Horatio Nelson - History

Horatio Nelson  - History

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Celebrated English naval commander, Nelson joined the navy at age 12. He participated in a number of missions, and saw action in San Juan, America, the West Indies, and the Mediterranean. He initiated his famous affair with Emma Hamilton, wife of the British ambassador to Naples, during the Mediterranean campaigns of the French revolutionary wars. In 1798, his achieved a decisive victory over French forces in the Battle of the Nile. His success as a naval commander were rewarded by a peerage, a generous pension, and other monetary gifts. The successes came at a price, however, as Nelson lost both an eye and his right arm during battles. After his triumphs in the Mediterranean, Nelson resigned his command to return to England where Emma Hamilton bore him a daughter. In 1801, Nelson received the rank of vice admiral and set off on the Baltic campaign. With the resumption of hostilities between England and France, Nelson became commander of the Mediterranean. In the battle at Trafalgar, Nelson sustained mortal injuries while directing the British victory. He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Roy and Lesley Adkins's top 10 Nelson books

Roy and Lesley Adkins's many books include Trafalgar, which tells the story of the war at sea in Napoleonic times, and their latest book Jack Tar, looking at life in the navy in Nelson's era.

"Vice-admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was perhaps the ultimate tragic hero, who died in his hour of triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar (October 21 1805). He held the position of national hero throughout the 19th century to become the best-known figure in British history. Few people have had more books written about them than Nelson – over a thousand so far, and yet there always seems to be newly discovered material or a new way of approaching the subject to justify another book. On this, the 250th anniversary of his birth, here are some of the best."

Battle of Trafalgar

Part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), the Battle of Trafalgar featured a clash of Franco-Spanish and British fleets off the western mouth of the Straits of Gibraltar. Commanded by Vice Admiral Nelson, the onslaught broke the allied line and exposed its center and rear to overwhelming force, resulting in the capture of 19 of the 33 Franco-Spanish ships. Although Lord Nelson was killed in the battle, he was largely credited for thwarting Napoleon’s plans to concentrate a fleet in the Channel for the invasion of Britain.

This battle was fought off the western mouth of the Straits of Gibraltar between a Franco-Spanish fleet of thirty-three ships of the line commanded by Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles de Villeneuve and Admiral Don Federico Gravina, and a British squadron of twenty-seven ships under Vice Admiral Horatio,Lord Nelson. The allied fleet, steering north in a very irregular line, was attacked by the British in two columns, running before the wind from the westward. This was a dangerous tactic, exposing the leading ships to the risk of heavy damage, but Nelson correctly counted on superior British training and discipline, and on the initiative of captains whom he had thoroughly imbued with his ideas. He also placed his biggest ships at the head of the columns (rather than in the center, as usual), himself leading one in the Victory, while Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood led the other in the Royal Sovereign. The result was to break up the allied line and expose its center and rear to overwhelming force, bringing a crushing victory in which nineteen ships were captured (though all but four of the prizes were wrecked, sunk, or retaken in a subsequent gale). The British lost no ships, but Nelson was killed.

History with Herstory

But what about his scandalous relationship with Lady Hamilton?

His relationship with Emma, Lady Hamilton was a very infamous one when he was alive, and the British government tried to quell this issue, because back then, his affair with Lady Hamilton had made Lord Nelson a laughing stock. An extramarital affair is an embarrassment and the people wanted to remember Horatio winning battles, not running around after Lady Hamilton. You don't want the man who is the epitome of heroism to be remembered for his "silliness" too now do you?

On 29th September 1758, Horatio Nelson was born in a little village in Norfolk. Not coming from a wealthy family, it was unexpected of him to become one of England's most famous heroes. Horatio's father was just a rector, and he never traveled far from the village except for the few years he spent at Cambridge University. Horatio's mother on the other hand, Catherine Suckling, was related to a powerful Norfolk family called the Walpoles (Sir Robert Walpole was the first Prime Minister of England). The Nelsons were sycophantic to their rich relations, and that was how Horatio got his name: from Lord Walpole's father. Horatio Nelson also grew up with 7 other siblings.

young Horatio Nelson
When Horatio was 9 years old, his mother had passed away. He had a tough childhood, but he was never afraid of fear. In fact, it was through listening to one of his uncle's heroic, courageous tales in the sea that had made Horatio dream of becoming a sailor himself.

After passing his Royal Navy exams with flying colours, Horatio went sailing as second lieutenant. At around that time was when Horatio met his future wife, Fanny Nisbet. Fanny Nisbet was a widow with a young son. She lived in her uncle's posh house and was in charge of managing it. Because Fanny reminded Horatio a lot of a lady he used to love, and that there is a good chance of her inheriting some of her uncle's fortune, Horatio had decided that he was in love, and asked for Fanny's hand in marriage.

Horatio wasn't rich then, and Fanny must've really loved him because she'd rather live in a cheap flat in London in the middle of winter than a beautiful mansion her uncle owned on a Caribbean Island. When they just got married, days were quiet and everything was at peace. This meant no war and Horatio not needed in the navy. He eventually got quite tired of the good but boring Fanny and was annoyed by her perpetual complaints about simply anything.

When the French Revolution began, Fanny couldn't share Horatio's excitement to go back to sea. The situation was exacerbated when Fanny's son followed Horatio to go on war. What Fanny didn't realise is her husband was going to meet the woman she hated most in her life-- Emma Hamilton.

Story of Emma Hamilton's early life before meeting Horatio Nelson

Note: As you can see in her portraits, Emma Hamilton is a bit plump but people then find that more attractive than bamboo stick women.

Emma Hamilton

Horatio Nelson had lost an arm in one of his battles and returned home to England after that. Oddly enough, the time spent for Fanny to nurse Horatio back to health turned out to be one of their happiest moments together. When Horatio went back to his job, he had won the Battle of the Nile. It was one of the biggest news in England and Horatio immediately rose to stardom. Even Fanny suddenly found that she was very popular with her wealthy neighbours when they previously didn't want to have anything to do with her. What annoyed Fanny the most was after some time away from Norfolk (Horatio's hometown and where Fanny was living), Horatio's letters were filled with abundant praises of one woman he had met a few times during his expedition-- Emma Hamilton.

Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton is the kind of woman who was very generous in praising Horatio. This pleased Horatio because Fanny's letters were nothing but filled with pleas for Horatio to give up his job and settle with her in their village. Rumours were soon spreading about their relationship, and people were teasing Lord Horatio for being crazy over his fat girlfriend. What they failed to notice was Emma was pregnant with Horatio's child, and she was never huge by normal standards.

When Horatio returned once again after a victorious battle, Fanny did not give Horatio a warm welcome. She had been upset by the stories she had heard, and even Horatio's father was disapproving his son's attitude towards Fanny. Horatio continued going out with Emma to theaters and balls, and this action was like an insult to his wife. Not long after, Horatio turned from a National Hero to a National Joke. So naturally, the married couple split on their separate ways, though Fanny never divorced Horatio.

When little Horatia was born, Horatio was elated to finally have a child. Unfortunately, he cannot share his joy with everyone else because it was an embarrassment to have a child out of wedlock, and this might tarnish Horatia's reputation and future to be seen as an illegitimate child. So nobody knew that Emma had a baby, and those who did pretended not to have noticed. Horatio too didn't have a lot of time to enjoy being a father, because he was ordered to sea again after spending a few days with his daughter. Horatia was then sent hidden away in London.

Horatio's father was very fond of Fanny, and he was very disappointed in Horatio for dumping her. He didn't want to visit Horatio and his new home but resigned to do so after constant persuasion. Some time later, news came that Horatio's father was dying. Fanny rushed to be with him but Horatio wouldn't go because he was embarrassed of bumping into his wife. Horatio didn't attend his father's funeral for the same reason.

Since everything was at peace, Horatio and Emma went travelling together. Horatia was also made their "adopted daughter" but everyone pretty much knew who she really was. By the time the couple returned home, Emma's husband finally lost his patience with her affair. Emma didn't have to put up with Sir William Hamilton's dissatisfaction for long because he kicked the bucket in April 1803. Apparently, Emma then went into deep mourning to show how upset she was. That was just for a show really, because one of her friends said she later heard Emma playing the piano and singing a lively tune. Emma was probably looking forward to spending more time with Horatio. What she didn't know was Napolean was about the strike again and the legendary Battle of Trafalgar was about to began.

Emma Hamilton
Before getting ready to go back to sea, Horatio wanted to officially profess his love friendship with Emma Hamilton. Since Fanny was determined to never allow a divorce, he opted for a wedding substitute by exchanging "friendship rings" in the church.

In the legendary Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson had made one big mistake which had caused his life : he didn't want to wear a normal blue coat but his usual attire filled with medals and decorations. It was easy for the French to spot him and Horatio Nelson was shot. Despite England's big victory, the hero of the day was dead. Moments before Horatio died, he said to Captain Hardy, "kiss me Hardy." Contrary to popular belief, those WERE NOT his last words. He lived long enough to whisper "Remember that I leave Lady Hamilton and my daughter Horatia as a legacy to my country. Never forget Horatia." A few moments later he murmured, "Thank God I have done my duty."

The Battle of Trafalgar had been a huge victory, but people don't know whether to jump for joy or mourn over the loss of Horatio. Napolean still continued battling at sea, but he would eventually be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. Notwithstanding this, there was no other battle as big and great as the one Horatio Nelson had won and lost his life to. When travelling back on his legendary ship Victory, Horatio was not thrown into the sea as he wished but stored in a barrel of Brandy to preserve him. As a special honour, some of his sailors were allowed to drink the Brandy that preserved his body.

Emma was at home in bed when news came that her lover died in the battle of Trafalgar. Emma screamed and fell back-- she had not spoken and shed a tear for ten hours.

Lady Emma Hamilton
Due to Horatio's valiant victory in the Battle of Trafalgar and his reputation as one of the best admirals in British history, the government had spent a fortune on his funeral. In a strange way, because Horatio died at the moment of his biggest success, people remember him mainly of his victories and lauded him as England's hero for years to come. After all, his battles had not all been triumphs. He used to be known as the man blinded by hubris and filled with recklessness-- his affair with Emma Hamilton had also reduced him to a laughing stock. Speaking of Emma Hamilton, the British government ignored Horatio's final request of taking care of her. All of Horatio's titles, pensions, rewards, assets, and whatnot were distributed to his siblings instead. Even Fanny was granted hefty sums of money as pensions for the rest of her life, but Emma and her daughter never got a sausage. The government thought that Emma should be content by what she has from Sir William Hamilton's possessions-- and she was an embarrassment in the eyes of the public. Emma was not even allowed to go to Horatio's funeral. Ironic how she is the most important person in Horatio's life.

Note: Lord Horatio Nelson was buried in St Paul's Cathedral in London instead of Westminster Abbey because Horatio was afraid that Westminster Abbey might sink, since it's built on a marshy ground

In the end, Sir William Hamilton's money were not enough to sustain the kind of lifestyle Emma Hamilton was leading. She was even put to prison for her debt. She migrated with Horatia to Calais, where she started drinking heavily and died in 1815. At least she got a monument in the end. In 1994 an American arranged for an obelisk to be erected on the site of Emma's grave in Calais.

Horatio's only child named Horatia came back to England where she later married to a vicar, had nine children, and lived to the ripe old age of 81. She was proud to tell everyone that Lord Horatio Nelson was her father, but never admitted that Emma Hamilton was her mother.

Lord Nelson and slavery: Nelson’s dark side

When Lord Nelson died he was hailed as Britain’s greatest seafaring hero – a reputation that survives to this day. However, a letter he wrote onboard HMS Victory reveals a different face, showing his vehement opposition to William Wilberforce’s campaign for the abolition of the slave trade. Christer Petley uncovers Nelson’s sympathy with a brutal Jamaican slave-owning elite

This competition is now closed

Published: June 8, 2020 at 9:05 am

In the summer of 1805, Horatio Nelson was pursuing the French in the Caribbean. He had been lured there as part of the complex naval cat-and-mouse game that would culminate, some four months later, at the battle of Trafalgar. On learning that the French admiral Villeneuve had crossed the Atlantic with a large fleet, Nelson took his own British fleet straight from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. Writing from his flagship, HMS Victory, on 11 June, he confessed that he had been “in a thousand cares for Jamaica”, Britain’s most productive and valuable colony, knowing that a successful attack on the island was “a blow which Bonaparte would be happy to give us”. Nelson chased Villeneuve across the Atlantic without orders but calculated, reasonably, that the government at home could have few complaints, because defending lucrative British colonies like Jamaica was a strategic priority surpassed only by the defence of Britain itself.

