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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June 2005, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are LORD HORATIO NELSON (main picture), with PRINCE WILLIAM, CHARLOTTE CHURCH, EDGAR RAY KILLEN and GEOFFREY PALMER.


This weekend sees the start of a raft of events culminating in the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. At the centre is one of Britain's greatest heroes, Lord Horatio Nelson.

Nelson's state funeral in 1805 was the largest ever. The procession behind his coffin, as it travelled from the Admiralty to St Paul's Cathedral, stretched a mile-and-a-half in near silence but for the doffing of caps.

Nations need heroes, and Nelson, a passionate man in love and war, was the stuff of them.

Yet he was very much the people's hero, for, at the height of his fame, he was shunned by the Establishment.

His achievement was, through a series of stunning naval successes against France and Spain that culminated in Trafalgar, to ensure that Britannia ruled the waves for more than a hundred years.

The top of Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar
Nelson atop his column in London's Trafalgar Square
The victory arguably scotched all hopes of an invasion of Britain by Napoleon Bonaparte enabling the British Empire to grow safely.

The intuitive brilliance of Nelson was developed from an early age. He was born in the Norfolk village of Burnham Thorpe in 1758, the son of a parson.

His mother, who had a distant connection with aristocracy, died when he was nine, an event, he said, which haunted him for the rest of his life.

It was an uncle on his mother's side who got him into the Royal Navy at the tender age of 12.

The Nelson Touch

By the time he was 16, he had travelled the world and learned all the basics of seamanship; by 21, he was a captain, one of the youngest in the navy.

His man-management and leadership skills are legendary. He was able to quell a mutiny by sheer force of character alone. He established a blend of discipline and a sympathetic approach to his men that was based on mutual trust.

It became known as the Nelson Touch. He knew all his crew by name and each was aware precisely of what was expected of them. This, in turn, inspired great loyalty.

He referred to his fellow officers as his "band of brothers". When he died at Trafalgar, many a hardened sailor broke down and wept.

HMS Victory, Nelson's ship at Trafalgar
HMS Victory, Nelson's ship at Trafalgar
In the course of wars with the French, he fought in more than 120 engagements, losing both an arm and an eye, and suffering all manner of injuries thanks to his daredevil nature.

Although Trafalgar was his greatest victory, others demonstrated even better his tactical awareness and daring.

At the Battle of the Nile in 1798, he risked manoeuvring his fleet between a line of French ships anchored in Aboukir Bay, and, after fierce fighting, destroyed 12 of them with no loss to his own fleet.

A year earlier, in the Battle of Cape St Vincent, he had laid his ship alongside the Spanish vessel St Nicolas, and led a boarding party to capture both it and the larger San Joseph.

It was at this time that he first gained hero status at home, enhanced when he lost his arm leading a landing party trying to take the island of Tenerife.


It was at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 that he famously disobeyed orders by putting the telescope to the eye that had been blinded some years before at the battle of Calvi in Corsica. This was so as not to see the signal to withdraw. He went on to rout the Danes.

Lord Nelson not only possessed a broad streak of ruthlessness, he was a renowned self-publicist who ensured that every detail of his conquests was relayed back home.

Certain other conquests did not meet with the same approval by English society. Nelson had married Fanny Nisbet, a widow who he'd met on the West Indian island of Nevis.

An excerpt from Nelson's diary from 1805
An excerpt from Nelson's diary from 1805
But after the Battle of the Nile, while in Naples recovering from a head injury, he fell in love with the beautiful wife of the Ambassador there, Lady Hamilton.

Emma Hamilton had been a former prostitute, but had risen up the social ladder, to become a sophisticated, charismatic figure.

Despite her fluency in French and Neopolitan Italian, English society ridiculed her Cheshire accent.

That same society was scandalised by the fact that Nelson took her as his mistress and was, for a time, enjoying a ménage a trois with her and her elderly husband. The scandal deepened when Lady Hamilton bore Nelson's child, Horatia.

Hypocrisy abounded. Having a mistress was almost de rigeur among the aristocracy. Nelson's sin was his complete lack of discretion. On one famous occasion, he was publicly snubbed by King George III.

After his death, Emma was imprisoned for debt. She died a pauper. Letters Nelson had written to his daughter were deliberately withheld by a close friend.

Yet neither Lord Nelson's infidelity nor his huge vanity affected his iconic status with the public. He once said that "a glorious death is to be envied". Horatio Nelson fulfilled his wish.

Prince William who has graduated

Having become the most academically qualified member of the Royal Family by graduating with an upper second degree, Prince William announced he is to become the first Royal to work at an international financial institution in the City of London. He will also take a course in land management on a country estate. He has not ruled out, too, signing up for military training at Sandhurst, the prestigious academy which his younger brother Harry currently attends.

Charlotte Church, rowing again

Charlotte Church who has admitted to drinking 10 double vodkas on an average night out, got involved in an early morning row with an ex-boyfriend this week which required police intervention. The former "voice of an angel" was confronted by Kyle Johnson shouting "I love you". The millionaire Church's recent split from Johnson became acrimonious after he sold his story to a national newspaper. He later received a punch in the face from the singer for his trouble.

Edgar Ray Killen, jailed for 60 years

An 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman, Edgar Ray Killen, was sentenced to 60 years in jail on Thursday for the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers. The murders galvanised the civil rights movement and inspired the 1988 movie, Mississippi Burning. His charge was "felony manslaughter" and involved Killen's organising a posse to kidnap, beat and shoot dead Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney who were helping blacks register to vote.

Actor Geoffrey Palmer, honoured by The Queen

Actor Geoffrey Palmer received an OBE from The Queen this week. As she presented him with his medal, Her Majesty asked him how long he'd been acting. "I've been doing this for 55 years", was his reply. Palmer has appeared in a string of films including The Madness of King George and Mrs Brown and has enjoyed a successful stage career. But television has brought him most fame, in particular the sit-com As Time Goes By opposite Judi Dench.

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy


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