Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Horatio Nelson, Trafalgar and the aftermath

While, to visitors to the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, Horatio Nelson’s tomb appears as a black marble sarcophagus with a replica of the Viscount’s coronet sitting on top of it, the body, however, is not enclosed in the sarcophagus but in the oblong granite tomb beneath it.
    The black sarcophagus was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey (died 1540), but when the Cardinal fell from Grace and was stripped of most of his land and titles, the object was withheld by the Crown.
    After Nelson’s burial on 9 January 1806, King George III decreed that the sarcophagus that had been intended for the Cardinal should be used for the naval hero

   Even when writing fiction, you can't beat primary sources for information.
   This little book (ordered through Amazon) is a transcript of the words of William Beatty (1807), the surgeon who attended Lord Nelson on his death bed aboard Victory and also supervised the preparation of his body to preserve it on its journey to London.
    The second picture from Wikipedia is reputedly Nelson's hair and queue which were cut off by William Beatty

   In the body of St Paul's Cathedral in London, is a marble statue to Nelson. He is depicted holding an anchor with Britannia and the British Lion at his feet. The monument is engraved with his great victories - Copenhagen, The Nile and Trafalgar.

    While many memorials to honour Lord Nelson followed his death, He was not the only sailor to fall at Trafalgar.
    Amongst those in the British fleet who died on 21 October 1805 that are memorialized close to him in the crypt are Captain John Cooke killed while commanding "Bellerophon" and Captain George Duff, commanding the "Mars".
    Captain Duff's head was severed by a cannon ball. He was buried at sea with 28 of his men who all died on the same day.

   At the culmination of the funeral ceremony, Nelson's coffin was to be removed to the crypt beneath the main floor of the Cathedral. But the sarcophagus containing both a lead and wooden coffin enclosing the body was too large and heavy to be maneuvered down the stone steps and into the crypt.
    For this reason a hole had to be cut into the Cathedral's floor for the coffin to be lowered through.
The hole that was cut is still visible in the roof of the crypt.

   While the colours are perhaps more intense than in 1806, the interior of St Paul's Cathedral has changed little since the time of Nelson's funeral.
    I took these pics when I visited London in late 2019.
   At the time of Nelson's funeral, 58 mourning rings were produced in 1806 and given to members of Nelson's family, the pallbearers and close associates. Today 32 of these rings have survived.
    George III Admiral Lord Nelson official mourning ring by Salters, Strand c1806. Rectangular cushion head in black enamel with white boarder bearing a Viscount's coronet above the initial 'N' (Nelson) and a ducal crown above the initial 'B' (Bronte) both over the word 'Trafalgar'.

   On 9th January, 1806 - almost two and half months since he died at Trafalgar, Nelson was entombed at St Paul's Cathedral (Pic 1896). Prior to the service, tiers of wooden seats - 15 layers high were erected to accommodate all the invited mourners. From the central dome an enormous light lit the church - made up of 200 piteni lamps.

    From the walls hung the massive flags of Spain (red and orange - on the left) and France (Blue White and red - on the right) - when the Great door was opened a breeze blew through and the flags wavered eliciting a round of huzzas from the mourners.
    Directly beneath the dome was the coffin covered in a black canopy surrounded by chief mourners and members of the Royal Family
   It was Nelson's choice (if not to be buried at Burnham Thorpe and to be give a state funeral) to be buried at St Paul's Cathedral and not Westminster Abbey. His reason was that St Paul's was built on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, whereas Westminster Abbey had been built on an area of riverbank that had been reclaimed from swamp.
    It was Nelson's opinion that the Abbey would one day sink into the Thames.
While tens of thousands lined the streets and took part in the procession, only mourners with invitations were allowed into the Cathedral for the service

   On arriving at Westminster, the coffin was removed from the boat and carried to the Admiralty where it remained until the day of the funeral.
    During this time huge preparations took place. Tiers of seats for spectators were erected along the route to St Paul's and gravel was laid on the street to fill all the potholes.
    On the day of the funeral over 100 carriages assembled in Hyde Park and St James Park including Royal carriages to accompany Nelson's coffin to St Paul's. At Horse Guards, the Prince of Wales and his royal brothers, all mounted, joined the procession.

