Battle of Trafalgar

Arguably the most famous naval battle in British history, we delve into the events and personal accounts of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

From Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson's strategic battle plan and famous flag signal, to the battle itself and Nelson's death, immerse yourself in the story of Trafalgar.

History of the Battle of Trafalgar

The background to the battle How did the confrontation between the British and Franco-Spanish fleets come about?

Trafalgar timeline What happened during the battle - and how did Nelson's plan play out?

Nelson's last words How did Nelson die - and what were his final words?

Delve deeper: Who shot Nelson's killer?

Explore more

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Nelson's pigtail (or queue), was cut off after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar 21 October 1805.

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Nicola Yates, Senior Textile Conservator, talks about the fascinating process of conserving a 200-year-old flag from the Battle of Trafalgar.


Prominently placed in the new ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’ gallery is a ship model of the Victory. Visitors might expect this to represent Nelson’s Trafalgar flagship, but instead we chose to display an earlier vessel of the same name – built in 1737, and the fourth Royal Navy ship to be called Victory.

Nelson’s letter to Cornwallis

Discover some of the letters sent by ordinary sailors written before and after the Battle of Trafalgar.

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Visit the free Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery at the National Maritime Museum to explore the life and times of great British hero Horatio Nelson and the history of the Royal Navy and British people from 1688–1815.

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The Battle of Trafalgar took place on 21 October 1805. Find out what led up to the British attack on the Franco-Spanish fleet - and how Nelson laid the plans for victory.

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The Battle of Trafalgar is one of the most famous naval battles in British history. Nelson led Britain to victory over a combined French and Spanish fleet, but was shot and died during the battle. 


Nelson was killed by a fatal gunshot wound at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. Read more about the circumstances of his death and the debate surrounding his final words below.


HMS Victory was Lord Nelson's flagship in his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. Discover more about the history of the famous ship.