Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:40 am 
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'Nelson put in his place by new Maritime Museum exhibition'

An interesting (controversial) talking point / trailer to open the new Nelson, Navy, Nation Gallery?

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013 ... exhibition

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Jacqui


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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:50 am 
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Jacqui,

Thanks for that – but of course, it doesn't tell most of us here much that we don't already know. I thought some of the comments rather amusing/annoying... others perhaps illustrate the result of the education system.

I am hoping to go and see the exhibition soon, and I have already started reading the book produced for it, which is turning out to be a good, thought provoking read. Btw, if you're thinking of buying it, get it from Amazon. I bought mine for around £11 from Amazon marketplace – £20 from the NMM!

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:01 pm 
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'Cog' is definitely the wrong word, but if Nelson was the sword of Albion, then Cornwallis and the Channel fleet were the shield. Without the shield, Nelson could not have been let loose to galavant around the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic in pursuit of Villeneuve. And without the shield, Villeneuve would not have retreated back to Cadiz to await annihilation. Nelson was a genius who outshone others, but he does need putting in his place, which is why I have always objected to the term 'Nelson's navy'. Part of Nelson's genius was to recognise the superiority of the British navy and use it to such devastating effect.

There's another more interesting review here: http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and ... /art456235

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:04 pm 
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Thanks for highlighting the 'Guardian' article Jacqui (not normally a favorite read!). I am visiting the exhibition next month so I'll hold on my comments until then.

Ray


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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:01 pm 
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Great! Thanks for the tip, Kester. The book of the show is definitely on the reading list.

Lovely analogy, Tony, and a far superior read. The sort that stirs a desire to raid the piggy bank for a re-mortgage priced train ticket to Greenwich. I'd wondered where the headline and story angle came from - Guardian sub or NMM PR. Amused that the hook about Nelson not being the centrepiece of the gallery was the central selling point of the piece.

My interests wander far and wide, beyond Nelson and the navy and into the streets/homes of the period. So any refocusing on social, cultural - and human connections is of interest.

Raldis & Kester - I look forward to your thoughts post-visit. Hope you're able to add them here. To be honest, I try to avoid reading below the line comments in the (online) newspapers. Guaranteed to set my teeth on edge - and that goes for most of them.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:50 am 
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Jacqui,

I will endeavour to do as you say, and am in fact going next week. I'll post a review of the book in the appropriate place.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:49 am 
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This new exhibition has been widely noted in the press. Yesterday's Times carried a large, coloured picture of Nelson's coat with the bullet hole on the shoulder and the decorations on the left hand side. Now it's an old chestnut - that Nelson contributed to his own death by wearing his decorations and making himself a target for sharpshooters. I'm always puzzled by this as it would have been impossible for him not to have worn his decorations. He wore the genuine articles on his dress coat and had representations embroidered in gold thread on his undress coats. It was one of the undress coats that he wore on the fateful day. The light can play very attractively on gold threadwork but it is not to be compared with the real thing as it is never composed entirely of gold; it is always mixed with silver or other metals which are prone to dull with the passage of time.

I find it hard to believe that the embroidered decorations would have glinted brightly enough for sharpshooters to target Nelson in the dust and smoke of battle.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:47 pm 
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tycho wrote:
I find it hard to believe that the embroidered decorations would have glinted brightly enough for sharpshooters to target Nelson in the dust and smoke of battle.


I agree with you. If the sharpshooter was high up in the mast, looking down, then the decorations wouldn't have been THAT visible anyway. The epaulets would have been, though, probably as bright and shiny as the decorations, and the bullet did actually go through one. Also, I would have thought that amidst the chaos of battle and people running around on deck, firing guns and muskets and whatnot, then two men in officers uniforms with hats (I presume?) and epaulets, walking sedately up and down the quarterdeck, would have stood out as obvious targets anyway.

Hopefully I'll be off to see the exhibition this weekend :) I'm glad we have Nelson's coat back from France, too! Even though it was nice to see his flashier dress coat on display in its place when I went earlier this year.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:41 am 
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Good morning,

thanks for the links, the exhibition seems to be well done and I will be glad, if some of you share your own reflections on it.

Concerning the shining decorations, I totally agree with Anna and Vicky. When I saw the uniform of Lord Nelson for the first time this year (although not the Trafalgar one, it have been in Paris), it come to my mind (beside how thin he was). I just don’t believe that the embroidered orders could identify him decidedly to the sharpshooters, moreover in the conditions of the battle.
On the other side, there is the known sentence of cpt. Hardy, who suggested him to put on some plain coat. Did he see the danger?

Hana


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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:37 am 
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Welcome to the forum, Hanka, and thank you for your post!

I think it was the chaplain, Dr Scott, who is supposed to have asked Nelson to 'shift his coat' a suggestion which Nelson dismissed testily. I don't recall whether he used the term 'plain coat'. Can anyone clarify? But would Nelson have had a 'plain coat' to shift into? All his uniform coats were all adorned with embroidered decorations which were sewn on and could not be removed. He wore a 'plain coat' according to his nephew George Matcham, whne he was out of uniform at home in Merton.

I suspect Dr Scott might have mis-remembered. He was distraught at Nelson's death, overcome with the realisation of how much he had meant to him. I'm speculating wildly here, but wishing he had asked Nelson to remove his coat just the sort of anguished thought that someone in grief might have had - an 'if only' moment. It's not too far a jump for him to have imagined asking Nelson to shift his coat.

(Puts on tin hat and awaits scholarly missiles or even the forum frying pan.)

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 5:15 pm 
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Hi Anna & Hanka, I don't think the forum frying pan is necessary, but I think Hanka is correct that it is Hardy who after firing had commenced, is said to have remarked to Nelson that "the badge might draw attention from the enemy's tops", drawing the reply that it was too late to be "shifting a coat".

