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Océan-class ship of the line

1/48 scale model of the Océan class 120-gun ship of the line Commerce de Marseille, on display at Marseille naval museum; and Half-hull of a 120-gun ship of the line on display at Brest naval museum.
Class overview
Name: Océan
Builders: Plans by Jacques-Noël Sané
Operators:  French Navy
Preceded by: Bretagne
Succeeded by: Commerce de Paris class
Subclasses: Souverain class
In commission: 1788–1882
Completed: 16
General characteristics
Type: ship of the line

5,098 tonnes (before conversion to steam),

Ville de Paris in 1858: 5,302 tonnes

65.18 metres (196.6 French feet),

Ville de Paris in 1858: 69.05 meters
Beam: 16.24 meters (50 French feet)
Draught: 8.12 meters (25 French feet)
Propulsion: sail, 3,265 m²
Speed: 10 knots
Complement: 1,079 - 1,130 men
Armour: Timber
Notes: Ships in class include: Commerce de Marseille, Océan, Orient, Majestueux, Impérial, Austerlitz, Wagram, Royal-Louis, Montebello, Héros, Souverain, Trocadéro, Friedland, Ville-de-Paris, Louis-XIV, Roi-de-Rome (never launched)

The Océan-class ships of the line were a series of 16 first-rate 118-gun ships of the line of the French Navy, designed by engineer Jacques-Noël Sané. Fifteen were completed from 1788 on, with the last one entering service in 1854. The first of the series was the Commerce de Marseille.

The 5,100 ton 118-gun type was the largest type of ship built up to then, besting the Spanish ship Santísima Trinidad. Up to 1790 Great Britain, the largest of the battle fleet nations, had not built especially large battleships because the need for large numbers of ships had influenced its battleship policy. The French initiated a new phase in battleship competition when they laid down a large number of three-deckers of around 5,000 tons.[1]

Along with the 74-gun of the Téméraire type and the 80-gun of the Tonnant type, the Océan 120-gun type was to become one of the three French standard types of battleships during the war period 1793 to 1815.

These were the most powerful ships of the Napoleonic Wars and a total of ten served during that time. These ships, however, were quite expensive in terms of building materials, artillery and manpower and so were reserved for admirals as their fleet flagships.

Some of the ships spent 40 years on the stocks and were still in service in 1860, three of them having been equipped with auxiliary steam engines in the 1850s.


  • Design 1
  • Ships of the first group 2
  • Ships of the second (modified) group 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The design for the first 118-gun three-decker warships originated in 1782 with a design prepared by the shipwright Antoine Groignard. Carrying an extra pair of cannon on each deck (including the quarterdeck), this raised the firepower of these capital ships from 110 to 118 guns, including an unprecedented thirty-two 36-pounder guns in the lowest tier. The French Navy ordered two of these, to be built at Toulon and at Brest, the shipwright entrusted with the construction of the latter ship being Jacques-Noël Sané. However, with the onset of peace following the conclusion of the American War of Independence, these two ships were cancelled in 1783, along with several others. The concept was revived in 1785 when Sané, in conjunction with Jean-Charles de Borda, developed the design of the Commerce de Marseille, marking a leap in the evolution of ship of the line design, when the first two ships were re-ordered at Toulon and Brest. The hull was simple with straight horizontal lines, minimal ornaments, and tumblehome. The poop deck was almost integral the gunwale, and the forecastle was minimal.

Scale model of an Océan-class ship, including the inner disposition of the lower decks, on display at the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne.

They were highly successful as gun platforms and sailers, a fact which indicates that great improvements had been made in warship design since the late 17th century when battleships of less than half their size were regarded as unwieldy giants which ought to be brought into harbour before the September gales began. However, at least the first two of this class appear to have had less strength than necessary - one (Commerce de Marseille) which was taken by the British in 1793, was never used by them, and the other (by now renamed Ocean) had to be extensively rebuilt after a decade. This indicates that the growth in size of wooden warships caused structural problems which only gradually were solved.[1]

It is interesting to note that though these ships were costly, their design changed to become even larger in terms of overall tonnage with the introduction of a second (modified) group in 1806. Mounting 18-pounder cannon on her third gun deck (unheard of in French three-decked ships of the period), the Austerlitz set the example for all of the French 118 gun ships to follow.

Ships of the first group

(listed under their names at time of launching, and in order of their launching dates)

Aft pannel of Souverain, on display at Toulon naval museum.
Builder: Toulon
Ordered: 7 July 1782
Laid down: September 1786
Launched: 7 August 1788
Completed: October 1790
Fate: captured by the English in Toulon on the 29 August 1793 and commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Commerce de Marseille. Converted to a floating prison in February 1799, and scrapped in 1802.
Builder: Brest
Laid down: 12 August 1786 as États de Bourgogne
Launched: 8 November 1790
Completed: December 1790
Fate: renamed Montagne on 22 October 1793 and then Peuple on 25 May 1795 and Océan on 30 May 1795, disarmed in 1854 and stricken in 1855.[2]
Builder: Toulon
Ordered: 21 November 1789
Laid down: May 1790 as Dauphin Royal
Launched: 20 July 1791
Completed: August 1793
Fate: renamed Sans Culotte on 29 September 1792 and then Orient on 21 May 1795; blew up at the Battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798.
Builder: Rochefort
Laid down: 1794 as République française (renamed February 1803)
Launched: 1802
Completed: August, 1803
Fate: Scrapped in 1839
  • Vengeur: laid down as Peuple at Brest in October 1793, renamed to Vengeur in July 1794, launched 1 October 1803 and completed February 1804. Renamed Impérial in March 1805. Captured during the Battle of San Domingo on the 6th of February 1806 and destroyed by fire.
  • Four further ships of this class were ordered in 1793 and 1794, but were never proceeded with.

Ships of the second (modified) group

(listed under their names at time of launching, and in order of their launching dates)

  • Austerlitz: laid down April 1806 at Toulon; launched 15 August 1808 and completed August 1809. Scrapped in 1837.
  • Wagram: laid down April 1809 as Monarque at Toulon; renamed Wagram February 1810; launched 1 July 1810 and completed March 1811. Scrapped in 1836.
  • Impérial: launched 1811 at Toulon, completed 1812, renamed to Royal-Louis in April 1814, renamed Impérial March 1815, renamed Royal Louis July 1815, condemned 1825 at Toulon and scrapped.
Montebello, circa 1850
  • Montebello: laid down in 1810, launched in 1812 at Toulon. Transferred to the gunnery school in 1860 and to the navigation school in 1865. Stricken in 1867. Scrapped in 1889.[2]
  • Héros: launched in 1813 at Toulon. Scrapped in 1828.
  • Souverain: laid down in Toulon in 1813, launched in 1819. Converted to sail/steam and entered service in 1857. Used as gunnery training vessel from 1860. Stricken in 1867. Hulk scrapped in 1905.[2]
  • Trocadéro: laid down in 1813 at Toulon as Formidable, renamed to Trocadéro in 1823, launched in 1824. Destroyed in an accidental fire in 1836.
  • Friedland: laid down as Inflexible in May 1812, renamed Duc de Bordeaux in May 1821 and then Friedland in August 1830. Launched on 4 April 1840 at Cherbourg. Entered service in 1840. Conversion to dual sail/steam ship started in 1857 but was abandoned and ship laid up without engine in 1858. Stricken in 1864. hulk renamed Colosse in 1865 and scrapped in 1879.[2]
  • Ville-de-Paris: laid down in 1806 at Rochefort as Marengo; renamed to Ville-de-Vienne in 1807, Comte-d'Artois in 1814, and Ville-de-Paris in 1830. Launched in 1850. Entered Service in July, 1851. Converted to a dual sail/steam ship in 1858, engine removed and converted to transport in 1870. Stricken in 1882; hulk used as floating barracks until scrapped in 1898.[2]
  • Louis-XIV: laid down as Tonnant in 1811 at Rochefort; renamed to Louis-XIV in 1828, launched in 1854. Entered service in 1854. Converted to a dual sail/steam ship in 1857. Transferred to the gunnery training school in 1861. Out of service 1873, stricken in 1880, scrapped in 1882.[2]
  • Roi-de-Rome: laid down in 1811 at Brest. Cancelled in 1816 without having been launched.


  • Winfield, Rif and Roberts, Stephen (2015) French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786-1861: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-204-2.
  1. ^ a b Jan Glete: Navies and Nations, 1993 ISBN 91-22-01565-5
  2. ^ a b c d e f (French) Dossiers marine (retrieved 26.09.2007)

External links

  • 118-gun Ship of the line
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