"It’s beautifully written - both intelligent and incredibly immersive" Surian Fletcher-Jones, Head of Development, Working Title Films
One of the greatest true stories in history
Trafalgar is envisaged as a 10 hour television series suitable for Netflix, Amazon, HBO or any of the serious players in the golden age of Television which we are currently enjoying.
To create the six hours of scripts already written I completely immersed myself in the story of Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton - the greatest fighting admiral in history and the beautiful and mercurial woman he loved so passionately.
I spent many hours at Greenwich National Maritime Museum Library and looking at log books from ships in Nelson's fleet from 200 years ago. Much of the dialogue is based on letters by the chief protagonists and I visited many of the locations where the action takes place, including Naples where I located Sir William Hamilton's once magnificent British Embassy where Emma and Nelson first met and fell in love. Throughout my intention was to be as authentic as possible in the telling of this remarkable story. The result is a screenplay that I am incredibly proud of and a project in which I have absolute belief.
I have always been aware of the story of Horatio Nelson, his love affair with Emma Hamilton and his tragic death in the midst of his greatest victory off Cape Trafalgar in 1805. I have become more and more fascinated by the character of Nelson and his astonishing life.
If Nelson had not achieved his three great victories at the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar his place in the history books would still be assured. At the Battle of Cape Saint Vincent in 1797 he left the line of battle in his ship The Captain, boarded two much larger Spanish ships and personally received their surrender. It was an action that triggered a new spirit in the British navy and ushered in the golden age of Nelson and his ‘band of brothers’.
Nelson’s was a brilliant leader of men, the greatest expert in naval warfare of his age, a true and loyal friend, and a humanitarian who took great care to improve the lot of the seamen under his command. Above all, however, he was a man of courage - a ‘patron saint’ of courage who has inspired me on countless occasions in my own life. My ambition for this film is that it will inspire others to courage. Whether it be something as trivial as overcoming a fear of public speaking or a more serious challenge such as facing serious disease – the simple truth is that we all need courage to get us through life.
Nelson was not just a great man he was also a great lover – and he loved the most fascinating woman of his age. It is Emma who raises this story from history into the realms of mythology. Emma broke all the rules and morphed herself into whatever was needed to survive. Born a peasant she clawed her way up society’s ladder, travelling further through barriers of class than any other woman of her age. She reined in her heart and married a rich and powerful old man - then she met her hero-prince, Nelson, and risked all for a few snatched months of happiness.
As a writer I am seeking heightened realities where the issues that face us all are massively intensified by high stakes and unforgettable characters. Nelson and Emma stand alongside Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra and Samson and Delilah as great lovers whose story resonates down the ages. They are a gift to any writer.
As I have researched the lives of Emma and Nelson more intensely in recent years I have discovered hidden depths to this story and these characters. Nelson lost his mother at the crucial age of nine, which can result in a pathological urge to notch up staggering achievements in a subconscious effort to raise the mother from the grave. I have become convinced that, for Nelson, Emma replaced the lost mother and he was determined not to lose her again. Had he done so he simply would not have been able to go on. I have also been fascinated by the way Emma’s humble origins outraged and disgusted the vested interests of the times. The hostility to Nelson’s liaison with her was vicious and the smear campaign against the lovers was so effective that it continues to colour people’s impression of them to this day. In the whole of world history it would be difficult to find anyone who gave and achieved as much in defence of his country as Nelson. His great sin was to fall in love with a woman from the wrong side of the tracks – but that love was genuine and it endured to his dying breath.