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Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB (29 September 1758– 21 October 1805) was a British flag officer famous for his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the Battle of Trafalgar, a decisive British victory in the war, during which he lost his life.

Nelson went against the conventional tactics of the time by cutting through the enemy's lines. Nelson was noted for his ability to inspire and bring out the best in his men, to the point that it gained a name: "The Nelson Touch". His actions during these wars and his heroic image as a one-armed, one-eyed patriot, ensured that before and after his death he was revered.

In 1798, even though he had been married since 1787, Nelson famously became embroiled in an affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton, the wife of William Hamilton, the British Ambassador to Naples, which lasted until his death. Emma became Nelson's mistress, returning to the United Kingdom to live openly with him, and eventually they had a daughter, Horatia. It was the public knowledge of this affair that induced the Royal Navy to send Nelson back out to sea after he had been recalled.

By the time of his death in 1805 Nelson had become a national hero, and he was given a state funeral. His memory lives on in numerous monuments, the most notable of which is London's Nelson's Column, which stands in the centre of Trafalgar Square.

Early life

Horatio Nelson was born on 29 September 1758 in a rectory in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England, the sixth of eleven children of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and Catherine Nelson. His mother, who died when he was nine, was a grandniece of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, the de facto first prime minister of the British Parliament. She lived in the village of Barsham, Suffolk and married the Reverend Edmund Nelson at Beccles church, Suffolk in 1749.

Nelson was briefly educated at Paston Grammar School, North Walsham, where he made several lifelong friends. Nelson also attended Norwich School, and by the time he was twelve he had enrolled in the Royal Navy. His naval career began on 1 January 1771 when he reported to the third-rate Raisonnable as an Ordinary Seaman and coxswain. Nelson’s maternal uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, commanded the vessel. Shortly after reporting aboard, Nelson was appointed a midshipman and began officer training. Nelson found that he suffered from seasickness, a chronic complaint that dogged him for the rest of his life.

Early naval career

HMS Raisonnable had been commissioned during a period of tension with Spain, but when this passed Suckling was transferred to the Nore guardship HMS Triumph. Captain Suckling became Comptroller of the Navy in 1775 and used his position to help Nelson's rapid advance. Nelson was dispatched to serve aboard the West Indiamen of the firm of Hibbert, Purrier and Horton, in order to gain experience of life at sea. In this capacity he twice crossed the Atlantic, returning to serve under Suckling as commander of Suckling's longboat, carrying men and dispatches to and from the shore. Nelson then learnt of a planned expedition under the command of Constantine Phipps, intended to survey a passage to in the Arctic, by which India could be reached, the fabled Northwest Passage. At his request Suckling arranged for Nelson to join the expedition, serving as a midshipman aboard the converted bomb vessel HMS Carcass. The expedition reached within ten degrees of the North Pole, but were unable to find a way through the dense ice flows, and was forced to turn back. By 1800 Nelson's commander on the Carcass, Skeffington Lutwidge, began to circulate a story that while the ship had been trapped in the ice, Nelson had seen and pursued a polar bear, before being ordered to return to the ship. Lutwidge's later version, in 1809, reported that Nelson and a companion had given chase to the bear, but on being questioned why, replied that "I wished, Sir, to get the skin for my father. On the expedition's return to Britain in September 1773 Nelson briefly returned to the Triumph, but was then, at Suckling's arrangement, transferred to HMS Seahorse, one of two ships preparing to sail to the East Indies.

Nelson sailed for the East Indies on 19 November 1773, arriving at the British outpost at Madras on 25 May 1774. Nelson and the Seahorse spent the rest of the year cruising off the coast, and escorting merchantmen. With the outbreak of the First Anglo-Maratha War, the British fleet operated in support of the East India Company, and in early 1775 the Seahorse was despatched to carry a cargo of the company's money to Bombay. On 19 February the Seahorse was attacked by two enemy ketches, but drove them off after a brief exchange of shot. This was Nelson's first experience of battle. The rest of the year was spent escorting convoys, with Nelson continuing to learn and refine skills such as navigation and ship handling. This came to an end when Nelson contracted malaria in early 1776. Seriously ill, he was discharged from the Seahorse on 14 March and returned to England aboard HMS Dolphin. He spent the six month voyage recuperating, on on his arrival in September 1776, was mostly recovered. His patron, Suckling, had by now risen to the post of Comptroller of the Navy, and through his influence Nelson was appointed acting lieutenant aboard HMS Worcester, then preparing to sail to Gibraltar.

The Worcester, under the command of Captain Mark Robinson, sailed as a convoy escort on 3 December, returning to Britain with another convoy in April 1777. On his return, Nelson travelled to London to take his lieutenant's examination, which he did on 9 April before Captains John Campbell, Abraham North, and his uncle, Maurice Suckling. Nelson passed, and the next day received his commission, and an appointment to HMS Lowestoffe, preparing to sail to Jamaica under Captain William Locker. She sailed on 16 May, arriving on 19 July, and after reprovisioning, carried out several cruises in Caribbean waters. The outbreak of the American War of Independence presented opportunities for Nelson to distinguish himself. The Worcester took several prizes, one of which was taken into service as the tender Little Lucy. Nelson asked for and was given command of her, and took her on two cruises of his own. Locker, impressed by Nelson's abilities, recommended him to the new commander-in-chief at Jamaica, Sir Peter Parker, and Parker duly took Nelson onto his flagship, HMS Bristol. The entry of the French to the war, in support of the Americans, brought further targets for Parker's fleet, and a large number of prizes were taken towards the end of 1778, bringing Nelson an estimated £400. Parker then appointed him as 'Master and Commander' of the brig HMS Badger on 8 December.

Nelson and the Badger spent most of 1779 cruising off the Central American coast, ranging as far as the British settlements at Honduras and Nicaragua, but without much success at intercepting enemy prizes. On his return to Port Royal he learnt that Parker had promoted him to post-captain on 11 June, and was giving him another command. Nelson handed over the Badger to Cuthbert Collingwood while he awaited the arrival of his new ship, the 28-gun frigate HMS Hinchinbroke, newly captured from the French. While Nelson was waiting, news had reached Parker that a French fleet under the command of Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing was approaching Jamaica. Parker hastily organised his defences, placing Nelson in command of Fort Charles, covering the approaches to Kingston. d'Estaing instead headed north, and the anticipated invasion attempt never materialised. Nelson duly took command of the Hinchinbrook on 1 September.

The Hinchinbrook sailed from Port Royal on 5 October 1779, and after joined several other British ships, proceeded to capture a number of American prizes. On his return to Jamaica in December, Nelson began to be troubled by a recurrent attack of malaria, but remained in the West Indies in order to be able to take part in Major-General John Dalling's attempt to capture the Spanish colonies in Central America, including an assault on the fortress of San Juan in Nicaragua. The Hinchinbrook sailed from Jamaica in February 1780 as an escort for Dalling's invasion force, and after sailing up the mouth of the Colorado River, led a successful assault on a Spanish look-out post. Despite this quick success, the main force's attack on Fort San Juan was long and drawn out, though Nelson was praised for his efforts. Nelson was recalled by Parker, and given the command of the 44-gun frigate HMS Janus. Nelson had however fallen seriously ill in the jungles of Costa Rica, probably a recurrence of malaria, and was unable to take command. He was discharged in August and returned to Britain aboard HMS Lion. He arrived in late November, and spent the next few months recuperating. He gradually recovered his health and soon began agitating for a command. He was appointed to the frigate HMS Albemarle on 15 August 1781.

