Boy To Hero In A Daring Maritime Adventure

Pinterest - Albert Butler - Napoleonic Wars at Sea

For the past week I’ve been sailing the seas up and down the French and Spanish coastlines, with sails snapping from their masts in high winds, crew crawling the rigging like ants, seemingly suspended in midair. Officers hollering orders I couldn’t possibly understand, so lost in the wind to my untrained ears. And then the cannons are readied to engage with the enemy ships closing in. . . .

Sounds thrilling, aye?

It’s a timeless naval adventure forever immortalized within the pages of several novels come to life in the 1998 A&E production of Horatio Hornblower. It’s not the first time I’ve sailed these seas; I was onboard when it first aired, and I’m just as fascinated with it now as I was then.

Horatio Hornblower Collector's Edition - Amazon
Having never read the C.S. Forester novels, it’s only through this made-for-TV show that the intrepid naval officer Hornblower and I became acquainted. I’m always on the lookout for a good period flick and those with plots set entirely during the Napoleonic Wars are rare. If you are familiar with the novels and if I’ve convinced you to check out this TV adaptation, you can tell me how closely they compare.

Horatio Hornblower is a man after my own heart, fictional character notwithstanding. The inexperienced 17-year old midshipman who morphs into the skilled, confident, and daring-do leader rockets in distinction and rank. He is tested in everything he comes to value; integrity, courage, duty to England while striving to emulate his commanding officers.

I must admit his handsome looks (played by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd) complete with proper military bearing while standing on the quarterdeck in his royal blue uniform cuts an admirable figure and make those eight episodes fly by!

Curious to know more about the Royal Navy wunderkind plucked from a writer's imagination, a quick online search revealed that his naval career extended far beyond the adventures featured in this 1998 series. Hornblower dealt with bullies, fought a duel, remained stalwart in battle, languished in a Spanish prison, saw the guillotine in action, endured the injustice of a paranoid commander, skirted around the dangers of mutiny, and once stared down a court martial trial! He even had roles in diplomatic strategies. And that’s just what we see in this TV show! It’s exhilarating action and overwhelmingly the series you should be watching.

To be a British officer one had to purchase a commission or have influential connections. Unfortunately this privilege didn’t guarantee effective leaders or even good officers. Horatio may have been poor and without connections but he was educated and a natural born leader, relying on skill and daring to advance his way through the ranks, earning the admiration and respect of his peers, crew, and superiors alike. His name and reputation soon spread like wildfire throughout the British fleet.

Okay, thrilling adventures aside, it’s the character development that makes this series shine for me. The transformation of scared boy into confident commander, the friendships he develops with those who serve beside him and most of all, the deep respect between him and his mentor, the ever fair Captain Sir Edward Pellew. It’s watching their father-and-son-like rapport throughout their careers that touches my heart and has stuck with me all these years.

Unexpectedly, Horatio came roaring back to my imagination after having read a novel set in the very same era, which of course had me scrambling to check out my library’s entire 8-disc collection. Lucky me, a one-week binge had never been so sweet!
If you enjoy daring wartime feats of courage and lessons in integrity, honor, and duty watch Horatio Hornblower without delay. Share this gem with your kids, your grandkids. Bring history alive to their imaginations and inspiration to their hearts. Even a bit of entertainment can make the biggest impressions.


  1. Horatio Hornblower the name conjures up images of a dashing young man who is eager to serve and maintain his majesty's kingdom and honor.

    Regina, you made it all seem so intriguing. Cheers to swashbucklers.

    1. Truly, I cannot recommend this series enough. It's five stars all around.

  2. By the way,that photo is stunning. The water is so blue but those ships look terrifying, there's no way to control them. I could never ever step foot on it. And, I'm a Navy veteran.


    1. Did you know that there are sea cruises on replica ships similar to those pictured? All of the luxury and none of the hardships, of course. I once thought it would be a blast to go on one if I had, like a gazillion dollars, and relive that experience until I saw a documentary on it. Looks lovely but just a little too close to the water.


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