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Speaking of Trafalgar, I can’t believe it has been 200 years. I haven’t really been thinking of the Regency as being so long ago–no idea why. But time does slip away. I’ve noticed more and more that events I lived through are being seen as old history by my younger friends. I am old enough to critique costumes and attitudes of the sixties if anyone wants to reenact the time. I even have a clue about the 5o’s, although from a very short perspective. 😉

I still have this thing about artificially faded jeans. They bug me. Worn jeans should be truly worn. I had pairs that were worn tissue thin in the knees, and when they ripped, I patched them. And wear patterns were very distinctive. Wear occurred in the knees primarily, to a lesser extent in the derriere. Men wore the imprint of their wallets in their rear pockets. Pronounced wear did not occur on the thighs and some other odd areas where mechanically faded and worn jeans make them (keeping in mind that I grew up in northern New York, not ranching country). And…worn jeans did not take on that brownish tinge unless the owner didn’t wash them regularly! Whenever I see worn jeans in stores with that “tea stained” look, I automatically think they look as though the owner wasn’t clean.

You tie-dyed your own T-shirts. You wore the same pair of Hurache sandals until they were falling apart. The Peace Symbol meant something. No one was trying to be a fashion statement unless you were square, and then you dressed like Jackie Kennedy or Twiggy (women!) or if you were male, your hair was very short and you wore glasses with the black plastic rims.

The idea that rock groups would age was funny. Remember that bar scene in Star Wars with the gray-haired rock band? That was hilarious when the movie was new.

I don’t know why I am saying all this–I’m just trying, I think, to show how we look through a distorted lens when we look back. We can’t truly know how people of a time looked or acted or felt or spoke. We can only do as much research as we can and be careful of our sources, especially if the source is another historian’s work or a movie of the time. Diaries, on the other hand, are more helpful…and not enough people write on paper these days! I worry that all the electronic evidence will be lost, and generations from now people will be struggling to understand what this time was all about.


And by the way, back to the subject of Trafalgar, I thought I’d provide this link to Nelson’s Navy–Life in the 18th Century Royal Navy. Great Britain’s Channel 4 has some great history pages.

Be sure to check out the Georgian Underworld too, by the way…


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The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on 21st October, 2005. Here are some sites for your edification: has a lot of great information on Nelson’s Navy as well as the battle itself. Site of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

And this site, has details of official celebrations and nifty Nelson souvenirs you can buy. I believe the official events included a re-enactment earlier this year in which the opposing sides were “red” and “blue” so as not to hurt the delicate sensibilities of the French. (Mes amis, you lost. Get over it.)

It’s possibly this event that inspired the following (sent to me from my brother in England) on why it’s a good thing the Battle of Trafalgar wasn’t fought in the 21st century…

Nelson: “Order the signal, Hardy.”

Hardy: “Aye, aye sir.”

Nelson: “Hold on, that’s not what I dictated to Flags. What’s the meaning of this?”

Hardy: “Sorry sir?”

Nelson (reading aloud): “‘England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability.’ What gobbledygook is this?”

Hardy: “Admiralty policy, I’m afraid, sir. We’re an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil’s own job getting ‘England’ past the censors, lest it be considered racist.”

Nelson: “Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco.”

Hardy: “Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments.”

Nelson: “In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main brace to steel the men before battle.”

Hardy: “The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. Its part of the Government’s policy on binge drinking.”

Nelson: “Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we’d better get on with it ……….full speed ahead.”

Hardy: “I think you’ll find that there’s a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water.”

Nelson: “Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow’s nest please.”

Hardy: “That won’t be possible, sir.”

Nelson: “What?”

Hardy: “Health and Safety have closed the crow’s nest, sir. No harness. And they said that rope ladders don’t meet regulations. They won’t let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected.”

Nelson: “Then get me the ship’s carpenter without delay, Hardy.”

Hardy: “He’s busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo’c’sle Admiral.”

Nelson: “Wheelchair access? I’ve never heard anything so absurd.”

Hardy: “Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled.”

Nelson: “Differently abled? I’ve only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn’t rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.”

Hardy: “Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.”

Nelson: “Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons.”

Hardy: “A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won’t let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don’t want anyone breathing in too much salt – haven’t you seen the adverts?”

Nelson: “I’ve never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.”

Hardy: “The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.”

Nelson: “What? This is mutiny!”

Hardy: “It’s not that, sir. It’s just that they’re afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There’s a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.”

Nelson: “Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?”

Hardy: “Actually, sir, we’re not.”

Nelson: “We’re not?”

Hardy: “No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn’t even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.”

Nelson: “But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.”

Hardy: “I wouldn’t let the ship’s diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You’ll be up on disciplinary report.”

Nelson: “You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King.”

Hardy: “Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it’s the rules. It could save your life”

Nelson: “Don’t tell me – health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?”

Hardy: “As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there’s a ban on corporal punishment.”

Nelson: “What about sodomy?”

Hardy: “I believe that is now legal, sir.”

Nelson: “In that case …kiss me, Hardy.”

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Admiral Lord Nelson. On October 21, 1805, Horatio Nelson, the 1st Viscount Nelson, was in command of the British Navy fleet and defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, thus securing Great Britain from invasion. The Battle of Trafalgar is considered one of Great Britain’s greatest naval victories.

While engaged in the battle, Lord Nelson was hit by a sniper’s bullet fired from the rigging of the French ship Redoutable. After being hit he said to his captain, “Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last…my backbone is shot through.” He died four hours later, his last words being, “Thank God I did my duty” and “God and my country.”

Lord Nelson was beloved by his men and revered as a great naval commander by his country. His funeral was an event with much pageantry and he was interred in St. Paul’s Cathedral. By 1809 monuments in Dublin and Montreal were constructed. Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square was completed in 1843.

Everyone knows that Nelson’s body was preserved in brandy until transported to England, and everyone knows of his affair with Lady Hamilton. In fact on his deathbed he begged that his country take care of her and that his belongings be given to her, but these requests were ignored. She was not even allowed to attend his funeral. But did you know:

That his famous dispatch was originally requested by him to read England confides that every man will do his duty? His signalman suggested substituting the word expects for confides because expects was in the Signal book and could be represented by one flag while confides would have to be spelled out.

That before the battle, Nelson was advised to remove the decorations from his coat so he would not be so easily identified by snipers? He refused saying they were military orders and he did not fear showing them to the enemy.

That you can see Lord Nelson’s bloodstained breeches and stockings at the National Maritime Museum in London?

That you can see Lord Nelson’s famous hat at Locke and Co., hatters since 1676? Locke and Co. remains a family owned business, the oldest family business in existence as well as the oldest hat shop in the world.

Do you know any interesting facts about Admiral Lord Nelson? Did you ever see That Hamilton Woman with Vivian Leigh and Lawrence Olivier?


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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