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1758 - 1805

England's most famous ever naval commander, Horatio Nelson, lived during the reign of King George III 1760-1820.

This was a busy time for the British navy as Britain was continually fighting the Spanish for control of lands in the Caribbean and South America. The American Revolutionary War (war of independence) began in April 1775, and the wars against France's Emperor Napoleon began in 1793.

Nelson enrolled in the British Royal Navy January 1st 1771 at the age of 12, joining the warship Raissonable that was commanded by his uncle.

By 1777, he had worked his way up to the rank of Lieutenant with his first assignment being to the West Indies. There he saw action against revolutionary forces of the British colonies in North America that were fighting for independence from Britain.

By April 1782, the British House of Commons had voted to end the war with North America gaining independence. That war had allowed Nelson to show his potential as a naval officer as he emerged from the American War of Independence as a captain with the command of his own ship.

With America then a foreign country, Nelson was given the command of a 28-gun warship named Boreas in 1784. He then set out for the Caribbean to stop American ships trading with British colonies in the Caribbean.

With the British colonies in the Caribbean relying heavily on their trade with America at that time, Nelson's seizure of four American ships resulted in him being held on his ship for eight months while the colonies investigated the legality of his actions.

Nelson was however released without charge then returned to Britain 1787.

Horatio Nelson image


The following years of relative peace, saw Nelson without the command of a ship. With the French revolution breaking out in 1789, Britain began building up its navy for the inevitable escalation of that conflict.

By 1793, Nelson had been given the command of the 64-gun warship, Agamemnon, based at the Kingdom of Naples in Italy.

Nelson was injured in the face during the siege of Calvi on the island of Corsica in 1794, loosing the sight in his right eye. That injury only kept Nelson out of action for a short time, as by 1797, he was involved in the British naval victory over the Spanish fleet based at Cape St Vincent (near Gibraltar). That battle saw nelson Knighted for his bravery.

At that time, many British naval officers were becoming rich by capturing Spanish or French treasure ships. British naval officers were allowed to keep any treasures they captured to split with their crew and invest in their retirement. Nelson however, never succeeded in capturing any ships with significant amounts of treasure on board. One such unsuccessful attempt to capture a Spanish treasure ship in 1797 at Santa Cruz de Tenerife resulted in Nelson being shot in the right elbow by a musket ball, an injury that resulted in the loss of his lower arm.

At that time, the French military commander, Napoleon, was rising to fame by leading his army to a series of victories in Italy. Napoleon then invaded Egypt, taking control of Cairo. As his intentions at that time were to cut Britain's trade routes to the Far East, Nelson led fourteen British ships against the fifteen French ships moored at Aboukir Bay, that were supporting Napoleons army in Egypt. That battle turned out to be a famous victory for Nelson known as the Battle of the Nile.

With Napoleons fleet destroyed, he was forced to abandon his army in Egypt and return to France. By 1804, Napoleon had become Emperor of France, allowing him to begin his quest to gain control of all Europe.

Napoleon soon took control of Spain then began amassing the French and Spanish warships at Cadis in Spain. His intentions were to defeat the British navy so he would have total control of the seas. This would allow him to invade Britain, also to take over the trade routes to the Far East, allowing France to become the world's mightiest Empire.

Nelson was appointed commander in chief of the Mediterranean with his ship being HMS Victory. Nelson then led a fleet of 29 British warships to the Mediterranean where he met the combined forces of 33 French and Spanish ships.

The British defeated the French and Spanish ships in an historic battle that became known as the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson however, was hit by a snipers bullet during the battle and died shortly after the battle had been won.

Nelson's body was preserved in a cask of brandy and returned to Britain for a state burial.

His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Britain with his body laid to rest in a tomb at St Paul's Cathedral directly below the great dome.

Britain ruled the seas after the battle of Trafalgar allowing them to build the greatest Empire the world has ever seen.

One of London's most famous sights, Trafalgar Square, was completed in 1841 to honour the famous battle. A column of around 165 feet high was erected in the square two years later with a statue of Nelson on top.

Nelson's Column image

Nelson's Column

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Nelson,_1st_Viscount_Nelson People List