While he searched unsuccessfully for a Napoleonic fleet in the Caribbean, Nelson also found time to reflect on the relationship between Britain and its precious colonies in the region. In the letter scratched out at his desk on Victory, Nelson proclaimed: “I have ever been and shall die a firm friend to our present colonial system.” He went on to explain: “I was bred, as you know, in the good old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions and neither in the field or in the senate [House of Lords] shall their interest be infringed whilst I have an arm to fight in their defence, or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable and cursed doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies.”

Nelson, whose victories as a naval commander had earned him a parliamentary seat in the Lords, was suggesting here that he would use his political position to speak up against the ideas of the famous British abolitionist campaigner William Wilberforce. His fiery words might seem shocking to modern eyes. Nelson even surprised himself. “I did not intend to go so far,” he confessed, but he went on to admit that “the sentiments are full in my heart and the pen would write them”.

Institutionalised manslaughter

Nelson’s sentiments present us with an untold side to his story. This is generally recounted as a tale of patriotic heroism – of a man doing his duty to protect the nation from a Napoleonic menace. Nelson the dutiful patriot is certainly in evidence in the letter he wrote aboard the Victory in the Caribbean. But we also find a man in heartfelt solidarity with British slaveholders against the perceived menace of Wilberforce and his campaign to abolish the slave trade. This letter, documenting a crucial moment in the war against Napoleon, is therefore also a vivid piece of evidence from another struggle of no less global-historical significance: the internal battle within the British empire about whether British colonialism could, or should, continue without the transatlantic slave trade.

Nelson wrote his letter for a long-standing friend: a slaveholder named Simon Taylor, one of the wealthiest Britons of his generation. Taylor lived in Jamaica, where he owned three huge plantations and claimed ownership over more than 2,000 slaves: men, women and children forced, like countless other captives, to work and die producing huge quantities of sugar. The profits from slave-produced Caribbean sugar were staggeringly high, making fortunes for men like Taylor and flowing back into the wider British economy. This slave system was little other than a lucrative system of institutionalised manslaughter. Poor conditions for slaves meant that deaths outnumbered births, and white managers continually had to replenish their enslaved workforces from slave ships bringing new captives from Africa. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars, more than 3 million people had been taken across the Atlantic in British ships, destined for lives of slavery on New World plantations.

Resisting Wilberforce

Taylor and Nelson had first met in 1779, while the 20-year-old Nelson was stationed as a junior naval officer in Jamaica during the American Revolutionary War. Taylor was the elder of the two, approaching middle age when they became friends. As well as making a huge personal fortune from Caribbean sugar and slavery, he had established a great deal of political influence, which extended beyond Jamaica to London. Taylor was soon to emerge as a powerful voice in the political struggle over the future of the slave trade. Unsurprisingly, he was furious about rising anti-slavery sentiment in Britain and stood bitterly opposed to Wilberforce’s campaign.

The fact that Nelson shared Taylor’s strong dislike for Wilberforce and abolitionism is a stark indication of how out of step he was with the rising humanitarian sentiments of his own times. But in this respect, Nelson was hardly unique. Other British naval officers harboured similar views. Many of them had spent long stretches – months or even years – on one of the Royal Navy’s West Indian stations, often forming strong affinities with white slaveholding colonists.

While stationed in the eastern Caribbean during the 1780s, Nelson met and married his wife, Frances, the niece of a wealthy slaveholder in the British island-colony of Nevis. The Duke of Clarence (and future King William IV) had also served with the Royal Navy in the region, and spoke up forcefully in parliament against Wilberforce and his plans for the abolition of the slave trade. So too did Admiral Lord Rodney, who before Nelson’s dramatic rise had been the most celebrated British naval commander of his age. The influence of such men helped to ensure that the early abolition campaigns of the 1780s and 1790s ended in failure. No wonder slaveholders like Simon Taylor were keen to cultivate their friendship.

For nearly two decades, Wilberforce found his calls for an end to the slave trade blocked by conservative elements in parliament. The main reason was that, for all of its obvious inhumanity, the commerce in human beings underpinned a system of Atlantic trade that had defined the 18th-century British empire.

