The notorious love affair between military hero Horatio Nelson and lady-of-dubious-morals-turned-society-beauty Lady Emma Hamilton is perhaps one of the most famous of the eighteenth century. As the story of a romance between a naval officer and a probable former prostitute, it was always going to be a favourite of mine.
Quite by chance, however, I recently came across this letter – the very last he ever wrote, in which he sends his love to Emma and their illegitimate daughter Horatia, and speaks of his hopes for the battle ahead. Of course, the battle of Trafalgar (which took place two days later) claimed his life.
“Lord Nelson’s last letter to Lady Hamilton, 19th Oct 1805. Found on his desk in his cabin on H.M.S. Victory after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.”
© The British Library Board
“My Dearest beloved Emma the dear friend of my bosom the signal has been made that the Enemys combined fleet are coming out of Port. We have very little Wind so that I have no hopes of seeing them before tomorrow. May the God of Battles crown my Endeavours with success at all events I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you and Horatia both of whom I love as much as my own life, and as my last writing before the battle will be to you so I hope in God that I shall live to finish my letter after the [Battle].”