Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
This month it will be 200 years since that fateful day when the Royal Navy faced the combined navies of France and Spain, at Trafalgar. This was an event that would have long-lasting repercussions –
For France – that was forced to abandon, for the moment at any rate, her plans to invade Britain;
For Britain, in addition to avoiding invasion, domination of the seas placed her in a position to eventually face Bonaparte on land – to be able to land troops in Portugal and maintain them continuously supplied by sea. In spite of the Continental blockade, imposed by Bonaparte, England would continue her foreign trade through large scale smuggling and open new markets for her goods, as happened in 1808, in Brazil.
For Portugal, two years later invaded by Bonaparte, she would be able to call on her ally to escort her court as it made its way to Brazil.
For Brazil – the coming of the royal family was her birth, as a nation. In 1815 her status changed from colony to full nation. A decade later, she would become an independent empire.
I am therefore very happy, this evening, to share my knowledge of this event with you.
I have divided this presentation into three parts.
First the Political scenario, in 1803, followed by the Personal scenario of the battle’s hero – Nelson and, finally, the Battle of Trafalgar. I calculate that this presentation will last some 45 minutes.
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Part 1 – The Political Scenario
Following a short interlude, war with France was resumed, in 1803.
On the Continent, Bonaparte had had total success in defeating all the armies that had tried to contain his ambition to dominate the whole of Europe. Only Russia and England stood in his way. Russia, protected by her immense army, the long communication lines essential to reach her most important cities and her harsh winter weather. England, on the other hand, protected by the fact that she was an island.
Invasion of England has always been extremely difficult – Romans and Danes and, more recently, Normans, in 1066, were the only ones to succeed.
England watched, with increasing apprehension, as Bonaparte prepared for invasion. A very short distance away, just across the channel, invading forces began to gather. Along the French, Belgian and Dutch coastline ports were being prepared to hold 2,400 transports, capable of crossing the English Channel with 100,000 men and 3,000 horses. La Grande Armée, as it was known.
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In Britain, calls were being made by the armed forces for volunteers for this emergency. Under the general command of the Duke of York, the second son of George III
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Coastal forts were being manned and a line of defense towers, called ‘Martello Towers’ after their inventor, were being built. Many exist until today.
Bonaparte was aware that if he could dominate the English Channel, even for a few days, his army could cross and most probably be victorious, as it had been elsewhere; without this assurance, it would be suicide to attempt an invasion.
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Here Bonaparte is seen visiting one of his ships, moored in the English Channel – during preparations for the invasion.
In May 1803 Nelson left London and, boarding the 100 gun HMS Victory at Portsmouth, sailed for the Mediterranean. His orders were to defend Gibraltar, Malta and the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (that part of Italy, south of Naples, and the Island of Sicily itself) and blockade a French squadron at Toulon; to prevent the squadron that was in the harbour from joining other French squadrons.
The year 1804 saw very little action on the part of the French but, early in 1805, the Rochefort squadron managed to leave port but, after crossing to the West Indies, their orders were cancelled and in early March saw them back again in Rochefort.
At this stage Spain entered the war on France’s side.
At the beginning of April the French squadron managed to leave Toulon and head out to the Atlantic. The Spanish squadron left Cadiz but, due to delays, only managed to meet up with them in Martinique.
To understand how ships can leave a port under blockage, one has to accept the limitations imposed by sail. When, for instance, a storm with Westerly winds hits the coast at Cádiz, the blockading ships are forced into the Mediterranean, perhaps one or two hundred miles past Gibraltar. When the storm dies down and the winds change to Easterly, the blockading force may take four or five days to get back to their station – this is the opportunity for the enemy to break through the blockage!
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On this occasion, Nelson, far away in the middle of the Mediterranean, took some time to realize what had happened. In fact he sailed in an easterly direction, further into the Mediterranean, before he found that the enemy was in the Atlantic. On May 12th the chase at last got under way in earnest. Nelson and the squadron under his command sailed from Lagos (in Portugal, where he taken on 5 month’s supplies). In distance he was just over one month behind.
