Nelson, Horatio Nelson, Viscount
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Nelson, Horatio Nelson, Viscount,1758–1805, British admiral. The most famous of Britain's naval heroes, he is commemorated by the celebrated Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square, London.
He entered the navy at the age of 12 and became a captain at the age of 20. He saw service in the West Indies, in the Baltic, and in Canada. During these years he became friendly with the duke of Clarence (later William IV) and married (1787) a widow, Frances Nisbet, in the West Indies. That same year he returned to England and remained inactive and somewhat in disfavor at the admiralty.
In the French Revolutionary Wars
In 1793 Great Britain entered the French Revolutionary WarsFrench Revolutionary Wars,
wars occurring in the era of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, the decade of 1792–1802. The wars began as an effort to defend the Revolution and developed into wars of conquest under the empire.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Nelson was given command of the British ship Agamemnon. He served in the Mediterranean, fighting at Toulon and helping to capture Corsica. At Calvi he lost the sight in one eye. Under John JervisJervis, John, earl of St. Vincent
, 1735–1823, British admiral. His most famous action as commander of the Mediterranean fleet was his defeat in 1797 of 27 Spanish ships off Cape St. Vincent with only 15 vessels.
..... Click the link for more information. , later earl of St. Vincent, he was largely responsible, acting boldly and without orders, for the victory over the Spanish off Cape St. Vincent (1797). He was made a rear admiral by seniority and was created a knight of the Bath. In the unsuccessful British attempt (1797) to capture Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Nelson lost his right arm and was returned to England.
Upon his return to service, he was sent on detached duty to find the French fleet. After a long pursuit the French fleet was destroyed in 1798 at Aboukir (the modern Abu QirAbu Qir
, village, N Egypt, on a promontory in the Nile River delta. Admiral Horatio Nelson's victory over the French fleet off Abu Qir on Aug. 1–2, 1798 (sometimes called the battle of the Nile), restored British prestige in the Mediterranean region
..... Click the link for more information. ), stranding Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life
The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
..... Click the link for more information. and the entire French army in Egypt. Nelson was showered with rewards and honors, but received only the comparatively modest title of Baron Nelson of the Nile. He was placed in command of a squadron assisting the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Here he fell in love with Emma, Lady HamiltonHamilton, Emma, Lady,
1765?–1815, mistress of the British naval hero Horatio Nelson. Born Emma Lyon, she became the mistress of Charles Greville, then of Sir William Hamilton, ambassador to Naples, whom she married (1791).
..... Click the link for more information. , the wife of the British ambassador, who became his mistress.
After the French took possession of Naples (1799) and set up the Parthenopean RepublicParthenopean Republic
[from Parthenope, an ancient name of Naples], state set up in Naples in Jan., 1799, by the French Revolutionary army under General Championnet and by liberal Neapolitans after the flight of King Ferdinand IV (later Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies).
..... Click the link for more information. , Nelson blockaded the city. During his absence on one occasion, the royalist commander, Fabrizio RuffoRuffo, Fabrizio
, 1744–1827, Neapolitan general, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. In the French Revolutionary Wars he led the royal Neapolitan army against the Parthenopean Republic, set up at Naples under French protection.
..... Click the link for more information. , made a generous peace with the Neapolitan republicans. But Nelson, on his return, annulled the treaty and executed the Neapolitan admiral, Francesco Caracciolo, for desertion to the French. When the British commander in chief in the Mediterranean ordered him to Minorca, Nelson refused to obey on the grounds that his presence in Naples was politically necessary, but it was suspected that he did not wish to leave Lady Hamilton.
In 1800 he returned to England with the Hamiltons and soon separated (1801) from his wife. The same year, Lady Hamilton bore him a daughter, Horatia. Nelson contrived his appointment as second in command, under Sir Hyde Parker, of the fleet sent against the armed neutrality of the Baltic powers. He defeated (1801) the Danes at Copenhagen, ignoring Parker's order to cease action by putting his telescope to his blind eye and saying that he could not see the signal. He was made a viscount, returned to England, and was given command of the Channel fleet to repel an expected French invasion. During the interlude of peace (1802–3), he lived in the country with the Hamiltons.
In the Napoleonic Wars
Upon the renewal of war (1803), Nelson was given command of the fleet in the Mediterranean and blockaded the French fleet at Toulon for 22 months. When the French finally escaped, he pursued the fleet across the Atlantic to the West Indies and back to Spain, where it took refuge with the Spanish fleet in Cadiz. On Oct. 21, 1805, the combined fleets ventured out of port, and found Nelson waiting for them off Cape TrafalgarTrafalgar, battle of
, naval engagement fought off Cape Trafalgar on the SW coast of Spain on Oct. 21, 1805, in which the British fleet under Horatio Nelson won a famous victory over the allied French and Spanish fleets under Pierre de Villeneuve.
..... Click the link for more information. . Before the battle he gave the famous signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty." He won his most spectacular victory but died in the action.
See biographies by R. Southey (1813, much repr.), A. T. Mahan (1897, repr. 1984), G. M. Bennett (1972), C. Lloyd (1973), D. and S. Howarth (1989), E. V. Yale (2003), E. Vincent (2003), and R. Knight (2005).