The death of a hero: Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson

Historian article

By Michael Crumplin, published 20th August 2021

The injuries and the demise of Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson

Michael Crumplin comments on the injuries and illnesses that Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson suffered during his shortened career. His bold leadership style, much admired by his naval companions, inevitably led to a series of wounds. Using a combination of contemporary accounts and current clinical, anatomical and physiological interpretation, this article provides a detailed analysis of the mode of death that Nelson suffered during the Battle of Trafalgar. 

At approximately 1.15pm on 21 October 1805, during the smoke and fury of the great battle off Cape Trafalgar, a random shot, almost imperceptible above the crash of ordnance, was fired down from the mizzen fighting top of the 74-gun French ship Redoutable onto the quarter deck of HMS Victory. This shot ended the life of one of Britain’s great war heroes, Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Before describing the circumstances of the fatal event, it is interesting to reflect briefly on a few medical aspects of Nelson’s illustrious career...

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