   Following the period of Wake and public viewing Nelson's body was removed from the Greenwich Painted Hall and transferred to a boat to carry if on its last journey on water for the burial at St Paul's Cathedral.
    Dozens of barges made up the procession and the Thames was almost blocked, while hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the river on both sides. The boat carrying the Admiral's coffin was the Royal barge of Charles 11 (built 1670) today this is housed in the Royal Navy dockyard museum, Portsmouth

   When Nelson's Body finally arrived back in England for burial (via Gibraltar, Portsmouth and Chatham) it was conveyed to the Painted Hall at the Greenwich Seaman's Hospital.
Here it remained for the public to pay their respects for a period of three days - being the traditional period for a Wake.
    Tens of thousands of mourners descended on London and Greenwich to farewell their naval hero.

   The George Hotel on Portsmouth High Street is the place where Horatio Nelson enjoyed his last meal before departing to join "Victory" at Spithead.

    Unfortunately the hotel was bombed in 1941 and demolished. However, the gas lamp posts remain on the street to show the spot where the London coaches came to a halt outside the original George Hotel’s front entrance. It was here Lord Nelson had stepped from his post-chaise from Merton and entered the building.
    A plaque on the wall commemorated the very place.

   Nelson’s diary entry of Saturday Sept 14th 1805 reads, “… embarked at the Bathing Machines with Mr Rose and Mr Canning at 2: got on board Victory at St Helen’s..." 

    Nelson headed across a narrow bridge to the triangular shaped fortification – the Spur Redoubt, and to the beachfront beyond. Here, with pebbles crunching under his feet, he was able to gaze across Spithead and see the fleet gathering for departure.
    Fred Roe’s 1905 stylized painting "Good bye, my lads" depicts Lord Nelson, with a ship-of-the-line in the background, waving farewell when he departed Portsmouth. This, however, is a far cry from a senior naval officer standing on a shingle beach with bathing machines close by and swimmers splashing about in the water.

   This bronze statue of Admiral Lord Nelson stands in Portsmouth. It depicts him in an informal pose wearing the undress uniform which he was wearing when he died at the Battle of Trafalgar. It faces the place (the Spur Redoubt) on the beach where he stepped into a small boat that carried him across Spithead to St Helens Road where he embarked on HMS Victory for his final fateful journey.

Nelson’s Prayer:
    On the morning of 21st October, 1805, the day of Nelson's death at Trafalgar, he made an entry into his journal of the following prayer:
   ‘May the great God, whom I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious victory, and may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet. For myself individually, I commit my life to him that made me; and may His blessing alight on my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To him I resign myself, and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen.’
    A framed plaque leans against his sarcophagus in the crypt at St Paul's Cathedral.

   Visiting London during the writing of this novel, and stepping down into the crypt below St Paul's Cathedral, re-enforced to me the magnitude of feeling that must have swept over the populace when Nelson was buried in 1806.
   Published this week - NELSON'S WAKE - Book 6 in the popular Oliver Quintrell series. 
  Be transported from Cape Trafalgar to Spithead to Greenwich and on to St Paul’s Cathedral to feel abject sorrow experienced by the public at the news of the Admiral Lord Nelson’s death.

   After witnessing HMS Victory's return to Portsmouth and seeing the shocking condition it is in, Captain Oliver Quintrell joins the tens of thousands of mourners who travel to Greenwich to pay their respects during the 3 days the body is lying in state.
   A few days later, he attends the unforgettable spectacle of his funeral at St Paul's Cathedral. The story is expanded in the new fiction story; "Nelson's Wake"(UK-link) published this week.
   Sourcing facts from the records of that time, the reader can almost hear and see the events which took place in London.

NELSON'S WAKE (USA-link) is a nautical fiction story unlike most others.
With the events based on fact from 1805 and 1806 this is a must read for both naval and history enthusiasts.
'Nelson's Wake' is book 6 in the popular Oliver Quintrell Series.
Released on Amazon on 29 March 2020 as an e-book. A paperback edition will follow soon.
Also available in UK and other countries.

Pics courtesy of M. C. Muir (author) and Wikimedia and Wikicommons - all copyright free.

Friday, December 13, 2019

White Island - Killer volcano.

WHITE ISLAND, New Zealand (Pics taken from cruise ship in 2008)

This morning, 6 of the 8 remaining bodies were retrieved from White Island, New Zealand following the catastrophic volcanic eruption of a few days ago.
The 29 tourists rescued immediately after the event are suffering horrific burns injuries. Eight people died at the time or as a result of their injuries.

The following pics (from 2008) shows how attractive a seemingly dormant volcano can appear. Tourist, up to a few days ago, visited the island and were conducted to the edge of the live volcano to see the steam vents, bubbling mud and acid lake.   
The extremely deep waters around the volcano's cone attracted divers.