Command

Captain of the Albemarle

Nelson received orders on 23 October to take the newly refitted Albermarle to sea, to collect an inbound convoy of the Russia Company at Elsinore, and escort them back to Britain. To achieve this, the frigates and were also placed under his command. Nelson successfully arranged the convoy and escorted it to Britain, but after departing it, was hampered by severe storms on his arrival. The Albemarle was a poorly designed ship and suffered considerable damage in the ensuing gales, and was almost wrecked after a collision with a storeship. Nelson finally sailed the Albermarle into Portsmouth in February 1782. There he received orders to fit the Albemarle for sea, join the escort for a convoy collecting at Cork and sail for Quebec. Nelson arrived off Newfoundland in late May, then departed on a cruise to hunt American privateers. In this Nelson was unsuccessful, succeeding only in retaking several captured British merchants, and capturing a number of small fishing boats and assorted craft. In August he had a narrow escape from a far superior force under Louis-Philippe de Vaudreuil, only escaping after a prolonged chase. Nelson duly put in to Quebec on 18 September. He sailed again as part of the escort for a convoy to New York, arriving in mid November and reporting to Admiral Samuel Hood, commander of the British fleet based there. At Nelson's request, Hood transferred him to his fleet and Nelson sailed in company with him on its departure in November, bound for the West Indies. On their arrival, the fleet took up position off Jamaica, awaiting the arrival of a French fleet under de Vaudreuil. Nelson and the Albemarle were ordered to scout the numerous passages for signs of the enemy, but by early 1783 it became clear that the French had eluded Hood. By now Nelson had concocted a plan to assault the French force garrisoning the Turks Islands. Taking command of a small flotilla of frigates and smaller vessels, he landed a force of 167 seamen and marines early in morning of 8 March and carried out a supporting bombardment. The French were found to be heavily entrenched and Nelson was forced to call off the assault after several hours. Nelson was criticised by several of the officers involved, but Hood does not appear to have reprimanded him. Nelson spent the rest of the war cruising in the West Indies, and captured a number of French and Spanish prizes. After news of the peace reached Hood, Nelson was ordered home, arriving back in Britain in late June 1783.

Nevis and marriage

Nelson visited France in late 1783, staying with acquaintances at Saint-Omer, and briefly attempting to learn French. He returned to England in January 1784, and attended court with his old commander Lord Hood and his entourage. Influenced by the factional politics, he contemplated standing for Parliament at the elections that year as a supporter of William Pitt, but was not able to find a seat. He was instead given command of the frigate Boreas, and assigned to enforce the Navigation Act in the vicinity of Antigua. Now-foreign American vessels were no longer allowed to trade with British colonies in the Caribbean Sea, an unpopular rule with both the colonies and the Americans. He served on the station under Admiral Sir Richard Hughes, but often came into conflict with his superior officer over the interpretation of the Navigation Acts. After seizing four American vessels off Nevis, Nelson was sued by the captains of the ships for illegal seizure. As the merchants of Nevis supported them, Nelson was in peril of imprisonment and had to remain sequestered on Boreas for eight months. It took that long for the courts to deny the captains their claims, but in the interim Nelson met Frances "Fanny" Nisbet, a widow native to Nevis. Nelson and Fanny were married on 11 March 1787 towards the end of his tour of duty in the Caribbean. Nelson returned to England, arriving in July, with Fanny following on behind.

During the peace

Nelson remained with the Boreas until she was paid off in November that year. He and Fanny then divided their time between Bath and London, occasionally visiting Nelson's relations in Norfolk. They eventually settled at Nelson's childhood home at Burnham Thorpe in 1788. Now on half pay he attempted to persuade the Admiralty and other senior figures he was acquainted with, such as Hood, to provide him with a command. He was unsuccessful, there were too few ships in the peacetime navy and Hood refused to help. Nelson spent his time acting on behalf of former crew members, attending to family affairs, and cajoling contacts in the navy for employment. Then, in 1792 the French Revolutionary government annexed the Austrian Netherlands (modern Belgium), which were traditionally preserved as a buffer state. Nelson was recalled to service and given command of the 64-gun Agamemnon in January 1793. On 1 February France declared war.

Mediterranean service

Nelson sailed in May as part of a division under the command of Vice-Admiral William Hotham, and were joined later in the month by the rest of Lord Hood's fleet. They sailed to Gibraltar with the intention of establishing naval superiority in the Mediterranean, and made their way to Toulon, anchoring off the port in July. Toulon was largely under the control of the moderate republicans and royalists, but was threatened by the forces of the National Convention, which were marching on the city. Short of supplies and doubting their ability to defend themselves, the city authorities requested that Hood take them under their protection. Hood readily acquiesced and sent Nelson to carry despatches to Sardinia and Naples requesting reinforcements. After delivering the despatches to Sardinia, Nelson arrived at Naples in early September. On arrival he met Ferdinand VI, King of Naples followed by the British ambassador to the kingdom, William Hamilton. At some point whilst negotiations for the sending of reinforcements were proceeding, Nelson met William's new wife, Emma Hamilton, for the first time. The negotiations were swiftly concluded and 2,000 men and several ships were mustered by mid September. Nelson put to sea in pursuit of a French frigate, but on failing to catch her, sailed for Leghorn, and then to Corsica. He arrived at Toulon on 5 October, where he found the situation was becoming desperate. A large French army had occupied the hills surrounding the city and was bombarding it. Hood still hoped the city could be held if more reinforcements arrived, and in the meantime sent Nelson to join a squadron operating off Cagliari.

Corsica

Early in morning of 22 October 1793, the Agamemnon sighted five sails ahead. Nelson closed on them, eventually revealing them to be a French squadron. Nelson promptly gave chase, firing on the 40-gun Melpomene. He inflicted considerable damage but the remaining French ships turned to join the battle and, realising he was outgunned, Nelson withdrew and continued on to Cagliari, arriving on 24 October. After making repairs Nelson and the Agamemnon sailed again on 26 October, bound for Tunis with a squadron under Commodore Robert Linzee. On arrival, Nelson was given command of small squadron consisting of the Agamemnon, three frigates and a sloop, and ordered to blockade the French garrison at Corsica. By the end of December, British fortunes in the Mediterranean were hit by the fall of Toulon. Hood had failed to make adequate provision for a withdrawal and 18 ships-of-the-line fell into republican hands. Nelson's mission to Corsica took on added significance, as it would provide a naval base close to the French coast. Hood reinforced Nelson with extra ships, which Nelson used to increase his blockade during January 1795.

A British assault force landed on the island on 7 February, after which Nelson moved to intensify the blockade off Bastia. He spent the rest of the month carrying out raids along the coast and intercepting enemy shipping. By late February St Fiorenzo had fallen and British troops under Lieutenant-General David Dundas were arriving in the outskirts of Bastia. However Dundas merely assessed the enemy positions and then withdrew, arguing that the French were too well entrenched to risk an assault. Nelson convinced Hood otherwise, but protracted debate between the army and naval commanders meant that Nelson did not receive permission to proceed until late March. Nelson then began to land guns from his ships, and emplace them in the hills surrounding the town. On 11 April the British squadron entered the harbour and opened fire, whilst Nelson took command of the land forces and began their bombardment. After 45 days, the town surrendered. Nelson then began to prepare for an assault on Calvi, working in company with Lieutenant-General Charles Stuart.

