Lord Nelson: “England expects that every man will do his duty”

April 21, 2016

Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott

Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson and 1st Duke of Bronté KB, painted by Lemuel Francis Abbott.

It was at this time also that Nelson, oblivious alike to the clamour of the opposing fleet and to the cheering of his own men at the sight of St. George’s flag, went down to his cabin, sank on his knees, and wrote in his diary this prayer: “May the great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me and may his blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my Country faithfully. To him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.”

Trafalgar Battle - 21st of Octaber 1805 - Situation at 17h, painted by Nicholas Pocock.

Trafalgar Battle – 21st of Octaber 1805 – Situation at 17h, painted by
Nicholas Pocock.

This done, he put on his best uniform with his most glittering decorations….

The English squadron was bearing down close on the allied fleet, which had curved in upon itself like some monster that senses the approach of a storm….

He then adjusted his glass and carefully observed the enemy fleet from which the Victory was now separated by less than half a mile. Next he turned his glass towards the second column….

The Battle of Trafalgar. Painting by Auguste Mayer.

The Battle of Trafalgar. Painting by Auguste Mayer.

Immediately after this, as if struck by a brilliant idea, he lowered his glass, and asked Blackwood:

“Do you not think we should run up one more signal? Something like ‘Nelson confides that every man will do his duty’?”

Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet, GCH, KCB.

Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet, GCH, KCB.

“It is an idea,” replied Blackwood, who was obviously searching for words, “but possibly it might be better to say, ‘England expects…;”

“You are right, Blackwood. Mr. Pasco, if you please—signal this message to the fleet: ‘England expects that every man will do his duty!’”

 

Subscription24

René Maine, Trafalgar: Napoleon’s Naval Waterloo, trans. Rita Eldon and B. W. Robinson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1957), 218-20.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 521

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Previous post:

Next post: