© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

Burning of the 'Ocean Monarch', emigrant ship, 24 Augus 1848

Possibly by François d'Orléans, Prince de Joinville

From the collection


Burning of the 'Ocean Monarch', emigrant ship, 24 Augus 1848


Heightened with white; Technique includes scratching out. The barque 'Ocean Monarch' is shown in this watercolour lying in the waters off of Great Orme's Head, Wales, as a fire blazes in her stern. Her anchors have been dropped, and one of her masts is being consumed. The majority of her passengers are crowded towards the bow to escape the flames; some are clambering down the lines in an attempt to reach the ships' boats. In the right foreground is the stern of one of the rescue boats, the Brazilian steam frigate Affonso. The yacht 'Queen of the Ocean' is in the middle of the 'Ocean Monarch' and the 'Affonso', and the paddle steamer 'Prince of Wales' is in the background. The Welsh coastline can be seen in the far background.The 'Ocean Monarch' departed from the port of Liverpool on 24 August 1848. She was bound for Boston and carried approximately 360 passengers. At midday, approximately 50 miles from Liverpool, a fire broke out on board. (The exact cause has been disputed: at the time, conflicting reports stated that either a passenger mistaking a wooden ventilator for a chimney or the lighting of a candle near a store of alcohol was the cause.) Captain Murdock ordered the anchors to be dropped to steady the ship. After the ensuing panic from the passengers, he also ordered the ships' spars thrown overboard to provide those who had jumped into the sea with something to cling to. The Brazilian steam frigate 'Affonso', with the Prince de Joinville on board, came to the aid of 'Ocean Monarch', along with yacht 'Queen of the World', steamer 'Prince of Wales', and packet ship 'New World'. Out of the approximate 360 passengers on board, nearly 180 lost their lives. On the day following the burning of the 'Ocean Monarch', the newspaper Liverpool Mercury published an account of the tragedy, stating: "The scene on nearing the vessel was most harrowing and appalling. . .in despair women jumped overboard with their offspring in their arms, to rise no more .. no pen can describe the horrible scene, as flames continued to rage with increased fury.' If this image is by de Joinville (1818-1900), and the reason for that existing attribution is not now clear, then it would be an early example from his English period of residence following exile from France in 1848.
Credit Line: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London


TWW try to keep the information on this page up to date. However, for the most accurate information you should always consult the owning collection

From the Watercolour World


Irish Sea


Location Accuracy




Image Credit

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Image Licence

Spotted an error? Let us know: enq[email protected]colourworld.org

Leave a comment

Do you know more about this painting and the story behind it? Please share your thoughts below.