The two carried out a landing on 19 June, and immediately began moving guns ashore to occupy the heights surrounding the town. Whilst Nelson directed a continuous bombardment of the enemy positions, Stuart began to advance his men. On 12 July Nelson was at one of the forward batteries early in the morning, when a shot hit one of the sandbags protecting the position, spraying Nelson and the other soldiers with stones and sand. Some of this struck Nelson in his right eye and he was forced to retire from the position. It was soon bandaged and he returned to action. By 18 July most of the enemy positions had been disabled, and that night Stuart, supported by Nelson, stormed the main defensive position and captured it. Repositioning their guns, the British brought Calvi under constant bombardment, and the town surrendered on 10 August. Nelson's eyesight had been irreparably damaged, and the right eye eventually lost its sight.

Genoa and the fight of the Ça Ira

After the occupation of Corsica, Hood ordered Nelson to Genoa to open relations with a strategically important potential ally. Hood then returned to England, being succeeded by Admiral William Hotham as commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. Nelson put into Leghorn, and while the Agamemnon underwent repairs, met with other naval officers at the port, and entertained a brief affair with a local woman, Adelaide Correglia. Hotham arrived with the rest of the fleet in December, and Nelson and the Agamemnon sailed on a number of cruises with them in late 1794 and early 1795. On 8 March news reached Hotham that the French fleet was at sea and heading for Corsica. He immediately put to sea to intercept them, with Nelson eagerly anticipating his first fleet action. The French were reluctant to engage, and the two fleets shadowed each other after the British came within sight on 12 March. But the following day, two of the French ships collided, leaving the 84-gun Ça Ira damaged and lagging behind the main force. Captain Thomas Fremantle, aboard the 36-gun seized the opportunity and opened fire. The Ça Ira returned fire, her massive superiority in firepower soon forcing Fremantle to fall back. As he did so, the Agamemnon surged past. Nelson's ship carried fewer and lighter guns, and had some 344 men, compared to nearly 1,060 sailors and soldiers aboard the Ça Ira. Two other French ships, the Sans-Culotte and the Jean Bart were rapidly approaching. Nelson nevertheless took the Agamemnon in close and exchanged broadsides with the Ça Ira for two and a half hours, until the arrival of the two larger French ships forced Nelson to veer away, having inflicted heavy casualties and considerable damage. The two fleets then continued to shadow each other, before finally making contact on 14 March, when the Battle of Genoa was fought. Nelson joined the other British ships in attacking his previous quarry, the Ça Ira, now being towed by the Censeur. Heavily damaged, the French ships were eventually forced to surrender, and Nelson took possession of the Censeur. The French fleet abandoned their plan to invade Corsica and returned to port.

Skirmishes and the retreat from Italy

Nelson and the fleet remained in the Mediterranean throughout the summer, and on 4 July the Agamemnon sailed from St Fiorenzo with a small force of frigates and sloops, bound for Genoa. On 6 July however he ran into the French fleet and found himself pursued by several much larger ships of the line. He sped back to St Fiorenzo, arriving just ahead of the pursuing French, who broke off and fled as Nelson's signal guns alerted the British fleet in harbour. Hotham began the pursuit, tracking the French to the Hyères Islands, but failing to bring them to a decisive action. A number of small engagements were fought, but to Nelson's dismay, he saw little action.

Nelson then returned operating out of Genoa, intercepting and inspecting merchants, and cutting out suspicious vessels in both enemy and neutral harbours. He formulated ambitious plans for amphibious landings and naval assaults to frustrate the progress of the French Army of Italy that was now advancing again, but could excite little interest in Hotham. In November Hotham was replaced by Sir Hyde Parker, but the situation in Italy was rapidly deteriorating, with the French raiding around Genoa, and strong Jacobin sentiment rife within the city itself. Eventually a large French assault at the end of November broke the allies' lines, and despite Nelson's attempts to salvage the situation by covering the subsequent retreat, he had too few ships and the British were forced to withdraw from the Italian ports. Nelson returned to Corsica on 30 November, angry and depressed at the British failure, and questioning his future career in the navy.

Jervis and the evacuation of the Mediterranean

In January 1796 the position of commander-in-chief of the fleet in the Mediterranean passed to Sir John Jervis, who appointed Nelson to be commodore and to exercise independent command over the ships blockading the French coast. He spent the first half of the year conducting operations to frustrate French advances, and bolster Britain's Italian allies. Despite some minor successes in intercepting small French warships, Nelson began to feel the British presence on the Italian peninsula was rapidly becoming useless. In June the Agamemnon was sent back to Britain for repairs, and Nelson was appointed to the 74-gun HMS Captain.Also that month the French had thrust towards Leghorn, and were poised to capture the city. Nelson hurried there to oversee the evacuation of British nationals and transport them to Corsica, after which Jervis ordered him to blockade the newly captured French port. In July he oversaw the occupation of Elba, but by September the Genoese had broken their neutrality to declare in favour of the French. By October this and the continued advance of the French led the Admiralty to decide that the fleet could no longer be supplied and ordered the evacuation of the Mediterranean. Nelson helped to oversee the withdrawal from Corsica, and by December 1796 was aboard the frigate HMS Minerve, covering the evacuation of the garrison at Elba. He then sailed to Gibraltar.

A Spanish frigate, Santa Sabina, was captured during the passage and Lieutenant Hardy was put in charge of the captured vessel. The following morning, two Spanish ships of the line and one frigate appeared. Nelson at first had no choice but to fight. But Hardy, in order to save his commodore, sacrificed his own ship by drawing the Spanish fire, leaving Nelson free to flee. Santa Sabina was recovered by the Spanish and Hardy was captured. The Spanish captain who was on board Minerve was later exchanged for Hardy in Gibraltar, and Nelson continued on his way.

Admiralty

Battle of Cape St Vincent

Nelson joined Sir John Jervis's fleet off Cape St Vincent, and reported the presence of a Spanish fleet that had sailed from Cartagena. Jervis prepared to give battle and the two fleets met on 14 February. Here Nelson found himself towards the rear of the British line, and realising that it would be a long time before he could get into action, he carried out his first famous act of disobeying orders. Instead of continuing to follow the line, he wore ship, breaking from the line and heading to engage the Spanish van, consisting of the 112-gun San Josef, the 80-gun San Nicolas and the 130-gun Santísima Trinidad. She engaged all three, assisted by HMS Culloden which had come to Nelson's aid. After an hour of exchanging broadsides had left both Captain and Culloden heavily damaged, Nelson found himself alongside the San Nicolas. He led a boarding party across, crying 'Westminster Abbey! or, glorious victory!' and forced her surrender. The San Josef attempted to come to the San Nicolas’s aid but became entangled with her. Nelson then took his party from the decks of the San Nicolas onto the San Josef and captured her as well. As night fell the Spanish broke off and sailed for Cadiz. Four ships had surrendered to the British, two of the them were Nelson's captures.

