Letters show how cash-strapped Nelson had explosive row with his commanding officer


Blackleaf
#1
Fascinating letters revealing how a cash-strapped Admiral Lord Nelson had an explosive row with his commanding officer over prize money have come to light.

The historical notes show the true extent of the financial pressures Nelson was facing as he struggled to support both his ex-wife and expensive mistress.

The documents from Nelson's banker relate to the much-needed reward the one-armed sailor felt he was due in the wake of one of the most lucrative naval engagements in history.

Fascinating letters show Admiral Nelson accusing his commander of turning a blind eye to £65m prize money he was owed (well he did have a wife and a pricey mistress to support)


Uncovered letters show a major rift between the admiral and his officer

The sailor had recovered £65m worth of gold but missed out on prize money

The coup is one of the most lucrative naval engagements of all-time

Historian said Nelson was 'desperate for cash' by this stage in his life

Letters were discovered by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth


By Katie French For Mailonline
17 March 2017

Fascinating letters revealing how a cash-strapped Admiral Lord Nelson had an explosive row with his commanding officer over prize money have come to light.

The historical notes show the true extent of the financial pressures Nelson was facing as he struggled to support both his ex-wife and expensive mistress.

The documents from Nelson's banker relate to the much-needed reward the one-armed sailor felt he was due in the wake of one of the most lucrative naval engagements in history.

Nelson had been overlooked for a payout for the 1799 capture of two Spanish frigates loaded with gold bullion which had a combined value of £650,000 - £65 million in today's money.


Love affair: Lord Nelson (right) was enchanted by Emma Hamilton (left), a model and muse, whose real name was Amy Lyon but she caused him money woes with her expensive ways


Revealed: The letters from Nelson's angered banker relate to the bounty money the one-armed sailor felt he was owed after leading one of the most lucrative naval engagements in history. He had been overlooked for a payout for the 1799 capture of two Spanish frigates loaded with gold bullion which had a combined value of £650,000 - £65m in today's money

Instead the £13,000 - £1.1 million today - went to Admiral John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent, who had been the Royal Navy's Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean.

Nelson, who by this stage had to pay a hefty mortgage on his grand home in Surrey, was in debt to ex-wife Fanny and had to keep mistress Emma Hamilton in the style she was accustomed to, was livid.

At the time of the capture of the Spanish ships, Nelson was the unofficial Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean after Jervis had left his post and returned to England due to ill health.

But Jervis had not officially resigned and so was technically still in the position. This meant he pocketed the C-in-C's share of the reward.

Desperate for cash to pay his bills, Nelson appealed the payout and instructed his banker Alexander Davison to take up the case.

The series of 1801 documents that has emerged for sale are those exchanged between Davison, Royal Navy officials and Lord Jervis's secretary.

One 30 page document to the officials warns them his client has a very strong case and that if the matter is not resolved soon Nelson would make the ugly row public.

Part of the letter reads: 'I beg to acquaint you, that Lord Nelson has taken the opinion of several eminent counsel on the adverse claims of Lord St Vincent... all of which opinions are clearly and decidedly in favour of Lord Nelson.'

It concludes with a veiled threat that Nelson 'would not without extreme reluctance adopt any measures which might lead to a public and unpleasant discussion of the matter.'


Caught between two roses: Admiral Nelson bore the financial burden of having to support his expensive mistress Emma Hamilton while he was still in debt to his ex-wife Fanny (above)

Within Davison's aggrieving 30 page appeal are prize money figures from other engagements, illustrating how Nelson had been continually shortchanged.

One such document is headed: 'To show how little prize money he received in proportion to other admirals.'

Figures beneath show that at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 and the Battle of the Nile in 1798 Jervis's takings were five times that of Nelson.

The second letter was sent from Davison to Nelson, reassuring him that he will ultimately be successful in getting what he was due.


The British decisively defeated the French in the 1798 Battle of the Nile in the French Revolutionary Wars


The case was finally resolved in 1803 with the King's Bench finding in Nelson's favour and awarding him just under £10,000 prize money in total.

Nelson only had two years to enjoy his money as he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805.

Nigel Kirk, of Nottingham auctioneers Mellors and Kirk, which is selling the letters on behalf of a private collector, said: 'These documents are of immense historical interest.

'Nelson clearly had a grievance and felt he was due some of the money Jervis had been granted.

'Davison's papers make the case his client had been hard done by.


Collection: The historical documents show a fascinating row between Lord Admiral and his commanding officer


Discovered: Andrew Baines (pictured above in the Great Cabin of HMS Victory, the world's oldest warship still in service), head of historic ships at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, said: 'In order to encourage Royal Navy officers and men, it was the practice to award prize money for captured ships, based on the value of the ship and its cargo'

He said: 'The fact Nelson had Davison pen these letters is a testament to the strength of their relationship. They had an immense amount of trust in one another.

'Davison was in total awe of his friend and regarded him as the country's greatest leader.

'There is of course always a huge amount of interest in items relating to Nelson, one of Britain's most iconic figures throughout history.'

The engagement in question occurred in October 1799 close to the Spanish naval port of Vigo.

Enemy treasure ships Thetis and Santa Brigida were spotted by British frigates as they travelled across the Atlantic from the colonies of New Spain.

Four British vessels blocked the opposition in and after a short engagement both were captured.


Dispute: At the time of the capture of the Spanish ships, Nelson was the unofficial Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean after Jervis (pictured) had left his post and returned to England due to ill health

After being transported to Plymouth the eventual value of their cargo was assessed as one of the largest hauls of prize money ever recorded.

Andrew Baines, head of historic ships at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, said: 'In order to encourage Royal Navy officers and men, it was the practice to award prize money for captured ships, based on the value of the ship and its cargo.

'This prize money was divided by eighths, and distributed to the officers and crew of the ship and the Commander-in-Chief of the station where the ship was based'

He said the 'sloppy way' the government handled command of the Mediterranean station in 1799 was at the root of the issue. He added: 'In many ways, Britain was lucky that the lack of clarity only gave rise to court cases, rather than defeats at sea.'

Nelson bought grand Merton Place in Surrey in 1801 and lived there with Emma, her cuckolded husband Sir William and Emma's mother.

Mr Baines said: 'By this stage Nelson is getting desperate for cash. His mortgage on Merton, for £2,000, was due to be repaid by September 1802.

'He had the costs of running the Merton estate and he was also making payments to his wife Fanny who he was separated. Emma also had notoriously expensive tastes.'

Davison's papers documenting the dispute will be sold on March 22 for an estimated £3,000.


Read more: Lord Nelson's letters reveal fight with commanding officer | Daily Mail Online
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Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 18th, 2017 at 06:10 AM..
 
Curious Cdn
#2
Fascinating letters show Admiral Nelson accusing his commander of turning a blind eye to £65m prize money he was owed (well he did have a wife and a pricey mistress to support)
I will skip the obvious pun about Nelson turning HIS blind eye ...

Everybody remembers Horatio as perhaps the greatest of British heroes but no one remembers his commander. Nelson probably had a point.
 
Danbones
#3
he must have

he won
 
Blackleaf
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious CdnView Post

Fascinating letters show Admiral Nelson accusing his commander of turning a blind eye to £65m prize money he was owed (well he did have a wife and a pricey mistress to support)
I will skip the obvious pun about Nelson turning HIS blind eye ...

Everybody remembers Horatio as perhaps the greatest of British heroes but no one remembers his commander. Nelson probably had a point.

Jervis was a fine commander, but it is Nelson who became the national hero because of his victory over the French at Trafalgar, in which he decisively ended Old Boney's British invasion plans and, in true British hero style, getting killed in the process.
 
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