Navy hero Horatio Nelson's legacy is being reviewed by museum bosses as part of their efforts to challenge Britain's "barbaric history of race and colonialism".

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, holds the admiral's love letters and the coat he wore when he was killed leading his fleet to one of Britain's greatest sea triumphs in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

His 27 ships beat a 33-strong combined French and Spanish armada after five hours of intense fighting, before which he famously signalled: "England expects that every man will do his duty.''

He died 30 minutes before the end of the battle after being shot in the shoulder and chest.

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Told victory was imminent, his last words were: "Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.''

But he has been criticised for his support of slaveholders and the British Empire's colonies, as well as his opposition to William Wilberforce who led the movement to abolish the slave trade.

Lord Nelson is the latest in a long line of historical figures to have their legacies called into question following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Leaked internal documents show museum chiefs are keen to capitalise on the momentum built up by the movement and address the Royal Navy's links to slavery.

They plan to communicate the "often barbaric history of race, colonialism and representation in British maritime history".

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Displays and statues will be changed to reflect their "more complex" nature as the museum re-evaluates historical events.

Statues of other Royal Navy heroes have also been brought into the publicly-funded museum's review of Britain's naval past.

Admiral Edward Pellew's will be labelled to indicate he was a Royal Navy officer who helped protect the slave trade.

Statues of Captain Sir William Peel, Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith and Admiral James de Saumarez will also have new information added.

The museum has already addressed the colonial legacies of Captain Cook and Francis Drake in its displays.

Its collections team said: "We are in the process of rolling out our new strategy and part of this is looking specifically at the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

"All museum collections are partial and history is often told from a particular perspective.''

The museum's curators said: "Our ambition is to be honest and transparent, to offer people historical evidence and to be a place for dialogue. The museum will continue to evolve, reassessing and reinterpreting its collections and displays.

"There are no plans to remove any statues or busts, although our displays are constantly changing.''

Royal Museums Greenwich director Paddy Rogers told staff society's reassessment of colonial history after Edward Colston's statue was toppled in Bristol earlier this year provided a "moment to shine". He said perspectives on history and identity "have never been so hotly discussed as they are right here and right now'".

"Everybody is in a process of re-evaluation,'' he has said.

"Young people were already questioning whether society was structured in a way that met their needs and what we've seen over Black Lives Matter is an expression of that.

"Opening it up — investigating, giving access, talking about things — doesn't have to be as frightening as people seem to make it.''

It is not clear if the museum plans to highlight the fact that after Britain made the slave trade illegal in 1807, the Royal Navy became a police force against the barbaric practice.

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