Nelson: before and after Trafalgar



Horatio Nelson, by Guy Head, 1798-1799 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Horatio Nelson
by Guy Head
1798-1799
NPG 5101

Past display archive
2 July - 11 December 2005

Room 16

Free

Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson, was born in Norfolk in 1758 and died commanding the British fleet at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The events surrounding Nelson's death at Trafalgar tend to dominate his popular memory today, but this was the end of a successful naval career including a number of other milestones. He was created a Knight of the Bath as a result of his activities at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797, a baron after the battle of the Nile in 1798 (some said he deserved a higher honour) and a viscount after the defeat of the Danish fleet off Copenhagen in 1801.

Nelson had been established as a hero to the British public, who largely excused him for the irregular conduct of his private life, for some years before Trafalgar. This display looks at the development of his career and the way in which it was reflected in the portraits demanded by the public. It also considers his posthumous reputation and the establishment of an interpretation of his life as a role model for later generations.