Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Death of Horatio Nelson

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So beloved and revered a figure was Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson in his day that even more than 200 years after his death he is still being lionized as one of the greatest Britons to have ever lived. In life he was known for his ability to inspire men against long odds, and in death is fondly remembered in sailor's lore and cultural zeitgeist alike for the kindness and compassion he displayed while in command.

Which just goes to show you, you can carry on the most scandalous kind of private life imaginable provided you are really good at what you do (and it never hurts to be a nice guy as well). In Nelson's case scandal involved leaving his wife Fanny - the unlovely Lady Nelson (with whom he had no children) - to live together with Lady Emma Hamilton, a notable beauty of her day with whom he had a daughter, Horatia.

As a tactician and field commander Nelson was without match. His ability to change strategy mid-battle and willingness to disobey orders to do so was very much the opposite of what was expected of him, yet it was tactics like these that had brought him much glory at the Battle of the Nile, the Battle of Copenhagen, and finally his greatest victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Having lost the sight in his left eye in 1794 off of Corsica in the service of the Kingdom of Naples, and his right arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797, Nelson lost his life at Trafalgar on this day in 1805.

After running the most famous array of signal flags in British naval history up the mizzenmast of HMS Victory - England expects that every man will do his duty - he ordered an attack on the French flagship Bucentaure, damaging it badly enough to take it out of commission; then it was onto Redoutable. A bullet from a unknown French marksman in the riggings found its target, at a range of about 50 feet, and four hours later a great man was dead...

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1 comment:

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