J. M. W. Turner - The Battle of Trafalgar 1805

The Battle of Trafalgar 1805
The Battle of Trafalgar
1805 261x368cm oil/canvas
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich,
London, Greenwich Hospital Collection

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In 1803, Bonaparte prepared to invade Britain. His plan depended on the French and Spanish fleets being able to get out of their ports, assembling in the Channel, and controlling it long enough for the invasion attempt.
By spring 1805, Nelson had been blockading the French Mediterranean fleet at Toulon for two years when it escaped into the Atlantic under its new commander, Admiral Villeneuve. Villeneuve sailed for the Caribbean to lure the British after him and leave the Channel undefended The French Brest squadron was supposed to follow but the British were not fooled by Napoleon’s plan and kept it there.
Nelson’s Mediterranean fleetchased Villeneuve to the West Indies and back but did not catch him. But on their return, the French ran into another British squadron off northern Spain. The battle forced Villeneuve to take refuge in the Spanish port of Ferrol, and later Cadiz, where he joined the main Spanish fleet.
This wrecked Napoleon’s invasion scheme and when Austria advanced in the east, he ordered Villeneuve to bring the combined Franco-Spanish fleet to Italy in support his army. Nelson (then in England) rejoined his fleet off Cadiz and kept it out of sight until Villeneuve couldn’t escape. On 21st October 1805 his 27 ships attacked the 33 of the Combined Fleet off Cape Trafalgar, south of Cadiz. The result was a crushing British victory, but one that cost Nelson his life on board the Victory.