Ship design can remain remarkably stable over long periods of time or rapidly evolve. Technology is the driving force behind the evolution in warship design. The frigate in the age of sail was little changed in almost two centuries. With a single gun deck, the frigate was designed to assist the battle line composed of ships of the line. The frigate's roles were many. They scouted for the fleet, provided for relay of signals in battle or as a courier of new orders to far flung squadrons. They served as commerce raiders, hunted commerce raiders and served as flagship on distant stations.   This status quo changed dramatically in middle third of the 19th century. The steam engine was technological father of all of the subsequent innovations. In addition to providing propulsion independent of the wind, a host of other revolutionary improvements opened their doors because of the steam engine. With independent power in ever increasing strength, hulls were no longer limited in length or displacement, by the use of wood as the construction material. At first hulls were still built of wood but were made longer through the use of iron supports. During the Crimean War both the French and British came up with the innovation of adding iron armor to a wooden hull, making the hull impervious to the shot and shell of the time. However, this was only done on a small scale. Only restricted use floating batteries, incapable of ocean movement, received this treatment.  

After the end of the Crimean War France and Great Britain shed their unaccustomed role as allies and regained their centuries old relationship as rivals. It was France , which made the next technological leap. With the Gloire of 1857, France used the iron armor concept developed a few years earlier for practically immobile floating batteries, and applied it to ocean going ships of the line. Still the Gloire had a wooden hull, sheathed by the iron armor. Britain 's response to the Gloire provided another great leap forward in the rapidly evolving arena of warship technology and design. In 1860 the HMS Warrior appeared, which used a stronger iron hull instead of a wooden hull.

The Warrior also introduced a period of experimentation in design and type classifications. Before Warrior the ship of line was the primary type of warship, consisting of two to four decks of guns. Frigates with only a single gun deck were rated as 5th rates, unable to stand up to the 1st through 4th rate ships of the line. The Warrior had only one gun deck and so by definition was a frigate and yet it was clearly superior and stronger to the multiple gun deck wooden hull ships of the line, even those with an iron armor sheathing, such as the Gloire. The names of the types changed, with ships of line becoming battleships and frigates becoming cruisers. The new type names reflected the ship's primary mission.  

Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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For the next two decades there was a great deal of experimentation in design in both battleships and cruisers until around 1880 when standard designs for both types appeared. For cruisers the rate system again appeared with the cruisers typed 1st through 3rd rate. This system classified the cruiser based on armor and size. 3rd rate cruisers generally had an iron hull but no armor. They assumed the traditional frigate roles of scouting and sea control and subsequently evolved into the scout cruiser. Cruisers of the 1st and 2nd rate normally had an armored deck, which was turtle back in design, with the deck centerline above waterline but with the edge of the armored deck joining the hull below the waterline. In theory this armored deck protected the buoyancy of the cruiser, as well as protecting the machinery. With HMS Orlando, launched in 1888, the Royal Navy introduced a new type of cruiser called the armored cruiser. The Orlando incorporated a narrow wrought iron belt to provide additional horizontal protection. However, the Orlando was a failed design. Wrought iron armor was extremely heavy and accordingly only a narrow, thin belt could be worked into the design. Even with this limited belt, the speed of the ship was dramatically reduced to little greater than that of contemporary battleships.  

The French Navy, ever alert to employ technical innovation to overcome the numerical superiority of the Royal Navy, again stole a march on their competition across the English Channel . France became the innovator in the use of steel for armor. Steel armor was not only stronger than wrought iron, but was also significantly lighter. However, through the metallurgy of the time it was more brittle, significantly more difficult to manufacture and much more expensive to produce than wrought iron armor. Through the new Schneider process, France was able to convert to steel construction with all of her new warship designs. With the use of steel, a cruiser could be designed with a steel armor belt without the ruinous handicap of extreme weight imposed by wrought iron armor. France came up with a new steel belted cruiser design for the armored cruiser and inaugurated a decade of armored cruiser building in all of the world's fleets that approached a mania.  

