The Right Honourable Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson,
29, 1758 –
1805) was a
British admiral who won fame as a leading naval commander. He is famous for
his participation in the
Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the
Battle of Trafalgar, where he lost his life. He became the greatest naval
hero in the history of Great Britain, eclipsing Admiral
Robert Blake in fame. His biography by the poet
Robert Southey appeared in 1813, while the wars were still being fought. His
love affair with
Hamilton, the wife of the British ambassador to Naples is also well known, and he is honoured by the
London landmark of Nelson's Column, which stands in Trafalgar Square
Comment "I am so proud of our history and our country.
By Jayne Keyes - Blackpool - England - 2010"
Have your say
Horatio Nelson was born in
England to the
Reverend Edmund Nelson and
Catherine Nelson. (His mother was a grandniece of
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford.) His mother died when Nelson was nine.
He learned to sail on Barton Broad on the
Norfolk Broads, and by the time he was twelve, he had enrolled in the
His naval career began on
1771, when he
reported to the
third-rate Raisonnable as an
Ordinary Seaman and
Nelson’s maternal uncle Captain
Maurice Suckling commanded the vessel. Shortly after reporting aboard,
Nelson was appointed a
and began officer training. Ironically, Nelson found that he suffered from
seasickness, a complaint that dogged him for the rest of his life.
By 1777 he had
risen to the rank of
and was assigned to the
Indies, during which time he saw action on the British side of the
American Revolutionary War. By the time he was 20, in June
1779, he made
Hinchinbrook, newly-captured from the French, was his first command.
In 1781 he was
involved in an action against the Spanish fortress of San Juan in
A success, the efforts involved still damaged Nelson's health to the extent that
he returned to England for more than a year. He eventually returned to active
duty and was assigned to
Albemarle, in which he continued his efforts against the American
rebels until the official end of the war in
In 1784, Nelson
was given command of the 28-gun Boreas, and assigned to enforce the
Navigation Act in the vicinity of
was during the denouement of the American Revolutionary War, and enforcement of
the act was problematic—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.
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 Fanny Nesbit, a
widow native to Nevis, whom he would marry on
1787 at the end of
his tour of duty in the Caribbean.
Nelson lacked a command starting in
1789, and lived on
half pay for several years (a reasonably common occurrence in the peacetime
Royal Navy). However, as the
French Revolution began to export itself outside of
borders, he was recalled to service. Given the 64-gun
1793, he soon started a long series of battles and engagements that would
seal his place in history.
He was first assigned to the Mediterranean, based out of the
Kingdom of Naples. In
1794 he was shot in
the face during a joint operation at
which cost him both half of his right eyebrow and the sight in his right eye.
Despite popular legend, there is no evidence that Nelson ever wore an eye patch,
though he was known to wear an eyeshade to protect his remaining eye.
In 1796, the
command-in-chief of the fleet in the Mediterranean passed to Sir
John Jervis, who tapped Nelson to be
commodore of his flagship the
1797 was a full
year for Nelson. On
14, he was largely responsible for the British victory at the
Battle of Cape St. Vincent. In the aftermath, Nelson was
knighted as a
member of the
Order of the Bath (hence the post nominal initials "K.B."). In April of the
same year he was promoted to Rear Admiral of
the Blue, the tenth highest rank in the Royal Navy. Later in the year,
during an unsuccessful expedition to conquer
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, he was shot in the right arm with a musket ball,
humerus bone in multiple places. Since medical science of the day counselled
amputation for almost all serious limb wounds (to prevent gangrene, and
subsequent death) Nelson lost almost his entire right arm, and was unfit for
duty until mid-December.
This was not his only reverse. In December 1796, on leaving
Nelson transferred his flag to the
Minerve (of French construction, commanded by Captain Cockburn). 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 line and one frigate appeared. Nelson decided to flee, leaving
the Sabina to be recovered by the Spanish and Hardy was captured. The
Spanish captain who was on board Minerve was later exchanged for Hardy in
In 1798, Nelson was once again responsible for a great victory over the
Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Abukir Bay) took place on August 1,
1798 and, as a
result, Napoleon's ambition to take the war to the British in
India came to an
end. The forces
Napoleon had brought to
stranded. Napoleon attempted to march north along the
Mediterranean coast but 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.
For the spectacular victory of the Nile, Nelson was granted the title of
Baron Nelson (Nelson felt cheated that he was not awarded a greater title;
Sir John Jervis had been made Earl of St Vincent for his part in that
battle, but the British Government insisted that an officer who was not the
commander-in-chief, could not be raised to any peerage higher than a barony.
Nelson felt through his life that his accomplishments were not fully rewarded by
the British government, a fact he ascribed to his more humble birth and lack of
political connections when compared to Sir John Jervis, or The Duke of
Not content to rest on his laurels, he then rescued the Neapolitan royal
family from a French invasion in December. During this time, he fell in love
Emma Hamilton—the young wife of the elderly British ambassador to
became his mistress, returning to England to live openly with him, and
eventually they had a daughter, Horatia. Some have suggested that a head wound
he received at Abukir Bay was partially responsible for that conduct, and for
the way he conducted the Neapolitan campaign—due simultaneously to his English
Jacobins and his status as a Neapolitan royalist (he had been made Duke of
Bronte in Sicily by the King of Naples in 1799)—now considered something of
a disgrace to his name. He was accused of allowing the monarchists to kill
prisoners contrary to the laws of war.
In 1799, he was promoted to
Rear Admiral of
the Red, the seventh highest rank in the Royal Navy. He was then assigned to
Foudroyant. In July, he aided
Admiral Ushakov with the reconquest of Naples, and was
made Duke of
Bronte by the Neapolitan king. His personal problems, and upper-level
disappointment at his professional conduct caused him to be rotated back to
England, but public knowledge of his affection for Lady Hamilton eventually
induced the Admiralty to send him back to sea if only to get him away from her.
1, 1801, he was
promoted to Vice
Admiral of the Blue (the sixth highest rank). Within a few months he was
involved in the
Battle of Copenhagen (April
2, 1801), which
nullified the fleet of the
order to break up the armed neutrality of
the battle, Nelson was ordered to cease the battle by his commander Sir
Parker who believed that the Danish fire was too effective. In a famous
incident, however, Nelson claimed he could not see the signal flags conveying
the order, pointedly raising his telescope to his blind eye. His action was
approved in retrospect, and in May, he became commander-in-chief in the
and was awarded the title of Viscount Nelson by the British crown.
Napoleon was amassing forces to invade England, however, and Nelson was soon
placed in charge of defending the
English Channel to prevent this. However, on
an armistice was signed between the British and the French, and Nelson—in poor
health again—retired to England where he stayed with his friends,
Sir William and Lady Hamilton.
Peace of Amiens was not to last long though, and Nelson soon returned to
duty. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean, and assigned to
Victory in May
1803. He joined the blockade of
Toulon, France, and would not again set foot on dry land for more than two
years. Nelson was promoted to
Vice Admiral of
the White (the fifth highest rank) while he was still at sea, on
23 April 1804. 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 stern
chase failed to turn them up and Nelson's health forced him to retire to
Merton in England.
Within two months, his ease ended. On
September 13, 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
October 21, 1805,
Nelson engaged in his final battle, the
Battle of Trafalgar. Napoleon Bonaparte had been massing forces once again
for the invasion of the British Isles. However, he had already decided that his
navy was not adequate to secure the Channel for the invasion barges and had
started moving his troops away for a campaign elsewhere in Europe. On the 19th,
the French and Spanish fleet left Cádiz, probably because
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, the French commander, had heard that he was to be
replaced by another admiral. Nelson, with twenty-seven ships, engaged the
thirty-three opposing ships.
Nelson's last dispatch, written on the 21st, read:
- At daylight saw the Enemy's Combined Fleet from East to E.S.E.; bore away;
made the signal for Order of Sailing, and to Prepare for Battle; the Enemy with
their heads to the Southward: at seven the Enemy wearing in succession. May the
Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country, and for the benefit of Europe in
general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish
it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British
Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may
his blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my Country faithfully. To Him
I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen.
As the two fleets moved towards engagement, he then ran up a thirty-one flag
signal to the rest of the fleet which spelled out the famous phrase "England
expects that every man will do his duty".
The Bullet that killed Nelson
After crippling the French flagship
Bucentaure, the Victory moved on to the
Redoutable. The two ships entangled each other, at which point snipers
in the fighting tops of the Redoutable were able to pour fire down onto
the deck of the Victory. Nelson was one of those hit: a bullet entered
his shoulder, pierced his lung, and came to rest at the base of his spine.
Nelson retained consciousness for four hours, but died soon after the battle was
concluded with a British victory. The Victory was then towed to
with Nelson's body on board preserved in a barrel of
wine. Upon his
body's arrival in
London, Nelson was given a
funeral and entombment in
St. Paul's Cathedral. He was laid to rest in a wooden coffin made from the
mast of L'Orient which had been salvaged after the Battle of the Nile.
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 lionized 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). Nelson was included in the top 10 of the 100
Greatest Britons poll sponsored by the
BBC and voted for by
the public. 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 unequalled ability to both strategically plan his campaigns
and tactically shift his forces in the midst of battle. He may have been the
greatest field commander in history. Certainly, he stands as the greatest
warrior afloat. It must also be said that his "Nelson touch" also worked with
non-seamen; he was beloved in England by virtually everyone. (The only people
not affected by him were those offended by his affair with Lady Hamilton!)
Monuments to Nelson
Nelson's Column and the surrounding
Trafalgar Square are notable locations in
London to this
day, and Nelson was buried in
St. Paul's Cathedral. In
Nelson's Monument was constructed atop
Calton Hill in
A Monument in
Great Yarmouth to Nelson was started before his death but only completed in
1819. This is sometimes known as the Britannia monument as it is topped by that
martial female rather than a statue of Nelson; a statue to Nelson can however be
found in Norwich alongside Wellington.
there is a monument to Nelson erected in 1809 in Place Jacques Cartier which was
a market place at the time. It has carved scenes from Nelson's career around the
base and the statue on top was claimed to be the oldest public statue of Nelson
in the world. It has been removed due to excessive weathering.
There is also the
Nelson memorial in Swarland, Northumberland which was raised as a private
memorial of Nelson by his friend and sometime agent, Alexander Davison. The
monument to Nelson in Dublin was
destroyed by an IRA bomb (see
Nelson Island on the
Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, Canada is named after Horatio Nelson.
Nelson and the Royal Navy
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 ship of the Royal Navy. She
can be found in Number 2 Dry Dock of the
Royal Navy Museum at the
Portsmouth Naval Base, in
Two Royal Navy battleships have been named
Nelson in his honour. The Royal Navy celebrates Nelson every
by holding Trafalgar Day dinners and toasting "The Immortal Memory" of
The bullet that killed Nelson is permanently on display in the Grand
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
Imperial Japanese Navy from the
Russo-Japanese war to commemorate the victory at the
Battle of Tsushima. It is still on display at Kyouiku Sankoukan, a
public museum maintained by the
Japan Self-Defense Forces.
Nelson had no legitimate children; his illegitimate daughter by Lady
Hamilton, Horatia, subsequently married the Rev. Philip Ward and died in 1881. She and Rev.
Ward had nine children: Horatio Nelson Ward (born
Phillipa Ward (born April
Philip Smyth Ward (born May 27,
1825); John James
Stephen Ward (February
Nelson Ward (born May
William George Ward (born
1830); Edmund Ward
Horatio Ward (born
Philip Ward (born May
1834); Caroline Ward (born January
Because Lord Nelson had no legitimate heirs, the Viscountcy and 1798 Barony
of Nelson (both "of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk")
became extinct upon his death. However, the 1801 Barony of Nelson ("of the Nile
and of Hilborough in the County of Norfolk") passed by a special remainder to
Lord Nelson's brother,
The Revd William Nelson. William was also created
Nelson in recognition of his brother's services, which title is still
Although Nelson's exploits are often claimed to have provided inspiration for
fictional characters such as
Horatio Hornblower and
Honor Harrington, a close reading of the books does not bear this out. It is
more likely Nelson's fame makes him the only Naval figure of the time that
Nelson's final words (as related by Victory's Surgeon
William Beatty, based on the accounts of those who were with Nelson when he
died) were "Thank God I have done my duty". According to Beatty, he repeated
these words several times until he became unable to speak.
In his dying hours, Nelson was also attended by his chaplain, Alexander
Scott, his steward, Chevalier and Walter Burke, the purser, whose accounts have
been available for modern biographers of Nelson. In those accounts, Nelson's
last words were "Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub.". This was a request to
alleviate his symptoms of thirst, heat and the pains of his wounds (Pocock,
Horatio Nelson, 1987, p.331).
It is a common misconception that Nelson's last words were "Kiss me, Hardy",
spoken to the captain of HMS Victory,
Thomas Hardy. Nelson did, in fact, say this to Hardy a short time before his
death, but they were not his last words, and Hardy was not present at his death
(having been called back on deck). Some have speculated that Nelson actually
Hardy", but this is impossible, since the word kismet did not enter the
English language until much later.
"Tapping the Admiral"
According to a
legend, naval rum
rather than brandy was used to preserve his body. It was supposedly illicitly
half drunk by the time it reached London; the crew were supposed to have sucked
out the rum using thin straws. However, this legend is unlikely, due to the
great respect that the crew had for Nelson, and because his body was guarded
night and day by a marine. Nevertheless, this legend has given rise to the slang
term "tapping the Admiral", meaning illicit drinking, and may be related to the
nickname given to Naval rum rations later, "Nelson's Blood", (although this is
possibly a deliberate echo of the
Admiral Nelson's Rum
Today, Nelson has a brand of rum named after him, "Admiral Nelson's Premium
Rum". The brand's official website has an interactive overview and chronology of
Lord Nelson's full title, at the time of his death, was Vice Admiral of
the White The Right Honourable Horatio, Viscount Nelson,
Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. In addition, he was
Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron
Nelson, of the Nile and of Hillborough in the County of Norfolk, Duke of
Bronte in the nobility of the
Kingdom of the Two Scillies, Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of St
Ferdinand and of Merit and a Knight of the
Ottoman Empire's Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order
of St Joachim, Colonel of the Marines, and Freeman of Norwich, Bath, Yarmouth,
London, Salisbury and Exeter.
- This article incorporates text from the
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, which is in the
- Coleman, Terry (2004). The Nelson Touch: The life and legend. Oxford
For God and Glory: Lord Nelson and His Way of War by Hayward, Joel S. A.(2003)
Nelson: Love & Fame Vincent,Edgar (2003)
Nelson A Personal History by Hibbert, Christopher (1994)
- Pocock, Tom 1987, Horatio Nelson. The Bodley Head. London.
- Michener, James, A. 1989. Caribbean. Secker & Warburg. London.
ISBN 0-436-27971-1 (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."
- Pocock, Tom 1987, Horatio Nelson. The Bodley Head. London.
- Lambert, Andrew Nelson - Britannia's God of War. Faber and Faber.
ISBN 0-571-21222-0 Good new general biography; particularly helpful final
two chapters on reactions to Nelson after his death, down to the current day.
- Sugden, John Nelson - A Dream of Glory. Jonathan Cape. London.
ISBN 0-224-06097-X Outstanding and extremely thorough account of Nelson's
life as far as the battle of St. Vincent.
A true hero who gave much for his country. - PCH - New Zealand, 2010
Does anyone have any information on Nelsons sister Catherine (i think its
Catherine) my nan rather cryptically said once that we are descended from
Nelsons sister who married a clergyman - does anyone know anything about this
family tree to prove or disprove this family rumour?
I am so proud of our history and our country.
By Jayne Keyes - Blackpool - England - 2010
at Trafalgar, originally published in England as, England Expects, Dudley
Pope, 1959, Lippincott, page 85:
"If it seems strange that Nelson’s dying words were, “Kiss me, Hardy,” remember
this was the Thomas Masterman Hardy, the massive, grave and kindly man from
Dorset who, when the frigate Minerve was being chased by several Spanish
battleships, lowered a boat and rowed after a seaman who had fallen over the
side. The Spaniards were coming up fast and Nelson was faced with the danger
that the Minerve would be captured before the boat could get back. However, he
did not hesitate. “By God, I’ll not lose Hardy! Back the Mizzen-topsail.” The
Minerve lay-to, motionless, while the boat caught up, and the nearest Spanish
battleship, apparently bewildered by the tiny frigate’s unexpected action, and
probably fearing a trap, backed a topsail as well. This gave Nelson enough time
to get Hardy and his boat’s crew on board, and the Minerve escaped.
Nelson, of course, played the game of favourites in an age of favouritism, but
apart from a few glaring exceptions each man deserved his loyalty. Each was an
outstanding seaman, and each became Nelson’s friend---one of his “band of
brothers”---because he could and did fight the enemy like a demon, and because
he could and did accept the kind of leadership Nelson offered, exploiting it to
the full. Nelson’s leadership was that of example and trust, accompanied with a
warm smile---the rarest of all, the most easily abused, and yet, if followed,
the most successful."
Flask? Utter nonsense. Several witnesses attest to his statement being "Kiss
me, Hardy", a perfectly understandable dying request to anyone with even the
slightest knowledge of the bond between brothers in arms, the strength of
friendship, and Nelson's very great regard for his flag captain. History is, or
should be, about FACT, not barmy suppositions and homophobic neurosis.
Some of us foresee are own demise, like me he probably knew from an early age
the expanse and year of his death. He probably lived it with disdain for those
who held him back and died when he knew he would in a manner of his choosing. Of
course I could be wrong, but my feeling on the fact he dressed for the occasion
tends to support my feelings.
The statue of Lord Nelson in Bridgetown Barbados was erected in 1813, nearly 30
years before London's Lord Nelson column. Sculpted from bronze by Sir Richard
Westmacott, who is called "the first castor of bronze in the kingdom", it is
considered to be an accurate likeness of the British Admiral.
The Immortal Memory. A hero for the ages who would have chosen such a moment to
die, were it in his power. There is substantial evidence that he foresaw his
death at Trafalgar. You in your island have every right to the pride you feel at
the mere mention of his name.
Joe Laurance, Roseburg, Oregon, USA
A brilliant history of Nelson. Made
me think, because my Granddaughter is doing a history project on the subject.
She is six years old, and will visit H.M.S. Victory in the near future. Thank
goodness, some schools still teach British History
|The speculation as to Lord Nelson's words as he lay dying on
Victory's deck, ignores one very vital possible alternative.
"kiss me Hardy"
or "kismet Hardy" ignores the fact that the Admiral was in much pain, also that
he owned his own medicine chest, pictures of which can be obtained from Burnham
Thorpe Parish Church Council.
Clearly shown in that picture are FLASKS and no doubt naval rum was contained
in at least one of these.
It is therefore entirely feasible that the Admiral actually said "IS MY FLASK
HANDY" meaning he wished to take a draft of naval rum against the pain of his
For such a brave and brilliant commander to ask for a "kiss" from a junior
officer is unthinkable in 1805 and even "kismet" (fate) carries far more
credibility, especially as he chose to dress in his full regalia before entering
the battle. This, it has been suggested by one resident Nelson scholar from
Burham, reflected his troubled private life and suggested he may have wished to
end it nobly on the field of battle.
As a collector of SPIRIT FLASKS, as 'hip flasks' were known in the 18th and
19th century, and from the existence of his own medicine chest which contained
14 silver topped, glass flasks, bearing labels identifying their contents, it is
my belief that "kiss me Hardy" is a misquote. For the reasons given above and
the fact that it was common practice for gentlemen to carry spirit flasks. Also
as a frequent shooting guest on the nearby Earl of Leicester's Holkham Estate
where it was common practice for the Earl to expect his guests to resort to
their spirit flasks during the day's shooting rather than stop for lunch, adds
further credibility to my hypothesis.
It was also common practice for The Earl to hand around a tin containing slices
of raw onion at around lunch time. As anybody who has eaten raw onion knows, a
very strong draft of spirits is an absolute necessity if the "benefit" of a
lunchtime onion is NOT to become a burdensome memory for the rest of the day.
Clearly, so many pointers argue the case that Admiral Nelson would have
requested a draft of the current naval alternative of the day to morphine, navy
rum, as a relief for the terrible pain that he must have been enduring on
Victory's deck. Said through gritted teeth "is my flask handy" could so easily
have been interpreted later by a recorder of Nelson's final hours as something
different, which more than naturally made fond reference to his close associate
Logic however, is severely compromised by such a belief and history is, or
should be, about FACT. Anon