Now that the whereabouts of the French squadron was known with relative certainty, every attempt had to be made to try to bring it to battle. That summer of 1805 saw Nelson crossing the Atlantic to the West Indies and then back again
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Victory, Nelson’s flagship led the squadron – here in light airs, as her studdingsails set on both sides, show.
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We are lucky that this line-of-battle-ship still exists today, the only one of its kind to survive, in dry-dock at Portsmouth.
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Inside, the dinning accommodation is quite luxurious. Nelson’s favourite portrait of Emma can be seen; he called her my ‘My Guardian Angel’.
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The dinning facilities of a 74, the most common size of line-of-battleship in usage, were quite different – much less luxurious.
You will notice a servant behind each dinning guest. Captains were allowed 4 servants for each 100 crew members; in the case of a 74 with a crew of 550 men, some 26 servants. Some of these posts were kept for sons of friends who, at the age of 12 would start their careers in the Navy. Many admirals, including Nelson, Sidney Smith (who commanded the squadron that escorted D. João to Brazil) and many others heroes began their careers in this way.
The partitions on either side formed small cubicles to give officers some degree of privacy; on the signal to prepare for action these partitions would be taken down and stowed in a lower deck – or even thrown overboard if time was a determining factor!
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Nelson’s hammock was also quite luxurious
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As was his day cabin
In spite of Nelson’s best efforts in closing with the enemy, the gap was too great and the combined Franco/Spanish fleet returned safely to Europe.
PART 2 NELSON AND EMMA
Before going on to the battle I would like to say a few words about Nelson’s private life No account of Trafalgar and its hero, Nelson, would be complete without mentioning Lady Emma Hamilton. As famous in Britain, as is Inês de Castro and her D. Pedro I of Portugal that have just completed 650 years, this romance between Nelson and Emma was very controversial; a scandal, even though it involved Britain’s greatest hero.
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Nelson was born in Norfolk in the village of Burnham Thorpe, the son of a country parson .
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Here he is as a child, aged 8 years, when his mother died.
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He joined the navy, as was usual, at the age of 12, and rose through the ranks to become captain.
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at the age of 39, in 1787 whilst serving in the West Indies, he married the widow Frances Nisbet, ‘Fanny’, as she was known. They did not have any children. Long periods away at sea, and meeting Emma finally put an end to his marriage.
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Emma’s early life was not unlike that of many girls, at that time, who were born poor but gifted with charm and beauty.
Her real name was Amy Lyon, the daughter of a Cheshire blacksmith. At an early age she moved to London and started work as a domestic servant. Soon she had changed her name to Emma Hart and had become the mistress of Sir Henry Fethersonhaugh – this arrangement lasted until he discarded her, for becoming pregnant; she then settled down to work in a brothel. By then she was 17 years old.
We next hear of her as the mistress of the Hon. Charles Grenville. After a while, this gentleman, in dire straights because of his debts, persuaded his rich uncle, diplomat Sir William Hamilton, a widower, to have her in exchange for paying all his debts; in effect, he sold her to him!
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To everyone’s surprise Sir William and Emma were married in 1791- she was twenty-six, he was sixty. Sir William and Lady Emma Hamilton moved to Naples where he headed the British legation.
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The Kingdom of Two Sicilies was ruled by the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV and his wife Maria Carolina. His great passions were hunting and fishing and cooking the products of his efforts and selling them in his own shop! Known as IL Re Nasone – because of his large and distinct nose, he was quite content to let his queen, Maria Carolina rule in his name.
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Emma was a great success in their court. Quickly learning French and Italian she would delight the nobility with her theatrical sketches.
Although they had met several times before, the love affair between Nelson and Emma began, in earnest, when he returned to Naples to recover from his wounds, after his extraordinary victory at Aboukir Bay – there he destroyed Bonaparte’s fleet that had transported the army that had then invaded Egypt.