Nelson was victorious, but had disobeyed orders. Jervis liked Nelson and so did not officially reprimand him. However, in his official report of the battle he did not mention Nelson. He did though write a private letter to George Spencer in which he said that Nelson 'contributed very much to the fortune of the day'. Nelson also wrote several letters about his victory, reporting that his action was being referred to amongst the fleet as 'Nelson's Patent Bridge for boarding first rates'. Nelson's account was later challenged by Rear-Admiral William Parker, who had been aboard HMS Prince George. He claimed that Nelson had been supported by several more ships than he had acknowledged in his attack on the Spanish van, and that by the time he had boarded the San Josef, she had already struck her colours. Nelson's account of his role prevailed however. The victory was well received in Britain, Jervis was made Earl St Vincent and Nelson was made a Knight of the Bath. On 20 February he was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue. This was not a reward for his actions in the battle, but rather a standard promotion according to his seniority.

Action off Cadiz

Nelson was given command of HMS Theseus and on 27 May 1797 was ordered to lie off Cadiz, monitoring the Spanish fleet and awaiting the arrival of Spanish treasure ships from the American colonies. He soon pressed an attack on the city, carrying out a bombardment and an amphibious assault on 3 July. Personally leading the action, his barge collided with that of the Spanish commander, and a hand to hand struggle ensued between the two crews. Twice Nelson was nearly cut down, both times his life was saved by a seaman named John Sykes who took the blows and was badly wounded. The British then captured the Spanish boat and towed it back to the Theseus. During this period he prepared a scheme to capture Santa Cruz de Tenerife, aiming to secure a large amount of money from the treasure ship Principe de Asturias that was reported to have recently arrived.

Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The battle plan called for a combination of naval bombardments and an amphibious landing. The initial attempt was called off after adverse currents hampered the assault and the element of surprise was lost. Nelson immediately ordered another assault but this was beaten back. He prepared for another attempt though, to take place during the night. He himself would lead one of the battalions. The operation ended in failure. The Spanish were better prepared than had been expected and had secured strong defensive positions. Several of the boats failed to land in the correct places in the confusion whilst those that did were swept by gunfire and grapeshot. Nelson's boat reached its intended landing point but as he stepped ashore he was hit in the right arm by a musketball, fracturing his humerus bone in multiple places. He was rowed back to the Theseus to be attended to by the surgeon. On arriving on his ship he refused to be helped aboard, declaring 'Leave me alone! I have got my legs left and one arm.' He was taken to the surgeon, instructing him to prepare his instruments and 'the sooner it was off the better'. Most of the right arm was amputated and within half an hour he had returned to issuing orders to his captains. Years later he would still excuse himself to Commodore Duckworth for not writing longer letters due to being left-handed.

Meanwhile a force under Sir Thomas Troubridge had fought their way to main square but could go no further. Unable to return to the fleet because their boats had been sunk, Troubridge had been forced to enter negotiations with the Spanish commander and the British were subsequently allowed to withdraw. The expedition had failed to achieve any of its objectives and had left a quarter of the landing force dead or wounded. The fleet remained off Tenerife for a further three days, Nelson fully aware of the extent of his failure and the adverse affect his amputed arm could have on his career. By 16 August his squadron had rejoined Jervis's fleet off Cadiz. Despondantly he wrote to Jervis 'A left-handed Admiral will never again be considered as useful, therefore the sooner I get to a very humble cottage the better, and make room for a better man to serve the state...' He returned to England aboard HMS Seahorse, arriving at Spithead on 1 September. He was met with a hero's welcome though, the British public had lionised Nelson after Cape St. Vincent and his wound earned him sympathy. They refused to attribute the defeat at Tenerife to him, preferring instead to blame poor planning on the part of St. Vincent, the Secretary at War or even William Pitt.

Return to England

Nelson returned to Bath with Fanny, before moving to London in October to seek medical expertise concerning his amputated arm. Whilst in London news reached him that Admiral Duncan had defeated the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Camperdown. Nelson exclaimed that he would have given his other arm to have been present. He spent the last months of 1797 recuperating in London, during which he was awarded the belt and Freedom scroll The City of London, and an annual pension of £1,000 a year. He used the money to buy Round Wood Farm near Ipswich, and intended to retire there with Fanny.

Despite these plans, Nelson was never to live there. Surgeons had been unable to remove the central ligature in his amputated arm. The ligature had caused considerable inflammation and poisoning, but had come out of its own accord early in December. Nelson rapidly began to recover, and eager to return to sea, began agitating the Admiralty for a command. He was promised the 80-gun HMS Foudroyant but she was not yet ready for sea. He was instead appointed to the 74-gun HMS Vanguard, and Nelson appointed Edward Berry as his flag captain. French activities in the Mediterranean theatre were concerning the Admiralty. Napoleon was gathering forces for his invasion of Egypt, but his objectives were unknown to the Admiralty. Nelson and the Vanguard were to be dispatched to Cadiz to reinforce the fleet. Nelson hoisted his flag on 28 March 1798 and sailed to join the fleet assembled at Cadiz under Earl St. Vincent. St. Vincent sent him on to Gibraltar with a small force to reconnoitre French activities.

Hunting the French

Whilst Nelson was sailing to Gibraltar through a fierce storm, Napoleon had sailed with his invasion fleet, a force under the command of Vice-admiral François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers. When news of this reached St. Vincent, Nelson was reinforced with a number of 74s and ordered to intercept the French. Nelson immediately began searching the Italian coast for Napoleon's fleet, but was hampered by a lack of frigates. Napoleon had arrived at Malta and after a show of force, secured the island's surrender. Nelson made for Malta but had again missed the French, who had already left for Egypt. After a conference with his captains, he decided that Egypt was Napoleon's most likely destination and headed for Alexandria. On his arrival on 28 June though he found no sign of the French. Dismayed, he withdrew and began searching to the east of the port. Whilst he was absent, Napoleon's fleet arrived on 1 July and landed their forces unopposed.

Brueys then withdrew his fleet to Abu Qir Bay, ready to support Napoleon if required. Nelson had crossed the Mediterranean in a fruitless attempt to locate the French and had returned to Naples to re-provision. He sailed again, intending to search the seas off Cyprus, but decided to pass close to Alexandria again for a final check. In doing so his force captured a French merchant, which provided the first news of the French, that they had passed south-east of Crete a month before, heading to Alexandria. Nelson hurried to Alexandria, but again found it empty of the French. Searching along the coast, he finally discovered the French fleet in Abu Qir Bay on 1 August 1798.

The Battle of the Nile

Nelson immediately prepared for battle, repeating a sentiment he had earlier expressed at the battle of Cape St. Vincent, declaring that "Before this time tomorrow, I shall have gained a peerage or Westminster Abbey." The French had anchored in a strong position, their combined fire power greater than Nelson's fleet. It was late by the time the British arrived and the French did not expect them to attack. Nelson instead ordered his ships into the attack. The French had anchored close to a line of shoals, believing that this would secure their port side from attack. Brueys had assumed the British would follow convention and attack the centre from the starboard side. Instead, Captain Thomas Foley aboard HMS Goliath discovered there was room between the shoals and the French ships for a British ship to pass, and took his ship down the gap. The unprepared French found themselves attacked on both sides, as the British fleet split, some following Foley, others passing down the starboard side.

