The 74 is a supremely practical naval weapon and regarded as the best balance between defensive strength and manoeuvrability. A two-deck design, it is strong enough to mount very heavy 32-pounder cannons on its lower gun deck. These, when combined with the upper deck’s 18-pounders, give it a devastating broadside, although this is best delivered at close quarters.
The French developed the 74-gun ship concept in the mid-18th Century. The design was so good that other navies lost no time in copying it for themselves or taking French ships in action. Many French vessels were made from green timber that “worked” in heavy seas and therefore leaked; the French accepted this because they believed the green timber made the ships resilient. British 74s were well built too, although there was a regrettable tendency to save money by recycling timbers, along with their woodworm and rot, from older vessels!
The last 74, HMS Implacable, was finally scuttled in 1949! Built in 1800 by the French, and then captured by the British at Trafalgar in 1805, she stayed in active service until 1842. She ended her days as a coal hulk.