Emma’s husband did not appear to mind and so began, what the French so ably describe, a ‘menage à trois’. Even Georgian England that held moral values rather loosely, was shocked.
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The affair was ammunition for caricaturists who would not let their public forget her past life.
Sir William was now transferred back to England
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they lived for most of the time in Nelson’s country house ‘Merton Place’.
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But also in Sir William’s house, in Piccadilly, where Nelson’s only child Horatia was born in 1801. Sir William eventually died in 1803.
Although both Sir William and Nelson left Emma money, she could not bring herself to reduce the lavish way to which she had been accustomed. In 1814 she went to the Debtor’s Jail, and next year after Nelson’s friends had bailed her out, went to live in a room in Calais, where she died, at the age of 50 – an alcoholic.
PART 3 THE BATTLE, OCTOBER 1805
In August of 1805 Nelson returned to England for a well-earned rest – he had been 2 years at sea. He was afraid that his home-coming might not be so pleasant, as he brought no victories with him. He need not have worried, the cheering crowds were there to greet him – they had not forgotten the Nile or Copenhagen Battles. On the 2nd of September his brief rest would come to an end – news was received by the Admiralty that the combined fleets of France and Spain were in Cadiz harbour. Nelson, now commander of the Mediterranean and as far as Cadiz, weighed anchor in the Victory on Sunday the 15th. On the 29th, together with the main part of his fleet, he was on station some 50 miles from Cádiz.
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Nelson hoped that he could fool the enemy in coming out, so he placed small ships within sight of them and then created a chain of communication vessels, invisible from the harbour, leading to the fleet.
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Nelson had frequent meetings with his captains, when detailed plans were drawn up; they were known as his ‘Band of Brothers’. Here is a caricature of one of their meetings
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His favourite captain was Thomas Hardy, captain of his flagship. Towards the end of his brilliant career he would become 1st Lord of the Admiralty.
After obtaining the advantage of the wind, the plan was to attack in two columns, the weather and the lee and, at right-angles, go through the enemy line passing between his ships. They would be subject to heavy punishment (as they had no forward pointing guns so could not defend themselves) during the 20 minutes or so needed to close with the enemy. But then they could rake (fire along the length of the hulls) the enemy and, in a few short minutes, cause immense damage – next they would try to tie themselves to a ship, to board and capture her, sailors and marines in hand-to-hand fighting. Nelson himself would lead the weather column and
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Admiral Sir Cuthbert Collingwood, 1748-1810, the lee.
Meanwhile at Cádiz, the French Admiral Villeneuve was apprehensive of leaving this safe harbour; as was subsequently shown by documentation. Bonaparte became increasingly irritated at his lack of fighting spirit and eventually decided to transfer the command to Admiral Rosily; his orders, however, did not arrive in time. Although knowing that in spite of his superior force his better trained opponents stood a greater chance of winning, it was the greater fear of Bonaparte and personal retaliation from him (guillotine?) that eventually made him weigh anchor and sail.
On being informed that the enemy was preparing to sail and later, that they were out in the open sea, Nelson maneuvered his fleet in order to obtain the advantage of the light breeze. It took him until the morning of the next day, October 21st, to reach this position.
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Victory can be seen here, leading the weather line just before turning to run for the enemy
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Here is another painting of this famous line-of-battle-ship,
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Although the British were out-numbered and, more important, had 20% fewer guns, they were confident in their training and in their commander.
Incidentally, this and another painting appearing later on, after the battle, were painted by Britain’s’ foremost marine artist Nicholas Pocock.
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Nelson’s two columns now turned and sailed, as fast as possible, towards the enemy.
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It had previously been agreed that, to spare the Admiral, the Victory would not lead the weather column. Nelson, at the last minute, changed his mind and signaled HMS Temeraire to take up station behind him. Here they are seen ‘racing’ for the enemy line.