The rest of the fleet were soon in action, passing down the line and engaging the French one by one. Nelson aboard the Vanguard engaged the Spartiate, coming under fire from the Aquilon as he did so. He was with Berry on the quarter-deck at about eight o'clock when he was struck on the forehead by a piece of French shot. He fell to the deck, a flap of skin covering his good eye. Blinded and half stunned, he felt sure he would die. He cried out "I am killed. Remember me to my wife." He was taken below to be seen by the surgeon. After an examination the wound was pronounced non-threatening and was temporarily patched up. Meanwhile the French van, pounded by British fire from both sides had begun to surrender. The British ships continued to move down the line, bringing Brueys's 118-gun flagship Orient under constant fire. The Orient caught fire and later exploded. The remaining French ships attempted to escape and the battle was won. Nelson, who had come up on deck to continue directing the battle and had witnessed the end of the Orient was taken below again.

The Battle of the Nile was a major blow to Napoleon's ambitions in the east. The fleet had been destroyed; Orient had been burnt, three 74s had been captured and burnt, four 74s and two 80s had been captured and only two ships of the line and two frigates had managed to escape. The forces Napoleon had brought to Egypt were stranded. Napoleon attempted to march north along the Mediterranean coast but his army was defeated at the Siege of Acre by Captain Sir Sidney Smith. Napoleon then left his army and sailed back to France, evading detection by British ships. Given its huge strategic importance, some historians regard Nelson's achievement at the Nile as the most significant of his career, Trafalgar notwithstanding.

Rewards

Having written his despatches to the Admiralty and overseen temporary repairs to the Vanguard, Nelson sailed to Naples where he was met with enthusiastic celebrations. The King of Naples, in company with the Hamiltons, greeted him in person when he arrived at the port, and William Hamilton invited Nelson to stay at their house. Celebrations were held in honour of Nelson's birthday that September, and he attended a banquet at the Hamiltons, where his attention to Emma had begun to be noted by the other officers. Jervis himself had begun to grow concerned at the reports he received but shortly afterwards, in early October, the news of Nelson's victory had reached London. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Earl Spencer, fainted on hearing the news. Scenes of celebration erupted across the country, balls and victory feasts were held and church bells were rung. The City of London awarded Nelson and his captains with swords, whilst the King ordered them to be presented with special medals. Gifts were sent from the Sultan of Turkey and the Tsar of Russia, and Lord Hood, after a conversation with the Prime Minister, had told Fanny that Nelson would likely be created a Viscount, similar to how Jervis had been created an Earl after Cape St Vincent, and Duncan a Viscount after Camperdown. Earl Spencer however demurred from this, on the grounds that as Nelson had only been detached in command of a squadron, rather than being the commander in chief of the fleet, an unwelcome precedent would be created. Nelson was instead created a baron, with the title of Baron Nelson of the Nile.

The Neapolitan campaign

Nelson, when news reached him, was dismayed, and declared he would rather have received no title than that of a mere barony. He was however cheered by the attention showered on him by the citizens of Naples, the prestige accorded him by the kingdom's elite, and the comforts he received at the Hamiltons' residence. He made frequent visits to attend functions in his honour, or to tour nearby attractions, with Emma almost constantly at his side. He had by now fallen deeply in love with her. He had orders from the Admiralty to blockade the French forces in Alexandria and Malta, which he delegated to his captains, Samuel Hood and Alexander Ball, but despite enjoying his lifestyle in Naples, began to think of returning to England. However, after a long period of pressure from his wife and Sir William, King Ferdinand finally agreed to declare war on the French. The Neapolitan army, led by the Austrian General Mack and supported by Nelson's fleet, retook Rome from the French in late November. However the French regrouped outside the city, and after being reinforced, routed the Neapolitans, who fled back to Naples, with the pursuing French close behind. Nelson hastily organised the evacuation of the Royal Family, several nobles and the British nationals, including the Hamiltons. Nelson got underway on 23 December, sailing through heavy gales before reaching the safety of Palermo on 26 December.

With the departure of the Royals, Naples descended into a state of anarchy and in January news reached Palermo that the French under General Championnet had entered the city and proclaimed the Parthenopaean Republic. Nelson was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Red, on 14 February 1799 and was occupied for the next several months in blockading Naples, whilst a force under Cardinal Ruffo marched to retake the city. In late June the army had entered the city, forcing the French and their supporters to withdraw to the fortifications and strongholds whilst rioting and looting broke out amongst the ill-disciplined troops. Dismayed by the bloodshed, Ruffo agreed a general amnesty with the Jacobin forces, and to allow them safe conduct to France. Nelson, now aboard Foudroyant, was outraged, and backed by King Ferdinand, insisted that the rebels must surrender unconditionally. He took those who had surrendered under the amnesty under armed guard, including the former Admiral Francesco Caracciolo, who had commanded the Neapolitan navy under King Ferdinand, but had changed sides during the brief Jacobin rule. Nelson ordered his trial by court-martial, and refused Caracciolo's request that it be held by British officers. Caracciolo was tried by royalist Neapolitan officers and sentenced to death. He asked to be shot rather than hung, but Nelson again refused this, and also ignored the court's request to allow 24 hours for Caracciolo to prepare himself. Caracciolo was hung aboard the Neapolitan frigate Minerva at 5pm that afternoon. Nelson continued to keep the Jacobins imprisoned, and approved of the wave of executions carried out, refusing to intervene despite pleas for clemency from the Hamiltons, and the Queen of Naples. When the transports were finally allowed to carry the Jacobins to France, less than a third were still alive. For his support for the monarchy Nelson was made Duke of Bronte by King Ferdinand.

Nelson returned to Palermo in August, and in September became the senior officer in the Mediterranean after Jervis' successor Lord Keith left to chase the French and Spanish fleets into the Atlantic. Nelson spent the rest of 1799 at the Neapolitan court, but he put to sea again in February 1800 after Lord Keith's return. On 18 February the Généreux, a survivor of the Nile, was sighted and Nelson gave chase. After a short battle he captured her, winning Keith's approval. Nelson was on difficult footing with his superior however, as he was gaining a reputation for insubordination, having initially refused to send ship when Keith requested him, and on occasion returning to Palermo without orders, pleading poor health. Keith's reports, and rumours of his close relationship with Emma Hamilton was also circulating back in London, and Earl Spencer wrote a pointed letter to him suggesting that he return home as

You will be more likely to recover your health and strength in England than in any inactive situation at a foreign Court, however pleasing the respect and gratitude shown to you for your services may be.

Return to England

The recall of Sir William to Britain was a further incentive for Nelson to return. He and the Hamiltons sailed on the Foudroyant in April 1800, and it was on this voyage that their illegitimate daughter Horatia was probably conceived. After a cruise around Malta Nelson conveyed the Queen of Naples and her suite to Leghorn. On his arrival, Nelson shifted his flag to , but again disobeyed Keith's orders by refusing to join the main fleet. Keith came to Leghorn in person to demand an explanation, and refused to be moved by the Queen's pleas to allow her to be conveyed in a British ship. Nelson reluctantly struck his flag and bowed to Emma Hamilton's request to return to England by land.