Slave-produced colonial sugar was the nation’s most valuable import, and trading ties between Britain and its colonies were governed by laws designed to strengthen the Royal Navy. These ensured that trade between British possessions was carried on in British ships, crewed by British sailors – skilled mariners who could be pressed into the navy during wartime. In addition, import duties collected on British colonial produce helped fund a treasury whose primary objective was to raise funds for the defence of the realm, which included the high cost of maintaining the nation’s war fleet. Pro-slavery spokesmen like Simon Taylor, the Duke of Clarence and Lord Rodney wasted no opportunities to emphasise that the slave trade, colonial commerce, British greatness, and national security were all interlinked.

Abolitionists were, eventually, only able to counter this old vision of empire when they learned how to go beyond simple moral arguments against human trafficking and offer, in addition, a more pragmatic case. By the early 19th century, British abolitionists were trying to reassure conservative-minded members of parliament that ending the transatlantic trade in slaves from Africa would not damage the colonies or bring about an immediate end to slavery itself. Rather, they claimed that ending the slave trade would trigger useful reforms. Without the option of turning to the slave ships for new recruits, it would be in the slaveholders’ best interest to ensure that births outnumbered deaths on the plantations. This would require an improvement in conditions, which should also make slaves more contented, and so lessen the likelihood of a large-scale slave uprising (the prospect of which struck fear into the minds of colonial slaveholders and British politicians alike). Many abolitionists hoped that such changes could slowly prepare the way for a smooth transition to freedom at some point in the distant future.

Nelson, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remained unconvinced, influenced instead by the advice of his old friend Simon Taylor. Taylor believed that, despite their claims to the contrary, abolitionists were a dangerous influence. In one of his letters to Nelson, he complained that proposals to end the slave trade spelled “nothing but evil” for “unhappy colonists” in the islands of the British Caribbean, pronouncing that parliament’s decision on the matter would determine whether “the lives of all the white people” in the sugar colonies would be sacrificed. Guided by racist assumptions about the violent character of black people, Taylor presented Nelson with lurid warnings of how white slaveholders could be “butchered, massacred, and murdered” by slave uprisings inspired by misguided reformers acting “under the pretence of humanity”. Reflecting those prejudiced fantasies back to Taylor in his letter from the Victory, Nelson contemplated that the success of Wilberforce and his allies “would certainly cause the murder of all our friends and fellow-subjects in the colonies”.

Would Nelson have spoken out?

Parliament finally outlawed the slave trade in the British empire in 1807 (the abolition of slavery outright followed in the 1830s). In the Caribbean, there was none of the violent bloodshed predicted by the slaveholders and the measure was popular throughout the British Isles. Would Nelson have followed through on his proposal to speak publicly against it? He had assured Taylor that he was willing to launch his voice against the abolitionists in parliament, but he was under no obligation to act on this suggestion.

Of course, he never had to face the dilemma. By the time the abolition question was debated, Nelson was dead – killed in the brutal sea battle that ended in destructive and decisive victory for the British fleet under his command in the waters off Cape Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. Having tracked his rival to the Caribbean and back, he finally found the fight he craved, and the outcome turned him into a legend. Ever since, Nelson has been remembered primarily as a selfless patriot and military genius. A quasi-religious veneration of his memory, as a heroic warrior and self-sacrificing national hero – synonymous to many with Rule, Britannia! and a strong sense of British pride – has left little space for other assessments of his outlook or legacies.

Nelson’s private pro-slavery leanings have been almost totally ignored, but scrutinising them helps to expose an overlooked facet of the man behind the myth. It also does far more besides. Nelson, like anyone, was a complex human being, shaped by the world in which he lived. His attitudes towards slavery were moulded by close and long-standing ties between the Royal Navy and the British Caribbean. And, more broadly, his views help us to understand what abolitionists like Wilberforce had to overcome. Nelson’s sentiments were just one reflection of a more widely held ‘old-school’ defence of a profitable 18th-century British colonial system dependent on the slave trade. When Nelson wrote bitterly about the “damnable and cursed doctrine” of Wilberforce, he revealed a dislike for “meddling” humanitarians, a callous animosity towards enslaved people, and a desire to preserve the existing system – a system that, to some, seemed synonymous with British strength, and which had helped to build the navy that Nelson led into battle at Trafalgar.

