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Richelieu, a fast battleship commissioned in 1940
Richelieu, a fast battleship commissioned in 1940

Between 1889 and 1949, the French Navy built a series of battleships, comprising pre-dreadnought, dreadnought, and fast ships (example pictured), ultimately totaling thirty-four vessels: twenty-three pre-dreadnoughts, seven dreadnoughts, and four fast battleships. Another seven – five dreadnoughts and two fast battleships – were cancelled in various stages of construction (one of which was converted into an aircraft carrier while being built) and seven more were cancelled before work began. The first battleship construction program followed a period of confusion in strategic thinking in France over the optimal shape of the fleet. At the time, the French naval command consisted of competing factions, with one that favored building fleets of capital ships, continuing the program of traditional ironclad warships that had dominated the fleet in the 1860s and 1870s. The other major faction preferred the Jeune École doctrine, which emphasized the use of cheap torpedo boats to destroy expensive capital ships. During the period, naval construction decisions often depended on the minister of the Navy in office at the time. (Full list...)

Today's featured picture

Jane Digby

Jane Digby (3 April 1807 – 11 August 1881) was an English aristocrat, famed for her remarkable love life and lifestyle. She had four husbands and many lovers, including King Ludwig I of Bavaria, his son King Otto of Greece, Bohemian nobleman and Austrian statesman Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg, and Greek general Christodoulos Hatzipetros. She died in Damascus, Syria, as the wife of Arab sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, who was twenty years her junior.

This picture is an undated portrait miniature of Digby by William Charles Ross. She is seated in front of hanging drapery, wearing a green dress with amber and green shoulder rolls, with a jewelled sash, sapphire and emerald pendant necklace, and neckline edged with white lace. Her blonde hair is partially curled and upswept, and dressed with strands of pearls.

Painting credit: William Charles Ross

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