He, Emma and William and several other British travellers left Leghorn for Florence on 13 July. They made stops at Trieste and Vienna, eventually spending three weeks in Vienna where they were entertained by the local nobility and heard the Missa in Angustiis by Hayden that now bears Nelson's name. By September they were in Prague, and later called at Dresden, Dessau and Hamburg, from where they caught a packet ship to Great Yarmouth, arriving on 6 November. He was given a hero's welcome and after being sworn in as a freeman of the borough and received the massed crowd's applause, made his way to London, arriving on 9 November. He attended court and was guest of honour at a number of banquets and balls. It was during this period that his wife and Emma Hamilton met each other for the first time. Nelson was reported as being cold and distant to his wife, whilst his attention to Emma became the subject of gossip. By now the marriage was breaking down, with Nelson beginning to hate even being in the same room as Fanny. Events came to a head around Christmas, when according to Nelson's solicitor, Fanny issued an ultimatum on whether it was to be her or Emma. Nelson replied

I love you sincerely but I cannot forget my obligations to Lady Hamilton or speak of her otherwise than with affection and admiration.
The two never lived together again after this.

Parker and the Baltic

Shortly after his arrival in England Nelson was appointed to be second-in-command of the Channel Fleet under Lord St Vincent. He was promoted to Vice Admiral of the Blue on 1 January 1801. He travelled to Plymouth, where on 22 January he was granted the freedom of the city, and on 29 January Emma gave birth to their daughter, Horatia. Nelson was delighted, but initially downcast when he was instructed to move his flag from to , in preparation for a planned expedition to the Baltic. Tired of British ships imposing a blockade against the French and stopping and searching their merchants, the Russians, Prussians, Danish and Swedish had formed an alliance to break the blockade. Nelson joined Admiral Sir Hyde Parker's fleet at Yarmouth, from where they sailed for the Danish coast in March. On their arrival Parker was inclined to blockade the Danish and control the entrance to the Baltic, but Nelson urged a pre-emptive attack on the Danish fleet at harbour in Copenhagen. He eventually convinced Parker to allow him to make an assault, and received several ships as reinforcements. Parker himself would wait in the Kattegat, covering Nelson in case of the arrival of the Swedish or Russian fleets.

Battle of Copenhagen

On the morning of 2 April 1801 Nelson began to advance into the harbour. The action initially began badly for the British, with the Agamemnon, and running aground, and the rest of the fleet encountering heavier fire from the Danish shore batteries than had been anticipated. Parker sent the signal for Nelson to withdraw, reasoning

I will make the signal for recall for Nelson's sake. If he is in a condition to continue the action he will disregard it; if he is not, it will be an excuse for his retreat and no blame can be attached to him.
Nelson, directing action aboard , was informed of the signal by the signal lieutenant, Frederick Langford, but Nelson told him angrily 'I told you to look out on the Danish commodore and let me know when he surrendered. Keep your eyes fixed on him.' He then turned to his flag captain, Thomas Foley and said 'You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.' He raised the telescope to his blind eye, and said 'I really do not see the signal.' The exchange of fire went on for over three hours, leaving both Danish and British ships heavily damaged. At length Nelson despatched a letter to the Danish commander, Crown Prince Frederick calling for a truce, which the Prince agreed to. Nelson's actions were approved in retrospect, following a successful outcome to the battle and Parker gave him the honour of going into Copenhagen the next day to open formal negotiations. At a banquet that evening he told Prince Frederick that the battle had been the most severe had had ever been in. The outcome of the battle and several weeks of negotiations was a 14 week armistice, and on Parker's recall in May, Nelson became commander-in-chief in the Baltic Sea. As a reward for the victory, he was created Viscount Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, on 19 May 1801. In addition, on 4 August 1801, he was created Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Hilborough in the County of Norfolk, this time with a special remainder to his father and sisters. Nelson sailed to the Russian base at Tallinn in May, and soon after his arrival learned that the pact of armed neutrality was to be disbanded. Satisfied with the outcome of the expedition, he sailed for England, arriving on 1 July.

Leave in England

Meanwhile, Napoleon was massing forces to invade Great Britain. After a brief spell in London, where he again visited the Hamiltons, Nelson was placed in charge of defending the English Channel to prevent the invasion. He spent the summer reconnoitring the French coast, but apart from a failed attack on Boulogne in August, saw little action. However, on 22 October 1801, an armistice was signed between the British and the French, and Nelson – in poor health again – retired to Britain where he stayed with his friends, Sir William and Lady Hamilton. On 30 October Nelson spoke in support of the Addington government in the House of Lords, and afterwards made regular visits to attend sessions. The three embarked on a tour of England and Wales, visiting Birmingham, Warwick, Gloucester, Swansea and Monmouth, and numerous other towns and villages. Nelson often found himself received as a hero and was the centre of celebrations and events held in his honour. In 1802, Nelson bought Merton Place, a country estate in Merton, Surrey (now south-west London) where he lived briefly with the Hamiltons, until William's death in April 1803. The following month, war broke out again and Nelson prepared to return to sea.

Return to sea

The Peace of Amiens was not to last long and Nelson soon returned to duty. He was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. Assigned to HMS Victory in May 1803, Nelson joined the blockade of Toulon, France. He would not set foot on dry land again for more than two years.

Nelson was promoted to Vice Admiral of the White (the sixth highest rank) while still at sea, on 23 April 1804, the rank he held at his death. The French fleet slipped out of Toulon in early 1805 and headed for the West Indies. (See Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805) for a summary of this campaign.) A fierce chase failed to turn them up and Nelson's health forced him to retire to Merton in the UK. Within two months Nelson returned to sea. On 13 September 1805, he was called upon to oppose the French and Spanish fleets which had managed to join up and take refuge in the harbour of Cádiz, Spain. He sailed aboard the Victory, and joined the British fleet off Cádiz on 27 September, taking over from Admiral Collingwood.

Battle of Trafalgar

Nelson prepares

The combined French and Spanish fleet numbered 33 ships of the line, under the command of Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. Napoleon Bonaparte had intended for Villeneuve to sail into the English Channel and cover the planned invasion of Britain. The entry of Austria and Russia into the war forced Napoleon to call off the planned invasion and transfer troops to Germany. He ordered the combined fleet to sail into the Mediterranean to land troops at Naples, before making port at Toulon. Disappointed in Villeneuve's reluctance to engage the British, he ordered Vice-Admiral François Rosily to go to Cádiz and take command of the fleet for the operation. Villeneuve decided to sail the fleet out before his successor arrived. On 20 October the fleet was sighted making its way out of harbour by patrolling British frigates, and Nelson was informed that they appeared to be headed to the west.

At four o'clock in the morning of 21 October Nelson ordered the Victory to turn towards the approaching enemy fleet, and signalled the rest of his force to battle stations. He then went below and made his will, before returning to the quarterdeck to carry out an inspection. Despite having 27 ships to Villeneuve's 33, Nelson was confident of success, declaring that he would not be satisfied with taking less than 20 prizes. He returned briefly to his cabin to write a final prayer, after which he joined Victory’s signal lieutenant, John Pasco.

Mr Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet "England confides that every man will do his duty". You must be quick, for I have one more signal to make, which is for close action.
Pasco suggested changing 'confides' to 'expects', which being in the Signal Book, could be signalled by the use of a signal flag, whereas 'confides' would have to spelt out letter by letter. Nelson agreed, and the signal was hoisted.

