Nelson after the Battle of the Nile (Aboukir Bay)

News of Nelson's resounding victory at the Battle of the Nile reached London on 2 October 1798. Four days later Gillray published this detailed print outlining the main events. Nelson in Herculean pose, armed with a club of 'British Oak', dispatches a group of writhing tricolour crocodiles that stand in for French warships. Those tethered with cords symbolise the nine ships captured by the British. In the background the largest crocodile emits a stream of fire from its mouth in reference to the French flag-ship l'Orient which blew up. Only two ships escaped, here seen heading for the shore where the monuments and pyramids of Egypt are clearly visible. It was popular icons such as this that helped to foster the adulatory cult of hero-worship that surrounded Nelson after the successes of the Egyptian campaign.

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by Stephen Luscombe