Sunday, 26 August 2012

How Much Nelson Stuff Could I See in One Day?

This was the question that needed answering.  And so, I put together an itinerary of a sightseeing tour of all things Nelson in London, and dragged a long-suffering friend along for the ride.

St Paul's Cathedral - Nelson's Tomb and Statue
We met up outside the cathedral at 8.30am.  This may seem a ridiculously early time, but I wanted to get there before the crowds.  Still, even though the cathedral had only just opened, it wasn't long before waves of tourists started pulsing through.  So we paid our money, and rushed down to the crypt, warning my friend that he had better not say anything condescending or mocking to me while we were there!  
This might sound weird, but I love the crypt.  It's cool, the lighting is soft, and atmospheric music floats through from a nearby chamber (I don't know what's actually through there).  I've been before, but the feeling I got from approaching the tomb was still the same.

 Nelson's motto, part of the mosaic on the floor at the head of his tomb.
 Nelson's famous final signal at the battle of Trafalgar.  Or, it would be, but annoyingly it's wrong.  The actual signal was "...will do his duty."  In other words, Nelson was expressing his faith in his fleet, his confidence that they would do their duty.  It was a morale-booster.  " do his duty" sounds more like an order, like "this is what we are expecting of you, so do it."

For me, it's a strangely emotional experience, and something that I don't think anyone can understand without feeling it themselves.  Being so close to the man, the hero, that I have studied and idolised for so long.  Being in the crypt, alone, in the quiet, just inches from him.  But not quite the same this time, being with my friend, who was insistent that I should have my picture taken 'hugging' the tomb...

I drew the line at a photo of me kneeling in worship, however, much to his disappointment.
Lucky we got there when we did, for we had only a few minutes of quiet contemplation (and photo ops) with his Lordship before a group of tourists, complete with a guide, appeared in the Duke of Wellington's tomb chamber next door.  
I then pointed out the headstone of Nelson's brother and sister-in-law who are buried in the same chamber.  They're apparently buried directly under the one spot which everyone who wants to get close to Nelson's tomb must cross over, and so the lettering is almost worn away.  Weirdly, the plaque on the wall for them is at the opposite side of the tomb and on the wall facing away from it.
I then embarked on a quest to find the tomb of Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, which I knew was also down there.  But, after a complete circuit of the crypt, I still couldn't find it.  My friend got bored and went back upstairs, while I had another look round.  I finally found it, in Nelson's chamber, in a sort of alcove.  I think the reason I missed it was because it's so plain, just big and rectangular and stone.  There isn't a plaque, his name is inscribed very simply on the top of it.
Happening to find myself temporarily alone, I quietly savoured being in his Lordship's presence for a couple more minutes, then went back upstairs.
My next mission was to find the memorial statue of Nelson which I knew was here... somewhere.  I completed an entire circuit of the cathedral without finding it.  I did see plenty of other beautiful statues including one for Collingwood and, unexpectedly, one for William Hoste, one of Nelson's favourite proteges:
Puzzled and frustrated, I went and sat with my friend for a bit.  He hadn't bothered following me around, and after I'd rested sent me on my way once more.  This time, I managed to find it!  From the direction I'd been travelling around, it was behind a pillar, and somehow I'd passed it without looking back at it.  Worse, I'd been sitting opposite it, looking at it across the large open space of floor under the dome.  I know you're not really supposed to take photos there, but using my crazy ninja skills, I ducked behind the opposite pillar and sneaked my camera out, took the picture and then vanished into the shadows before I was seen...
I think it's a really beautiful statue.  The detailing on it is exquisite.  Nelson stands proudly on a pedestal beside an anchor and rope.  Below are a British lion, gods of the sea, and Britannia inspiring a young boy by showing him the image of the hero.

Next was a short walk down Fleet Street and the Strand to...

