Book Review:
The Trafalgar Chronicle

The 1805 Club


Waterloo Letters : Major-General SiborneWhat a little gem of a book The Trafalgar Chronicle is.

It is the latest yearbook of The 1805 Club (Series 5) and is filled with fascinating articles from the Age of Sail and Nelson's Navy.

There are 14 chapters in this softcover focusing on portrayals of the Georgian Navy, biographical portraits and general interest stories.

The articles include: Representations of Horatio Nelson in the Visual Arts (Medical Reality versus Heroic Legend), the Death of Nelson in Art and Literature, Caricatures and Cartoons of Nelson, Spain's Hand in the Independence of America and biographical portraits of Sir Andrew Pellet Green: Vice-Admiral Thomas Fremantle’s Protege, Commander Sir James Pearl,
Captain John Houlton Marshall, Captain Ralph Willett Miller.

My favourite chapter looks at the role Spain had in America's winning of independence from Britain.

Chipp Reid writes it was the best-kept secret of the Georgian Era, so much so that even today it is not a well known part of history.

The popular view is that France alone helped end British rule over its colony, but the French forces under the Compte de Grasse and the Compte de Rochambeau had run out of money and turned to the Spanish for assistance.

The funds would go to finishing off the British in America and then throwing them out of the Caribbean.

Key to the venture was the 30-gun French frigate Aigrette and its secret voyage to Havana to pick up the treasure only to find the moneyship had not arrived there yet. An appeal was made to the local merchants and within an astounding six hours 500,000 silver pesos had been donated. That is around $US34million in today's currency.

Within six weeks of the funds reaching their war chests the Americans and French forced the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown and the colonies were free.

Why have we not heard about this until now? Reid states it is because of the Black Legend of anti-Spanish/Hispanic attitudes among Anglo-Saxons.

As you would expect Admiral Horatio Nelson features heavily in this book.

When the place Trafalgar is mentioned one's mind immediately turns to the great naval battle of 1805, the "have-at-them" attitude of Admiral Horatio Nelson and, of course, his death around the time of victory.

Nelson was probably the world's first great celebrity. His stellar career brought him adulation throughout the British Empire and that was boosted by his pop-star image. Even the frowned-upon affair with Lady Emma Hamilton did little to temper the British public's reverance for their naval hero.

His image was everywhere and has even turned up in cricketing terms when a team, or batsman, is on 111. One eye, one arm, one leg. Okay he had both his legs - and actually had both his eyes (one was damaged), but he definitely lost an arm.

In the first chapter of the latest 1805 Club yearbook, number five in the series, Captain Gerald Stulc (Medical Corps, USN retired), looks at Representations of Nelson in the visual arts from a medical perspective.

Now that is a mouthful so we will simplify and say looking at Nelson's images and comparing it to his many wounds and ailments that included malaria, scurvy and typhoid.

And Nelson never wore an eyepatch over his right eye. Reid says that is a mid-19th Century invention. Amusingly some movies portraying the great leader had the patch over his uninjured left eye!

The British hero also stars in two other chapters: William Beatty, Arthur Devis and the Death of Lord Nelson in Early 19th Century Literature and Art by Andrew Venn and Nelson in Caricatrure and Cartoon by Peter Turner.

There is a lot of really interesting reading in this yearbook and if you are a devotee of the Age of Fighting Sail then it will make for good fireside reading.


- Richard Moore


The Trafalgar Chronicle, Series 5, by the 1805 Club.
Frontline Books, ISBN: 978 1 52675962 7.
Pages: 191.
Illustrations: 80+ images.

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