The last Survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar

I want to tell you briefely about this wonderful image I came across last night; its a photo of a Frenchman, and a Frenchman who fought the British, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good tale; he was quite a remarkable man, if only for his longevity.

Emmanuel Louis Cartigny was born at Hyères on 1 September 1791 and died there on 21 March 1892. He was the last survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar which, as any good history student will tell you, was fought on 21 October 1805… think of Nelson and “kiss me, Hardy!” (oh, and ignore all that populist Victorian nonsense about “Kismet [fate] Hardy!” it is total nonsense… anyway, we digress…)

During the battle he fought on the side of the French Empire, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, against the British. Queen Victoria even visited Hyères between 21 March and 25 April 1892, when she stayed at the Grand Hôtel de Costebelle. In the photograph below, taken circa 1891 by Henry Ellis, he wears a small black cap and supports his right hand on a cane. He wears two medals including the Legion d’honneur. The image is in the Royal Collection, and therefore belongs to the Queen (who I doubt reads this blog, and I hope will not mind me reproducing the image…)

To think that a self confessed “old codger” named Sam Ledward is still alive and living in Wales at the grand old age of 106, this makes the Battle of Trafalgar only just beyond one step of living memory. (Leward must have been born in 1906, only 14 years after Cartigny died.) You can read more about the escapades of the “man who was declared dead in 1936” here.

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Filed under Photography, Timology

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