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It was at this moment that Nelson made a signal to all the ships of his fleet that would become, perhaps, the most famous signal in all naval history!
ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY
The Victory advances towards the line, taking the full brunt of the enemy’s fire.
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And then crosses it, raking the Bucentaure
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At this very moment Nelson falls onto the deck, hit by a round fired by a sniper from one of the yardarms of the Bucentaure. The bullet entered his shoulder, from above, pieced a lung and lodged near his spine. He is carried below, his face covered by a handkerchief, to try and disguise his identity.
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On all sides the battle erupts in earnest. Unlike a land battle, after the formal attack by the lines, small groups of ships fight each other until one of them surrenders, signaled by lowering her ensign. There are many such scenes recorded, as artists would be taken along for just this purpose – here are some of them.
Drawings and paintings, however, cannot convey the awful reality of a sea battle. So I thought I would read to you extracts from an eye-witness, a young marine (of HMS Belleisle), Lieut. Paul Harris Nicholas. Don’t worry about the names of the ship’s parts as the different slides will show them.
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I was scarcely sixteen when I embarked for the first time, in the Belleisle of eighty guns, and joined the fleet off Cadiz, under the command of Lord Nelson, in the early part of October, 1805. On the 19th of that month the appearance of a ship under a press of sail steering for the fleet and firing guns, excited our attention, and every glass was pointed towards the stranger in anticipation of the intelligence which the repeating ships soon announced “That the enemy was getting under way.” The signal was instantly made for a general chase, and in a few minutes all sail was set by the delighted crew. Our advanced ships got sight of the combined fleet the next morning, and in the afternoon of the 20th they were visible from the deck. Every preparation was made for battle; and as our look-out squadron remained close to them during the night, the mind was kept in continual agitation by the firing of guns and rockets.
As the day dawned the horizon appeared covered with ships. The whole force of the enemy was discovered standing to the southward, distant about nine miles, between us and the coast near Trafalgar. I was awakened by the cheers of the crew and by their rushing up the hatchways to get a glimpse of the hostile fleet. The delight manifested exceeded anything I ever witnessed, surpassing even those felt when our native cliffs are descried after a long period of distant service. There was a light air from the north-west with a heavy swell. The signal to bear up and make all sail and to form the order of sailing in two divisions was thrown out. The Victory, Lord Nelson’s ship, leading the weather line, and the Royal Sovereign, bearing the flag of Admiral Collingwood, the second in command, the lee line. At eight the enemy wore to the northward, and owing to the light wind, which prevailed during the day, they were prevented from forming with any precision, and presented the appearance of a double line convexing to leeward. At nine we were about six miles from them, with studdingsails set on both sides; and as our progress never exceeded a mile and a half an hour, we continued all the canvas we could spread until we gained our position alongside our opponent.
The officers now met at breakfast; and though each seemed to exult in the hope of a glorious termination to the contest so near at hand, a fearful presage was experienced that all would not again unite at that festive board. One was particularly impressed with a persuasion that he should not survive the day, nor could he divest himself of this presentiment, but made the necessary disposal of his property in the event of his death. The sound of the drum, however, soon put an end to our meditations and after a hasty and, alas, a final farewell to some, we repaired to our respective posts. Our ship’s station was far astern of our leader, but her superior sailing caused an interchange of places with the Tonnant. On our passing that ship the captains greeted each other on the honorable prospect in view. Captain Tyler exclaimed: “A glorious day for old England! We shall have one apiece before night!”
At half-past ten the Victory telegraphed “England expects every man will do his duty.” As this emphatic injunction was communicated through the decks, it was received with enthusiastic cheers, and each bosom glowed with ardour at this appeal to individual valour. About half-past eleven the Royal Sovereign fired three guns, which had the intended effect of inducing the enemy to hoist their colours, and showed us the tricoloured flag intermixed with that of Spain.
