Horatio Nelson: A Case Study In Naval Excellence: Part 5 (The Black Spot)

In this part, I will cover Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) and his continued affair with Emma Hamilton. This part of Nelson's story is a blemish on his record, as an unfaithful husband; but I first will start with the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen. As chronicled in a previous blog post (The Great Napoleonic Turkey Shoot): "The battle went like this: the Danes were anchored in harbour; with a motley collection of ships that were severely outgunned by the British. [Sir Hyde] Parker [The commander of the expedition], being the stuffy old man that he was, put himself in charge of the reserve and left Nelson [second in command, as he was still a Rear Admiral of the Red] to do his dirty work. At one point he thought Nelson was losing (impossible) and ordered him to retreat [via signal flag]. This episode is the origin of the phrase to turn a blind eye. Nelson pretended not to see Parker's signal by putting the telescope to the eye that had been blinded at the battle of Calvi [He stated that being blind in one eye gave him the right to be blind sometimes] this act allowed Nelson to press on. The superior British gunnery paid off and the Danes fell silent. Nelson later went ashore to negotiate a peace deal [with the Danish Crown Prince]". Well now that Copenhagen’s taken care of, let’s get to the juicy stuff. Throughout Nelson's time in Naples, he had been carrying on an affair with Emma Hamilton (the British Ambassador's wife) that was growing more and more public. Eventually he was ordered back to sea, but he frequently put his ship back into Naples, citing ill health. Eventually the commander of the Mediterranean Fleet ordered Nelson back home, but refused to let him take a ship, so he traveled overland with...who else: Emma Hamilton. Nelson was paraded throughout mainland Europe, while Emma was ignored...and insulted because of her portly nature. This portly nature steamed from her being pregnant with Nelson's child. This caused a complete separation between Nelson and Fanny, his wife. Horatio's father sided with Fanny, as did much of England. Even when his father was on his death bed, Horatio refused to visit him because Fanny was there. On January 29th 1801, Nelson's daughter was born. She was named Horatia Thompson. Horatio and Emma, fearing an even bigger scandal, had christened her as her Godparents, naming her father as Vice-Admiral Thompson of Portsmouth Dockyard. Her "Godparents" later adopted her. Nelson doted on his daughter. He was eventually ordered back to sea. END OF PART 5