Lady Hamilton & Horatio Nelson: Horatia (part 26)

Nelson and Emma exchanged a lot of letters, in one of which he told her that she was his wife “in my eyes and in the face of heaven”. However they were always very careful not to write anything compromising, since they feared that their correspondence, if intercepted, might harm them. They were fully aware that having a child out of wedlock was unacceptable.
Therefore they devised a stratagem: the use of a sort of secret code in order to be able to discuss that pregnancy freely. The Admiral wrote to her pretending that his letters were from a sailor under his command named Thompson, whose pregnant wife was under Emma’s protection.
But he sometimes got confused as to whether he was writing on behalf of the fictional sailor, for example when he wrote “what can I say more only to kiss his child for him and love him as truly sincerely and faithfully as he does you.”

On 29 January 1801, shortly after his sailing to face the Danes at Copenhagen, Emma gave birth in great secret to a girl, assisted by her mother and close ally, Mrs Cadogan, at Sir William’s London house in Piccadilly. To conceal the birth, she claimed to be bedridden for three days with the excuse of “a very bad cold”.
Nelson wished his child to be named Emma, but Lady Hamilton chose Horatia.

Nelson’s letters poorly masked his parental concern for Horatia and the naval censors probably noticed that. He also made some changes to his will, establishing a trust fund for the little girl, stating however that she was not his daughter, but, as he also wrote to one of his nieces, a “dear little orphan” whose parents were “lost.”
Then they continued their elaborate web of lies, also to protect her from the social stigma of illegitimacy. Therefore they pretended not only that they were taking care of the daughter of their unfortunate (and fictitious) friends, the Thompsons, but also that Horatia had been born in the last quarter of the previous year, while they were abroad, in Vienna, thereby preventing Emma from being considered her mother.

When she was baptized two years later as Horatia Nelson Thompson (the surname of the “godfather” Nelson was also added on that occasion), the date of birth on her baptismal register was listed as 29 October 1800.
This time they had even persuaded Admiral Thompson of Portsmouth to pretend to be the ‘fake father’, and it was not until 50 years after Horatia’s birth that her real parents were publicly certified.
At first she was presented to the world as Nelson’s ward, and it is possible that Emma died without openly revealing her that she was her mother.

A few days after her birth, on a cold February night , Emma concealed the baby in a large muff and delivered her to the home of a wet-nurse called Mrs Gibson, who had been recommended to her by a close friend.

She led her to believe that a “Mrs. Thompson” was Horatia’s absent mother and that the baby had been born in October. This puzzled the nurse, who was familiar with babies, and saw this one looked only a few days old, but, at Emma’s insistence, she let it go, while Lady Hamilton quickly drove away in a waiting carriage. On the other hand, she was being paid handsomely for her discretion.
What she couldn’t imagine was that Horatia had been part of a twin birth.

To be continued

Nelson ed Emma si scambiarono molte lettere, in una delle quali le dichiarò che lei che era sua moglie “ai miei occhi e di fronte al cielo”. Tuttavia stavano sempre molto attenti a non scrivere nulla di compromettente, temendo che la loro corrispondenza, se intercettata, avrebbe potuto danneggiarli. Sapevano bene che avere un figlio fuori dal matrimonio era inaccettabile.
Pertanto escogitarono uno stratagemma: l’utilizzo di una specie di codice segreto per poter parlare liberamente della gravidanza .
L’ammiraglio le scriveva fingendo che le sue lettere gli fossero dettate da un marinaio sotto il suo comando di nome Thompson, la cui moglie incinta era sotto la protezione di Emma.
Ma a volte si confondeva sul fatto che stesse scrivendo per conto del marinaio immaginario, ad esempio quando scrisse “cosa posso dire di più, solo di baciare suo figlio per lui e amarlo sinceramente e fedelmente come lui ama te.

Il 29 gennaio 1801, poco dopo la sua partenza per andare a combattere i danesi a Copenaghen, Emma diede alla luce in gran segreto una bambina, assistita dalla sua stretta alleata, sua madre, la signora Cadogan, nella casa di Londra di Sir William, a Piccadilly. Per coprire il parto, dichiarò di essere costretta a letto per tre giorni perché aveva “un fortissimo raffreddore”.

