Gloire (1859)

The world’s first ironclad

French Navy France 1858-1880, Broadside Ironclad

Origin of the ironclad concept

The naval staff under the 2nd French Empire (Napoleon III) was concerned after the declining state of the French Imperial Navy after the Napoleonic era crippling losses of Trafalgar, Aboukir and many other battles, plus captured ships, leaving quite a modest force to Louis XVIII. Some experienced admirals and officers which left France during the Revolution returned, and those of the Imperial Navy were seen with suspicion until they proved their new loyalty to the the regime. After the 1830 revolution and constitutional monarchy, some efforts were put into built large, modern ships of the line whereas the French Empire continued to grow its industrial output, now accessing new resources thanks to its colonial possessions. However constitutional King Louis-Philippe (ruled 1830–1848) was not keen to maintain a powerful navy and that keeping 20 of its 40 1st line wooden ship on dry land, they will not loose their value in case of war. But it was no subsitute for training nor creating a pool of able officers.
Under the French 2nd Empire (14 January 1852), a plan to relaunch the Navy was ordered by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, president since 1848 after the last revolution. The first product of this renewal was a prototype, the world’s first steam ship of the line, Napoléon. This success led to more conversions and reinvested interest in the navy, let still without any strategic playbook. In fact the new fleet was unable to protect the country in 1870…

Lessons of the Crimean War

Then the Crimean War started in 1853, France committed the bulk of its fleet in joint operations with the British, not only in the Black sea, but around the world, from the Baltic to Vladivostok. By dealing with Russian forts what became clear is the vulnerability of unprotected ships of the line against the latest high explosive and incendiary projectiles.

That is until the French deployed the Devastation class ironclad floating batteries. They were built specifically for the attack of Russian coastal fortifications in this war with ten ordered, but only five completed in French shipyards. Only the first three managed to take part in the attack on Kinburn in 1855, at close range reducing the fort to rumble, taking many hits that achieve nothing. These 1,600–1,674 t (1,575–1,648 long tons) 53 x 13.35 x 2.65–2.8 m ships were powered by a 150 nhp Le Creuzot steam engine, achieving 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph). For long range crossings they had a sail plan on three masts, with 350 m2 (3,800 sq ft) or sails and a crew of 282. They were armed with sixteen 50-pounder smoothbore guns and two swivel-mounted 12-pounder guns and were protected by iron plating over the whole lenght of the hull above water 110 mm (4.3 in) in thickness.
They were judged so valuable that all five also were used in the Adriatic by June–July 1859 (Italian war).

The crimean war concluded by the allied objectives gained, a peace treaty that basically saved the Ottoman Empire. But the French Naval Staff concluded two things from the conflict. One, a confirmation that steam power combined with a screw propeller was the future, as shown by the intervention of Napoléon, towing a crippled French man-o-war out of harm when there was no wind. And the Devastation class showed than an armoured ship was imperveous to battery fire, and conversely could provoke untold levels of damage to an unprotected target. But the latter has been designed not as pure floating batteries. They were almost rectangular in shape, slow, unwieldy, short ranged, and completely unable to do fleet work.

The idea of a sea-going Ironclad.

Engineers, notably Breton Henri Dupuy de Lôme (which created the Napoleon steamship), prophetized that a single sea-going broadside ironclad, screw-propelled, could deal with entire fleets. And for this it only needed a single battery, not a two or three deck battery, making it cheaper to build. This was tempting for Napoléon III, which was not thinking of the Royal Navy but rather to the Austrian Navy in his Mediterranean chess game. However the first French sea-going ironclad would have the effect of launching a new Anglo-French naval arms race anyway (see later).

Nevertheless in 1957, since the concept was untested, Dupuy de Lôme requested to start with an existing Frigate, which battery deck would be compatible with his design. The man was gifted with invention, creating with his Friend Gustave Zede, the first electric operational submarine in 1888, and the first armoured railway carriage batteries or a revolutionary airship in 1870.
Jules Verne‘s model for some of its fictional engineer characters.

In general, the solution was in response to new developments of naval gun technology and particulalry (and ironically) the French-designed Paixhans guns as well as British latest rifled guns, using explosive shells that were now able to reduce wooden ships as matchsticks. Many of the design’s origins also layed in the ironclad floating batteries used in Crimea. After negociating with Toulon, about to lay down a two-decks frigate, he had plans redrawn, notably to reinforce the wooden hull considerably in order to have armoured plates attached, a revision of the waterline and other mosifications. When plans were approved over a new 5,630-ton base, the ship was eventually ordered by the ministry and laid down at Mourillon Dock on 4 March 1858.

⚠ Note: This post is in writing. Completion expected in 2024.

Design of the Gloire

Hull and general design

Armour protection layout





Author’s illustration.

⚙ specifications (1860)

Displacement 5,618 t (5,529 long tons)
Dimensions 78.22 x 17 x 8.48 m (256 ft 8 in x 55 ft 9 in x 27 ft 10 in) hold 10.67 m (35 ft)
Propulsion 1× Shaft HRCR-steam engine, 8 oval boilers, 2,500 ihp (1,900 kW)
Speed 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Range 4,000 km (2,500 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
Armament 36 × 164 mm (6.5 in) Mle 1858 rifled muzzle-loading guns
Protection Hull 120 mm (4.7 in), Conning tower 100 mm (3.9 in)
Crew 570 officers and enlisted men

Read More/Src




Model Kits


Legacy: The Anglo-French naval industrial arms race

xxxx warrior

“La Courronne”, near sister-ship of Gloire was built on a brand new plan on a two deck configuration, unlike Gloire, converted.

The started for this

Career of Gloire

Author: dreadnaughtz

Naval Encyclopedia webmaster. Find more on the "about" page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *