All's quiet on the Trafalgar front

The British Leftist elite have a horror of the v-word on the bicentennial of Nelson's battle. Last Friday October 21st was the actual bicentennial of the Trafalgar victory -- which was also the battle in which Britain lost its most brilliant and most beloved admiral. One hopes that a large part of the commemoration will be devoted to Viscount Horatio Nelson himself but I am not at all confident of it. Below is an excerpt from Spiked on the subject

"In the event, the bicentennial celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar have proved curiously muted. Nelson's victory over French vice-admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve and Napoleon's First Empire seems a long time ago, of course. Yet given how it laid the basis for the British Empire, the Sterling Area and thus the world's first extensive round of globalisation, Trafalgar hasn't really had the fanfare that is its historical due.

The Royal Mint has issued 5 pound crowns; the Royal Mail, six stamps. Tomorrow the Royal Family will light beacons, beginning with the Queen at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, alongside HMS Victory. In the House of Commons, however, there is silence.

Ministers do not feel good about the Empire, and they don't feel very good about victories in its name. In May 2005 Geoff Hoon, leader of the house, told the Commons that he was 'delighted' that one of the largest ships in the June international fleet review off Portsmouth would be provided by....France. In June, when Clwyd Conservative MP David Jones begged to attack New Labour's commitment to a common European defence policy, defence secretary John Reid replied that Jones had made a 'particularly churlish remark on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, when we are attempting to bring nations together'.

Maybe New Labour doesn't feel good about Britain winning any kind of victory at any time, in fact. Take 2003, the year of Gulf War Two. In April, speaking of the need to make the newly won 'peace' in Iraq worth the war that had preceded it, UK prime minister Tony Blair declared that he would succeed 'not in any spirit of elation - still less of triumphalism - but with a fixed and steady resolve that the cause was just, the victory right'. By December, Blair insisted that 'the final victory' in Iraq would that of 'the Iraqi people'.

Any victory is okay, as long as it isn't that of Old Blighty. As a result, the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich has an exhibition that celebrates 'Black Sailors in Nelson's Navy'. The Independent is on hand to explain that 1805 was the work of the third of the crew of the Victory who came from outside England, including one member from Africa, one Manxman, and three from France. Michael Portillo's BBC1 documentary Nelson's Trafalgar, shown on 22 June, paralleled Channel 4 coverage of Trafalgar in registering the contribution that women made below decks.

In all of this, 1805 is interpreted not as a victory for the British Empire, but as one for that New Labour idol, diversity. In the same way, the unbeatable rapid rates of fire mounted by British seamen are partly attributed to the onions and lemons Nelson acquired in places like Tangier, the better to fight scurvy. On British ships, it seems, the lash was bad, but the diet was wonderful...."


See my tribute to Nelson on Tongue Tied

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