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Horatio Nelson (1758–1805)

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A naval hero
Known for
Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson (1758-1805)
View full size imageRear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) © NMM

He became the most popular British hero of his time. His victories were the brightest point in long years of war with France, and caught the public imagination.

The government helped create a Nelson legend, portraying him as a model of duty and devotion to the country, and ignoring his failures.

Nelson remains famous to this day, and his message to the fleet at Trafalgar - urging every man to do his duty - is still well known.

Port connection

Nelson's funeral procession on the Thames.
View full size imageNelson's funeral procession on the Thames. © NMM
Nelson's most important connection with the port came after his death. He was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in London, after a colourful state funeral starting in Greenwich.

His coffin lay in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital before a grand procession up the Thames. 


Huge crowds attended five days of ceremonies, showing the widespread affection in which the dead hero was held.

Interesting facts

Lady Hamilton (as a Bacchante)
View full size imageLady Hamilton (as a Bacchante) © NMM
Although Nelson regarded Emma and Horatia as ‘the two people I hold most dear in the world’, Horatia’s birth was kept a secret because Nelson and Emma were not married.

Nelson’s bloodstained stockings and breeches from the Battle of Trafalgar are on permanent display at the National Maritime Museum.

He is commemorated by Nelson’s Column, one of London’s most famous landmarks. It was planned in 1838 and finished 11 years later. It stands in Trafalgar Square, named after Nelson’s greatest triumph.

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Life story
1758Born in Norfolk, the son of a country parson.
1771Joined the navy aged 12 as a captain’s servant.
1777He passes an examination to become a lieutenant.
1779Receives promotion to post captain.
1787Marries Frances Nisbet.
1793Takes command of HMS 'Agamemnon'.
1797After the Battle of St Vincent, Nelson is created Knight of the Bath and promoted to Rear Admiral.
1798Begins an affair with the married Lady Emma Hamilton. Becomes Baron Nelson of the Nile after defeating the French at Aboukir Bay.
1801The Battle of Copenhagen. Lady Hamilton gives birth to his daughter, Horatia.
1803Nelson is made Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He sets up house with Lady Hamilton at Merton Place.
1805He is killed on board the 'Victory' during the crushing defeat of the French and Spansih fleets at Trafalgar.
1806Receives a state funeral on the Thames.
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Find out more
StoriesThe state funeral of Lord Nelson, 5-9 January 1806
Britain's greatest naval hero is buried in London
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StoriesThe 18th-century port
London becomes a centre of finance, commerce and industry
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GalleriesRanks in Nelson's navy
The crew of a typical warship from the Napoleonic era, from the officers to the common sailors
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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