Horatio Nelson, 1758 - 1805


Horatio Nelson 1758-1805

Horatio Nelson, officially the Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe, was a British naval hero, a brilliant tactician, and the one who spoiled  Napoleon Bonaparte's plan to conquer Britain.


French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars were the wars that made Nelson famous.


The Family of Horatio Nelson

Horatio's father was the Reverend Edmund Nelson. His mother was Catherine Nelson, née Suckling. Catherine's grandmother, by the way, was Sir Robert Walpole's sister.

Nelson's parents were not only responsible for naming him Horatio (after his godfather, the second Baron Walpole) they also had eleven children all in all. Horatio was child number six.

In 1787, Nelson married widow Frances Nisbet (also called Fanny Nisbett) née Woolward. He met her and her five-year-old son Josiah, on the island of
 Nevis. Francis and Josiah followed Horatio Nelson home to Norfolk.

In 1801, Frances and Horatio separated. In 1830, Josiah died and in 1831 Frances did the same.

Horatio Nelson had two daughters by
 Emma Hamilton, one of them was Horatia.

Gutenberg Project

Who Was Emma Hamilton?

While married to Frances, Nelson had a heavy duty affair with Lady Emma Hamilton, who herself was married to Sir  William Hamilton.
At the time, William Hamilton was the British ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. It so happened that Horatio Nelson was sent to collect reinforcements at Naples.

Some say that it was thanks to Emma Hamilton's influence that Nelson obtained permission from Naples for a refueling stop at Sicily when he was on his way to fight the French. This would mean that Emma Hamilton helped Horatio Nelson win the Battle of the Nile in 1798. In any event, the two celebrated his victory together.

After the separation from Frances, Nelson and the Hamiltons settled at Merton Place, a posh 160 acre estate near London.

Why didn't William Hamilton divorce his two-timing wife, go back to Jamaica where his father used to be governor, and enjoy a drink with an umbrella?

We will never know. Horatio Nelson's rising reputation as national hero might have had something to do with it. Instead, William died in 1803 with both, Emma and Horatio, sitting at his bedside.

Back to Nelson...


What Was Horatio Nelson's Brilliance?

Admirers of Nelson would argue that he disregarded the traditional naval tactics of his time and encouraged his men to put their individual thinking caps on. He was a strategic genius and an inspiration for his men.

Occasionally, Nelson felt comfortable to disregard orders, a conduct unacceptable in the Royal Navy. Nelson's former experience in the merchant navy, who despised the Royal Navy, might have been the motivation in those cases.


Horatio Nelson Controversy

On June 28, 1799, at Naples, aboard his vessel the Minerva, Nelson tried and executed Francesco Caracciolo, the Duke di Brienza.

Furthermore, the killing of 99 prisoners of war at Naples in June 1799 gives reason to wish for a closer look at Nelson's saintliness.

Here is the Telegraph's article Was Nelson a War Criminal?


Horatio Nelson's Main Victories

- The  Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797

- The
 Battle of the Nile in 1798

- The
 Battle of Copenhagen in 1801

- The
 Battle of Trafalgar in 1805

Horatio Nelson's Brief Biography

1758 Birth at Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England

1768 Grammar school

1770 Joins Royal Navy

1771 Sails to Jamaica and Tobago

1773 Sails to Spitzbergen, East Indies

1775 Contracts malaria

1776 Promoted Fourth Lieutenant

1777 Promoted Lieutenant

1779 Promoted Captain

1780 Siege of the fort of San Juan

1782 Falls in love with 16-year-old Mary Simpson in Quebec

1783 Returns home from fighting in the
 American Revolution

1784 Asks Elizabeth Andrews to marry him, but she declines.

1788 The beginning of five years of unemployment

1793 Commander of the Agamemnon

1794 Liaison with Adelaide Correglia

1796 Promoted Commodore

1797 Knighted because of the Battle of St. Vincent

1798 Made Baron because of the Battle of the Nile

1799 Helps
 King Ferdinand I to recapture Naples and shatter the  Parthenopean Republic the French had set up in Naples. In turn, Ferdinand makes him Duke of Bronte, which is a town in eastern Sicily, the home of pistachio nuts and Nelson's new cozy little weekend retreat Castello di Maniace

1801 Promoted Vice Admiral; Viscount

1802 Promoted Commander-in-chief

 Treaty of Amiens

1805 Death at sea, off Cape Trafalgar, Spain


Life and Limb

The good man went in bits. In 1794, Horatio Nelson lost his right eyesight almost completely at the siege of Calvi, Corsica. Attacking Tenerife in 1797, Horatio lost his right arm. The Battle of the Nile in 1798 brought with it a severe head wound. In 1804, Horatio Nelson had enough and asked the Admiralty for leave because of ill-health.


Death and Funeral

During the course of the Battle of Trafalgar, a sharpshooter positioned himself atop the mast of the French ship Redoutable. The sniper's musket ball passed through Nelson's left shoulder, his lung, and lodged in his spine. Nelson was carried below deck and spoke his last words,

"Thank God, I have done my duty."

Thus he spoke and thus he died at 4.30 pm that afternoon. Nelson was put in a cask filled with brandy to preserve his body. The cask was brought to Gibraltar where the brandy was replaced by spirits of wine and nobody inquired into the final whereabouts of the first fill. Let sailors be sailors.

Nelson's body finally made it home to England on December 4, 1805, where William Beatty performed the autopsy and extracted the fatal musket ball.

What to do with the body of a hero after an autopsy?

Nothing seemed appropriate enough, so back into the liquid. This time a lead coffin served as receptacle. After two weeks Nelson's corpse was put into a coffin made from the mainmast of the French ship L'Orient, which Nelson had managed to blow up during the Battle of the Nile.

Russian doll like, this wooden coffin was put into another lead coffin, and the lead coffin again into another one of wood. The entire load went to Greenwich Hospital where people were given the opportunity to pay their last respects. Approx. 100,000 people showed up to do so.

But the journey wasn't over. Nelson-in-the-box (boxes) was brought to the Admiralty in Whitehall. A funeral had been arranged for January 9, 1806 at St. Paul's Cathedral and Admiral Horatio Nelson would have enjoyed the extent of the festivities in his honor. In fact, never before in British history did a common man receive a state funeral.

An incredibly huge crowd and at least 30,000 troops lined the streets to watch the procession that went from Whitehall to St Paul's Cathedral. The procession itself included more than 10,000 people. A five-hour-long service was held and the intensity was more than some folks could handle. People went bananas and ripped off pieces of the flag that was put on Nelson's coffin to take home as souvenirs.

Finally, after order had been restored, Horatio Nelson's coffin(s) was (were) put into a marble sarcophagus originally intended for Cardinal Wolsely' s corpse in St Paul’s Cathedral’s crypt. The things you find in storage.


Horatio Nelson's Impact on History

Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile put an end to Napoleon's dream of conquering the East.

Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar saved the British Isles from invasion and secured British supremacy at sea.

The Times reported,

"We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased. The great and gallant NELSON is no more."

Subsequently and appropriately, monuments, streets, inns, everybody, everything, and their dog were named in honor of Horatio Nelson.


Horatio Nelson Quoted

A fleet of British ships of war are the best negotiators in Europe.


Horatio Nelson Trivia




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