VICTORY: Kydd at Trafalgar
A regular feature looking back on each of the Kydd titles – with story background, research highlights, writing challenges and more.
And thank you for all your kind comments on the post about my tenth book, Invasion.
Praise for the book
‘Well-written mixture of high-seas adventure and character-based drama . . . impossible not to enjoy!’ — Booklist
‘Elegantly plotted . . . the writing has the power of a broadside at close range’ — Oxford Times
‘This book is as fresh as the first to be published . . . the characters have matured as the tales unfolded and each story adds a new layer of complexity . . . a fictional tale that takes forward the careers of his two heroes in such a natural way that they feel to be a genuine part of history, interacting with the real story of Nelson, Trafalgar and Victory’ — Firetrench
The main focus for research for this book was Portsmouth in the county of Hampshire. I was privileged to have been given virtually unlimited access to the HMS Victory. As you can probably imagine I spent many contented hours aboard…
Although I know Portsmouth very well, having been quartered in the city during my time in the Navy, and also having visited on location research for earlier Kydd books, I never seem to tire of ‘Pompey’ and its maritime attractions. For Victory I spent quite some time in Old Portsmouth, too, much of which stands just as it did in Kydd’s day.
Another locale for research for this book was London, both the physical city and the river Thames, as well as museums, archives and libraries – and I had spent time in the Mediterranean area on previous location research trips.
I love being sent photographs of readers with my books but in the case of Victory I was somewhat taken aback to find I had been sent three rather special ones – three ship captains, each holding Victory!
Captain Gabriel Catolino is commander of a destroyer squadron in the Argentinian navy. Captain Catolino enjoys historical maritime fiction and told me he immediately became a Kydd fan after reading Victory.
Captain Paul Wright of Cunard’s Queen Victoria was presented with a copy of Victory by one of my readers, fittingly, as the ship rounded Cape Trafalgar!
Captain (now Commodore) Jerry Kyd, the last Commanding Officer of HMS Ark Royal, graciously posed with Victory with Victory in the background. He was recently appointed the first seagoing Captain of the Royal Navy’s brand new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
When I first began the series I knew that at one point I’d have to deal with Trafalgar, but as I was only in 1793, at book one, I was able to put my concerns about writing about such a famous event to one side, and get on with the business to hand. However, when I finished Invasion, I had to face the special challenges of Victory. How could I bring something fresh and new to such a well-known story? In the end I decided to do this by having two perspectives on the battle, one of my hero in his ship, and the other from a lowly midshipman aboard Victory herself.
Another problem was that while I have a huge admiration for Nelson (which, if anything, increased as I was writing the book) he is a huge presence on the maritime stage and I didn’t want him to take over the story
On the morning of October 21, 1805, with the combined fleets of France and Spain in sight, Nelson wrote this prayer, which I still find very moving to read :
- May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one, tarnish it and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet. For myself individually, I commit my life to Him who made me and may His blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.
Milestone in the series
Victory completed the trilogy (which included the previous two titles: Treachery and Invasion) that dealt with the incredible events in the two years leading up to Napoleon’s defeat at Trafalgar in 1805. Victory was a milestone in the Kydd series; it featured the last of the big set-piece naval battles. Trafalgar removed the sceptre of invasion and Great Britain was released to seek conquests and colonies in the furthest reaches of the world. In subsequent books Kydd finds himself at the forefront of this race to wrest empire from the French and Dutch in exotic and little-known corners of the world.