Hull Detail
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The Dupuy de Lôme was launched in 1890 and was an instant sensation. Modest by armored cruiser standards later at the end of the 1890s, Dupuy de Lôme seemed to pack a lot into her 6,406-ton displacement. She carried two 7.6-inch, six 6.4-inch QF, twelve 2.5-inch QF guns and four torpedo tubes. Her armor consisted of a 4-inch steel belt, 4-inch armor on gun positions, and a 2-inch armored deck. Her machinery developed 14,000 ihp, which gave her a top speed of 20-knots. The French navy fell in love with the type and started building many more armored cruisers, only the subsequent designs were bigger, stronger and faster.  The French saw this as the perfect weapon system against Great Britain . In the event of war, they could be turned loose on the extended British shipping routes and were strong enough to overcome anything faster and fast enough to escape any ship stronger. Their design fit in perfectly with the prevalent Guerre de Course theory of the Young School , which embraced asymmetrical combat against the Royal Navy. Masses of cheap torpedo boats and submarines would atrit the British battleships, while numerous fast cruisers would tear into Britain 's huge merchant marine.

It was not only the French who fell in love with the armored cruiser. Any salt worth his salt, fell in love with it as well. Looking at the design of the Dupuy de Lôme the reborn USN greatly improved upon the type with New York and Brooklyn , which became the most prestigious commands in the young fleet. It was no accident that these two American armored cruisers were the flagships at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Their performance, especially of the Brooklyn , which overhauled Spanish cruisers with only half of her engines engaged, only heightened the world's navies' ardor for the armored cruiser. As for the Royal Navy, in a case of keeping up with the Joneses, or more appropriately keeping up with the Jeans, they entered the new armored cruiser race with fervor. In the time honored British tradition of not introducing innovation but once introduced, out-building the rival navies, the Royal Navy started building armored cruisers bigger than those of the French or Americans, and in far larger numbers.

Hull Detail
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With their next design, the French dramatically increased the displacement. The one-off, six funnel Jeanne d'Arc displaced 11,270-tons with a main armament of two 7.6-inch guns and a secondary of fourteen 5.5-inch guns. Armor jumped to 6-inches for the belt, conning tower and turrets, while the casment secondaries received 5-inches of armor. Machinery was also increased, developing 28,500 ihp with a maximum speed of 23-knots. Although other navies had doubts about the design, French naval writers very, very enthusiastic. "The French have a high opinion of her, and a writer in the Yacht has expressed himself in the following terms: 'A comparison between the Jeanne d'Arc and vessels of the Powerful and Diadem classes shows that the English are less ingenious than ourselves in the matter of naval construction. To know how to unite a powerful armament with sufficient protection and high speed upon a small displacement, is a veritable tour de force, and from this point of view it cannot be denied that the Jeanne d'Arc, notwithstanding her defects, is a chef d'oeuvre of naval architecture."

Following Jeanne d'Arc, the French ordered three more classes of large armored cruisers in rapid sequence. Each of the first two classes were of three ships each with the last class of two ships and were of a very similar four funnel design with only incremental improvements. First came the Montcalm class of Montcalm, Gueydon and Dupetit-Thouars of 9,517-tons. The ships carried two 7.6-inch main guns in turrets and eight 6.4-inch guns in casemates. The armor scheme was the same of Jeanne d'Arc, except casmate armor was reduced to 4-inches. The machinery was less, developing 19,600 ihp for a top speed of 21-knots. The following Condé class of Condé, Sully and Gloire jumped to 10,000-tons with two 7.6-inch and eight 6.4-inch, this time all in turrets. The deck armor dropped to 1.7-inches. The machinery produced 20,500 ihp with a top speed of 21-knots. The last class consisted of two ships, Marseillaise and Amiral Aube, displaced 10,014-tons and was almost a repeat of the Condé class but the armored deck back to 2.5-inches.  

