Portrait of Lord Nelson that he donated to Captain Thomas Hardy is being raised to raise £150,000 at auction
Nelson’s (above) triumph at Trafalgar gave Britain control of the seas and laid the foundation for Britain’s global power for over a century
The Battle of Trafalgar, fought on October 21, 1805, is one of the most epic naval battles in history.
Not only did it see Britain eliminate its greatest security threat in 200 years, but it also saw the death of British naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson.
This was not before his risky but acutely courageous strategy achieved arguably the most decisive victory in the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson’s triumph gave Britain control of the seas and laid the foundation for Britain’s global power for more than a century.
Despite the signing of a peace treaty in 1803, the two nations were at war, fighting each other in seas around the world.
After Spain allied with France in 1804, the newly crowned French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had enough ships to challenge Britain.
In October 1805, French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve led a combined French and Spanish fleet of 33 ships from the Spanish port of Cadiz to face Nelson and Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood.
The Battle of Trafalgar, fought on October 21, 1805, is one of the most epic naval battles in history. Not only did it see Britain eliminate its greatest security threat in 200 years, but it also saw the death of British naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson.
Fresh from pursuing Villeneuve in the Caribbean, Nelson led the fleet of 27 ships in HMS Victory, while Vice Admiral Collingwood sailed in Royal Sovereign.
Battles at sea had been largely undecided until then, as to fire at the enemy ship, each vessel had to advance side by side (broadside), often resulting in equal damage.
Nelson countered this trend by attacking the combined fleet’s line—and sailed perpendicular to the fleet, exposing the British to heavy fire.
He attacked in two columns to split the combined fleet line to target Admiral Villneuve’s flagship.
11.30 am Lord Nelson famously stated that ‘England expects every man to do his duty’, referring to the order that the ships were ordered to think for themselves. The captains had been notified of the battle plan three weeks earlier and were trusted to act bravely on their own initiative and adapt to changing circumstances – unlike their opponents who adhered to their command.
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood led the first column and attacked the rear of the line and broke through.
Nelson sailed straight to the head of the Combined Fleet to keep them from returning to defend the rear. But before reaching them, he changed course to attack the center of the line—and Villeneuve’s flagship.
HMS Victory rushed to the middle of the line and found no room to break through as Villeneuve’s flagship was closely followed – forcing Nelson to ram through at close range.
In the heat of battle, and surrounded on three sides, Nelson was fatally shot in the chest by a well-drilled French musketeer.
The vanguard of the combined fleet finally began to come to the aid of Admiral Villeneuve, but British ships counterattacked.
Admiral Villeneuve raised his flag along with many other ships in the combined fleet and surrendered.
4.14 pm HMS Victory Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy sank below deck to congratulate Nelson on his victory.
4.30 pm Knowing he had won the victory, but before the battle was officially over, Lord Nelson died.
5.30 pm The French ship Achille exploded to signal the end of the battle – all 17 combined fleet ships surrendered.
…so did Nelson really say ‘Kiss me, Hardy’ with his last words?
By RICHARD CREASY for the Daily Mail (in a 2007 article)
It was Britain’s greatest naval victory, and for over 200 years historians have analyzed every detail.
Now, amazingly, a new eyewitness account of the Battle of Trafalgar has surfaced during a house eviction.
It not only gives a first-hand view of the work from the lower decks, but also another interpretation of one of history’s most enduring arguments: Admiral Lord Nelson’s last words.
Robert Hilton was a 21-year-old surgeon’s mate on HMS Swiftsure, a 74-gun ship that played a role in the destruction of the French and Spanish fleets and Napoleon’s dream of invading England.
It was 13 days later, after Swiftsure had come through storms to Gibraltar for repairs, that Hilton took up his pen and wrote home a nine-page letter on November 3, 1805.
In it, he says Nelson’s last words, relayed to his ship’s company by Nelson’s flag captain, Captain Hardy, were, “I lived long enough then.”
Many people believe Nelson said, “Kiss me Hardy.”
But historians rely on his surgeon’s reports that he said, “Thank God I did my duty.”