Friday, October 22, 2010

Booty: Remembering Nelson

To close out Nelson week I’d like to talk about clothes. I’m “punny” like that. Above is a lovely picture of the uniform coat (complete with medals) that Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson was wearing during the Battle of Trafalgar. It is in tact, just as it was when it was stripped from him as he was carried below after being shot by that French sharpshooter. There are visible traces of blood on the lining and left sleeve which are most likely not Nelson’s but John Scott’s. Scott was Nelson’s secretary and was killed at Trafalgar prior to Nelson’s shooting. For those of us who adore the sea and its history, this thing is quite literally a holy relic.

Nelson requested that the coat, along with a lock of his hair and other personal items, be given to Emma Hamilton. This did, in fact, occur despite one of Nelson’s brothers turning the Admiral’s request into a set-to with his mistress. Emma kept the coat but eventually gave it to a “friend”. Most historians agree it was used to settle a debt. The coat, which is sometimes listed as an “undress” uniform although certain writers claim that the presence of medals and an Admiral’s red satin sash (now lost) make it in fact a “dress coat”, is housed in the National Maritime Museum, London. Find more views

After Trafalgar, Britain went into extravagant mourning. Nelson became a savior figure, giving his life for the safety of his countrymen, and reminders of his greatness sprang up in some of the most unlikely places. Throughout the social season of 1806, for instance, it was the height of fashion for ladies to wear an evening headdress known as a “Trafalgar turban”. These would be simple creations of fabric made of white satin or blue crepe (the most popular, particularly for married women) with a white satin band upon which was embroidered “Trafalgar”. Generally simple, the turbans would have looked very similar to this one worn by French painter Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun in this self-portrait:The memory did not fade by half, particularly among the ladies. When more extravagant “bum pads” or what the French would call a cul-de-sac, became popular after 1815, the things almost inexplicably became known as “Nelsons”. Whether this was a derogatory reference to Emma (who, it must be admitted, had a pretty wide caboose by the time she hooked up with Horatio) or some other now forgotten nod is impossible to say. There is a certain humor to it regardless. Maybe Nelson was an ass man? Anyway, for a picture and description of the “bustles” as they were used at the time, click over to Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion’s Underthings

Finally, you may have noted the handsome pen and ink piece now (and permanently) decorating the “Piratical Fact of the Week” section at right.

This incredible piece of art (click to enlarge) was given to me by the artist herself, Cristina Urdiales from Malaga, Spain. I met Cristina and her mates Juan and Jose this summer and was absolutely thrilled beyond words to share a glass and a wonderful evening. You can find more of Cristina’s enchanting work at her sketch blog Been There, Drawn That. Hit the follow button while you’re there. She is truly talented. Oh, and as serendipitous as this is, the piece depicts HMS Royal Sovereign, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Cuthbert Collingwood from which he acted as second in command at Trafalgar. How fitting is that?


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Very punny, indeed. So, Nelson liked him the booty? Well, who can blame him? As they say, "the bigger the cushion..."

The booty jokes never get old, do they? Oh, they do?

And finally, Huzzah! for Cristina! I'll definitely be getting that one framed for you, Piarate Queen.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! This post is full of so much goodness that it's almost criminal but Cristina's pen and ink is best of all!