The prestige ships of the British Navy were the three-deckers, carefully and lavishly built by the Royal Dockyards and requiring many years of work. Rarely commissioned in peace-time, and preserved with expensive overhauls and rebuilding, the few First Rates served as flagships, and they were the strongest units of the line of battle, even if they were very difficult to handle. Each 100- gun ship had an established complement of 850 men in addition to extras assigned when used as flagships. HMS Royal Sovereign was a first rate shipoftheline of the Royal Navy, the lead ship of the class with the same name; it was the largest warship in the world at the time of her construction. The ship gained a magnificent record of service, notably at the Glorious First of June and at Trafalgar, where she led the Lee column and fired the first British broadsides of the day, simultaneously raking the 112-gun Spanish Santa Ana to port and 74-gun French Le Fougueux to starboard, breaking through the line of Allied vessels.
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