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Nelson's Lost Letter

Richard Challoner unearths a letter, written in support of a widow and her children, which is revealing of a humanitarian aspect of Lord Nelson.

Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francias Abbott, 1800.
Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francias Abbott, 1800.

Tucked away in the National Archives and forgotten for more than two centuries is a letter written by Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), dated April 30th, 1799. It offers an interesting insight into Nelson’s character at the time and highlights a less well known aspect of the great naval hero. Many are familiar with the innovative tactician, the arrogant and sometimes disobedient commander, the talented self-publicist and, of course, the dashing ladies’ man. It is also well known that humanity was one of Nelson’s distinctive characteristics, especially evident in his concern for fellow sailors and the magnanimous treatment of the enemy. Less common, however, is evidence of Nelson extending his sympathy and support to civilians, demonstrated in this letter.

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