Trafalgar Square and The National Portrait Gallery
At this point I was about to pass out from hunger but we popped in to the NPG and I remembered where Nelson's portrait is, so we weren't in there long.
The portrait is by William Beechey and was one of the last Nelson sat for.  Unlike earlier portraits, in which he tends to look thin, drawn and poorly (which he was most of the time), in this one he looks a little more 'filled out' and healthy.  Though, also unlike earlier portraits, he looks less 'adonised'.  You can also see the ^ shaped scar above his right eye which he got from being wounded at the Battle of the Nile, and which he would always try to hide with a lock of hair.  The portrait hanging beside it is one of Emma Hamilton, Nelson's mistress, which shows how beautiful she was and makes it easy to see why Nelson fell in love with her.
After spending far too much on food for lunch (London prices!) we moved on through Trafalgar Square, the most obvious Nelson sight-seeing opportunity, and down Whitehall.  
I like Nelson's Column.  Nelson is placed so that he faces the old Admiralty building, the Thames, and then waaaaay beyond that, Victory at Portsmouth.  It's such a big and recognisable monument and one of the most distinguishing London landmarks, which I think is a fitting tribute to someone who had such an instrumental role in protecting England and making it what it is today.

Next on the itinerary was...

Westminster Abbey and Nelson's Waxwork Effigy 
This is what I was looking forward to most of all.  The museum here has a bunch of waxwork funeral effigies.  I'd read that the Nelson one was such a good likeness of him that when Emma Hamilton saw it, she would have kissed it if the paint on the face hadn't still been drying.  
There was a bit of a queue to get in, and we debated whether we'd have time to wait.  In the end, it was only about 20 minutes before we were in.  The Abbey felt, to me, a little cluttered.  There are statues and ornaments everywhere and, in contrast to St Paul's, there's no big open space.  There were also rope barrier things that made it impossible to cut straight across to the entrance to the museum, and force you to wind around the building along with the tourists and their loud audioguides.
But, finally reaching the museum and eagerly searching the dimly-lit chamber, I was not disappointed.  The waxwork is as good as I'd imagined - better, even.  I find that each portrait portrays a different side to Nelson and he doesn't look quite the same in any of them.  In the waxwork, however, I found 'my' Nelson.  I could well believe that this was a good likeness and this was indeed exactly how he looked, down to the stern expression and irresistable gaze.  All the clothes it is dressed in were Nelson's own, including the hat with the green eye-shade that had been sewn in to shield his eye from the glare of the sun.  I was a little surprised by how slender he was.  I knew he hadn't been tall, but he really was very wiry too.
 The lighting was quite dim and the waxwork is in a glass case so I couldn't use the flash of the camera, so the pictures have come out quite dark.
This is my favourite photo of the day :^)

Leaving the Abbey, we walked down the river to Embankment, just missing getting caught in an absolutely torrential downpour, to get on a boat to... 

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Just past the Cutty Sark in Greenwich is the Old Royal Naval College, which was once Greenwich Hospital for Seamen.  We were beginning to be a little short on time, so went straight to the Painted Hall.  Here, surrounded by magnificent paintings on the walls and ceiling, is a plaque that marks where Nelson's body lay in state before continuing its procession up the Thames to St Paul's.  There is also a little memorial to Admiral Collingwood.

 We also came across a rather nice bust of Nelson in the entrance hall.
Then across the road to our last stop of the day...

The National Maritime Museum
What with being between the Olympics and Paralympics, and with some event apparently being staged next to the museum, we were required to be scanned and have our stuff x-rayed, by army officers.  So that was fun.
The lighting of the entrance to the museum is very... blue.  A quick look at the map told me which way to go to find the Nelson stuff.  I was a bit surprised at how little was there.  Mostly just a few paintings on the wall and an 'interactive' exhibit (some touch-screen thing), in a small-ish room with random model ships and some stuff about the Thames (admittedly, I didn't look at that stuff that much... does it show?).  But I cannot express how happy I was that Nelson's Trafalgar coat was on display!  I'd thought it was hidden away to keep it safe and preserved.  But there it was.  Not particularly impressed, my friend wandered off, while I stood somewhat in awe. And attempted to take pictures which again, with it being in a glass case in a dark room and with well-lit paintings on the wall behind me, didn't come out too well.
There was something quite surreal about looking at the coat Nelson wore as he paraded the quarterdeck of Victory amongst the deafening roar of gunshot, the screams of the wounded and dying, the thick smoke of the guns and the stench of gunpowder and blood, while splinters and bullets flew past him and people he knew were killed around him.  You can also see the small hole from the bullet that killed him, and the damage to the epaulette caused by the shot.  The bullet apparently tore through the epaulette and carried it with it through Nelson's shoulder, down to tear the pulmonary artery, damage his spine and finally lodge in his back.  The bullet was later removed with the piece of epaulette still attached.  Surreal, and poignant.
Nelson's stockings are displayed with his coat.  They are stained with the blood of John Scott, Nelson's secretary, who was killed while standing beside Nelson earlier in the battle.
 Portrait of Nelson by Lemuel Abbott.
 The Apotheosis of Nelson.
 Nelson's funeral procession.
A piece of Victory's flag, which was on Nelson's coffin at his funeral and torn to pieces by seamen who wanted to keep a bit.

