Nelson's final farewell before going to his death at Trafalgar

It was a century after Trafalgar that Fred Roe painted this picture.

Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:35 pm
Good-Bye My Lads! Nelson leaving Portsmouth to sail for Trafalgar by Fred Roe . Picture: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

It shows Nelson leaving British soil for the last time at the Sally Port in what we now call Old Portsmouth.

It was published in a supplement to Holly Leaves, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News Christmas Number, 1905.

It depicts Lord Nelson leaving Portsmouth to joinHMS Victory. He stands in the stern of the ship’s boat as he is being rowed out to the flagship behind him, looking back towards the crowd cheering him from the shore and waving his hat in response.

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By such gestures and imagery, including a draped Union flag, the print seeks dramatic and patriotic effect, but the appearance of the sailors and crowd on the quayside owes more to the Edwardian era than the early 19th century.

This was one of many interpretations of Nelson that appeared in 1905, the centenary year of his death.

The print carries an inscription taken from Robert Southey’s Life of Nelson, 1814, which was the most accomplished early one in literary terms and was reprinted throughout the 19th century.
 ‘They pressed upon the parapet to gaze after him when his barge pushed off, and he was returning their cheers by waving his hat... for the people would not be debarred from gazing upon the darling hero of England’ – ‘I had their huzzas before’; he said to Captain Hardy, who sat beside him in the boat, ‘now I have their hearts.’

Fred Roe, was a genre painter and illustrator best known for period paintings and historical compositions.