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In addition to these three classes of large armored cruisers, they came up with a fourth, smaller class of armored cruiser. As with Britain , France also had a far flung colonial empire throughout the Caribbean, Africa , Indo-China and the Pacific. Just as in the age of sail frigates were used as flagships on distant stations, the French Admirals thought a smaller, cheaper armored cruiser design would make the perfect flagship for distant stations, while the large armored cruisers remained in the Atlantic and Mediterranean . The Desaix class was designed just for this specific purpose. The class consisted of Desaix, Dupleix and Kléber. They were scaled down versions of the larger designs. On a displacement of 7,700-tons, they mounted eight 6.4-inch guns in four twin turrets, four 4-inch guns in casemates, ten 47mm QF, six 37mm QF and two above water torpedo tubes. The armor scheme reverted to a scheme similar to the original Dupuy de Lôme. The belt was 4-inches, armored deck 2.75-inches, conning tower 6-inches, and four inches for bullheads, turrets and turret hoists. Three vertical triple expansion engines produced 17,100 ihp for the same 21-knots of the larger cruisers.

With their next program the French Admirals decided to go with a top of the line armored cruiser with greater fire power than any of their predecessors and a top speed to match contemporary first line armored cruisers in other navies. The result was the Gambetta class. There were three units Léon Gambetta laid down January 1901 with the Jules Ferry following in October and the Victor Hugo lagging far behind, having been laid down in August 1903. They were big ships, displacing 12, 416-tons and a waterline length of 476-feet (486.75-feet overall). Previous classes mounting the 7.6-inch main gun had mounted them in single turrets, giving the larger French armored cruisers a decided under gunned status given their size and foreign contemporaries. With the success of the twin gun 6.4-inch turrets of the Desaix class, the Gambetta adopted twin gun 7.6-inch turrets, doubling the main gun armament of the previous first class French armored cruiser designs. They were given sixteen 6.4-inch guns as a secondary all mounted in side positions. On each side there were three twin gun turrets along with two additional guns  mounted in casemates. Belt armor stayed at 6.75-inches but tapered at the end to 3-inches. Turret armor stayed at 8-inches for the main guns but barbette armor was increased to the same 8-inches providing more substantial protection over that in previous cruisers. Secondary turrets and casemate gun positions were given 5.5=inches of armor. Conning tower protection remained at 8-inches. Compared to the previous Aube class, which had total armor weight of 2,300-tons, the Gambetta class ships had 3,800-tons of armor. Gambetta and Ferry developed over 29,0000ihp with Hugo slightly less with 28,765ihp. The first two broke 23-knots on trials but the Victor Hugo was slightly slower at 22.86-knots, given the lower horse power. Gambetta was completed in 1903, remarkably fast for French construction but the other two were more to the standard glacial building speed and completed in 1906.

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At the same time these three were ordered a fourth ship was ordered of a very similar design. The Jules Michelet was larger with a waterline length of 485-feet (493-feet overall) and displaced 12,600-tons. Oddly, given the extra displacement, armament and armor were decreased in this one off odd ball. Although the belt stayed the same turret armor, barbette armor and caemate armor all were decreased. Main turret armor went to 6-inch with barbette armor at 5-inches. Secondary turret and casemate armor reverted to 4-inches. More glaringly the secondary armament reverted to six single gun 6.4-inch turrets with four casemate guns giving the Michelet a broadside of only five 6-4-inch guns as opposed to the eight gun broadside of the Gambetta class. Perhaps the French designers expected greater speed, as the Michelet developed 30,196ihp. However, the design proved slower on trials and at 22.86-knots was the same speed of Victor Hugo but slower than the Gambetta and Ferry. Laid down in June 1901 the Michelet took a long time completing, even by French standards. Seven years after her start Michelet was commissioned in 1908.

