The galley 'La Reale', late 17th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model. Galleys remained the principal type of warship used in the Mediterranean in the late Middle Ages. This was because the often windles conditions which prevailed in the Mediterranean neutralised pure sailing vesels, making oar-driven ships more effective. Galleys played a vital part at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when the Turks were defeated by a fleet of Christian galleys. By the late 17th century however, improvements in the design of sailing warships meant that galleys, such as this French example built during the reign of Louis XIV, had a ceremonial rather than an actual fighting role.