Prize money

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Prize money was the payment made by the Admiralty to the officers and crew involved in the capture of a prize ship. It was based on the value of the captured ship and its cargo which was either sold or bought by the navy for use as a warship.

The purpose of prize money was to reward the ship's company for the capture of enemy ships. All ships in sight of the capture were included in the distribution and the Admiral commanding the squadron received a significant share.

The total sum of prize money was distributed in eighths according to a formula which was changed in 1808 during the period of the Canon.

Prior to 1808

After 1808

  • Admiral: One third of the captain's share
  • Captain: Two eighths (less the admiral's third)
  • Wardroom officers: One eighth
  • Wardroom and Standing Warrant officers: One eighth
  • Crew, based on their ranks: One half

Head money

Head money was similar to prize money and was added to the amount distributed. It consisted of £5 per head of the enemy crew aboard a captured warship.

In the Canon

Jack Aubrey is often known as 'Lucky Jack" because of his early success in garnering prize money as commander of HMS Sophie. He also deplores the fact that captains have lost part of their share to the admiral.

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