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The meaning and origin of the expression: Kiss me Hardy

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Kiss me Hardy

Meaning

Words spoken, on his deathbed, by Admiral Horatio Nelson to Captain Thomas Hardy.

Origin

battle of Trafalgar Nelson, England's greatest naval hero, died at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805. He was hit by a musket ball, fired from a French ship, at about 1.15pm and died below decks at about 4.30pm. His body was preserved in a barrel of brandy.

The details are relevant in attempting to authenticate whether Nelson ever spoke those words. The best argument in support of it being authentic is the fact that the events surrounding Nelson's death were witnessed by several people at close quarters, all of whom would have had intense interest in it.

There are at least three eye-witness accounts recording that Nelson asked Hardy to kiss him. The precise words said aren't recorded verbatim, but "kiss me Hardy" can't have differed in any material way from reality.

Death of NelsonThe witnesses, William Beatty, Chaplain Alexander Scott and Walter Burke are shown in Arthur Devis's painting Death of Nelson. As a consequence of Nelson's importance as a historical and heroic figure, there are many Death of Nelson paintings. Devis had the advantage over other painters of being present on the Victory for the event though and we can be assured that his painting is an accurate representation of Nelson's death.

According to the contemporary accounts, Nelson last words were:

"Take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy, take care of poor Lady Hamilton". He paused then said very faintly, "Kiss me, Hardy". This, Hardy did, on the cheek. Nelson then said, "Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty".

The later story, that Nelson's last words were "Kismet [fate] Hardy", aren't supported by any contemporary evidence. In fact, 'kismet' isn't recorded as being in use in English to mean fate until as late as 1830, a quarter of a century after Nelson died. That euphemistic version of events is thought to be a later invention that attempted to avoid embarrassment by covering up the supposed homo-erotic imagery of men kissing. That was misguided in more ways than one, not least because platonic kisses between men at times of great emotion weren't viewed in the way in 19th century England.