THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS
THE BATTLE OF ABOUKIR BAY (or THE NILE ) -
xxxxxAs we have seen, in May 1798 Napoleon took his army to Egypt, defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of the Pyramids, and then invaded Syria. Meanwhile, in August 1798, after months of searching, the British admiral Horatio Nelson discovered the French fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria. He sent a line of ships either side of the French force and, save for two vessels, destroyed the entire fleet. This victory, one of the most decisive in naval history, not only put an abrupt end to French plans of conquest in the Middle East, but also left Napoleon’s army stranded in Egypt. Napoleon managed to escape to France, but his army was forced to surrender to the British two years later.
and George Romney
xxxxxAs we have seen, in May 1798 Napoleon, bent on attacking Britain’s overland route to India, slipped past the British blockade around the port of Toulon, and took his army to Egypt. Here he won a decisive battle against the Egyptians -
xxxxxIn the meantime, however, the British Admiral Horatio Nelson was despatched to the Mediterranean to find out what the French were up to. After months of searching, on the first day of August 1798 he discovered their fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay, some 15 miles from the port of Alexandria. It was made up of 13 war ships, 4 frigates and a large number of troop transports. Wasting no time, he split his squadron in half, sending seven ships between the French force and the shoreline -
xxxxxNelson’s resounding victory at the Battle of Aboukir Bay, (sometimes referred to as the Battle of the Nile), put an end to French plans of conquest in the Middle East. As we shall see, Napoleon himself managed to escape back to France, and to seize command of his country the following year, but his army was left stranded in Egypt, and was obliged to surrender to the British two years later.
xxxxxIncidentally, when the French flagship L’Orient blew up it killed the captain’s son. He had been ordered not to abandon his post, and this is the origin of the poem The boy stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled (1826), by the English poet Felicia Hemans (1793-
Battle Plan (Aboukir Bay): PJG, source unknown. L’Orient: by the English painter George Arnald (1763-
xxxxxThe beautiful Lady Hamilton (c1761-
xxxxxAn accomplished artist who became infatuated with Lady Hamilton was the English portrait painter George Romney (1734-
xxxxxRomney was born in Dalton-
xxxxxIllustrated below are (left to right) a portrait of Sir William Hamilton, The Shepherd Girl, Self-
xxxxxThe victory at Aboukir Bay made Horatio Nelson (1758-
xxxxxIn Britain, the Battle of Aboukir Bay, one of the most decisive victories in the history of naval warfare, added still further to the reputation of Horatio Nelson (1758-
xxxxxIt was the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars that brought him back to sea, and gave him the opportunity to excel both as an astute naval tactician and a successful leader of men. In 1793 he was given command of the 64-
xxxxxAs we have seen, his reputation was further enhanced in 1797 when, having been made a commodore, he played a major part in defeating the Spanish at Cape Saint Vincent, off the coast of Portugal (illustrated). Seeing two of Spain’s most powerful ships, the 84-
xxxxxAfter his outstanding victory at the Battle of Aboukir Bay in August 1798 (described above) Nelson spent the next two years on active service in the Mediterranean. For much of this time he was stationed at Naples in southern Italy. Here he became involved in the city’s politics, helping to restore the Neapolitan royal family after it had been driven out by French troops and local supporters of the French Revolution.
xxxxxFor his services to the kingdom of Naples he was created the duke of the Sicilian province of Bronte in 1800, but his acceptance of this title did not please the Admiralty, and, furthermore, there was strong evidence to suggest that, following the restoration of the king, he was implicated in a massacre of those who had supported the Republic and had been promised their freedom if they surrendered.
xxxxxAnd it was while in Naples that he was able to continue his celebrated love affair with Emma Hamilton (illustrated), wife of the British ambassador there. He had first met her in 1793 when conveying troops from Naples to Toulon -
xxxxx…… Thexfamous portrait of Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, illustrated above, was the work of the English artist Lemuel Francis Abbott (c1760-
xxxxxA rival to Joshua Reynolds as the most fashionable artist of the day, his portraits were noted for their charm and delicacy, and were much in the style of his fellow countryman Thomas Gainsborough. However, he found work hard to come by in the 1790s, and left London at the end of the century to live the last two years of his life at Kendal in the Lake District.
xxxxxNelson’s beautiful mistress, Lady Hamilton (c1761-
xxxxxShe first met Horatio Nelson in 1793, when he visited Naples to convey troops to the captured city of Toulon, but it was not until his return from Egypt in 1798 that they became lovers. They returned to England in 1800, and their daughter, Horatia, was born the following year. After the death of her husband in 1803 she went to live with Nelson at his estate in Merton, Surrey. His death in 1805 brought her an additional annuity, together with his property, but she quickly frittered away her wealth by her extravagant life style and her liking for gambling. In 1813 she was imprisoned for debt and, on her release, settled at Calais, where she died in poverty in 1815.
xxxxxAn accomplished portrait artist who became infatuated with Lady Hamilton was the English painter George Romney (1734-