The Immortal Memory

Today is Trafalgar Day.  Unlike many this heart still beats red white and blue and I will raise my glass.  Since my dear father in law died  on this day my toast is to the Immortal and Recent Memory. Of the thirty odd  friends I asked only six could find the  time  to support the breakfast I am hosting in Smithfield this morning.. No doubt many complain about the dilution of  our culture. So be it.

Anyway a full English breakfast washed down by the nutmeg ale of England in the heart of England’s roast beef market  is a fitting way of celebrating the man who  Byron called England’s God of war. It is impossible not to have a soft spot for the gallant little fellow who believed so passionately in “Dulce  et decorum est pro patria mori”.  Sadly   few feel for him now, but in his time he was as popular and worshipped, with so much more cause ,that any film or sports star today.

The English  knew that at St Vincent, the Nile and Copenhagen it was Nelson’s genius that stood  between them and Napoleon’s Grande Armee. France’s top admiral Villeneuve was so petrified of going toe to toe with Nelson that he baulked at implementing  Boney’s invasion plan. And the public  knew it. They loved him. He was their darling Hero.

When  on the 14th of September 1805 Nelson left Portsmouth for his date with destiny the public swarmed  all over the beach to get one last look or even better touch of their Hero. Many knelt as if he were some saint in the hope of a blessing. They knew he  might never come back.

As Robert Southey the poet laureate wrote,”England has had had many heroes, but never one who so entirely possessed the love of his countrymen as Nelson. All men knew that his heart was as humane as it was fearless; that there was not in  his nature the slightest alloy of selfishness of cupidity; but that with perfect  and entire devotion, he served his country with all his heart, and with his soul, and with all his strength; and therefore they loved him as truly and as fervently as he  loved England.”

As he was rowed toward,his ship, the Victory that September morning the crowd gave him three cheers. He turned to  Captain  Hardy and said,”We have had their huzzahs before but  now we have their hearts.” He raised his hat to acknowledge the cheers and the cheers echoed back with increased fervour. Within five weeks he was dead. Britannia ruled the waves for a hundred years.

On hearing the news of the victory George III said,”We have paid too much.”

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3 Responses to The Immortal Memory

  1. jonh says:

    Ah Yes – Nelson, I remember him well – What a friend, what a companion, what a dog.

  2. When at Dartmouth in 1970 we had a Division called Nelson. Mine was Cunningham, a great World War II Admiral; I led the passing out parade. I also remember when at BRNC going to Torbay and there being two aircraft carriers at anchor. All we have left are memories and images of how it once was. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing but the fall from how it once was is calamitous. The way it is now with our Royal Navy what else is there? Money for HS2 and EU vanity projects as we sack our servicemen.

  3. Stephen Levinson says:

    And did you all see the curious pieces in the press last week about the proportion of Nelson’s navy that was not English. I thought everyone who read a Hornblower or Aubrey book knew that but it seems that does not include journalists (with honourable exceptions of course Hugh!).

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