Lord Nelson's Memorable Lines Are 200 Years Old

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THAT resounding phrase, "England expects every man will do his duty," is 200 years old on Friday.

It was to become the by-word of patriotism in the British Empire and even earned the attention of the Goons and Monty Python.

Journalists know such great words need an originator and an editor and, in this case, the phrase was Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson's. His editor was HMS Victory's signalman.

Nelson may have uttered two unforgettable phrases that day - the other his last words as he lay dying below decks, knowing victory in the crucial naval battle of Trafalgar, was his.

Legend has it he said either "kismet, Hardy," or "kiss me Hardy" to the captain of Victory.

Nelson actually had sown up the victory at Trafalgar on October 9, 1805 - 200 years ago last Sunday. That was when he called together his captains to unveil his plan to defeat the French fleet by sailing into it at right angles with two lines of British warships. The French were holed up in Cadiz.

On the morning of battle, Nelson told the signalman on the Victory to raise the signal "Nelson confides that every man will do his duty." This is not the kind of sabre-rattling phrase to stir the blood.

If anyone on board knew of the need to be brief and concise, it was signalman, Lieutenant John Pasco. He suggested he would have to spell out the word 'confides'. Why not use "expects", a word that had a three-flag code. Nelson agreed. Historians still argue over whether he originally began the phrase with "Nelson" or "England" but "Nelson" makes more sense with "confides", and "England" makes more sense with "expects".

"Kismet Hardy," and "kiss me, Hardy," appear to be a result of a rumour.
Hardy did kiss Nelson, but he was up on deck when Nelson was mumbling his final words. Kismet, or fate, is first recorded in the English language in 1849. So, the misquoted rumour probably was the invention of a narrow-minded sub-editor.

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