The Battle & the Man: 10 Quirky Facts about Admiral Nelson and Trafalgar


On board the HMS Victory

On 21th October we commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. On this day in 1805, the British fleet defeated the French and Spanish allies west of Cape Trafalgar. 50,000 men were involved in the fighting. 5,000 of them died, among them the commander of the British fleet, Admiral Horatio Nelson. The victory confirmed Britain’s role as “ruler of the waves” and put a stop to Napoleon’s plans to invade Britain.

Being a Regency Enthusiast, you certainly know a lot about Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. But did you also know these 10 facts about the battle and the private life of its hero, Horatio Nelson?

The Battle – 5 Quirky Facts about the Battle of Trafalgar

The HMS Victory

1. The HMS Victory, the flagship of the Nelson’s fleet, was painted in Nelson’s favourite colours, yellow and black.

2. Nelson’s famous flag signal at the Battle of Trafalgar, “England expects that every man will do his duty”, actually had been “England confides that every man will do his duty.” The word “confides” was altered to “expect” by John Pasco, signal lieutenant of the HMS Victory.


Sketch of the French ship Bellerophon.

3. The Bellerophon was part of Nelson’s fleet defeating the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar. The Bellerophon later took Napoleon to his exile on the isle of St. Helena.

4. The prize money of the Battle of Trafalgar was allocated as follows:
Captains: £3.362
Lieutenants: £226
Warrant Officers: £153
Midshipmen: £37
Sailors: £6 10s

5. Napoleon did not hear about the British victory at Trafalgar for weeks and then kept the French defeat a closely guarded secret for over a month by his control over the Paris’s newspapers.

The Man5 Quirky Facts about Horatio Nelson

Nelson’s armchair

1. Nelson was a notoriously bad sleeper. He used to catnap on a specially designed armchair in his day-cabin.


Nelson’s cot between two 12-pounder guns, embroidery by Emma Hamilton

2. Nelson’s affair with Emma Hamilton, a former actress, model and dancer, was widely disapproved of. Nevertheless, Nelson had a painting of Emma on board of the HMS Victory, and reminders of her were always close by: The embroidered hangings of Nelson’s cot with a lovely flower design were made by Emma.

3. Nelson was known as an innovative naval strategist. In the summer of 1805, Nelson dubbed a set of ideas for his next sea battle “The Nelson Touch”. After his death, the words ‘Nelson Touch’ were used to describe Nelson’s talent for leadership and the way he fostered admiration and trust in his subordinates.

Locket with lock of Nelson’s hair belonging to Emma

4. In a private ceremony on 13 September 1805, a few days before Nelson left for his fatal journey to Cadiz, Nelson and Emma Hamilton took the Holy Communion and exchanged rings in the parish church at Merton. The ceremony was as close to a marriage ceremony as possible under the circumstance that Nelson was still married.


05chair5. Nelson had a chair designed for dealing with his correspondence. The chair features side pockets that Nelson used as a temporary filing cabinet for the papers he worked on.



Nelson Gallery and HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ, United Kingdom.




Article by Anna M. Thane, author of the novel
“Von tadellosem Ruf” (