Anniversary of Trafalgar

Little did I realize what a smart move it was for me to have the mother of all colds last Thursday and hand the responsibility of the day over to Cara. (Thanks Cara!)

That’s because today is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805. Three years ago I blogged about the two hundredth anniversary of the battle and a politically correct approach for the millenium. Today I’ve come up with a collection of things I found interesting–I hope you do too–because the whole topic of Nelson and Trafalgar is so huge you can’t do it justice in one blog. (Note the cunning way I leave things open for your comments and a possible part two on Thursday.) If you were raised in England the legend of Nelson and Trafalgar, “kiss me Hardy” and all the rest of it, are part of your consciousness–everywhere you turn there are pubs, streets, houses, memorials. And of course, Nelson’s Column in, where else, Trafalgar Square, London.

True to form, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is holding an exhibit celebrating the 250th anniversary of Nelson’s birth (September 29, 1758), and the site has some great pictures, articles, and information.

You can see Nelson’s coat, still bloodstained, which Emma Hamilton was given after his death, although Nelson’s family would have liked to have taken possession of it. She sold the coat when she’d fallen on hard times, shortly before she left for Europe, where she died in 1814. Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, bought it back and presented it to Greenwich.

I like this piece of embroidery, traditionally thought to be worked by Emma, of herself, Nelson and their dog Nileus at Merton Place, Surrey. It’s of colored silks on a silk taffeta ground, but the faces and hands are painted on the fabric with watercolors. Pictures were produced and sold to women to be worked on at home, and the Nelson-Trafalgar story caught the imagination, and the money-making instincts of the British, with a huge amount of souvenirs produced.

Here’s a Nelson snuff box from 1804.

Another fascinating sort of souvenir is artefacts made from scrap wood of Nelson’s famous ship Victory during renovations (which you can visit at Portsmouth.)

I visited eBay (of course) and found this fascinating item, an English Oak Glove Stretcher. It’s engraved with the name Victory.

There’s a wonderful collection of Nelson memorabilia here, including this very cute mid nineteenth century toby jug.

I actually own a piece of Nelson memorabilia myself, an engraving of his house at Merton Place, which I think is genuine (I paid very little for it). Mine is colored and much prettier than this version.

Do you collect memorabilia or antiques? Or, what would you like to collect if you could afford it? Do you have any thoughts on Nelson or Trafalgar you’d like to share?

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