The drum now repeated the summons, and the Captain sent for the officers commanding at their several quarters. “Gentlemen,” said he, “I have only to say that I shall pass close under the stern of that ship; put in two round shot and then a grape, and give her that. Now go to your quarters, and mind not to fire until each gun will bear with effect.” With this laconic instruction the gallant little man posted himself on the slide of the foremost carronade on the starboard side of the quarterdeck….
The determined and resolute countenance of the weather-beaten sailor, here and there brightened by a smile of exultation, was well suited to the terrific appearance which they exhibited. Some were stripped to the waist; some had bared their necks and arms; others had tied a handkerchief round their heads; and all seemed eagerly to await the order to engage. My two brother officers and myself were stationed, with about thirty men at small arms, on the poop, on the front of which I was now standing. The shot began to pass over us and gave us an intimation of what we should in a few minutes undergo. An awful silence prevailed in the ship, only interrupted by the commanding voice of Captain Hargood, “Steady! starboard a little! steady so!” echoed by the Master directing the quartermasters at the wheel. A shriek soon followed – a cry of agony was produced by the next shot – and the loss of the head of a poor recruit was the effect of the succeeding, and as we advanced, destruction rapidly increased. A severe contusion on the breast now prostrated our Captain, but he soon resumed his station. Those only who have been in a similar situation to the one I am attempting to describe can have a correct idea of such a scene. My eyes were horrorstruck at the bloody corpses around me, and my ears rang with the shrieks of the wounded and the moans of the dying.
At this moment, seeing that almost every one was lying down, I was half disposed to follow the example and several times stooped for the purpose, but – and I remember the impression well – a certain monitor seemed to whisper, “Stand up and do not shrink from your duty.” Turning round, my much esteemed and gallant senior fixed my attention; the serenity of his countenance and the composure with which he paced the deck, drove more than half my terrors away; and joining him I became somewhat infused with his spirit, which cheered me on to act the part it became me. My experience is an instance of how much depends on the example of those in command when exposed to the fire of the enemy, more particularly in the trying situation in which we were placed for nearly thirty minutes from not having the power to retaliate.
It was just twelve o’clock when we reached their line. Our energies became roused, and the mind diverted from its appalling condition, by the order of “Stand to your guns!” which, as they successively came to bear were discharged into our opponents on either side; but as we passed close under the stern of Santa Ana, of 112 guns, our attention was more strictly called to that ship. Although until that moment we had not fired a shot, our sails and rigging bore evident proofs of the manner in which we had been treated; our mizzentopmast was shot away and the ensign had been thrice rehoisted; numbers lay dead upon the decks, and eleven wounded were already in the surgeon’s care. The firing was now tremendous, and at intervals the dispersion of the smoke gave us a sight of the colours of our adversaries.
At this critical period, while steering for the stern of L’Indomptable (our masts and yards and sails hanging in the utmost confusion over our heads), which continued a most galling raking fire upon us, the Fougeux being on our starboard quarter, and the Spanish San Juste on our larboard bow, the Master earnestly addressed the Captain.
“Shall we go through, sir?” “Go through by _____” was his en ergetic reply. “There’s your ship, sir, place me close alongside of her”. Our opponent defeated this maneuver by bearing away in a parallel course with us within pistol shot.
About one o’clock the Fougeux ran us on board the starboard side; and we continued thus engaging until the latter dropped astern. Our mizzenmast soon went, and soon afterwards the main topmast. A two decked ship, the Neptune, 80, then took a position on our bow, and a 74, the Achille, on our quarter. At two o’clock the mainmast fell over the larboard side. I was at the time under the break of the poop aiding in running a carronade, when a cry of “Stand clear there! here it comes!” made me look up, and at that instant the mainmast fell just above me. At half-past two our foremast was shot away close to the deck. In this unmanageable state we were but seldom capable of annoying our antagonists, while they had the power of choosing their distance, and every shot from them did considerable execution. We had suffered severely as must be supposed; and those on the poop were now ordered to assist at the quarter deck guns, where we continued till the action ceased. Until half-past three we remained in this harassing situation. The only means at all in our power of bringing our battery towards the enemy, was to use the sweeps out of the gunroom ports; to these we had recourse, but without effect, for even in ships under perfect command they prove almost useless, and we lay a mere hulk covered in wreck and rolling in the swell.
At this hour a three-decked ship was seen apparently steering towards us; it can easily be imagined with what anxiety every eye turned towards this formidable object, which would either relieve us from our unwelcome neighbours or render our situation desperate. We had scarcely seen the British colours since one o’clock, and it is impossible to express our emotion as the alteration of the stranger’s course displayed the white ensign to our sight. We did not, however, continue much longer in this dilemma, for soon the Swiftsure came nobly to our relief. Everyone eagerly looked towards our approaching friend, who came speedily on, and when within hail manned the rigging, cheered, and then boldly steered for the ship which had so long annoyed us. Shortly after the Polyphemus took off the fire from the Neptune on our bow. It was near four o’clock when we ceased firing, but the action continued in the body of the fleet about two miles to windward….
About five o’clock the officers assembled in the captain’s cabin to take some refreshment. The parching effects of the smoke made this a welcome summons, although some of us had been fortunate in relieving our thirst by plundering the captain’s grapes which hung round his cabin; still four hours’ exertion of body with the energies incessantly employed, occasioned a lassitude, both corporeally and mentally, from which the victorious termination now so near at hand, could not arouse us; moreover there sat a melancholy on the brows of some who mourned the messmates who had shared their perils and their vicissitudes for many years. Then the merits of the departed heroes were repeated with a sigh, but their errors sunk with them into the deep.
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After this series of mental images describing the gradual increase in the punishment taken by the Belleisle, this final picture speaks for itself.
It seams incredible that a ship can receive so much punishment and continue fighting!
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Below decks Nelson, after 3 hours of agony, finally passes away. Even before death he had the satisfaction of knowing that his men had obtained a resounding victory.
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Next day a hard gale blew and the ships, undermanned through injury, holed below the water-line, masts and spars missing, suffered a second battle – with the elements.
Here shown is the Spanish flagship, the 136 gun Santíssima Trinidad (the largest ship in the fight), about to sink. Over the Spanish ensign flutters the flag of an admiral of the white, who had taken her. In fact Nelson was admiral of the blue, so all the ships under him should have had a flag ¾ blue and the jack occupying a corner; but he believed that the colour white was easier to see and recognize as a friend, in the heat of battle.
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The end of the battle as seen by the same marine artist, Nicholas Pocock, the results include the ships lost because of next day’s gales. The French and Spanish lost 21 ships while England, though many of her ships were badly damaged – lost none. The loss of lives, injured and taken prisoner accompanies these results.
Before leaving the scene of the battle, I would like to give you the French version of Trafalgar, published in the Le Moniteur, a kind of French ‘Diario Oficial’ of those times. After all, so they say, there are always two sides to every story.
Headline: NELSON KILLED IN DUEL WITH VILLENEUVE
ENGLISH FLEET DESTROYED AT TRAFALGAR
Cádiz, Oct. 25th
The operations of the Imperial Navy mirror in the Atlantic those of the grand Imperial Army in Germany
The English fleet is annihilated – Nelson is no more. Indignant at being inactive in Port, while our brave brothers were gaining laurels in Germany, Admirals Villeneuve and Gravina resolved to put to sea and give the English a fight. They were superior in number, 45 to our 33, but what is that, to men determined to fight and win. Nelson did everything to avoid a battle, he attempted to enter the Mediterranean, but we chased him, and caught him off Trafalgar. In vain did the English Admiral try to avoid action but the Spanish Admiral Oliva prevented his escape, and lashed his vessel to the English flagship. The English ship was one of 186 guns; the Santíssima Trinidad was but a 74.
