In 1856, on this day the disasterous foreign and military policies of the British Government were savagely exposed by an opportunistic cross-Channel invasion from the new steam-powered French Navy.
Allies in DisarrayNapoleon III's anglophobe ministers had encouraged the British to strike the Russian fortress at Kronstadt, a naval campaign that would guarantee victory in the Crimean War. And so an armada of 250 Royal Navy ships, many especially built under orders, asssembled in the Solent and sailed for Northern Russia. Meanwhile, Napoleon III (pictured) travelled in person to lead his troops besieging Sevastapol.
In his absence, a political convulsion in France brought to power military and naval commanders who had served under Bonaparte, and who recognised a once in a lifetime opportunity to reverse the injustice of his defeats at Trafalgar and Waterloo. Because many of those admirals and generals had participated as young men in those very battles and were burning to get even with "perfidious albion". Until his departure for Russia, these hotheads had only been held in check by the Emperor's presence in France.