The History of Love

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.”

Egerton 1614, f.125

© The British Library Board

Transcription below:

“My Dearest beloved Emma the dear friend of my bosom the…

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