From Captain Wentworth’s Travel Journal:
So Admiral Horatio Nelson has been something of a hero of mine for… well, for as long as I can remember. My hero worship started (believe it or not) with Star Trek’s very own Captain James Tiberius Kirk. When William Shatner accepted the role he had trouble getting into the head of the starship captain whose ship and crew were more important to him than his own life. He asked the shows creator Gene Roddenberry for help in finding the character’s motivation and Roddenberry suggested he read the Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester.
Everything you need to understand Kirk resides with Hornblower – his courage, his self doubt, his sense of duty. From there it was a short hop to the wonderful Patrick O’Brien novels and more recently the phenomenal work of Julian Stockwin and Dudley Pope. From there further still, the real life stories of the men and women who served as inspiration to these novelists – Lord Cochrane, Edward Pellew, and of course Admiral Nelson.
It is because of my naval history obsession that I was able to turn up for work on my first day at the Jane Austen Centre with my own historically accurate costume. An Admiral’s dress coat and white ‘smallclothes’, breeches, stockings, waistcoat appropriate to a Napoleonic officer. I was most fortunate to be ‘offered the part’ of Captain Frederick Wentworth. I put the badge on for the first time and suddenly with immediate effect felt a pressure to live up to peoples pre-existing expectations of the character. Wentworth is one of literature’s greatest naval characters. He can hold his head high with the likes of Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, Ramage, Kidd etc.
I do my very best on a daily basis to embody all that Wentworth stands for. Honourable, courageous, purposeful, loyal, dutiful. Now comes the small confession… I am (slightly) older than Captain Wentworth. In fact I recently celebrated an important, let’s just say… round numbered birthday. To that end, my fiancée surprised me with an arranged trip to Portsmouth to visit HMS Victory.
So it was that on my birthday I found myself on board this amazing 104 gun first rate ship of the line, launched in 1765, the oldest commissioned warship in the world, and Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
I simply couldn’t resist visiting without looking the part so I toured the ship in my naval attire. The naval enthusiasts will probably notice from the photos that my coat (rather than my usual Captain’s frock coat) is an exacting replica of the rear Admiral coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile.
It was a strange experience walking the decks just as Captain Hardy and Nelson would’ve done 200+ years earlier. In fact an odd symbiotic fusion of man and ship took hold from the moment I stepped aboard. I was able to get a sense of the overwhelming responsibility the captains of these ships must have felt as they ‘did their duty’ for what would then have been king and country.
It was a truly fantastic experience. I enjoyed every second of it and I think it shows in the photographs.