The starting point of Roger Knight's magnificent new biography is to explain how Nelson achieved such extraordinary success. Knight places him firmly in the context of the Royal Navy of the time. He analyses Nelson's more obvious qualities, his leadership strengths and his coolness and certainty in battle, and also explores his strategic grasp, the condition of his ships, the skill of his seamen and his relationships with the officers around him - including those who could hardly be called friendly.
This biography takes a cool look at Nelson's status as a hero and demolishes many of the myths that were so carefully established by the early authors, and repeated by their modern successors. Nelson was a shrewd political operator who charmed and impressed political leaders and whose advancement was helped by the relatively weak generation of admirals above him. He was a difficult subordinate, only happy when completely in command, and capable of great ruthlessness. He was flawed, but brilliant - and not to be crossed.