I returned home to Australia from NZ yesterday, having sailed into Mt Maunganui Port (Tauranga), the morning after the eruption, aboard ‘Norwegian Jewel’ which moored next to ‘Oasis of the Seas’ - the affected vessel.

Having passed the volcano at about 5.50am, white clouds were still rising from it. On the wharf and in the port, a heavy feeling of grief was felt from the tragic loss of life.

My memories of White Island stretch back to 2008, when the ship I was on, circumnavigated the horse-shoe shaped crater. Even then, its steaming, smouldering, volatile potential was evident.

Pics: from 2008

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Tribute to the dead infants of female convicts in Van Diemen's Land.

They never had names. 
The official government term was ‘Departures and Arrivals’ and, No, they were not referring to ships or planes. These were the babies born to convict women at the Van Diemen’s Land female factory. Out of 1200 babies born at the Female Factory in South Hobart. Between 1829 and 1877 approximately 900 babies died with no record being kept of the mother or child. Ninety departed from the Female Factory (prison) in George Town, Tasmania. All buried unceremoniously in unmarked graves.

In the early 2000s artist, Christina Henri put out a request for the women of Tasmania to sew calico bonnets for these little forgotten souls. The result was an overwhelming number of over 2000 Christening bonnets being made and in 2004 the display of 900 bonnets in the shape of a cross was presented at the site of the Hobart Female Factory.

Tiny dancers, wearing bonnets swayed to the sound of Brahms Lullaby while rose petals were scattered over the display. 

Ref and Pics: from permanent display in the Watch House in George Town, Tasmania.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Bird of Paradise flower

I have inherited a flock of Bird of Paradise plants in my new garden (in Tasmania). They are tall and exotic and don’t make any noise. But when I glance at them from my kitchen window, I see then flaunting their gaudy orange plumes and twisting their necks – beaks open-wide, as if waiting for a feed. They stand proud in their spectacular regal plumage demanding admiration.  

Several meanings are associated with this spectacular flower:
Freedom – Bird of Paradise flower is also a symbol of freedom and overcoming obstacles, reminding us to let go of our worries and embark on a new adventure to some place we have never been before (seems appropriate to me at this time).

Optimism – This flower is a symbol of optimism and positive energy, especially because of its bright and bold colours and interesting shapes.
Also known as a Crane flower, The Bird of Paradise is a native of South Africa but has been adopted as the floral emblem of the City of Los Angeles.
(Refs: Teleflora and flower meanings)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Flowers of Rememberance - the Poppy and the Rock Rose.

While the Flanders Poppy is synonymous with Remembrance Day, there is another flower that is remembered by the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli.

Thousands of miles from Flanders, the inhospitable hillsides of Gallipoli were coloured with the hardy flowering shrub – the Rock Rose (Cistus salviifolius).

After World War 1, seeds from the 'Gallipoli' Rose were brought back to Australia and planted by the soldiers in their gardens.
Rock roses thrive in full sun and flower profusely while growing on poor soils. Because it doesn’t mind salt-laden winds and alkaline soils, it is a great coastal plant.

Hopefully, it will tolerate the wild winds blowing off the waters of Bass Strait. So, in anticipation, I have bought 18 small rock roses (both white and pink) to plant in my new garden, when the time is right.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

BRU doll reproduction - French fashion doll of 1890

I was never a doll lover, however, twelve years ago, I wrote an English historical fiction book that featured a French BRU doll from the 1890s. Having researched the exclusive French Fashion Dolls of that time, I learned a lot about them. Unfortunately, to buy an original BRU today would cost many thousands of dollars. Doll makers, however, go to great lengths to make accurate reproductions.

A few weeks ago, I visited a second hand shop in Tasmania and saw this reproduction BRU for $100 and decided if she was there a month later, I would buy her.
So, yesterday, I came home with my very own repro/antique Bru doll which had been made in Dorset, England.

From the tag attached to her wrist, I understand she is a BRU JNE 8 from a doll by Casimir Bru - French 1980. She has been painstakingly dressed and true to her origins. Her tiny shoes are of suede, and her pierced ears bear tiny pearl drop earrings.

By and by, my book, titled by my British publisher was “The Twisting Vine”, however, that was not the title I had submitted when I wrote it, so when I received the rights to my book back and self-published, I re-named it “Through Glass Eyes”.

In a nutshell, it’s a saga spanning 25 years during which time the doll’s fortunes twist and turn dramatically with its change of ownership.
Through Glass Eyes is available for $1.00 on Amazon Kindle.