This is a close-up of the left shoulder of the coat.  There's a lot of reflection on the glass, but you can see the bullet hole.

I then went on to spend far too much money in the gift shop.  I'm a total sucker for a gift shop.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Trip to Greenwich

So after asking around a forum ( for Nelson-related places, monuments and memorials, I was pointed in the direction of a life-size bronze statue of him, placed outside the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.  Now, I'm a lover of statues in general, and from the picture of this statue it looked to be a particularly fine one.  

I decided to make a day-trip of it with my son, and started with a walk from Westminster down to Tower Bridge on the south side of the river, so we got a good view (and lots of photos) of various landmarks on the other side.  Initially we had thought we could walk to Greenwich, as a guide near the London Eye told us it would be a 5-mile walk that would take about an hour and a half.  However, double-checking with another guide (they've been dotted around London to help the Olympic tourists) resulted in being laughed at and told we couldn't make the 15 mile walk unless we had robot legs.  So we took the boat from Tower Bridge instead.

By that time it was early evening, the sun was setting and the walk past the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum (which I was disappointed to be too late to visit) was very pleasant.  Then, we reached a road called Park Row and looked up and down it to see which way this Trafalgar Tavern might be.  Down the end of the road to the left, however, I saw a dark figure with his back to us, sedately looking out over the Thames.  So we headed towards it.

I must say, the statue exceeded my expectations.  It is placed outside the Trafalgar Tavern, but not right outside the door, so you don't feel like a total numpty standing for half an hour looking at it and taking photos.  It is at the end of a quiet side-road, which again surprised me, as I had expected a main road or slightly touristy area.  As it was, there was barely anyone there, apart from people passing by coming up from the Thames path.  I very much liked the fact that the statue is set on the ground, which is quite unusual as they are normally up on plinths.

The statue itself really is a work of art.  The artist clearly put a lot of effort into her research.  The detail is very intricate, even down to his epaulettes and the lines of his face.  He is a little taller than life-size, I think, although the base of the statue is about an inch or two thick.   

Of course it is stupidly nerdy of me to take so much pleasure in such a thing, but I really did.  In fact, I'll definitely be paying it another visit when I make the trip to the museum and the Old Royal Naval College :^)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

On This Day... 12th August 1803

Journal Entry (BL Add MS 34,966 f.5)
Fresh gales.  Sighted land not... at Cape St Sebastians... water much smoother.  In the afternoon fine weather sent the Maidstone to join the Active.
The French Admiral refused to receive a letter from ME.

What is this indignant last comment referring to?  Here is a letter Nelson wrote the next day, to some French officers who were prisoners of war at Malta. (from The Dispatches and Letters of Lord Nelson vol. V, Nicolas)

Victory, August 13th, 1803
I have sent to offer the French Admiral in Toulon an exchange of Prisoners.  After keeping the Boat waiting three hours, a message came down that the French Admiral would receive no letter or message, and ordered the Boat to return: therefore, you must blame the cruelty of your own Admiral for keeping you Prisoners.  At the same time, I shall be happy to do all in my power to render your captivity as easy as possible - always remembering, Do as you would be done by.  I am, Gentlemen, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Nelson & Bronte

An example of Nelson's humanity even towards the enemy; and a demonstration of the slightly irritable side to his character.  Well, at least no one can say he didn't try.     


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Nelson's Private Diary, September 1803

Sept 1st 1803
All the forenoon very hard gales in the afternoon smoother water being under St Sebastians.  All night strong gales.

Friday Sept 2nd
All the forenoon strong breezes & a swell as we got under the Cape St Sebastians the wind came to the westward.  At night it came to the north.  Strong gales all night.

Saturday Sept 3rd
... at noon calm.  Bellisle in sight SW.  Carmelion frigate in sight.
[?] the Adams Comd'r Morris. 

Sunday 4th
Fresh gales all day.

Monday 5th
The Superb joined with the Transport from Roses.  Strong gales all day.  More Modt in the evening.  All night hard swells.

Tuesday Sept 6th
Sent the Raven to look into Toulon.  Bellisle to Barcelona.

