Thunderous tribute to hero who won the day at Trafalgar
• Celebrations mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar
• Event also marked death of Admiral Lord Nelson
• Participarting nations include French and Spanish
"There's no-one upset to be here, there are no bad feelings. I don't mind if it is red, blue, French, English, British, Spanish, One, Two, Alpha, Bravo - I don't mind." - FRENCH VICE-ADMIRAL JACQUES MAZARS
Story in full TWO hundred years on from one of the most famous sea battles in history, British and French warships gathered in peace and not in war yesterday for a day of celebration marked by pageantry, play-acting and, finally, pyrotechnics, all on a grand scale.
A spectacular fireworks display last night over the Solent followed by the illumination of the Fleet, brought the curtain down on a day commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The 10,000 fireworks launched from 35 pontoons and six barges could be seen five miles away.
On shore, 250,000 spectators had lined vantage points in and around Portsmouth to witness the event and remember a battle which had been fought at walking pace over nearly half a day rather than hours.
Earlier, as night fell, bursts of orange flame meant to simulate cannon blast illuminated the sky during a mock battle which included a replica 18th century frigate portraying HMS Victory - the flagship which Admiral Nelson had commanded in 1805.
A fleet of ships from all over the world lined up for Royal inspection in a celebration which also marked the death of Britain's greatest naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson.
The armada of 167 ships from the Royal Navy and 35 other nations gathered in the Solent, off Portsmouth, for what was the largest peacetime international review in history.
Organisers said the event had the largest number of countries represented of any previous fleet review in the world.
The vessels, including ships from the United States, France, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa, lined up at Spithead with between 25,000 and 30,000 sailors on board. The French aircraft carrier and flagship Charles De Gaulle honoured the Queen with a 21-gun salute to mark the bicentenary.
HMS Endurance carried the Queen, in her role as Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, and the Admiral of the Fleet, the Duke of Edinburgh, past the flotilla.
In a written message, the Queen paid tribute to Lord Nelson, who fought and died as he led the navy in the decisive 1805 victory at Trafalgar against the French and Spanish, and established British dominance at sea for more than a century.
"Admiral Lord Nelson's supreme qualities of seamanship, leadership with humanity and courage in the face of danger are shared among our maritime community today," the Queen said. "He could wish for no greater legacy."
The tall ships later took up positions ready to mimic a sea battle that the Ministry of Defence pointedly said was "not a historical re-enactment" of the Battle of Trafalgar, while the RAF Red Arrows and other planes staged a display.
When asked why they had sent their finest warship, French Vice-Admiral Jacques Mazars replied: "We were invited. When you are invited to your cousin's wedding, you wear your best dress. That's what we have done." Vice-Admiral Mazars said that the large French presence of six warships was less about history and more about a new spirit of co-operation.
He insisted that the events of 1805 - when Nelson's uncompromising victory left 6,500 French and Spanish seamen dead and wounded - were long in the past. "There's no-one upset to be here, there are no bad feelings," he said.
He was similarly sanguine about the mock Napoleonic battle between two equal sides, the "reds and blues". With a slight shrug, he said: "I don't mind if it is red, blue, French, English, British, Spanish, One, Two, Alpha, Bravo - I don't mind."
British history books are quite clear about the impact of Nelson's triumph, which saw off the French threat, ushering in the days of the Empire. But, according to Vice-Admiral Mazars, things are seen differently in France.
"Trafalgar was not a little thing. It was a great thing for the British. On the French side it was not a little thing but it was not so important. The French and Napoleon were very much land-minded."
The irony of commemorating their defeat with their former enemies did not go unrecognised by all those on board.
"A lot of seamen on the Charles De Gaulle found it bizarre to celebrate with the English a battle that we have lost - it was provocative," said Stephane Lombardo, a pilot with the French Navy.
"If they have had a chance, half of the sailors would not have come," he added.
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