Search This Blog

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Prize Money and Pensions in the Royal Navy of Nelson's time

Prize money and Pensions
References: Naval Chronicle

A few more random pieces of information concerning the finances in the Royal Navy of Nelson’s time.  The way in which the distribution of prize money was calculated changed in 1808. I have included a brief list of ships and their costs as a rough guide to the value for which they might be condemned for prizes if anyone wants to calculate what each party might get for their capture.  Any cargo of merchant ships also counted for the calculation of prize money too, which tended to keep peculation at a minimum – because stealing from a valuable cargo was stealing from oneself and one’s shipmates [who would not be amused]. 
Peter over on Nelson and his World has pointed out that not only were there severe penalties for peculation but that sometimes the seizure of cargo was ruled to be illegal and it was handed back without prize money; neutral ships could not be taken legally as prizes.  I should too have made it clear that the cargo of enemy merchant shipping did constitute the greater amount of prize money, and I should have included the mention of head money, of £5 per head of crew of a warship captured.  I mention this in my William Price stories so I am dim to have not mentioned it here!
If you want to read his very knowlegeable comments in full, and more details on values of prizes find them at

Prize Money
Before 1808:

1/8th for the Flag Officer (or Captain if sailing under Admiralty orders)
1/4th for the Captain(s)
1/8th for the Lieutenants, Surgeon(s), Master(s) and RM Captains
1/8th for the Wardroom ranked Warrant Officers, RM Lieutenants, Chaplains, Secretary to the Flag Officer
1/8th to the Midshipmen, junior WOs, senior mates and RM Sergeants
1/4th for the remainder

After 1808:

1/4th for the Captains and Flag Officers
1/8th for Lts, Surgeons, Masters and RM Capts
1/8th for the Snr WOs etc.
1/2 for the rest

Cost of ships

Schooner 16 guns £1,370
1st Rate Victory 100 guns 3,500 tons £63, 176
1st rate Royal sovereign 100 guns 2193 tons  £67, 458 built 1786
2nd rate 84 - 98 guns
3rd rate64 - 74 guns
3rd rate Bellona 74 guns  £43, 322
3rd rate Agamemnon 64 guns 1384 tons 491 men & officers £20, 579 built 1778
5th rate Frigate 36 guns 350 tons  £8,200

a protection cost 4/6d [to enable a seaman to claim American citizenship and therefore avoid being pressed; some were genuine and some were not]

Bounty Bounty was still to be paid by an order Nov 1814 to encourage volunteers, the King’s Shilling. However it was a sight more than a shilling and could be many pounds for a trained seaman from a merchant ship. 

Sick Pay from 1797 additional payout during time wounded on top of daily pay.
Petty officers and able seamen + 5/6d per month
Landsmen + 4/6d per month
Marine sergeants, corporals and drummers + 2d per day
Marine privates + 2¼ d per day
If declared incurable shall receive a pension from the Chest at Chatham or be admitted to Royal Hospital Greenwich.

Gratuities for Death From 1799
Widow: husbands full pay for a year
Orphans inc. posthumous: each 1/3 proportion of widow unless married
If no widow, if mother is widow takes widow’s share if over 50.
This extends to officers of fire ships and down to 4th rate including those killed while off their ship or who die later of wounds.

Widow’s pensions
Widow of….
flag officer

captain with rank rear admiral

Captain if more than 3 years post
Captain if less than 3 years post
Lieutenants returned with rank of commander
Surgeon or master
Boatswains, gunners, carpenters and hospital mates
2nd master of a yacht or Master of naval vessel warranted by Navy Board

Marine officers widows


Lieutenant Colonels


Captains of Marine

First and second lieutenants


  1. This is a terrific resource, Sarah. I will tell a couple of naval forums about it.

  2. Hi there!
    Do you know what costs a merchant ship between 1800 and 1820? A vague number would help me as well :-)