Skip to main content
Captain Horatio Nelson, painted by John Francis Rigaud in 1781

Horatio Nelson

A portrait of the young Nelson, painted by John Francis Rigaud in 1781 | Image: Wikimedia Commons

Nelson was the sixth of eleven children, who joined the Navy at the age of 12. By 20, he had been promoted to captain.

In 1787, he married Frances Nisbet in Nevis. He returned to England with Frances and spent the next five years on land, as a result of a disagreement with a senior officer.

In 1793, England entered the French Revolutionary Wars, and Nelson was given command of the Agamemnon. During the war, he helped capture Corsica but, in the process, he was wounded and lost the sight in his right eye.

The war established his reputation for bold action. His boldness often translated into disregard of orders from above, which could have brought him trouble, as he had experienced in 1787, except for the fact that he made some very good decisions.

In 1797, he was injured again in a battle off Tenerife. This time he lost his right arm above the elbow.

In 1798, he destroyed Napoleon's forces at the Battle of the Nile.

His next position was in Naples, where he met and fell in love with Lady Hamilton. Although he remained married to Frances, and she to her husband, they openly considered each other soul mates and had a child, Horatia, together, in 1801.

It was in the same year, 1801, that Nelson was promoted to Vice-Admiral.

He is best known for the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), which prevented Napoleon from invading Britain, but his most famous battle was also his last. He was hit by a bullet and he died on 21 October 1805, on the first day of the battle.

Nelson was given a state funeral in London and is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.