Nelson desiderava che la figlia fosse chiamata Emma, ma Lady Hamilton scelse Horatia.

Le lettere di Nelson celavano a malapena le sue preoccupazioni per Horatia e i censori navali probabilmente se ne accorsero. Apportò anche alcune modifiche al testamento, istituendo un fondo fiduciario per la piccola, affermando tuttavia che non era sua figlia ma, come scrisse anche a una nipote “una cara piccola orfana”, i cui genitori erano “scomparsi”.
Poi i due continuarono nella loro elaborata rete di menzogne, anche per proteggere Horatia dallo stigma sociale dell’illegittimità. Finsero quindi non solo di prendersi cura della figlia dei loro sfortunati (e fittizi) amici, i Thompson, ma anche che Horatia fosse nata nell’ultimo trimestre dell’anno precedente mentre loro erano a Vienna, per cui Emma non avrebbe potuto esserne considerata la madre.

Quando fu battezzata due anni dopo come Horatia Nelson Thompson, occasione in cui venne aggiunto anche il cognome del “padrino” Nelson, la data di nascita nel registro battesimale veniva riportata come 29 ottobre 1800. Questa volta erano anche riusciti a convincere l’ammiraglio Thompson di Portsmouth a prestarsi a essere il “falso padre”, e fu solo 50 anni dopo la nascita di Horatia che ne vennero pubblicamente indicati i reali genitori.
All’inizio veniva presentata al mondo come la pupilla di Nelson, ed è probabile che Emma sia morta senza rivelarle apertamente di essere sua madre.

Pochi giorni dopo la sua nascita, in una fredda notte di febbraio, Emma nascose la bambina in un ampio manicotto e la consegnò a casa di una balia chiamata Mrs Gibson, che le era stata consigliata da una cara amica.
Le fece credere che una certa “signora Thompson” fosse la madre assente di Horatia e che la bimba fosse venuta al mondo in ottobre. Questo lasciò sconcertata la bambinaia, che era pratica di bambini e vedeva che questa sembrava avere solo pochi giorni di vita, ma, data l’insistenza di Emma, lasciò perdere, mentre Lady Hamilton se ne andò rapidamente con una carrozza che era rimasta in attesa. D’altronde, veniva pagata profumatamente per la sua discrezione.

Quello che non poteva immaginare era che Horatia avesse una gemella.

continua

Image: antique photograph of a portrait of Horatia Nelson as a child from the Style/Ward Family collection.
(Lilystyle, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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75 thoughts on “Lady Hamilton & Horatio Nelson: Horatia (part 26)

    1. I search on the net, thinking about the convenience of having everything at hand with a click, and thanking heaven for that. On the contrary, while I was writing my university thesis on Lord Byron in Ravenna, almost fifty years ago, I was forced to travel to various cities, search libraries, take notes by hand,,,, 😘😘😘

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  1. Luisa ! Sometimes secret is self-revealed . That’s why Nelson wrote in his letter ,’In my eyes and in the face of heaven’ , she (Emma) was his wife . Emma concealed pregnancy and she gave birth to a girl child in a very secret manner . And Horatia , literally means ‘Timekeeper’, was the daughter of a devil mother Emma and a giant father Nelson. But the world knew this secret after fifty years . A Latin origin word Horatia has been derived from the word ‘Hora’ which means ‘ hour , time , season ‘. Even in the Sanskrit language ‘Hora’ means hour or time as such . But the name Horatia may be of Etruscan origin . Anyway , unfortunate baby had a fortunate parents . Despite that a mark of an illegitimate child loomed large over Horatia throughout her life . Thanks !

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  2. Thank you so much for the story written so interesting and sad moments 🌷🙏👍🏻
    Emma gave birth a beautiful girl and she want to hide the child for the sake ,
    After that she will die? Want to Wait then ✌🏼😊 grace wishes dear friend 🌷🙏♥️🌷

    Liked by 2 people

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