Nelson Hides His Hand, What Hand?

I am having a doozy of a chronic pain flare-up. I feel like I’m 90 years old.

This is from the Tudor Rose Patience Pack. Originally a 2-deck set, I just bought one deck. This was published in 1952 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and is still in print. The numbered cards are pips but the court cards have some great characters from British history on them.



Horatio Nelson lost his right arm in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797, when the Royal Navy attacked the Spanish in the Canary Islands, which is why later paintings of him, upon which this card was modelled, show his right sleeve tacked up. After the hellish battle, where the British casualties were more than eight times the Spanish ones, the trip home was hellish too and more British men and ships were lost. He considered the amputation an embarrassing symbol of defeat, a constant reminder of failure and this awful battle.

I suppose you get the card you need regardless of using postcards or playing cards or tarot. My right arm is the one with the chronic pain, but I still have my hand. It is a mark of defeat, and holds my ambivalent feelings about computers and repetitive strain injury and the Tenerife I went through at work.

Still, Nelson rose above his injuries and emotional pain and went on to defeat Napoleon’s forces at Trafalgar, although he didn’t survive that battle, and the Napoleonic Wars continued for ten more long years.

My friend Steve and I are often kibitzing about, speaking of chipping away at things, chip, chip, chip. That’s what people do. You camouflage your lost arm and get on with it.

Jacks are always jaunty chaps. Nelson taught himself to use his left hand to do redwork embroidery for dolly quilts. It’s a fact!! He wants a bit of lace trim for dolly, but we’re at war with France, where am I going to get lace trim? He says tenaciousness is an admiral quality. Such a punster.


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