Horatio Nelson

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“Let me alone: I have yet my legs and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it’s off the better.”

Horatio Nelson

The Victory

Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson was a brilliant strategist and a highly successful navel commander. Perhaps the most beloved of all British military leaders, his men followed him with a loyalty that few have ever known. A captain at 20, Nelson served in the West Indies, Baltic and Canada.  In 1793, when Britain entered the French Revolutionary Wars, he was given the command of the Agamemnon. He assisted in the capture of Corsica and lost the sight in his right eye at the battle at Calvi.  He would lose his right arm at the Battle off Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797.

Considered a man of bold action, he was extremely confident in his capabilities to the point of occasionally ignoring orders from his superiors. Fate rewarded him for his defiance by granting him victories against the Spanish off Cape Vincent in 1797, and at the battle of Copenhagen in 1801.  He relished the spotlight and was partial to flattery. Nonetheless, his loyalty was unwavering.  He once said, “Duty is the great business of a sea officer; all private consideration must give way to it, however painful it may be.”

Lady Hamilton was twenty-eight when she first met Horatio Nelson, a thirty-five year old captain, on September 12, 1793 when he sailed into Naples.  Their next meeting, five years later, was during the frightening spectre of an impending French invasion. Fresh from the glorious victory over the French in the “Battle of the Nile,” Nelson was welcomed by all of Naples, as a liberator.  Everyone believed that he would be the man to conquer the mighty Napoleon.

Nelson, exhausted from battle, and in pain from his wounds, was overwhelmed by the welcoming party that awaited him on the waterfront.  It was said that Emma threw herself upon him, weeping with joy and thanksgiving.   Lord Nelson would keep them safe.

“My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory I am the most offending soul alive.”

Horatio Nelson

Naples & A Wedding

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“First gain the victory and then make the best use of it your can.”

Horatio Nelson

England

Emma was famous. Sir Charles Greville did not relish being the “lesser half” of a power couple.  He was also in need of a huge injection of funds.  Ever a schemer, his goal was simple.  He would marry Henrietta Middletown, an eighteen-year-old rich heiress.  As well, he was newly involved with  Lady Craven, a playwright and daring socialite. The Emma “problem” would be easily solved by persuading his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, British Envoy to Naples, to take Emma on as a hostess for his Naples home, known for its excellent hospitality and elegance.

Sir William, fourth and youngest son of Lord Archibald Hamilton, was the Envoy Plenipotentiary to Naples. Known for his extravagant lifestyle, he mingled with the leading aristocrats in England.   A recent widower, he had returned to England to finalize his late wife’s estates.  By all accounts, his marriage was happy and successful, even though his late wife suffered from bouts of depression.

Emma was enchanting, Sir William acknowledged. And he did have need of someone to organize his household and arrange for the elaborate banquets and soirées.  Keeping the childish King Ferdinand of Naples and his demanding Queen Maria Carolina (sister to Marie Antoinette) was a difficult task at best. Emma would be ideal. Alas, poor Emma did not know of the secretive machinations that swirled about her.  Sir Charles simply lied. A short holiday to Naples, she was told, along with a promise that he would come for her.

Sir Charles, in his devious and selfish way, released Emma. Naples embraced Emma with open arms and showered her with fame, fortune and title.   Yes, she was distressed by Sir Charles’s rejection, but she grew to love Sir William.  They were married on September 6, 1791.    She became Lady Hamilton.

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was creating instability and alarm in all of Europe.  Before long, Lady Hamilton would be embroiled in the politics of Kings and Queens.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” 

Anaïs Nin