"England Expects Every Man To Do His Duty"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Horatio Nelson, an English admiral distinguished by a remarkable sense of seamanship, is probably the most celebrated figure in British naval history, with victories over Spain in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797), over the French in the Battle of the Nile (1798), and over the Danish in the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). The capstone of his career was the Battle of Trafalgar, off Cape Trafalgar, Spain, in October, 1805, in which he triumphed over a combined French and Spanish fleet. The victory, in which Nelson captured eighteen enemy ships, cost him his life but spelled the end of Napoleon's sea power. At the beginning of the battle, Captain Blackwood informed Nelson that his fleet was properly positioned for action. But as Robert Southey wrote:

These words were scarcely spoken before that signal was made which will be remembered as long as the language, or even the memory, of England shall endure–Nelson's last signal:–"England expects every man to do his duty!"
According to a more recent biographer, Oliver Warner, in Victory: The Life of Lord Nelson (1958), Nelson originally worded the order to Lieutenant John Pasco: "I wish to say . . . 'England Confides that Every Man will do his Duty.'" Pasco suggested that expects be substituted for confides, since expects was already in the signal books; and thus the signal was given.