Cornwall is, as anyone who has visited will attest, a region of outstanding natural beauty. But the sunsets and Atlantic vistas belie hidden dangers. Over the course of its long maritime history the Duchy’s notorious coastline has claimed the lives of countless sailors.
Britain’s most southerly point the Lizard (a corruption of ‘Lis-ardh’ the Cornish for fortress) is one of the most dangerous shipping lanes in all of Europe. In October 1707, HMS Devonshire sank after an engagement with the French just off the Point in the English Channel. The ship was escorting a convoy to Lisbon loaded with supplies for the war in Spain. Of 500 personnel on board the Devonshire, only three survived.
Another wreck off the Lizard, that of the Royal Anne in 1721, inspired a gory legend that has piqued the interest of writers such as Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurer. The ship hit the rocks and sank off the Point, with 207 sailors losing their lives, including Lord Belhaven, the newly appointed Governor of Barbados. Once again, a mere three sailors survived the event by clinging to floating debris. Local folklore claims that the gruesome task of burying the bodies could not be completed in a single day. Left overnight, a pack dogs of is said to have fed upon the corpses. Even to this day, local tradition states, dogs cower when passing through the meadow, in a grim reminder of the shocking events of the past.