Beatty in his narrative says that before the battle, several officers were concerned for Nelson's safety, and that Beatty himself wished Scott to suggest that Nelson cover his stars with a handkerchief, but that Scott warned Beatty that Nelson would be displeased by such a suggestion. Beatty says that he waited for an opportunity to speak to Nelson himself, but that no opportunity arose before he had to go below.

How much we can rely on either of these statements, I don't know.

I managed to squeeze in a brief hour's visit to the new gallery on Friday while in London for a wedding, and Nelsonites need not worry about Nelson being 'put in his place'! Nelson dominates the gallery, and in fact it would not be hard to miss Vernon altogether if hurrying too much. Other famous admirals get not much more than a passing mention. But that is not really a criticism, because given the very limited space available it is probably better to cover a few topics in detail rather then providing a superficial and unrewarding overview. The gallery is very informative, and does a particularly good job in covering the ordinary 'Jack Tar' and below deck. The gallery's full title claims to cover the period 1688 to 1815, but I suspect we'll over half the space is devoted to 1797-1805 - again, not a criticism. From a personal point of view, I was pleased to see Captain Mansfield's naval gold medal for Trafalgar on display, but there are no Lloyd's Patriotic Fund presentation swords on display, which is a shame, if only because they exhibit such spectacular craftsmanship. The Minotaur's Union flag is still undergoing conservation work, and is not yet on display, so I will be hot-footing it back to Greenwich as soon as that is available to see.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:22 pm 
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Tony,

Well, well, I also happened to be there on Friday 25th, with my wife, for around an hour and a half from 1pm. Who knows, our paths may have crossed!

I too was favourably impressed with the exhibition, and agreeably surprised to find that Nelson had been, by no means, sidetracked. I can only echo your sentiments regarding the content, which was both informative and to the point but which did not slide, thankfully, into the present-day (and to my mind all-to-frequent) resort to gimmickry. As you say, the emphasis was mainly on the Nelson period, and other admirals and even monarchs had only somewhat brief mention.

An interesting and thoughtful addition I thought was a time-line, running through the whole period 1688-1815, and which effectively gave the dates and brief details of the various wars and significant events within them, thus tying them all together. A useful reference, if one wanted to check a particular event's place in the overall picture.

Many of the paintings on display will, of course, be very well known to most here, but there are few that I had not seen before. Similarly, with the objects on display, which I thought well-chosen, the most important of course being Nelson's uniform undress coat. We are all familiar with that, but naturally it is well worth seeing again!

Part of the exhibitions remit was to illustrate the relationship between the British people and the Royal Navy and this was effectively done using, for example, mass-produced souvenirs such as pottery, the caricatures of Gilray and Rowlandson, various broadsheets, and other items. To emphasise this aspect, various screens continuously highlighted a plethora of changing facts, for example how the navy grew in size during the period, how many trees it took to build a particular type of ship, and how men were recruited. (With regard to the latter, it would probably surprise the average visitor to learn that most joined the navy as volunteers, rather than be swept up by the hated press gangs as is generally supposed.)

All-in-all then a worthwhile exhibition, and thoughtfully set out. As Tony said, it covers a relatively small area so it is understandably brief in parts, but that is probably enough for the casual visitor. As I believe I have already mentioned, for those who wish to study the period in more depth, the book 'Nelson, Navy and Nation', specially written for the exhibition is probably required reading. I posted a review of the book on the Information Forum.

I too of course would be interested to see the Minotaurs union flag when conserved, and I trust that the exhibition will still be there when it is. I note from the NMM's own blurb that the display is noted as 'long term' rather than permanent, so it is anyone's guess as to how 'long' that is! In passing, the exhibition is right next to the 'Ship of War' gallery, which for me is an added plus!

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:30 pm 
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Kester, we couldn't get there until after 3:30, so I guess you had left by then.

And yes, I meant to mention the ship models next door - it was great to see so many models on display, and you certainly don't need to be a modeler to find them fascinating - and informative.

Nelson, Navy, Nation is also described on the website as a permanent gallery. I guess 'long term' is just a slightly more accurate description. I don't think there is any danger that Minotaur's Union flag won't appear in the gallery - there is a sign on the wall where I imagine it is destined to go. There's also a sign at the door which suggests (prematurely) that it is already there.

Here's a short random list of just some of the items I found most satisfying:
    Gabriel Bray's drawings/watercolours of private moments on board the Pallas c1775
    The seaman's trousers
    Sailors' love tokens
    The border of Emma's dress celebrating the battle of the Nile
    A banner depicting Nelson in honour of the victory at the Nile
    The rifle presented to Nelson by the Sultan of Turkey
    The surgeon's instruments
    Emma's songbook
    Nelson's queue

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 Post subject: Re: 'Nelson put in his place' - new NMM gallery
PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:55 am 
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Tony wrote:
Kester, we couldn't get there until after 3:30, so I guess you had left by then.


Well, actually no, we were probably just in another gallery, or the coffee shop. In the afternoon we visited the Queen's House, and spent a little while looking at the Ship-in-a-bottle, following tea. It's a pity one can't get a closer view of it, as I think the Victory is quite accurately modelled.

I'm afraid I must have missed the notices about the Minotaur's flags.

In the morning we toured the Cutty Sark, and I have to say I was quite impressed with the imaginative use of space. It was rather a strange feeling to actually stand underneath the ship, but you can certainly appreciate her lines from below. I'm still not sure about the glass 'sea' from above, especially from the bows from where you used to get a good view of the ship. However, I suppose I'll get used to it in time!

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