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Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), 1st Viscount Nelson

Biography of Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), 1st Viscount Nelson

Horatio Nelson, Vice-Admiral The Right Honourable The Viscount Nelson KB (1758-1805) was probably the most significant figure in British naval history, universally noted for his inspirational leadership, strategic skills, unconventional tactics and social life.

Horatio Nelson was the son of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and Catherine Suckling. He was their sixth child in a family of eleven children. He was born at the Rectory in Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk on 29th September 1758. He was initially educated at Paston Grammar School in North Walsham and then the Edward VI Grammar School in Norwich.

Nelson was persuaded to join the Royal Navy by his maternal uncle Captain Maurice Suckling. Nelson reported to the third rate HMS Raisonnable, which was under his uncle's command, on 1st September 1771 as an ordinary seaman and coxswain.  Shortly afterwards, he was appointed a midshipman.

Nelson served under the command of several of the leading naval officers of the day and rose quickly through the ranks while gaining a reputation for his unique style and bravery. He received his first command in 1778.

Nelson served in the Carribbean from 1784 and married his wife Francis 'Fanny' Nesbit on 11th March 1787 on the island of Nevis. Nesbit was a young widow from a Nevis plantation family.

From May 1793, Nelson served in the Mediterranean, playing an important role in the capture of Corsica. It was during this time that Nelson was introduced to Emma Hamilton, the wife of Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador to Naples. Nelson's relationship with Lady Hamilton became the cause of great social comment during the 18th century.

Nelson's leadership and the loyalty it inspired in the men under his command has become legendary. It was no doubt helped by his own bravery, which resulted in the injuries that have become iconic in every representation of Nelson since his death during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. For instance, he continued to lead the landing parties at Calvi during the capture of Corsica, despite being struck in the right eye by debris. Again, although he was shot in the right arm by a musket ball that shattered the bone during the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797, he returned to command his men shortly after much of his arm had been removed by Thomas Eshelby, the surgeon aboard the Theseus.

In 1798, Nelson had his first significant victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile, inflicting a decisive defeat on the French fleet that would change the balance of power in the Mediterranean in favour of the British for the rest of the war.

Nelson's death at The Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 sealed his remarkable life and achievements into the core of British society and established a legacy that will continue to be studied for generations of naval and social historians to come.

Related Departments

Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), 1st Viscount Nelson Related Lots

Lot MA14/37

Lot MA14/37: Of Nelson Interest, A Set of Six Silver Fruit Knives Bearing Nelson Family Heraldic Crests To Blades

Of Nelson interest, a set of six silver fruit knives bearing Nelson family heraldic crests to blades, maker MB London 1806:, the blades engraved to obverse with versions of the Viscount's Coronet, Chelengk and San Josef crests, the reverse with makers marks and assays, on thread pattern silver weighted handles, 20.5cm long.

Estimate: £250 - £350
Realised: £320

Lot MA13/274

Lot MA13/274: Nelson, Lord Horatio

Nelson, Lord Horatio ( 1758-1805 ) - Orders of Command - a printed sheet instructing captains to make good repairs to their ships, issued by the Commissioners for Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral, signed by LORD HORATIO NELSON as 'Nelson Bronte' (with reference to his title as the Duke of Bronte), and four fellow commissioners, one being Sir Thomas Troubridge. Dated 24th August, 1803. Window mounted in an old oak frame, alongside an engraving of Nelson, published by R Bowyer, Dec, 1805.

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000
Realised: £4,100

Lot MA13/65

Lot MA13/65: A Mid 19th Century Parian Bust of Lord Nelson by Joseph Pitts of London

A mid 19th Century Parian bust of Lord Nelson by Joseph Pitts of London, after the original by Flaxman, the reverse inscribed with dedication to Admiral Sir William Parker and signed and dated for Joseph Pitts, London 1853, on a turned ebony socle, 34cm high.

Estimate: £250 - £350
Realised: £600

Lot MA13/82

Lot MA13/82: An Early 20th Century Cast Iron Nelson Umbrella Stand

An early 20th Century cast iron Nelson umbrella stand, having cast full length figure of Nelson beside Capstan and foul anchor, on a plinth supported by a pair of sea horses, with rectangular gadrooned stand section, 78cm high.

Estimate: £200 - £300
Realised: £360

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA13/108: Alexander Davidson's Medal For the Battle of the Nile 1798

Alexander Davidson's medal for the battle of the Nile 1798, in bronzed copper, obverse Britannia with anchor and Nelson portrait, reverse with battle scene, by CH Cuchler, 4.7cm diameter.

Estimate: £180 - £220
Realised: £150

Lot MA13/236

Lot MA13/236: An Early 19th Century Commemorative Reverse Glass Allegorical Picture

An early 19th Century commemorative reverse glass allegorical picture, 'Admiral Lord Nelson mortally wounded by a musket ball in the moment of a brilliant and decisive victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain, Oct 21 1805', published Feb 1st 1806 by Peter Barnaschina, 73, Leather Lane, Holbourn, 25cm x 35.5cm, damage lower left corner.

Estimate: £150 - £200
Realised: £250

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA13/362: After JW M Turner

After JW M Turner 'Nelson's ship the Victory in the Battle of Trafalgar', monochrome engraving, published by Henry Graves & Company April 8th 1858, subject size 56 x 80cm.

Estimate: £100 - £150
Realised: £280

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA13/260: A Framed Edition of ''The Times' Announcing Nelson's Victory of the Battle of the Nile, Dated Wednesday October 3rd 1798

A framed edition of ''The Times' announcing Nelson's Victory of the Battle of the Nile, dated Wednesday October 3rd 1798.

Estimate: £100 - £150
Realised: £90

Lot MA13/93

Lot MA13/93: A 19th Century Circular Brass Nelson Commemorative Box and Cover

A 19th Century circular brass Nelson commemorative box and cover, 7cm diameter.

Estimate: £40 - £50
Realised: £35

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA13/339: Pocock, T - Horatio Nelson

Pocock, T - Horatio Nelson and a collection of related Nelson and Navy volumes.

Estimate: £30 - £40
Realised: £25

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