Son in 1812 and forwarded to be made for the sum of £6. All that survives is the head after an incident with a bonfire in Brazil in the 1860s.
The existing figurehead is a draped male bust apparently wearing armour. He wears a long curly wig and wreath of laurel around his head. Pulvertaft suggests this is George III but it appears to represent an early 18th century personage such as the Duke of Marlborough or George I. It has been suggested that this figurehead may have been replaced during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901).
A small bust of a medieval knight in a plumed helmet. The back is flat.
Bow decorations with the Royal arms on the starboard side and Prince Albert’s arms on the port side, within a scroll carved with acanthus leaves, roses, shamrocks and thistles.
A small, flat backed bust, apparently depicting Queen Anne, crowned and wearing the Order of the Garter. She also wears a necklace of large pearls and ropes of pearls in her hair.
A bow scroll including a small, standing albatross.
This small female figure wears a tight bodice in blue and cream with a blue and gold hat. At the opening of her blouse a red rose is carved. The bust figure is leaning forward with her skirt falling over the base of the carving, a navy blue and gold scroll. In the Fire-Engine House of Devonport Dockyard recording she is described as ‘Bust of a young woman inclining forward, very pretty face. Brown Bodice with red rose at breast opening’. This description shows that she was repainted at some point.
This figure is a representation of Neptune, the god of water and sea from Roman mythology. The male bust has long black hair and a beard. He wears an eastern crown decorated with pearls. The figure is nude, draped at the midriff with a blue cloth. The base of the carving is plain with scroll detailing.
A full-length male figure in traditional Scottish dress of red, white and green. The kilted soldier is supposedly a representation of the city of Glasgow. He stands, about to draw his sword with his right arm as if in battle.
HMS 'Espiegle’s' name takes its origins from the french, L’Espiègle meaning ‘frolicsome’. The female, three-quarter-length figure wears a green full length dress with blue and gold details. On her wrists are carved gold, jewel encrusted bangles. She also wears a domino mask, the type worn for masquerades.
This male turbaned bust is presumably a representation of Caradoc, a knight of the round table. However, others have suggested it could also be a representation of the leader of the Welsh during the Roman invasion of AD 43. Due to the style of the carving and the trailboard carvings having not survived it is difficult to tell. The young male bust wears a simple belted red tunic with a gold trimmed neckline. A white turban covers the figures brown hair. The image shown here is from circa 1983 and shows the figurehead with dark skin and wearing a white tunic and turban. Perhaps it's association with seamen from India that resulted in him being painted with a black face, for this was his colour when he returned to Portsmouth in 1983.
This figurehead is a representation of Cleopatra. The half length figure is draped in a blue tunic, matching her blue hair. The tunic is draped over her right shoulder leaving her left shoulder and breast uncovered.
This is a representation of a classical warrior in scaled armour and helmet. On the breast plate there is a carved lion’s head in gold. The armour is belted at the waist of the bust in gold and red. The fluted sleeves are also trimmed with gold. Underneath the armour the warrior wears a ruffled collar shirt. The helmet is black with gold detail. What is unusual about this male bearded bust is that it was designed to stand bolt upright on the ship’s bow. This is uncommon in figurehead design and unique for the NMRN collection, where the carving now resides.
This moustached Indian male figurehead wears a red beaded and jewelled turban on his head. His white tunic is believed to have been striped but the paint has worn off. Over his tunic he wears a chain of office. The bust is draped in a blue carved fabric.
This unusual figurehead is a depiction of a smiling, golden sun.
This figurehead replaced one of the Duke of Wellington on the ship formerly known as HMS 'Waterloo'. Unlike the 1786 figurehead of 'Bellerophon', this bust is much simpler. It is a portrayal of the Greek hero, 'Bellerophon', a warrior. He fought the Chimera and also caught the winged horse Pegasus, using Minerva’s magic. The male figure wears a black and gold plumed helmet and gold and black armour.
This compact figurehead, described in the Admiralty catalogue of 1911 as the ‘Figure of a Rajah (bust)’ is an Indian male figure. A red turban adorns his head with the bust draped in a white tunic. This carving is very compact and does not incorporate the folds of simulated cloth that usually wrap the base of the torso. The turban was once white but the restorer changed this detail to red at some point. His expressive face is comically moustached and he wears gold drop earrings.
This small bust female figurehead is a representation of a fairy. The three-quarter-length figure wears a white and blue/green dress and was presumably placed at the bowsprit of the yacht. The figure is crowned with long brown hair and her dress drapes down over the base of the carving.
This delicate figurehead is the bust of a blonde female, presumably the representation of an elf. She wears a white and dark green dress, with blue detail on the chest. She has long wavy blonde hair and is wearing a light brown hat. The figurehead is looking upwards.
This is a carving of a black eagle perched upon a scroll of foliage. The eagles wings are outspread as it leans forward revealing a curved gold cross on the underside of the left wing. Each feather is meticulously carved. On the chest of the bird there is a gold and red Prussian crown, which is derived from the Prussian royal coat of arms. The figurehead is painted black with gold feet.
This female bust figurehead is a representation of Calypso, the sea nymph who lived on Ogygia, the island where Odysseus was shipwrecked when returning from Troy as described in in The Odyssey. Calypso forced Odysseus to remain on the island for seven years before setting him free. From the design by Hellyer & Son (1843) and an 1938 photograph we can see that the original figurehead was nude to the waist. However, the existing figurehead today is draped with a blue tunic covering her left breast and her long brown hair almost concealing the other. It is not recorded whether this was added to cover up damage to the carving or as a display of modesty in the training establishment for boy seamen. Bulrushes are carved on the lower part of the figure, alongside other floral and foliage carving. The carving was described by ‘The Mariners Mirror’ in 1913 as:
“A well-developed female bust to the waist, a smirking expression on a well satisfied, rather pretty face. Waving hair in Grecian style; a long curl descending on the breast on either side. A black bead necklace, apparently oak-galls, graduated on a loose wire, with small black Latin cross as a pendant. Loose brass ear-rings; below the waist a small lyre.”
Figurehead and trailboard carving. Calliope was one of the nine Greek mythological daughters of Zeus and muse of epic poetry. The half-length figure wears a white dress with gold belt detail below the bust. She holds a book in her left hand and stylus in her right. The figure also wears a gold diadem.
This female three quarter length bust wears a navy blue tunic, falling off the right shoulder to reveal her breast. She also wears a mustard and blue bulrush wreath, which suggests that the ship was named after a river of which the figure is a personification.