Naval history

Triumph and disaster in the War of Jenkins’ Ear

It all began in 1731 when Robert Jenkins, the captain of the Rebecca, had his ear sliced off by Juan de León Fandiño of the Spanish patrol boat La Isabela. Storming the British brig in the Caribbean, Fandiño accused Jenkins of smuggling sugar from Spanish colonies. He would cut King George’s ear off too, Fandiño threatened, were he to be caught stealing from Spain. Testifying before parliament in 1738, Jenkins produced the severed ear (pickled in a jar), which is why the nine years of fighting that followed became known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear. In retaliation, the British sent a squadron of five men-of-war and a scouting sloop

For Jack Tar, going to sea was the ultimate adventure

Seafaring and the rule of the waves — as the song would have it — was an integral part of Britain’s sense of identity for centuries, a fire in the national imagination arguably first sparked by the exploits of Sir Francis Drake and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, rising to full flame with the Battle of Trafalgar and the expansion and consolidation of the Empire, and finally dwindling to embers as imperial ambitions failed and ownership of the seas passed to the United States. It’s a story often told, and known almost too well. But this is not the story that the journalist-historian Stephen Taylor tells. Rather than taking