As the fleets converged, the Victory’s captain, Thomas Hardy suggested that Nelson remove the decorations on his coat, so that he would not be so easily identified by enemy sharpshooters. Nelson replied that it was too late 'to be shifting a coat', adding that they were' military orders and he did not fear to show them to the enemy'. Captain Henry Blackwood, of the frigate , suggested Nelson come aboard his ship to better observe the battle. Nelson refused, and also turned down Hardy's suggestion to let Eliab Harvey's come ahead of the Victory and lead the line into battle.

Battle is joined

The Victory came under fire, initially passing wide, but then with greater accuracy as the distances decreased. A cannon ball struck and killed Nelson's secretary, John Scott, nearly cutting Scott in two. Hardy's clerk took over, but he too was almost immediately killed. Victory’s wheel was shot away, and another cannon ball cut down eight marines. Hardy, standing next to Nelson on the quarterdeck, had his shoe buckle dented by a splinter. Nelson observed 'this is too warm work to last long'. The Victory had by now reached the enemy line, and Hardy asked Nelson which ship to engage first. Nelson told him to take his pick, and Hardy moved the Victory across the stern of the 80-gun French flagship Bucentaure. The Victory then came under fire from the 74-gun Redoutable, lying off the Bucentaure’s stern, as well as the 140-gun Santísima Trinidad. Snipers from the enemy ships fired down onto the Victory’s deck. Nelson and Hardy continued to walk about, directing and giving orders.

Nelson is hit

Shortly after one o'clock Hardy realised that Nelson was not by his side. He turned to see Nelson kneeling on the deck, supporting himself with his hand, before falling onto his side. Hardy rushed to him, at which point Nelson smiled
Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last... my backbone is shot through.

He had been hit by a sniper from the Redoutable, firing at a range of 50 feet. The bullet had entered his left shoulder, pierced his lung, and came to rest at the base of his spine.

Nelson was carried below by a sergeant-major of marines and two seamen. As he was being carried down, he asked them to pause while he gave some advice to a midshipman on the handling of the tiller. He then draped a handkerchief over his face to avoid causing alarm amongst the crew. He was taken to the surgeon William Beatty, telling him

You can do nothing for me. I have but a short time to live. My back is shot through.
Nelson was made comfortable, fanned and brought lemonade and watered wine to drink after he complained of feeling hot and thirsty. He asked several times to see Hardy, who was on deck supervising the battle, and asked Beatty to remember to him to Emma, his daughter and his friends.

Hardy came below deck to see Nelson just after half-past two, and informed him that a number of enemy ships had surrendered. Nelson told him that he was sure to die, and begged him to pass his possessions to Emma. Beside Nelson at this point were the chaplain Alexander Scott, the purser Walter Burke, Nelson's steward, Chevalier, and Beatty. Nelson, fearing that a gale was blowing up, instructed Hardy to be sure to anchor. After reminding him to 'take care of poor Lady Hamilton', Nelson said 'Kiss me, Hardy'. Beatty recorded that Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek. He then stood for a minute or two, and then kissed him again. Nelson asked 'Who is that?', and on hearing that it was Hardy, replied 'God bless you Hardy.' By now very weak Nelson continued to murmur instructions to Burke and Scott, 'fan, fan ... rub, rub ... drink, drink.' Beatty heard Nelson murmur 'Thank God I have done my duty', when he returned Nelson's voice had faded and his pulse was very weak. He looked up as Beatty took his pulse, then closed his eyes. Scott, who remained by Nelson as he died, recorded his last words as 'God and my country'. Nelson died at half-past four, three hours after being hit by the ball.

Return to England

Nelson's body was placed in cask of brandy, mixed with camphor and myrrh, which was then lashed to the Victory’s mainmast and placed under guard. Victory was towed after the battle to Gibraltar, and on her arrival, the body was transferred to a lead-lined coffin filled with spirits of wine. Collingwood's despatches about the battle were carried to England aboard HMS Pickle, and on the arrival of the news in London, a messenger was sent to Merton Place to bring the news of Nelson's death to Emma Hamilton. She later recalled

They brought me word, Mr Whitby from the Admiralty. 'Show him in directly,' I said. He came in, and with a pale countenance and faint voice, said, 'We have gained a great Victory.' - 'Never mind your Victory,' I said. 'My letters - give me my letters' - Captain Whitby was unable to speak - tears in his eyes and a deathly paleness over his face made me comprehend him. I believe I gave a scream and fell back, and for ten hours I could neither speak nor shed a tear.

The King, on receiving news, is alleged to have said, in tears 'We have lost more than we have gained.' The Times reported

We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased.

The first tribute to Nelson was fittingly offered at sea by sailors of Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin's passing Russian squadron which saluted on learning of the death.

Funeral

Nelson's coffin was returned to Britain aboard the Victory. Unloaded at the Nore it was taken to Greenwich and placed in a lead coffin, and that in another wooden one, made from the mast of L'Orient which had been salvaged after the Battle of the Nile. He lay in state for three days, before being taken up river aboard a barge, accompanied by Lord Hood, Sir Peter Parker, and the Prince of Wales. The coffin was taken into the Admiralty for the night, attended by Nelson's chaplain, Alexander Scott. The next day, 9 January a funeral procession consisting of 32 admirals, over a hundred captains, and escorted by 10,000 troops took the coffin from the Admiralty to St. Paul's Cathedral. After a four hour service, he was laid to rest within a sarcophagus originally carved for Thomas Cardinal Wolsey.

The bullet that killed Nelson was removed from his body and is now on public display in Windsor Castle, whilst the blood stained clothes he was wearing are at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Legacy

Nelson was noted for his considerable ability to inspire and bring out the best in his men, to the point that it gained a name: "The Nelson Touch". Famous even while alive, after his death he was lionised like almost no other military figure in British history (his only peers are the Duke of Marlborough and Nelson's contemporary, the Duke of Wellington). Most military historians believe Nelson's ability to inspire officers of the highest rank and seamen of the lowest was central to his many victories, as was his ability to both strategically plan his campaigns and tactically shift his forces in the midst of battle. Certainly, he ranks as one of the greatest naval commanders in military history. Many consider him to have been one of the greatest warriors of the seas. A commitment to the well being of his men was a distinguishing characteristic, and quite unusual by contemporary standards: this was exemplified by his strong support for the world's first seafarers' charity The Marine Society on whose Council he was proud to serve, and which uniformed and trained about 15% of his men who fought at Trafalgar, thereby giving him an advantage over the enemy which had no such benefit.

It must also be said that his "Nelson touch" also worked with non-seamen; he was beloved in Britain by virtually everyone. (The only people not so affected by him were those offended by his affair with Lady Hamilton.) Now as then, he is a popular hero, included in the top 10 of the 100 Greatest Britons poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public, and commemorated in the extensive Trafalgar 200 celebrations in 2005, including the International Fleet Review. Even today phrases such as "England expects" and "nelson" (meaning "111") remain closely associated with English sporting teams, especially cricket.

