Ships like Princess Louisa were the largest, and the most beautiful, in the British merchant marine and were only reveled by the larger galleons of Spain and Portugal. They had evolved during the 130 years that England had been trading with the East and were now big, but graceful ships; strong, fast, well-armed and eminently suited for the long and dangerous passages they had to make.
But treacherous currents, combined with inaccurate charts, sealed Princess Louisa's fate in the shallow shoals of the Cape Verde Islands. Like most trade ships of her day, the trade coinage she was loaded with were Spanish, not British. This Princess Louisa silver 2 Reale is a rare example of the famed "Piece of Eight" of this era; deeply struck, beautifully dated, and with a stunning cross and pillars and wave design.
Princess Louisa set sail from Portsmouth on her last voyage on 20 March 1743 in company with another East Indiaman, Winchester, commanded by Captain Gabriel Steward, 26 smaller merchantmen and, since this was a time when England was at war with Spain, a naval escort in the form of the 70-gun two-decker warship, H.M.S. Sterling Castle. However, the early stages of the voyage were uneventful and once clear of the cruising grounds of the Spanish privateers, the two East Indiamen parted from their consorts and sailed south towards the Cape Verde Islands, Winchester struggling to keep up with Princess Louisa who was the better sailor.
But she would never leave the Cape Verde Islands. Lost on the breakers, her last act of heroism was to sound the alarm, and save the crew of Winchester. This rare two Reale is a true piece of global maritime history.
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