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Admiral Collingwood: Of Flowers and DNA 18 April, 2014

Posted by Molly Joyful in Books, Cuthbert Collingwood, Family, General, Trivia.
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Just in time for the Easter holidays, I bring you a very mixed bag of interesting Collingwood titbits. And news coming from the Collingwood Society, but they get their own post.

First we have one which might be of special interest to the many admirers of Horatio Hornblower who read this blog. Your knowledge is needed!

A gentleman called Paul has contacted me with a question regarding Collingwood and flowers. He’s working on a project about flowers and their role in human culture. While reading “From Hornblower and the Atropos by C.S. Forester. The Companion Book club, London, 1954. (Originally published by Michael Joseph Ltd.) pp 137-8” he came across the following part:

Collingwood shook hands with him in the great cabin below. …

“Please sit down captain. Harkness, a glass of Madeira for Captain Hornblower. …”

It was an upholstered chair in which Hornblower sat; under his feet was a thick carpet; there were a couple of pictures in gilt frames on the bulkheads; silver lamps hung by silver chains   from the deck-beams. Looking round him while Collingwood eagerly skimmed through his letters, Hornblower thought of all this being hurriedly bundled away when the
Ocean cleared for action. But what held his attention most were two long boxes against the great stern windows. They were filled with earth and were planted with flowers – hyacinths and daffodils, blooming and lovely.

The scent of the hyacinths reached Hornblower’s nostrils where he sat. There was something fantastically charming about them here at sea.

“I’ve been successful with my bulbs this year,” said Collingwood, putting his letters in his pocket and following Hornblower’s glance. He walked over and tilted up a daffodil bloom with sensitive fingers, looking down into its open face.

“They are beautiful, aren’t they? Soon the daffodils will be flowering in England – some time, perhaps, I’ll see them again. Meanwhile these help to keep me contented. It is three years since I last set foot  on land.”

So Paul’s obvious question was: did the real Collingwood have flower boxes in the great cabin?

“Not that I know of”, was my reply; as much as I love the idea, I can’t really imagine that Collingwood would have had anything in the great cabin which could have slowed down or hindered preparations for battle. But maybe you guys know more than I do? Can you shed some light on this?

The possibly fictional flower boxes aside: do you know any other Age of Sail related tales which could help Paul with his work? If so, please do share here, or if you’d rather mail him personally, drop me a line, and I’ll put you in touch.


Next I’d like to share some links with you which might be of special interest for those of you interested in genealogy and the various Collingwoodses who have contacted me through the years. They are an international lot! You can find them from Germany to Australia, and there’s even one in Japan! One of them, Gordon Collingwood, is a serious genealogist, and he has painstakingly pieced together over 50 separate branches of the Collingwood family tree, including the ancestors of Old Cuddy. You can visit his website here, but please note that you will need a user account to watch the content:


Gordon has also started a DNA project:


He writes that his own DNA had been matched to another living Collingwood who has traced his family back to 1630 in Newcastle upon Tyne. So they both have Geordie roots! Feel free to contact him if you are a Collingwood (or related to a Collingwood) and would like to learn more.


Paul Collingwood – a chip off the old oak block?

(You won’t be surprised at all that Emma Collingwood’s DNA identified her as a direct descentant of Hieronymus Carl Friedrich Baron von Münchhausen…)


Münchhausen c. 1740 as a Cuirassier in Riga, by G. Bruckner