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Useful Notes / Horatio Nelson

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"England expects that every man will do his duty."
— Nelson's signal before engaging the French fleet at Trafalgar

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805), was an officer of the Royal Navy during The Napoleonic Wars, and widely considered to be England's greatest admiral. He lead the British fleet to victory at Copenhagen, the Nile, and Trafalgar, cementing his position as one of Britain's great war heroes, to the point where Lord Byron dubbed him "Britannia's God of War." Napoléon Bonaparte himself said of Nelson "That man made me miss my destiny.", after he prevented Napoleon from conquering Africa.

He was killed in action at Trafalgar, shot by a French sharpshooter, but his victory shattered French plans for an invasion of England and left the British with the freedom to strike at French ports at will, along with establishing British naval supremacy for the next century. Trafalgar Square was named in honour of the battle, along with the 170-foot Nelson's Column (which served as the name and logo for Nelson Entertainment, best known for producing the Bill & Ted movies).

Even though he's considered to be the Royal Navy's best admiral, he doesn't have a division named for him at the Royal Naval College, as it's felt it would be unfair to rank one admiral above the rest.

Fictional Appearances:

  • The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner: His presence is only implied — the focus of the painting is a warship that was in Nelson's fleet during the Battle of Trafalgar.

Films — Live-Action

  • He makes a big demand on Carry On Jack (played by Jimmy Thompson) to have a bigger army with more men and more ships on his deathbed.
  • He's played by Laurence Olivier in That Hamilton Woman which deals with his romance with Lady Emma Hamilton.
  • Master and Commander:
    • The man himself makes no appearances in it, but his skills and talent for leadership and prolific victories are a source of many an inspirational pep talk for the crew of the Surprise.
    • Captain Jack Aubrey mentions that he served on a ship with Nelson at one time, dined with him twice, and even had Nelson speak to him both times. He will forever remember the first time, Nelson leaned across the table looked him square in the eye and asked: "Aubrey, may I trouble you for the salt?"


  • In Billy Budd, Nelson is a background figure mentioned several times in the narration. The Dansker served under Nelson when he was captain of the Agamemnon.
  • Though he doesn't appear, he's frequently name-dropped in the Horatio Hornblower novels. One officer, Captain Sawyer, is mentioned as having served under him at the Battle of the Nile.
  • Honor Harrington, essentially Hornblower IN SPACE!, is also partially based on the career of Nelson, to the point where David Weber had planned to kill Dame Honor during a climactic and decisive battle (but ultimately decided against it).
  • He appears a couple of times in Sharpe's Trafalgar, where in a couple of short scenes he thoroughly impresses Sharpe (who's normally unfazed by every commanding officer he encounters, with the sole exception of the Duke of Wellington, who frightens him).
  • Appears in person in the Temeraire novels, in which his naval supremacy and his anti-abolition stance are the source of mixed feelings for the firmly anti-slavery ex-naval captain Laurence. He survives the battle of Trafalgar in the first novel, though burned by dragon-fire. He dies in the fifth book, helping the Duke of Wellington to kick out the invading French army, when a dragon-induced tidal wave sinks his fleet.

Live-Action TV

  • He doesn't appear in The Terror, but Glory Hound James Fitzjames is more than happy to compare his own complex war wound to the shot that killed Nelson. This turns out to be foreshadowing, as years later a sadder and wiser Fitzjames does indeed die of the same war wound opening up — with a bleeding eye and rotting arm to mimic Nelson's missing eye and arm to boot.
  • In Doctor Who novel World Game, the extra-dimensional Players, as part of a competitive bid to corrupt Earth history, try to kill him before the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • He was the subject of the 1982 miniseries I Remember Nelson, where he was played by Kenneth Colley.