Storm Centres of History: HMS Victory & Trade and Empire

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

During the Pause for Thought recently, I’ve been talking about 7 places I have been to:  Storm-centres of history.

Today, we will go to Portsmouth.

Last year I returned with my dad, to the dry-dock in Portsmouth that holds a very special piece of maritime history.  

We went for a couple of days to enjoy HMS Victory and King Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose.

Unlike my dad, I’m not a military person; and yet the sight of this magnificent ship – a wonder of 18th century ship-building and engineering, is breathtaking.

HMS Victory is famous of course, for leading the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  

To the victor, the spoils, and in this case, the spoils were nothing less than global supremacy at sea.

The cost was high.  The superstar of the day, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, was fatally wounded, and died towards the end of the battle.  He was brought back to London, and his state funeral lasted 5 days, being the greatest state occasion of the time.

Today, his remains lie in the Crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Whilst I have lived in Torquay for the past 9 years, I was delighted to discover Nelson was a guest of the Cary family at Torre Abbey in Torquay.

Nevertheless, this is still a story of violent competition; the lust for domination; the greed for wealth; the destruction of rivals, the enslavement of nations.  

It is the history of the world, and it is our history!

Now I know this outline is way too simplistic – this is a pause for thought after all.

It does show however, a messy world of competitive rivalry, where life is cheap and the winner takes all.  

Listen to Nelson’s prayer before the Battle of Trafalgar:

“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 anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet. For myself individually, I commit my life to him that made me; and may His blessing alight on my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To him I resign myself, and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen.”


It betrays a confusion of co-opting God into state-warfare.

The Admiral’s of the joint Franco-Spanish fleets could just as easily prayed the same prayer!

In the end, it is co-opted religion by the state and for the state, and the state is politics.

Psychologist Erik Erikson reminds us what’s at stake here:  “Politics always competes with religion – joining it, tolerating it when it must and absorbing it when it can.”

Jesus lived in an Occupied Palestine, he ended up being crucified by the 

State Machinery of the Romans, via the tolerated religious leaders of the day.

Jesus is God’s promise that in all the mess of life, He enters in; He comes to us.

HMS Victory may have temporarily conquered the seas.

But the Victory of the Son of God eternally conquered sin – do you see?


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