Wednesday Sept 7th
Modt. winds Easterly.

Thursday Sept 8th
Cleared the Transport with Wine and sent two tons of casks for Water, also the Renown to [?] hers at Roses.

Friday Sept 9th
Fine weather steering for Cape [?] Sent the Canopus to Toulon.

Saturday Sept 10th
The Raven joined but the Capt. who spoke the Foudroyant allowed her to stand to the So.ward.  Fine weather.  Phoebe joined from Malta. 

Sunday Sept 11th
Fine with Wind Westerly.  The Canopus joined, some of the French ships came out of Toulon when she was in sight but returned again.

Monday Sept 12th 1803
Strong gales at [?] away to the SE in the evening modt.  The Bellisle examined Toulon the Enemy as before.  The night calm.

Tuesday Sept 13th
First part light breezes Easterly.  The Narcissus & Active joined.  Sent the Active to Barcelona and Bellisle to look into Toulon.

Wednesday Sept 14th
Strong breezes Easterly.  Sent the Narcissus to Mahon for news.  The Phoebe to look into Marseilles.  The Foudroyants store ship arrived.

Thursday Sept 15th 1803
Sent the Phoebe to Examine the situation of the Corvettes in [?].

Friday Light air Southerly.

Saturday Sept 17th: Fresh Breezes all day at South & thick weather standing to the WSW.  Sent the Superb to Examine Toulon sound every 1 hours from 55 to 50.  When we got NE of Cape Creux Calm all night.  Carmelion in sight.

Sunday Sept 18th
Light & hazy all day in the Evening a heavy storm & thunder Lightning & Rain Wind at NNW fresh breezes all night.

Monday Sept 19th
Fresh breezes at NNW.  The Belleisle join'd, Renown from Roses Narcissus from Minorca, Superb from looking into Toulon - the French fleet ready for Sea.  Calm all night.

Tuesday Sept 20th
Light Breezes & very hazy Southerly.

Wednesday Sept 21st
In the morning fine Breezes at NW [..?] In the afternoon Active join'd from Barcelona.  At night strong breezes Sea getting up Struck Top gant. masts to and prepared for a gale.

Thursday Sept 22nd
At daylight strong gales bore away to the SW.  All day blowing very hard & a heavy sea in the Evening more modte. brought too for the night.

Friday Sept 23rd
Fine wt. the sea subsiding Wind NW. standing to the NE.  Sent the Narcissus to Tunis & Foudroyant to Malta.

Saturday Sept 24
Seahorse joined from Malta.  Sent Raven to Barcelona & Canopus to Madalena.  Fresh breezes beating up for Cape Sicii.

Sunday Sept 25th
Fresh Breezes Easterly.

Monday Sept 26th
Fresh Breezes Easterly.  At noon saw Cape Sicie.

(wrote Lady H)
Tuesday Sept 27th
The Agincourt joined as did the Halcyon & Carmelion.  The Agincourt on Tuesday Sept 20th chased five French frigates into Calvi.  Sent the Agincourt to Gibraltar and Carmelion to Roses.  Fine Weather Wind Easterly.

Wednesday Sept 28th
Sent the Active & Phoebe to look after the French frigates chased by the Agincourt.  Fine wt. Wind Easterly.

Thursday Sept 29th
Wind Easterly Sent the Seahorse to look into Toulon.  All the afternoon very strong breezes all night hard gales at ESE.  Sent the Halcyon to Gibraltar.

Friday Sept 30th
All the first part till noon very hard gales at ESE.  After 3pm more modte.  Saw Cape Creux 12 or 13 leagues.  All night modte.  Wind SSE and a very heavy sea.

From the British Library, Additional Manuscript 34,966


Active: 38-gun 5th rate, Capt. Richard Mowbray. 

