THE ROYAL NAVY: England's Wooden Walls
During the 17th century, led by admirals Robert Blake, George Monck and others, the Royal Navy's 'Mighty Wooden Walls' faced off with great Dutch Admirals in decisive battles that sustained Britain's naval might. However, reforms initiated by France's brilliant Minister of Marine, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, were threatening Great Britain’s dominance. The French built better designed, faster ships, and trained better sailors than the British, and during the American War for Independence, admirals such as Francois de Grasse and Pierre Suffren won astonishing victories over the Royal Navy that, ultimately, helped to free America and threatened to topple England from the pinnacle of naval power. But a little-known Scottish landlubber named John Clerk stimulated a revolution in naval tactics, and an incomparable naval leader took the helm of HMS Victory, to re-establish Britain's mastery of the waves.