Lord Nelson adopted a new system, afraid of meeting us in the old way, in which he knows we have superiority of skill. He attempted a new mode of fighting. For a short time he confused us, but what can confuse his Imperial Majesty’s navy for long? We fought yard-arm to yard-arm, gun to gun.
Meanwhile Nelson still resisted. It was now a race to see who would board and have the honour of taking him; French or Spanish. Two admirals on each side disputed the honour and boarded his ship at the same moment. Villeneuve flew onto the quarter-deck and with the usual generosity of the French, he carried a brace of pistols in his hands. He knew the Admiral had lost an arm, and could not use his sword so he offered a pistol to Nelson, they fought, and at the second shot Nelson fell. He was immediately carried below. Oliva, Gravina, and Villeneuve attended him with the accustomed French humanity. Meanwhile 15 English ships of the line had struck (surrendered), four more were obliged to follow their example and another blew up. Our victory was now complete, and we prepared to take possession of our prizes, but the elements were by this time unfavourable to us and a dreadful storm came on.
The storm was long and dreadful but our ships being so well manoeuvred, rode out the gale. The English, being so much more damaged, were driven ashore, and many of them were wrecked. At length when the gale ceased, 13 of the French & Spanish line returned safely to Cadiz; the other 20 have, no doubt, gone to some other ports and will soon be reported. We shall repair our damage as speedily as possible and then go again in pursuit of the enemy.
Well, so much for that version!!
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Over the next few days the fleet, much damaged but exhilarated by their victory, ‘limped’ into the nearest naval base – the Garrison of Gibraltar.
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Here the Victory, still under tow, approaches Gibraltar.
The admiralty had planned to transfer Nelson’s body to a fast frigate and then take it to London, as soon as possible, for burial. The crew of the Victory, however, refused to hand over his body – it was being kept in a cask of spirits – and so there was a month’s delay until the Victory could be repaired and sail to London.
Spirits were freely available on board – each sailor was allowed, daily, half a pint of rum (of a strength illegal today!) watered down by two parts of water to one of rum.
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Many shown as injured would in fact die from their wounds. In the heart of the city of Gibraltar there exists the Trafalgar cemetery, where these men were buried.
The arrival, in London, of the Victory set off perhaps the most grandiose funeral ever seen – the Thames, covered in barges, accompanying the funeral procession – on shore thousands watched these last few moments – Nelson was, more than anything else, a ‘peoples’ hero.
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The 6 royal dukes, sons of George III, 32 admirals and over 250 captains accompanied the hearse.
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St. Paul’s was filled to capacity.
It was a funeral worthy of a man that had put his nation before all else and by his leadership earned him the title of England’s greatest hero.
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There ensured a wave of idolatry – apart from poems, pamphlets and posters, many paintings were made of his ‘resurrection’.
Here the English hero is being lifted to heaven whilst below him his grieving men watch as the battle blazes away. To the left Britannia helps him on the way whilst Neptune receives him and Fame crowns him with laurels.
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In this painting Neptune passes Nelson into the arms of Britannia.
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The final and permanent tribute to posterity is this monument that graces London’s skyline. From this central square, in front of the National Gallery, radiates The Mall – passing under Admiralty Arch leading to the palaces of St. James and Buckingham; Whitehall, leading to the Ministries, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament; and, finally, the Strand – leading to the Inns of Court and the City.
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Parliament recognized the valour of his action and the benefits that would accrue to Britain through his victory. They awarded him an earldom but, as he had no legitimate heirs, it went to his brother William – a vicar in a small village. With the earldom – in today’s money – 4 million pounds – to purchase a suitable estate and an annual pension ad perpetuam of 200 thousand pounds. This pension lasted until shortly after the 2nd world war when it was purchased from the family by the Atlee government.
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