Unbeknownst to most, the Royal Navy Admiral immortalised on top of Nelsons Column in the aptly named Trafalgar Square in London, was – along with his missing arm, many teeth and being blind in one eye – highly susceptible to sea sickness.

Battle of Trafalgar victory poster

Perhaps not the A-typical vision of a hero, but a hero none the less with bravery well documented in his many naval battles as well as recreational lifestyle – such as trying to club a fully grown polar bear with a rifle butt after shooting it only enraged the beast.  As a perfect 50/50 mix of both port and French brandy, “Nelsons Blood” became known as the drink given to his admiralty to remedy moments of mal de mer or seasickness.

At the famous Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson took a fatal sniper round to the chest yet with a punctured lung, severed artery and possible broken back, remained alive long enough to see his victory over the combined Spanish and the French navy’s.

Admiral Horatio Nelson

Admiral Horatio Nelson

To preserve his body for the return voyage to England and a state funeral, the ships surgeon – Irishman William Beatty – elected to preserve the body in a barrel of French brandy which was lashed to the deck and under guard for the entire journey; unfortunately stories of sailors drinking this brandy out of respect for Nelson is merely fantastical hearsay, however a good yarn.  Despite preserving the body in near perfect condition through not only the long return voyage but also a week long storm labelled “The Storm of the Century”, the ships surgeon was greatly criticized for his choice of preserving spirit when common practice dictated using rum (despite no differing effects between spirits).  The barrel in which rested Admiral Nelson needed to be topped up more than once on the return journey due to the body’s natural absorption of the liquid.   Despite initial criticism, Beatty was eventually knighted for his services to the Crown.

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