Norfolk

Lord Nelson love child letter for sale

Love child letter Image copyright Christie's
Image caption The love child letter was posted just a fortnight after Horatia was born

A letter from Lord Nelson to Lady Emma Hamilton, sent just a fortnight after the birth of a "secret" love child, is up for auction.

Christie's in London said it could fetch between £10,000 and £15,000.

The missive tells of his fears for their clandestine affair and the interception of their correspondence.

In the letter dated 12 February 1801, Nelson explains a midshipman posted a previous letter at Brixham but fears it may have been intercepted.

Their child Horatia was born on 29 January 1801 just a fortnight before Nelson wrote the letter.

He writes: "The mid assures me he untied the red tape and put the three letters into the Post Office. I therefore hope it is come to hand, if not it is intercepted."

The couple pretended that Horatia was the daughter of a fictitious Portsmouth Admiral named Thomson and that they were the child's godparents.

Image copyright Royal navy museum

Nelson was a national hero

Born in Norfolk on 29 September 1758, Horatio Nelson was a naval captain by 21, known throughout Europe by 39 and dead at 47

Won three of the most decisive naval victories in British history at the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and Trafalgar (1805)

Nelson was seriously wounded four times and famously killed by a French sniper aboard HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar

Among his dying words were to ask his devoted Flag Captain Thomas Hardy to kiss him - a fact that Victorian historians tried to suppress

Nelson was blind in his right eye but, contrary to popular myth, did not wear an eye patch. He also lost his right arm as a result of battle

Source: BBC History

In the letter Nelson writes of himself in code: "Mrs Thomson's friend desires you will assure her of his unalterable and affectionate regard and begs she will be assured that all the world cannot either change or make him wish to change for a moment and that he is unalterably hers."

He ends by asking Lady Hamilton: "Kiss my god child."

Auctioneers Christie's said: "The letter betrays some of the insecurities that beset the couple, including the constant fear that one of their letters - full of thinly-veiled affection with neither party well disguised by their use of the 'Thomson' alias - would fall into strange hands.

"From his proclamations of affection it also seems that Emma, or 'Mrs Thomson' as she appears here, had questioned Nelson's devotion.

"Accusations of emotional infidelity and neglect recur throughout their correspondence and saw him whipped into agonies of jealousy and despair.

"Based in England during the final negotiations of the Peace of Amiens, Nelson could frequently visit Emma and play some part in the life of his illegitimate daughter, Horatia."

A spokesman for Christie's said the current owner of the letter is a private collector who wants to remain anonymous.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites