Friday, September 30, 2005

Admiral Lord Nelson

Glory was his constant desire; duty his steadfast aim.

A hero for the ages: Horatio Nelson. October 21 will be the 200th anniversary of his great and final victory, the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson commanded the British Navy as it went up against the combined naval forces of France and Spain. As the battle was about to begin he ran up signal flags on the H.M.S. Victory to proclaim: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” At the end of the battle, 14,000 French and Spanish lay dead, and 1,500 British lost their lives including Nelson himself. Napoleon was defeated, and the British established an indisputable dominance of the high seas.

The man who would become Admiral Lord Nelson was the sixth of eleven children born to the village rector of Burnham Thorpe. He went to sea as a midshipman at age 12, and worked his way through the ranks to become Admiral of the British Navy. He fought alongside his men, and wore a conspicuous uniform that made the fact evident to friend and foe alike. He lost an eye and an arm in battles, suffered disease and deprivation, storms and wars. He maintained his sense of humor and intelligence and inspired an unprecedented level of devotion and loyalty from the men under his command.

Along the way, he married and fell in love—unfortunately, two different women were involved. Emma Hamilton was his great love. They had a child, but never married. Lady Hamilton’s situation was not approved by society, and she eventually died in relative poverty.

Nelson has served as the inspiration for at least two great book series: the Captain Hornblower series by C.S. Forester, and the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian.


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