Nelson and the Royal Navy

Nelson's memory lives on in the Royal Navy in many ways. The Royal Navy celebrates Nelson every 21 October by holding Trafalgar Day dinners and toasting "The Immortal Memory" of Nelson. His flagship Victory is still kept on active commission in honour of Nelson — it is the flagship of the Second Sea Lord, and is the oldest commissioned Naval ship in the world. She can be found in Number 2 Dry Dock of the Royal Naval Museum at the Portsmouth Naval Base, in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

The bullet that killed Nelson is permanently on display in the Grand Vestibule of Windsor Castle. The uniform that he wore during the battle, with the fatal bullet hole still visible, can be seen at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. A lock of Nelson's hair was given to the Imperial Japanese Navy from the Royal Navy after the Russo-Japanese War to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Tsushima. It is still on display at the Edashima Naval Academy, a public museum maintained by the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Another may be seen in the dining room of the museum ship HMY Britannia, the former royal yacht, now permanently moored near Edinburgh, Scotland.

Monuments and memorials to Nelson

A number of monuments and memorials were constructed across the country to honour his memory and achievements. The period of British dominance of the seas that his victories were considered to have ushered in led to a continued drive to create monuments in his name across the British Empire. These have taken many forms, the most famous being Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

Nelson's descendants

Nelson had no legitimate children; his daughter, Horatia, by Lady Hamilton (who died in poverty when their daughter was 13), subsequently married the Rev. Philip Ward who became clergyman at St Mildred's Church, Tenterden, Kent, and died in 1881. She and Ward had ten children: Horatio Nelson (born 8 December 1822); Eleanor Philippa (born April 1824); Marmaduke Philip Smyth (born 27 May 1825); John James Stephen (13 February 1827–1829); Nelson (born 8 May 1828); William George (born 8 April 1830); Edmund (10 July 1832); Horatio (born 24 November 1833), Philip (born May 1834) and Caroline (born January 1836).

Because Lord Nelson died without legitimate issue, his viscountcy and his barony created in 1798, both "of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk", became extinct upon his death. However, the barony created in 1801, "of the Nile and of Hilborough in the County of Norfolk", passed by a special remainder, which included Lord Nelson's father and sisters and their male issue, to Lord Nelson's brother, The Reverend William Nelson. William Nelson was also created Earl Nelson and Viscount Merton of Trafalgar and Merton in the County of Surrey in recognition of his brother's services, which title is still extant. William Nelson also inherited the Dukedom of Bronté.

Titles

Nelson's titles, as inscribed on his coffin, were The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronte in Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St. Joachim.

He was a Colonel of the Royal Marines and was voted a Freeman of Bath, Salisbury, Exeter, Plymouth, Monmouth, Sandwich, Oxford, Hereford, and Worcester. The University of Oxford, in full Congregation, bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law upon Nelson in 1802.

Nelson was created Duke of Bronte by the King of Naples in July 1799, and after briefly experimenting with the signature "Brontë Nelson of the Nile" signed himself "Nelson & Brontë" for the rest of his life.

Armorial bearings

Arms were originally granted and confirmed on 20 October 1797. The original Nelson family arms were adapted by him to accommodate his naval victories. After the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 Nelson was dubbed a Knight of the Bath and granted supporters of a sailor and lion with a rolled up union flag and red ensign in his mouthness. Later modifications have, in the top of the shield, a palm tree in the centre separating a disabled ship on the left and a ruined fort on the right, indicating the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Nelson’s motto, Palmam qui meruit ferat, (‘let he who has earned it bear the palm’) is inscribed in a scroll along the bottom.

Nelson in fiction

Nelson appears, unnamed but recognisable, in Susan Sontag's novel The Volcano Lover: A Romance, which centres on Lady Hamilton's affair with him. Nelson himself appears as a ghost in Amber Benson's and Christopher Golden's Ghosts of Albion. He appears several times in Dudley Pope's Ramage series, sending the young Ramage on a secret mission into France. He plays a supporting role in Sharpe's Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell and is the object of the ardent admiration of Captain Jack Aubrey in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series. In James Joyce's Ulysses, Nelson is referred to by the character Stephen Dedalus as the 'one-handled adulterer', when speaking of his namesake monument, Nelson's Pillar. In James A Michener's tome Caribbean, Nelson is the central character of the chapter entitled "A Wedding on Nevis". Barry Unsworth's novel Losing Nelson depicts an obsessive man in the present day who reveres Nelson as an angel-like figure. In Naomi Novik's alternate history/fantasy Temeraire series, Nelson survives the Battle of Trafalgar, though burned by fire, is created a Duke, and serves in the Admiralty. A recently discovered Alexandre Dumas novel, The Knight of Sainte-Hermine, portrays the title character as the shooter of Nelson. The character of Horatio Hornblower in C. S. Forester's series of books was partially inspired by Nelson.

Nelson was portrayed on film by Laurence Olivier in That Hamilton Woman (1941), about Nelson's affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton, played by Olivier's then-wife Vivien Leigh - reputedly Winston Churchill's favourite film - and also in the film The Young Mr. Pitt. Peter Finch portrayed him, with Glenda Jackson playing Emma Hamilton, in a 1973 film adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1970 stage play A Bequest to the Nation. Nelson also appears as a minor character in Abel Gance's Austerlitz (1960). In the 1961 television series, Triton, Nelson was played by Robert James, and in a 1968 version of the same series, he was played by Terry Scully. Also, in the film and television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea the lead character is Admiral Harriman Nelson.

Notes

Bibliography

  • Beatty, William (1807). The Death of Lord Nelson.
  • Bradford, Ernle (2005). Nelson: The Essential Hero. Wordsworth Military Library.
  • Coleman, Terry (2004). The Nelson Touch: The life and legend. Oxford University Press.
  • Hayward, Joel S. A. (2003). For God and Glory: Lord Nelson and His Way of War.
  • Hibbert, Christopher (1994). Nelson A Personal History.. Basic Books.
  • Knight, Roger (2005). The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson. Basic Books.
  • Lee, Christopher (2005). Nelson and Napoleon, The Long Haul to Trafalgar. headline books.
  • Lloyd, John (2006). The Book of General Ignorance. Faber and Faber.
  • Nelson, Horatio, Lord Viscount, The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson: With Notes by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas G.C.M.G., The Third Volume, January 1798 to August 1799, Henry Colburn, London, 1845
  • Pocock, Tom (1987). Horatio Nelson. London: The Bodley Head.
  • Sugden, John (2004). Nelson - A Dream of Glory. London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Vincent, Edgar (2003). Nelson: Love & Fame. Basic Books.
  • White, Colin Nelson, The New Letters. Boydell Press.
  • von Pivka, Otto, Navies of the Napoleonic Era, David & Charles, London, 1980

Further reading

  • Coleman, Terry (2001). Nelson: The man and the legend. Bloomsbury.
  • Knight, Roger (2005). The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson. Single volume biography, New York: Basic Books.
  • Lambert, Andrew (2004). Nelson - Britannia's God of War. Final two chapters on reactions to Nelson after his death through to modern times, London: Faber and Faber.
  • Michener, James A. (1989). Caribbean. Especially Chap. VIII. "A Wedding on Nevis", pp. 289-318. Some of it is fictionalised, "...but everything said about Nelson and his frantic search for a wealthy life is based on fact.", London: Secker & Warburg.
  • National Geographic magazine October 2005 edition has an article covering the Battle of Trafalgar, in recognition of its 200th anniversary.
  • Southey, Robert (1813). The Life of Nelson. First biography of Nelson - appeared while the wars were still being fought,

External links

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