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Napoleonic Wars

This painting of the Battle of Waterloo is by the English military painter Denis Dighton (1792–1827). British troops (red...Read More >>This painting of the Battle of Waterloo is by the English military painter Denis Dighton (1792–1827). British troops (red uniforms) engage in hand-to-hand fighting with Napoleon's troops (blue uniforms).The Napoleonic Wars (1803–15) were a series of major conflicts between, on one side, France and its allies under Napoleon Bonaparte, and on the other, several European powers, including Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. Britain was suspicious of Napoleon’s desire to expand the French Empire across Europe and overseas. But it represented little threat to France—Britain's army of just 220,000 men was dwarfed by Napoleon's army of a million men. However, the British Royal Navy controlled the seas. If Napoleon was to invade and defeat Britain, he needed to ensure that the Royal Navy could not disrupt his invasion force sailing across the English Channel.



Napoleon inspects the troops of the Grand Army at Boulogne on the Channel coast 15th August 1804. They are poised to invade...Read More >>Napoleon inspects the troops of the Grand Army at Boulogne on the Channel coast 15th August 1804. They are poised to invade England.

Threat of invasion

By the end of 1803, Napoleon had stationed his Grand Army on the northern coast of France in preparation for an invasion of Britain. A force of 130,000 men, along with a flotilla of 2000 boats, stood ready. Napoleon calculated that if he could get his men ashore and to London before Britain could mobilize its forces against him, then victory would be his.

"England expects that every man will do his duty" was a signal sent by Nelson from his flagship HMS Victory as the Battle of Trafalgar began. Nelson originally wanted the message "England confides..." to be sent. His lieutenant suggested "expects" be substituted for "confides" (is confident), since the former word was in the signal book, whereas "confides" would have to be spelt out letter by letter. Nelson agreed to the change

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