Sunday, 16 November 2008


  1. A person with an important title but no real authority.
  2. A carved figure on the prow of a ship.
The carved figure on a ship looks important but has no real power either. They were often used to indicate the name of the ship, and the power and wealth of the owner. Contrary to some popular belief, they aren't always naked women.

The following can be found at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

This is from HMS Trafalgar, a 120 gun first rate ship of the line, built at Woolwich in 1841 and named after Nelson's famous victory.

The figurehead from HMS Benbow, a 72 gun third rate ship of the line, launched at Rotherhithe in 1813.

The bow of HMS Victory with its figurehead which consists of two cupids supporting the royal coat of arms surmounted with the royal crown. The arms bear the Norman French inscription of the Order of the Garter: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. Translated this means: Shame to him who evil thinks.

A female figurehead with a rather loose dress.

Another female whose dress seems to be largely missing. She's missing an arm too.

Once long ago I sailed the sea
At the prow of a sailing ship was I,
Bearing the brunt of crested wave,
Fighting the seas when winds were high.

This chap can't be a figurehead I'm sure, but he looks much more fun than the others - not too worried about rules. I don't think he can be British, insufficient reserve. :)

All you could possibly want to know about figureheads can be found at The Figurehead Archives.
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  1. Thank you for this delightful post, and thank you for not including more naked women, However the one you did include was as good as it gets - missing an arm and thus unable to fight off amorous wooden pirates. :)

    You did good, I think. :)

  2. Those are awesome looking! Thanks for sharing them!

  3. In Scotland Honi soit qui mal y pense is often translated as:

    Whaw daur meddle wi' me!

  4. @Max, the lady in question could run off hoardes of pirates, or she would if she had legs - she was e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s! But the pirate was my size :) And I hope you noted the motto....

    @Connie, thanks :)

    @Elaine, sounds impressive!

  5. I enjoyed doing it Dragonstar. :)

  6. The last figurehead reminds me of one I saw on a trip to Key West, Florida.

    Great photos!


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