Forty Thieves

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The "Forty Thieves" was the popular name for the Surveyors’ Class (or "Armada Class") of 74-gun line-of-battle ships ordered for the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, their pejorative nickname deriving from their supposed high cost. Twenty-nine of the vessels were built in privately-owned shipyards and eleven in Admiralty Dockyards (although several of these were not completed until after the end of the Napoleonic Wars). While construction quality undoubtedly varied (especially among those from private yards), the class probably did not deserve its poor reputation. In the end, the Surveyors’ Class proved to be the most numerous single design of 74-gun ships ever built for the Royal Navy. The ships might have earned a better name had they served during the era of the great fleet actions earlier during the wars; as it was, many of the class served until the end of the era of sailing warships and some were even converted to steam engines; one ship was not broken up until after the beginning of the 20th century.

In the Canon

Jack Aubrey’s fictional HMS Worcester is depicted as an old and worn-out member of the "Forty Thieves", in fact the first of the class was not launched until 1809, so the Worcester of The Ionian Mission would actually have been a fairly new ship, not long out of the builder’s yard.

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