With the exception of the Jeanne d’Arc, which had six funnels, all French armored cruisers had four funnels. The next design was another one off but with the Ernest Renan, six funneled armored cruiser made a come back. In a quest for even greater speed, size and displacement took another jump. With a waterline length of 515-feet (527.5-feet overall) and displacement of 13,644-tons, machinery was increased in the bigger hull. Laid down in October 1903, Renan completed in 1908 and developed 37,700ihp. At trials she ran at a maximum speed of 24.24-knots, one knot faster than the Gambetta in spite of having 9,000 more horse power. Armament was slightly better than  that of the Michelet with a broadside of four 7.4-inch guns from two twin turrets and six 6-4-inch guns for four single gun turrets and two casemate guns. The armor scheme remained on par with the Michelet. So far the Léon Gambetta class remained the best French armored cruiser design to date, as the subsequent Michelet and Renan classes were inferior in armor and armament with no significant increase in speed.

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With the last of the breed, French designers would make up for the failures of past designs. Fifteen years earlier, the French navy had started the mania of building armored cruisers with the Dupuy de Lôme of 1890. In November 1905 the Edgar Quinet was laid down at the Brest yard with the Waldeck Rousseau following in June 1906 at the Lorient yard. They were launched in September 1907 and March 1908 respectively. French designers finally said adieu to the mixed gun armament of previous designs and gave this pair an all 7.6-inch gun armament. Mounting a total of fourteen 7.6-inch guns, the ordnance was carried in two fore and aft centerline twin turrets, six broadside single gun turrets and four broadside casemate positions. In many respects the Quinet cruisers could be considered the ancestor to the heavy cruiser of the 1920s through 1940s. However, they received very little press for a good reason. While the French were starting on this pair of ultimate armored cruisers, at the same time across the channel the Royal Navy had their new “armored cruiser” design started. Jackie Fisher’s Invincible class. In February, March and April 1906 the three Invincible class armored cruisers were laid down. With an all big gun turret mounted armament of eight 12-inch guns, the British ships, which became known as the new type battle cruiser by 1912, were all completed in 1908, two years ahead of the Quinet and Rousseau. It is not surprising that the pair only elicited collective yawns from the editorial staff of Jane’s Fighting Ships and The Naval Annual upon their completion. It was not that many years in the past when Fred Jane worked up lather in describing current British and Foreign armored cruiser designs. Now, however, the Royal Navy already had three vastly superior and faster battle cruisers in service and another three laid down of an “improved” design with the Indefatigable class. The French were a day late and a Franc short.

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Still you have to give the Quinet class their credit. They had the same dimensions as the Rousseau but displaced 14,000-tons. The pair had 40 boilers to feed the three triple expansion engines driving the three screws. Quinet developed 39,808ihp at trials and hit a maximum speed of 23.92-knots. In addition to the main guns the class had a light QF armament of sixteen 9 pdr, eight 3 pdr and two 1 pdr QF guns, as well as two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes. The six funnels were grouped into two groups of three funnels widely spaced apart, giving them a handsome profile. Armor protection was still on a scale inferior to the Gambetta design with 6.75-inch belt, 2.5-inch deck, 6-inch for turrets, and 5-inches for barbettes. However, casemate armor went up to 6-inches and the conning tower up to 10-inches.

Combrig Edgar Quintet
The purpose of this article is to show the modeler their first glimpse of the Combrig Edgar Quintet. A full kit review will appear for model of the sister ship Waldeck Rousseau. 

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Thanks to Combrig, you now can get a 1:700 scale of the best of the French armored cruisers, the Edgar Quinet. An ancestor of the heavy cruiser, the Edgar Quinet ditched the mixed armament of France other countries' armored cruisers and went to an all big gun armament of fourteen 7.6-inch guns mounted in twin gun turrets, single gun turrets and casemate guns. With a speed of 24-knots, the Edgar Quinet was a good design. There was only one problem. Across the channel the Royal Navy started building the Invincible class battle cruisers that put an end to armored cruiser mania and introduced battle cruiser madness.