Here is a brief photographic contribution to the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, which was on 20 October 2005 with pictures from Birmingham, Norfolk, London, Greenwich, Tenby & Portsmouth. It is hard to write anything new about Lord Nelson, so I attach a copy of the information printed in the London Gazette on Wednesday 6 November 1805 and Collingwood's letter of 24th October, both from the issue of the Times on 7th November 1805. In addition I append a short article on Nelson's mistress, Lady Hamilton.
|Statue of Nelson at Birmingham Bull Ring, Sept 2003||Bust of Nelson in the church at Burnham
Thorpe, May 2002
|Plaque at the Birthplace of Nelson in Burnham Thorpe||Facsimile of baptism entry for Nelson at Burnham Thorpe|
|Plaque at Old Royal Naval College, Nov 2008||Plaque at Old Royal Naval College, Nov 2008|
|Floor plaque in Painted Hall,
Old Royal Naval College, Nov 2008
|Floor plaque in Painted Hall,
Old Royal Naval College, Nov 2008
|East Rock House in Tenby||Tenby Plaque, June 2010|
|Stern of HMS Victory||HMS Victory at Portsmouth, 2000|
|Nelson's Column, London, August 2006||Nelson Statue in Portsmouth, May 2010|
The plaque on the statue shown at the bottom right notes that Admiral Nelson spent his last hours ashore before leaving for the Battle of Trafalgar at the George Hotel in Portsmouth, which was destroyed by bombing together with much of the city centre on 10/11th January 1941.
Dispatches, of which the following are Copies, were received at the Admiralty this day, at one o'clock, A.M., from Vice-Admiral Collingwood, Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty's ships and vessels off Cadiz:-
Euryalus, off Cape Trafalgar, Oct. 22, 1805.
SIR, The ever-to-be-lamented death of Vice-Admiral, Lord Viscount NELSON, who in the late conflict with the enemy fell in the hour of victory, leaves to me the duty of informing my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that on the 19th instant it was communicated to the Commander-in-Chief, from the ships watching the motions of the enemy in Cadiz, that the combined fleet had put to sea; as they sailed with light winds Westerly, his Lordship concluded their destination was the Mediterranean, and immediately made all sail for the Streights entrance with the British Squadron, consisting of twenty-seven ships, three of them sixty-fours, where his Lordship was informed by Captain Blackwood (whose vigilance in watching and giving notice of the enemy's movements has been highly meritorious) that they had not yet-passed the Streights.
On Monday the 21st instant at daylight, when Cape Trafalgar bore E. by S. about seven leagues, the enemy was discovered six or seven miles Eastward, the wind about West, and very light. The Commander-in-Chief immediately made the signal for the fleet to bear up in two columns as they are formed in order of sailing: a mode of attack his Lordship had previously directed to avoid the inconveniences and delay in forming a line of battle in the usual manner. The enemy's line consisted of thirty three ships (of which eighteen were French and fifteen Spanish), commanded in chief by Admiral Villeneuve: the Spaniards under the direction of Gravina, were with their heads Northward, and formed their line of battle with great closeness and correctness; but as the mode of attack was unusual, so the structure of their line was new; it formed a crescent, convexing the lee-ward, so that in leading down to the centre I had both their van and rear abaft the beam; before the fire opened, every alternate ship was about a cable's length, to windward of her second ahead and astern, forming a kind of double line, and appeared when on their beam to leave a very little interval between them; and this without crowding their ships. Admiral Villeneuve was in the Bucentaure in the centre, and the Prince of Asturias bore Gravina's flag in the rear; but the French and Spanish ships were mixed without any apparent regard to order of national squadron.
As the mode of our attack had been previously determined on and communicated to the Flag Officers and Captains, few signals were necessary, and none were made except to direct close order as the lines bore down.
The Commander-in-Chief, in the Victory, led the weather column, and the Royal Sovereign, which bore my flag, the lee.
The action began at twelve o'clock by the leading ships of the column breaking through the enemy's line, the Commander-in-Chief about the tenth ship from the van, the Second in Command about the twelfth from the rear, leaving the van of the enemy unoccupied: the succeeding ships breaking through in all parts, astern of their leaders, and engaging the enemy at the muzzles of their guns. The conflict was severe: the enemy's ships were fought with a gallantry highly honourable to their Officers; but the attack on them was irresistible, and it pleased the Almighty Disposer of all events to grant his Majesty's arms a complete and glorious victory. About three P.M., many of the enemy's ships having struck their colours, their line gave way; Admiral Gravina, with ten ships joining their frigates to leeward, stood towards Cadiz. The five headmost ships in their van tacked, and standing to the Southward, or windward of the-British line, were engaged and the sternmost of them taken; the others went off, leaving to his Majesty's squadron nineteen ships of the line (of which three are first-rates-the Santissima, Trinidad, and the Santa Anna,) with three Flag Officers, viz., Admiral Villeneuve, the Commander-in-Chief; Don Ignatis Maria D'Aliva, Vice Admiral; and the Spanish Rear Admiral, Don Bathagar Hidalgo Cisueros.
After such a victory it may appear unnecessary to enter into econiums on the particular parts taken by the several Commanders; the conclusion says more on the subject than I have language to express; the spirit which animated all was the same; when all exert themselves zealously in their country's service, all deserve that their high merits should stand recorded; and never was high merit more conspicuous than in the battle I have described.
The Achille (a French 74), after having surrendered, by some mismanagement of the Frenchman, took fire and blew up; two hundred of her men were saved by the Tenders.
A circumstance occurred during the action which so strongly marks the invincible spirit of British seamen, when engaging the enemies of their country, that I cannot resist the pleasure I have in making it known to their Lordships. The Temeraire was boarded by accident or design by a French ship on one side and a Spaniard on the other; the contest was vigorous, but in the end the Combined Ensigns were torn from the poop and the British hoisted in their places. Such a battle could not be fought without sustaining a great loss of men. I have not only to lament in common with the British Navy and the British Nation in the fall of the Commander-in-Chief, the loss of a hero whose name will be immortal and his memory ever dear to his country; but my heart is rent with the most poignant grief for the death of a friend to whom by many years intimacy and a perfect knowledge of the virtues of his mind, which inspired ideas superior to the common race of men, I was bound by the strongest ties of affection: a grief to which the glorious occasion in which he fell does not bring the consolation which perhaps it ought. His Lordship received a musket ball in his left breast about the middle of the action, and sent an Officer to me immediately with his last farewell, and soon after expired.
I have also to lament the loss of those excellent Officers Captains Duff, of the Mars, and Cooke, of the Bellerophon: I have yet heard of none others. I fear the numbers that have fallen will be found very great when the returns come to me; but it having blown a gale of wind ever since the action, I have not yet had it in my power to collect any reports from the ships.
The Royal Sovereign having lost her masts, except the tottering foremast, I called the Euryalus to me while the action continued, which ship lying within hail, made my signals - a service Captain Blackwood performed with great attention; after the action I shifted my flag to her, that I might more easily communicate any orders to, and collect the ships, and towed the Royal Sovereign out to seaward. The whole fleet were now in a very perilous position, many dismasted, all shattered, in thirteen fathom water, off the shoals of Trafalgar; and when I made the signal to prepare to anchor few of the ships had an anchor to let go, their cables being shot; but the same good Providence which aided us through the day preserved us through the night by the wind shifting a few points and drifting the ships off the land, except four of the captured, dismasted ships, which are now at anchor off Trafalgar, and I hope will, ride safe until those gales are over.
Having thus, detailed the proceedings of the fleet on this occasion, I beg to congratulate their Lordships on a victory which I hope will add a ray to the glory of his Majesty's crown, and be attended with public benefit to our country.
I am, &c., (Signed,)
To: William Marsden, Esq.
The order in which the ships of the British Squadron attacked the combined Fleets on the 21st of October, 1805. (spellings corrected by referring to the page on The Battle of Trafalgar, part of the Broadside site, which gives very clear maps of the battle.)
(Signed,) C. COLLINGWOOD.
SIR, - In my letter of the 22nd I detailed to you for the information of
my Lords' Commissioners of the Admiralty, the proceedings of his Majesty's
Squadron on the day of the action and that preceding it, since which I have
had a continued series of misfortunes, but they are of a kind that human prudence
could not possibly provide against or my skill prevent.
On the 22nd, in the morning, a strong Southerly wind blew, with squally weather, which, however did not prevent the activity of the Officers and Seamen of such ships as were manageable from getting hold of many of the prizes (thirteen or fourteen), and towing them off to the Westward, when I ordered them to rendezvous round the Royal Sovereign, in tow by the Neptune; but on the 23rd the gale increased and the sea ran so high that many of them broke the tow rope, and drifted far to leeward before they were got hold of again; and some of them taking advantage in the dark and boisterous night, got before the wind, and have perhaps drifted upon the shore and sunk on the afternoon of that day; the remnant of the Combined Fleet, ten sail of ships who had not been much engaged, stood up to leeward of my shattered and straggled charge, as if meaning to attack them, which obliged me to collect a force out of the least injured ships and turn to leeward for their defence; all this retarded the progress of the hulks, and the bad weather continuing determined me to destroy all the leewardmost that could be cleared of the men, considering that keeping possession of the ships was a matter of little consequence compared with the chance of their falling again into the hands of the enemy; but even this was an arduous task in the high sea which was running. I hope, however, it was accomplished to a considerable extent; I entrusted it to skilful Officers, who would spare no pains to execute what was possible. The captain of the Prince and Neptune cleared the Trinidad and sunk her. Captains Hope, Baystun and Malsobes, who joined the Fleet this moment from Gibraltar, had the charge of destroying four others - The Redoubtable sank astern of the Swiftsure while in tow. The Santa, I have no doubt, is sunk, as her side was almost entirely beat in; and such is the shattered condition of the whole of them, that unless the weather moderates, I doubt whether I shall be able to carry a ship of them into port. I hope their Lordships will approve of what I (having only in consideration the destruction of the enemy's fleet) have thought a measure of absolute necessity.
I have taken Admiral Villeneuve into this ship; Vice Admiral Don Aliva is dead. Whenever the temper of the weather will permit and I can spare a frigate (for there were only four in the action with the fleet, Euryalus, Sirius, Phoebe, and Naiad; the Melpomene joined the 22nd and the Eurydice and Scout the 23rd), I shall collect the other Flag Officers and send them to England with their flags (if they do not all go to the bottom) to be laid at his Majesty's feet.
There were four thousand troops embarked under the command of General Contamin,
who was taken with Admiral Villeneuve in the Bucentaure.
(Signed,) C. COLLINGWOOD.
Here is brief account of Nelson's mistress, Lady Hamilton. It is adapted from notes taken at a lecture given by Lesley Edwards of Keele University at a Georgian History class held at Tabley House, Knutsford, in the 1998/9 winter season and reproduced here with her permission. Lesley was responsible for recreating the costumes on the models of Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson at the Maritime Museum in Portsmouth. Lady Hamilton was known earlier in her life as Emma Lyon and Emma Hart.
Emma Lyon was born at Neston on the Wirral, the daughter of a blacksmith, probably on 26 April 1765. Her mother took her to North Wales and then to London to seek employment. She was a nursery maid in the 1770s but was soon employed as one of the vestal virgins in Dr. James Graham's Temple of Health. In this role she probably met many men! At 16, Emma became pregnant as the mistress of Sir Harry Featherstonehough of Uppark. She appealed to Sir Charles Greville, the second son of the Earl of Warwick and he agreed to be her protector. Emma became Sir Charles' mistress but as he was a younger son he had a modest income of about £500 a year. Sir Charles took Emma into his house and Emma's mother was installed in a house near Marble Arch. In March 1782 Emma's baby was born and sent to be cared for by her grandmother on the Wirral. Sir Charles commissioned Romney to paint Emma when she was 17. Romney was fascinated by her and used her as a model on several pictures. (Some of these were shown in the Romney exhibition held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 2002.)
By 1785, Sir Charles Greville was in debt through gambling and wished to marry for money. In effect, he passed Emma to his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, a widower. Sir William had already met Emma. He was ambassador to the King of Naples and Sicily and had the job of keeping the King and Queen faithful to England rather than to Bourbon cousins in France and Spain. Emma was 20 and Sir William was 55. Sir Charles sent Emma to Naples and she believed that he would follow later. She went with her mother, who travelled under the name Mrs. Cadogan. Sir William provided tutors in language, singing and music and lavished gifts on Emma. She wrote to Sir Charles pleading for him to take her back but by July 1786 she realised that she had been sent to live with Sir William.
Sir William was a collector of Greek and Roman antiquities and was an expert on Etruscan vases. Emma began to produce scenes from classical stories and mythology in which she appeared in period costume; these were called her "attitudes". Goethe witnessed these when he visited in 1787 and wrote that the old knight idolised her.
In 1791, Sir William visited England and seems to have obtained the tacit assent of George III to marry Emma. The King had been advising him to remarry since the death of his first wife, who was a talented and cultivated woman. Emma could not be presented at court in England because of her background. The couple married on 6 September 1791 and it then became acceptable for Emma to be received by the Queen but not the King of Naples. Emma played an important part in keeping the King and Queen favourable to England during the Napoleonic Wars. By this stage Emma could speak Italian and acted as a guide to visitors to the court. Emma had been relatively slim as a girl but began to put on weight and had already a very full figure by 1796.
She first met Nelson in 1793. In 1794 he lost his eyesight in one eye (but not the eye) and in 1797 was wounded in the right elbow and had his lower arm amputated. He won the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and was created Baron Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe. Returning from the Nile, Nelson stopped at Naples in November 1798. He had been at sea for six months and was exhausted. Emma insisted on nursing him back to health. During his stay of about a year in Naples, Nelson saved the city state from invasion and was created the Duke of Bronte by the King on 13 August 1799. The estates granted to him were supposed to yield £3,000 a year but he never received anything.
Nelson was already a national hero and women wore dresses with naval insignia and motifs by way of celebrating his achievements. It is known that at a fete in Palermo in 1799 there were effigies of Sir William and Lady Hamilton and of Nelson. Emma provided a gown for her effigy.
Sir William, Emma and Nelson lived as a menage à trois. In 1800, they returned to London via Prague and Austria. Emma was six months pregnant with Nelson's child. The couple returned to England through Great Yarmouth and travelled to London. In January 1801, Nelson was called to sea again. At the end of January 1801, Emma's baby was born at the Hamilton home in London. Nelson was in the habit of writing to Emma as if he were sending messages from an illiterate sailor called Thompson. Emma was supposedly passing the messages to Mrs. Thompson. However, there are occasional slips between the third and first person singular which give the clue to the real purpose of the letters. Emma's child was baptised as Horatia Thompson and sent to a wet nurse called Mrs. Gibson. The latter was told that the child, about a week old, was born six weeks earlier, at a time when Emma was in Vienna, but she was wise enough not to question the age. As a result there was always confusion as to the true birth date of Horatia. Sir William was either unaware of the affair or pretended to be.
Nelson sent adoring letters to Emma, referring to Sir William as her uncle. Emma chose Merton Place as a house for all of them and it cost most of Nelson's capital of £9,000. Sir William lost most of his collection of works of art when the ship bringing them home from Naples sank. Emma worked her way through Sir William's money and some of Nelson's. Sir William died on 6 April 1803 and only then was Horatia christened. Emma was then 37.
Nelson died in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson made good provision for his wife, left money for Horatia and left Merton to Emma. In a codicil as he was dying he asked Captain Hardy and the nation to care for Emma. Nelson's nephew inherited most of his estate and it was hoped he would marry Horatia. However, the nephew died aged 19. It was proposed that the state would look after Emma for her work in Naples. The title and the money went to Nelson's brother. Although Emma had Merton and Sir William's remaining money she got into debt and by 1808 owed £15,000. Initially she was helped by friends and she tried to sell Merton but she got into debt again and in 1813 was arrested twice. The state ignored her. In 1814, her correspondence with Nelson was published but she claimed she had not authorised this. Emma moved to Calais with Horatia, when the latter was 13, but relationships between them were not very good. Emma died in Calais on 15 January 1815 aged 49 and was buried there in a grave now lost. An English merchant paid for the funeral.
Horatia was brought up by Nelson's family. She married a curate, Philip Wood, had many children and lived to a great age. She claimed Nelson to be her father but denied her mother was Emma.