Adams Comd'r Morris: The Adams was an American 28-gun frigate blockading Tripoli, commanded by Commodore Richard Morris, and was saluted by Nelson.   
Agincourt: 64-gun 3rd rate, Capt. Charles Marsh Schomberg. 
Bellisle: Nelson slightly misspelt Belleisle, a 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. John Whitby.
Canopus: 80-gun 2nd rate, Rear-Admiral George Campbell and Captain John Conn.
Cape Sicii: Cape SiciĆ©, near Toulon. 
Cape St Sebastians: In Spanish, Cabo de San Sebastian - it is south of the Bay of Roses, and north-east of Barcelona. 
Carmelion: Nelson misspelt Cameleon, a 16-gun brig.
modt. / modte.: abbreviations of moderate. 
Foudroyant: Not quite sure here.  The only Foudroyant I can find reference to was in Plymouth at this time.  If anyone can enlighten me, please do! 
Halcyon: 16-gun brig sloop.
'Lady H' - Lady Emma Hamilton, Nelson's mistress.  Occasionally Nelson apparently marked when he wrote to her, which is quite cute really.
Narcissus: 32-gun 5th rate frigate, Capt. Ross Donnelly.
Phoebe: 36-gun 5 rate frigate, Capt. Thomas Capel.  
Raven - An 18-gun brig.
Renown: 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. John Chambers White. 
Roses/Bay of Roses: A bay not far to the north-east of Barcelona in Spain. 
Seahorse: 38-gun frigate, Sir Courtnay Boyle
Superb: 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt Richard Goodwin Keats.

Nelson's Private Diary, August 15th - 31st 1803

Monday Aug 15th 1803
First part modte. breezes & steering for Toulon.  Sent the Phoebe as convoy for the 2 transports to Malta.

Tuesday Aug 16th
The Bellisle join'd with a small sloop prize to the Carmelion.  Fine weather.

Wednesday Aug 17th
At 8 o'clock saw a ship to the SW she proved to be the Canopus Ad. G. Campbell.

Thursday fine weather all day.

Friday Aug 19th 1803
Beginning to noon fresh.  Sent the Active to look into Marseilles & the Maidstone to look into Toulon.  All night strong breezes.  Heavy sea standing to the westward.

Saturday Aug 20th
becoming strong all this morning.  The Canopus carried away her full yard.  Afternoon by getting under the Spanish shore more modte. & confined too all night.

Sunday Aug 21st 1803
Modt. weather.  The Triumph storeship & 2 victuallies joined from Gibt.  All night thunder Lightning & Rain.  Sent the Bellisle to Roses.

Monday a swell all day from the northward.

Tuesday Aug 23rd
Blowing fresh standing to the West.  The Gibt. & Narcissus joined the first from Sardinia which is every moment expected to be taken by the French the other [?] & represents Sicily as ... to fall into the hands of the French.

Wednesday Aug 24th
Clearing the Transports laying too All day fine weather.

Thursday Aug 25th
Surprised as yesterday Active Maidstone & Theseus joined.

Friday Aug 26th
Sent Narcissus & Active to try & intercept some troops from Marseilles.

Saturday Aug 27th 1803
Squally weather.  Sent the Triumph & her prizes to Malta [?] a transport for Wine & Bullocks to the Bay of Roses.  Fresh breezes all night northerly.

Sunday Aug 28th
Fresh breezes.  The Raven and a transport with wine Water & provisions joined from Malta.  Sent the Canopus to look into Toulon.

Monday Aug 29th
Clearing the transport fine weather.  The Canopus made the signal that the enemy were in port as before.

Tuesday Aug 30th
Fine weather.  A flag of truce in sight at north it turned out not to be a flag of truce.

Wednesday Aug 31st
A heavy swell from the westward.  At noon fresh breezes.  Sent the Bellisle to look into Toulon Stood to the westward an [...?] gale at sunsett struck [...?] all night strong gales.

From the British Library Additional Manuscript 34,966

Active: 38-gun 5th rate, Capt. Richard Mowbray.
Ad. G. Campbell: Rear-Admiral Sir George Campbell (1759-1821).
Bellisle: Nelson slightly misspelt Belleisle, a 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. John Whitby.
Canopus: 80-gun 2nd rate, Rear-Admiral George Campbell (whom Nelson is referring to when he writes Ad. G. Campbell), Captain John Conn.
Carmelion: Nelson misspelt Cameleon, a 16-gun brig.
Gibt: Either Gibraltar the place, OR HMS Gibraltar, 80-gun 2nd rate, Capt. George Frederick Ryves.  On 21st August, Nelson is referring to the place; on the 23rd, the ship.
Maidstone: 32-gun 5th rate, Capt. George Elliot.   
Narcissus: 32-gun 5th rate frigate, Capt. Ross Donnelly. 
Phoebe: 36-gun 5 rate frigate.
Raven - An 18-gun brig.
Roses/Bay of Roses: A bay not far to the north-east of Barcelona in Spain.
Theseus: 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. John Bligh. 
Triumph: 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. Sir Robert Barlow.