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Trafalgar Day, and another commemoration

Today is Trafalgar Day. The anniversary of Nelson’s victory “was commemorated by parades, dinners and other events throughout much of the British Empire in the 19th century and early 20th century” before declining in the aftermath of the First World War.

Those who have been reading Samizdata for many years will remember the immensely knowledgeable contributions by Findlay Dunachie. This post, “Trafalgar – and after”, was written two hundred years after the battle and a few days before Findlay’s death.

8 comments to Trafalgar Day, and another commemoration

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Here as an attempt to create an early version of the EU, and the perfidious British interfere! Trafalgar day should be a day of national shame in the UK. Come back, Napoleon! All is forgiven!

  • TomJ

    I have been to several Trafalgar Day dinners in Messes run by the Senior Service…

  • llamas

    When I was a junior school pupil in England, in the 1960s, Trafalgar Day was remembered each year, with well-worn pictures and maps of the event hung on the walls and the stirring details of the conflict recounted as a sort of special one-off history lesson. The wider implications and politics were never discussed – it was as though the British fleet and the French fleet had stumbled across each other one day and decided to have a battle, to pass the time, as it were. I can recall being very confused, not about the battle per se, but about why there was a battle.



  • terence patrick hewett

    Taxi firm Addison Lee has announced plans to launch driverless taxis in London by 2021 in collaboration with Oxbotica, which specialises in developing software for autonomous vehicles.

    Cannon are to be mounted fore and aft loaded with grapeshot in case of attack by the French Navy – damn their eyes.

  • Mr Ed

    I was in Cornwall recently, looking out over to the Eddystone Rocks and Lighthouse, where the first entanglements with the Spanish Armada occurred. I read up a bit on the unpleasantness, and it turned out that a lot of the Royal Navy’s sailors were unpaid, unfed and many died of starvation or dysentery in the aftermath, with one report stating that Queen Elizabeth flatly refused to pay for ships as soon as she could, and Lord Burghley chipped in to say that so many of the Navy’s sailors were dying that the Queen’s financial position wouldn’t be so bad, as the Queen wouldn’t have to pay them.

    An almost Soviet approach to casualties. It makes recent issues with the Forces seem benign.

    Trafalgar, an epic victory. We could easily move the relatively new May Day bank holiday to 21st October (or the nearest Monday). However, it does seem that around the last 100 years, the British ruling class has been awfully embarrassed about being British.

  • Mr Ed (October 22, 2018 at 1:51 pm), I recommend – if you have not already read it – Garrett Mattingly’s The Defeat of the Spanish Armada. The book includes the relevant Burghley quote, “The men are dead, but not the pay”, signifying Cecil’s awareness of the common scam of a captain’s continuing to report a sailor on his rolls after that man had died, so the captain still got (and could keep) the pay for him. I would check whether your history book is applying a modern sensibility to what may have been an understandable caution. It is also only fair to remember that Elizabeth depended on parliament for her money and had to be very cautious with it to keep the crown afloat. (The Spanish monarchy went bankrupt repeatedly in the period, whereas Elizabeth’s credit was always good because she never did.) Elizabeth knew she needed to summon a new pariament and request a new subsidy immediately after the Armada, but she had to delay doing so until the subsidies from the previous parliament had all been collected.

  • Mr Ed


    Thanks for that, I may well get that book. In fairness to Cecil, you probably had to be there to have understood the quote in context. It might have been gallows humour, but why not call a Parliament at this moment of triumph specifically to pay for the gallant sailors, or sell a few bits and bobs? The seeds of the Civil War were already sown in the soil of England even as the Armada was being smashed to matchsticks off stormy Ireland.

  • Paul Marks

    An excellent post by Natalie – and by the late Findlay Dunachie.

    And excellent comments.