How Nelson’s Victory at Trafalgar Changed the Course of History
Nelson had a clear picture of how the Battle of Trafalgar would be won.
He also had a sure feeling for what the battle was about.
On the morning of 21 October 1805, with the combined French and Spanish Beet in sight, Nelson wrote down his hopes for the battle in a prayer.
He first asked his God for victory fo r his country “and for the benefit of Europe in general.”
As the morning light wavered across the paper, for an uneasy swell set HMS Victory rolling in the ligh t winds,
forerunner of the storm which arrived after the battle,
he added: “and may human ity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Aeet.”
In this brief appeal ro the highest judgment, Nelson thought not only of his own country,
“HUMANITY AFTER VICTORY” which he adored, but of “the benefit of Europe in general.”
The calm assurance of victory in the impending contest is pure Nelson,
but calling for humanity as the predominant feature of the figh ting Beet suggests a rare and wonderful expanse of vision.
Nelson’s patriotism, one that recognized a wider world, and his vision embracing the human nature of the antagonists he was about to attack was widely shared in Britain in this era.
His was a vision understood and accepted in a fiercely aggressive organization,
whose crews rattled their enemies by cheering as they flew into action.
This vision held under the stress of combat.
British sailors manned boats to rescue the French Achille’s crew when that ship caught fire as the battle still raged,
“HUMANITY AFTER VICTORY” risking their own to save enemy lives when the ship blew up.
After his surrender, the French Admiral Villeneuve was received as an honored guest in the Beet and subsequently feted in Lo ndon for his gallant defense.
On his return to France, Villleneuve committed suicide rather than face Napoleon’s wrath.
Nelson fell to a French sniper’s bullet on Victory’s quarterdeck a few hours after writing out his brief prayer.
His death did nothing to diminish the fo rce of h is message, rather it grew and carried far in the coming years of the Pax Britannica.
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