Paradoxically, however, the outcome of the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 created some of the circumstances for the eventual success of British abolitionism less than two years later. Trafalgar confirmed the crushing of French and Spanish sea-power by the Royal Navy. The fact that British maritime strength was now overwhelming helped to ensure that parliament felt safe to embrace new ideas about the future of the empire. Finally, British politicians summoned the confidence to ignore the warnings of doomsayers who urged that ending the slave trade would be a disaster for the colonies and make Britain vulnerable to other maritime powers.

In the end, then, one of the unforeseen consequences of Nelson’s last victory was to provide conditions conducive to the triumph of Wilberforce and his ‘doctrine’. Nelson would almost certainly have disliked this unintended outcome of his deeds. He died content that he had done his duty, and secure in the knowledge that his fleet had won the day. But in the continuing struggle over the future of British slavery, he had backed the losing side.

Christer Petley is professor of Atlantic history at the University of Southampton

Book: White Fury: A Jamaican Slaveholder and the Age of Revolution by Christer Petley (OUP, 2018)


After England acquired colonial British Antigua and Barbuda in 1632, the English Harbour became a focal point for the establishment of a naval base. Its position on the south side of Antigua island facilitated the monitoring of the neighbouring French island of Guadeloupe. Additionally, the harbour is naturally well-suited to protect ships and cargo from hurricanes. In 1671 the first recorded ship to enter English Harbour was a yacht, the Dover Castle. It was chartered to the King by a Colonel Stroude for the use of the Governor of the Leeward Islands when he visited the islands under his jurisdiction and "chased ye pirates".

The first reference to the defence of English Harbour occurs in 1704 when Fort Berkeley was listed as one of the twenty forts established around the coast of Antigua. By 1707 naval ships used English Harbour as a station, but no facilities had yet been built for ship maintenance or repair. By 1723 English Harbour was in regular use by British naval ships and in September of that year the harbour gained a reputation as a safe natural harbour when a hurricane swept ashore 35 ships lying in other ports in Antigua, while HMS Hector and HMS Winchelsea, both moored in English Harbour, suffered no damage. Soon British naval officers petitioned for the building of repair and maintenance facilities in English Harbour. In 1728 the first Dockyard, St. Helena, was built on the east side of the harbour and consisted of a capstan house for careening ships, a stone storehouse, and three wooden sheds for the storage of careening gear. There were no quarters for dockyard staff or visiting sailors and the seamen themselves conducted all work and repairs on the ships. Naval operations in English Harbour soon outgrew the small original dockyard and plans were made to develop the western side of the harbour with more facilities.

Construction Edit

Construction of the modern Naval Dockyard began in the 1740s. Enslaved laborers from plantations in the vicinity were sent to work on the dockyard. By 1745 a line of wooden storehouses on the site of the present Copper & Lumber Store Hotel had been built and the reclamation of land to provide adequate wharves had been started. Building continued in the Dockyard between 1755 and 1765, when quarters were built for the Commander-in-Chief on the site of the Officers’ Quarters. Additional storerooms, a kitchen and a shelter for the Commander's “chaise” were also erected. The first part of the present Saw Pit Shed was constructed, the reclamation of the wharves and their facing with wooden piles was continued, and a stone wall was built to enclose the Dockyard.

Between 1773 and 1778 additional construction was undertaken. The boundary walls were extended to their present position the Guard House, the Porter's Lodge, the two Mast Houses, the Capstan House, and the first bay of the Canvas, Cordage, and Clothing Store were built and the first Naval Hospital was built outside the Dockyard. Many of the buildings in the Dockyard today were constructed during a building programme undertaken between 1785 and 1794. The Engineer's Offices and Pitch and Tar Store were built in 1788 and the Dockyard wall was extended to enclose the new building. The wharves were improved and the northern side of the Saw Pit Shed was built in the same year. In 1789 the Copper and Lumber Store was completed and by 1792 the west side of the Canvas, Cordage, and Clothing Store had been completed. The Blacksmith's Shop also dates from this period. This building programme overlaps with Nelson's tenure in the Dockyard from 1784 to 1787.

The Sail Loft was built in 1797 adjacent to the Engineer's Offices and Tar and Pitch Store. Around 1806 the Pay Master's Office was built and in 1821 the Officers’ Quarters building was constructed to accommodate the growing numbers of officers who accompanied their ships to the yard. The Naval Officer's and Clerk's House was built in 1855 and is now home to the Dockyard Museum.

In 1889 the Royal Navy abandoned the dockyard, and it fell into decay.

Restoration Edit

The Society of the Friends of English Harbour began restoration of the dockyard in 1951, and a decade later it was opened to the public. [1]

Among the original buildings are two hotels, a museum, craft and food shops, restaurants, and a large marina. [1]

Hiking trails radiate from the dockyard site into the surrounding Nelson's Dockyard National Park. [1]

Media Edit

May 9, 1982, Duran Duran films "Waiting for the Nightboat" video in Antigua, in a dry dock in Nelson’s Dockyard.

Part II: A Deathless Death

The Death of Lord Nelson in the Cockpit of the Ship ‘Victory’ , Benjamin West , 1808, via The National Maritime Museum Greenwich

Dying at Trafalgar ensured that Nelson would live forever. Shot by a sniper from the rigging of a French ship, he was carried below deck where he later died. The imagination of the masses was captured by his glorious death. ‘Thank God I have done my duty’, were his last words, epitomizing the two central pillars of his life: devotion to God and commitment to his country.

After his death, the legend of Horatio Nelson only grew. He was given a state funeral (incredibly rare for a non-royal).

So many flocked to attend that the front of the funeral procession had reached St Paul’s Cathedral before the back began to move. It was a grand event, harboring poignant moments such as the involvement of some of the crew of HMS Victory. Nelson’s nephew wrote of the occasion: ‘All the bands played. The colours were all carried by sailors.’ The outpouring of emotion would not end with Nelson’s burial.

Horatio Nelson - Career:

Entering the Royal Navy in 1771, Nelson swiftly rose through the ranks achieving the rank of captain by the time he was twenty. In 1797, he won great acclaim for his performance at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent where his audacious disobeying of orders led to a stunning British victory over the French. Following the battle, Nelson was knighted and promoted to rear admiral. Later that year, he participated in an attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands and was wounded in the right arm, forcing its amputation.

In 1798, Nelson, now a rear admiral, was given a fleet of fifteen ships and sent to destroy the French fleet supporting Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. After weeks of searching, he found the French at anchor in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria. Sailing into uncharted waters at night, Nelson's squadron attacked and annihilated the French fleet, destroying all but two of their ships.

This success followed by a promotion to vice admiral in January 1801. A short time later, in April, Nelson decisively defeated the Danish fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen. This victory broke up the French-leaning League of Armed Neutrality (Denmark, Russia, Prussia, & Sweden) and ensured that a continuous supply of naval stores would reach Britain. After this triumph, Nelson sailed for the Mediterranean where he over saw the blockade of the French coast.

In 1805, after a brief rest ashore, Nelson returned to sea after hearing that the French and Spanish fleets were concentrating at Cádiz. On October 21, the combined French and Spanish fleet was spotted off Cape Trafalgar. Using revolutionary new tactics that he had devised, the Nelson's fleet engaged the enemy and was in the process of achieving his greatest triumph when he was shot by a French marine. The bullet entered his left shoulder and pierced the lung, before lodging against his spine. Four hours later, the admiral died, just as his fleet was completing the victory.

Nelson and the Barbados myth

After Nelson's death in 1805 a statue scultped in bronze appeared in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1813. some thirty years before Nelson's Column in London was erected.

The story goes that Nelson saved Barbados from the French and rescued slaves from French trading ships. In gratitude, the people of Barbados paid their respect by commemorating his heroic deeds. This story is a myth.

Nelson did visit Barbados on 4 June 1805, but the French fleet had already left the region on 18 May. Nelson's fleet did not raid ships to free slaves. Instead, Nelson was an advocate of slavery and voiced his opposition to Wilberforce's moves to end slavery in a letter in 1805:

"I have ever been and shall die a firm friend to our colonial system. I was bred as you know in the good old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions, and neither in the field nor in the senate, shall their interest be infringed while I have an arm to fight in their defence or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable and cursed doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies. "

There are now calls to have Nelson's statue in Barbados removed as many Bajans see it as an unworthy relic of Britain's imperial past.

The facts about ‘Nelson’by Trevor G Marshall, Nation News 20 April 2017
Slavery and Revolution: Jamaica and Slavery in the Age of Revolution

Admiral Lord Nelson

In 1758 a small sickly baby boy was born, son of the Rector of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk.

No one could have envisaged that this child would, in his lifetime, become one of England’s greatest heroes.

Sent to sea aged 12, he soon found that although he loved the ships and the sea, he would suffer from terrible seasickness all his life.

Nelson was a small man, just 5ft 4in tall, of slight build and with a weak constitution. He was frequently very ill with recurrent bouts of malaria and dysentery, relics of his time in the tropics, Madras, Calcutta and Ceylon.

In 1780 he was again very ill, this time with scurvy and his life, and the lives of his shipboard companions, hung in the balance. But once again this small, apparently frail man survived!

In spite of his frail health, in 1784 he was given the command of the Boreas and was on duty in the West Indies when he met and married Frances Nisbet, a widow.

After an idle period at home in Norfolk, he was recalled and given the command of the Agamemnon in 1793.

From 1793 until his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 he was involved in battle after battle. He suffered serious injury during these years, losing the sight in his right eye at the Battle of Calvi in Corsica and his right arm at Santa Cruz in Tenerife.

Nelson was a brilliant tactician and was often able to surprise his enemies by audacious tactics. At the Battle of the Nile in 1798 his daring and courage completely outwitted the French when he sailed his ships between the shore and the French Fleet. The French guns that faced the shore were not ready for action, as it was believed that Nelson could not possibly attack from that position! Nelson was created Baron Nelson of the Nile by a grateful country after this stunning victory.

While Nelson was in Naples in 1793 he met the lady who was to become the great love of his life, Emma, Lady Hamilton. She was a great beauty with a voluptuous figure and a rather ‘shady’ past. Eventually in 1801 Nelson abandoned his wife and lived with his ‘dearest Emma’. A daughter was born in 1801 and christened Horatia, a child whom Nelson doted on, though she was never aware who her mother was.

1801 was also the year in which Nelson destroyed the Danish Navy at the Battle of Copenhagen. During the battle he was sent a signal to break off action by the Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Nelson reputedly put his telescope to his blind eye and said to his Flag Lieutenant, “You know Foley I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal”.

Nelson had great courage and was a brave man as he endured intense pain when his arm was amputated without an anaesthetic. The surgeon wrote in his diary, “Nelson bore the pain without complaint, but was given opium afterwards”. After the operation Nelson suggested that the surgeon should heat his knives first, as the cold knives were more painful!

War broke out again with France in 180, and Nelson was for many months on watch in the Mediterranean. On October 20th 1805, the French and Spanish fleets put to sea and off the southern coast of Spain the Battle of Trafalgar took place. This was to be Nelson’s last and most famous victory.

Before the battle, Nelson sent his famous signal to the Fleet, “England expects that every man will do his duty”. It was at the height of the battle that Nelson was shot as he paced the deck of his ship Victory. He was easily recognisable by the marksmen on the French ships as he was wearing his full dress uniform and all his medals, and seemed impervious to the danger he was in.

He died shortly after he was taken below decks and his body was taken ashore at Rosia Bay in Gibraltar. His body was sent back to England in a barrel full of brandy which acted as a preservative during the long journey home. The injured from the battle were cared for and those who did not survive were buried in the Trafalgar Cemetery, Gibraltar their graves remain carefully tended to this day.

Nelson’s funeral in London was a tremendous occasion, the streets lined with weeping people. The funeral procession was so long that the Scots Greys who led the procession reached the doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral before the mourners at the rear had left the Admiralty. He was buried in the crypt of St. Paul’s.

In London’s Trafalgar Square can be seen the country’s memorial to the most inspiring leader the British Navy has ever had. Nelson’s column, erected in 1840, stands 170ft high and is crowned with a statue of Nelson on the top.

Watch the video: Nelson e la battaglia di Trafalgar. (July 2022).


  1. Osmont

    such a post is not a pity to print, you will rarely find one in the internet, thanks!

  2. Clayson

    Yes indeed. It happens. We can communicate on this theme. Here or at PM.

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