Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805), also known simply as Admiral Nelson, was an English flag officer in the Royal Navy. His inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics brought about a number of decisive British naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was wounded in combat, losing sight in one eye in Corsica at the age of 35, and most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife when he was 38. He was fatally shot in 1805, shortly before his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, which is often regarded as Britain's greatest naval victory. For these reasons, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest naval mariners in history.


The Viscount Nelson

Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1799 portrait by Lemuel Francis Abbott
Born(1758-09-29)29 September 1758
Died21 October 1805(1805-10-21) (aged 47)
Burial placeSt Paul's Cathedral
Spouse(s)Frances Herbert Woolward
Parent(s)Edmund Nelson (priest)
Catherine Suckling
Military career
Allegiance Great Britain
United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1771–1805
RankVice-Admiral of the White
Commands heldMediterranean Fleet
Battles/warsAmerican War of Independence

War of the First Coalition

War of the Second Coalition

War of the Third Coalition

AwardsKnight of the Order of the Bath
Signature

Nelson was born into a moderately prosperous Norfolk family and joined the navy through the influence of his uncle, Maurice Suckling, a high-ranking naval officer. Nelson rose rapidly through the ranks and served with leading naval commanders of the period before obtaining his own command at the age of 20, in 1778. He developed a reputation for personal valour and firm grasp of tactics, but suffered periods of illness and unemployment after the end of the American War of Independence. The outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars allowed Nelson to return to service, where he was particularly active in the Mediterranean. He fought in several minor engagements off Toulon and was important in the capture of Corsica and subsequent diplomatic duties with the Italian states. In 1797, he distinguished himself while in command of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St Vincent.

Shortly after that battle, Nelson took part in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where the attack failed and he was badly wounded, losing his right arm, and was forced to return to England to recuperate. The following year he won a decisive victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile and remained in the Mediterranean to support the Kingdom of Naples against a French invasion.

In 1801, he was dispatched to the Baltic and won another victory, this time over the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen. He commanded the blockade of the French and Spanish fleets at Toulon and, after their escape, chased them to the West Indies and back but failed to bring them to battle. After a brief return to England, he took over the Cádiz blockade, in 1805. On 21 October 1805, the Franco-Spanish fleet came out of port, and Nelson's fleet engaged them at the Battle of Trafalgar. The battle became one of Britain's greatest naval victories, but Nelson, aboard HMS Victory, was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter. His body was brought back to England, where he was accorded a state funeral.

Nelson's death at Trafalgar secured his position as one of Britain's most heroic figures. His signal just prior to the commencement of the battle, "England expects that every man will do his duty", is regularly quoted, paraphrased and referenced. Numerous monuments, including Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London, and the Nelson Monument in Edinburgh, have been created in his memory, and his legacy remains highly influential.