The Justinian was a Third-rate launched on the Thames in 1786 to the design of Sir Thomas Slade. She was an old ship by the time Hornblower came aboard and not a happy one. Captain Keene was a sick man and several of her lieutenants were far too old for active service. The midshipman’s mess, Hornblower’s new home, was ruled by a bully named Simpson. Simpson, at age thirty-three, had failed his examination for lieutenant too many times to ever expect promotion and he took out his bitterness and disappointment on his juniors. After he fought a duel with Simpson, Hornblower was transferred to another ship by Captain Keene for his own good. The Justinian was badly damaged by grounding pin 1797 and ended as a sheer hulk in Plymouth.
Justinian carried a crew of 590 men and was armed with twenty-eight 32lb guns, twenty-eight 18lb guns, and fourteen 9lb guns.