Drama documentary. Horatio Nelson was Britain's greatest naval hero, famed for his dashing heroics, but his passionate love affair with Emma Hamilton changed his life forever.
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31st October 1805.
Battle of Trafalgar.
Dispatch from Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood.
It is my duty to inform the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty
of the ever to be lamented death
of Vice Admiral Nelson,
who in the late conflict with the enemy,
fell in the hour of victory...
I wish to be an admiral.
And in command of the English fleet.
I should very soon either do much,
or be ruined.
If it be a sin to covet glory,
I am the most offending soul alive.
I am now...
perfectly the great man.
No separation, no time,
my only beloved Emma, can alter my love and affection for you.
Fresh breeze northeast, squalls with rain.
Exercise party of men with great guns.
In the early summer of 1798,
Horatio Nelson and his fleet of 13 men-of-war
left Gibraltar, heading east into the Mediterranean.
I am as ignorant of the situation of the enemy as I was 27 days ago.
We have been off Malta,
Syria, into Asia
without success. HE SIGHS
Yet no person will say it is for want of activity.
His quest was to find Napoleon Bonaparte...
..who had left France with an invasion force
of more than 40,000 men.
The problem was,
no-one knew where he'd gone.
Is he going to Portugal, is he going to Egypt, is he going to Ireland?
If they can get an army into Ireland,
they can open the back door to invade England.
Britain is finished.
You must hate the French like the devil.
My mother told me that.
Nelson's rise to such a prestigious command had been rapid.
But if he failed to find the French fleet,
his career would be finished.
God forbid it should so happen that the enemy escape me.
People had taken risks for him, they'd chosen him.
He needed to deliver the goods.
I only beg
that Your Lordship will always believe
I shall endeavour to prove myself worthy of your selection of me
for this highly honourable command.
Not a moment shall be lost in pursuing the enemy.
Failure would put at risk all that he had strived for
since he was a boy.
Horace Nelson was born in a small village
in the north Norfolk marshes in 1758...
..one of 11 children of an impoverished country parson.
He came from what in those days was called "the middling class."
This was a landless, property-less family
in an age when property mattered.
You needed what was called "interest" - that is, influence.
When Nelson was nine, his mother died.
His father, Edmund, was left to raise the large family.
His father was a bit distant and austere,
a difficult man as far as young children were concerned.
All we can say is that throughout his life,
Nelson felt a need for human warmth.
He felt a need to be loved, a need to be cared for,
and a need to be recognised and that was a powerful motor for him.
Escape from his emotionally distant father
came in the form of his uncle, Maurice Suckling,
a captain in the Navy.
Nelson joined his uncle's ship of the line as a midshipman.
He was just 12 years old.
The Navy was a brilliant way to actually get ahead in life
and everyone knew that.
It wasn't like the Army, where you had to be wealthy,
you had to buy a commission to become an officer.
You could become an officer,
you could gain very, very high levels within the Royal Navy
just by being very good at your job.
At 19, Nelson dispensed with the name Horace.
From now on, he called himself...
Two years later, he was made one of the youngest captains in the fleet.
Marriage to Frances Nisbet, the daughter of well-to-do colonials,
was another step up the social ladder.
My dearest Fanny...
..I wish to be an admiral.
And in command of the English fleet.
I should very soon either do much,
or be ruined.
War with France offered ambitious young officers like Nelson
the opportunity to make their names...
..against an enemy that had struck terror
into the hearts of Britain's ruling class.
For the first time,
a great European country is being run by a radical republican regime.
They're inspired by a rhetoric, by an agenda.
They're not fighting for their king and their country,
they're fighting for liberty, equality and freedom.
All of those things that a son of the church believed in -
constitution, King, country -
were threatened by the French Revolution.
Nelson quickly gained a reputation
for throwing himself into battle
and having an unquenchable thirst for fame.
..only of glory.
For if it be a sin to covet glory...
..I am the most offending soul alive.
In February 1797,
Nelson had grabbed the chance to shine.
Off the southwest corner of Portugal, at Cape St Vincent,
the British fleet confronted France's greatest ally,
This was the ultimate opportunity as far as Nelson was concerned
and at Cape St Vincent, he excelled himself.
He attacked a Spanish 80-gun ship.
His ship was much, much smaller.
Nevertheless, Nelson brought his own ship alongside
and he boarded that ship.
Then from that ship, he boarded another,
even bigger Spanish ship, a huge three-decker,
in person, and as a flag officer, leading such a charge
was a unique event in naval history.
No-one had done it before.
"Sir, the hopes of falling in with the Spanish fleet
"expressed in my letter to you..."
Immediately after the victory,
Nelson had been handed the battle report
that his commander, Admiral John Jervis,
had written for his superiors back in London.
"..which had the good fortune..." Good fortune?
"..to arrive up with the enemy by the larboard tack..."
Jervis wrote a very prosaic, uncomplicated dispatch
and didn't do justice to Nelson at all in it.
"The ships were captured and the action ceased at five o'clock."
This upset Nelson greatly.
He's not relying any more upon his superiors to do him justice.
He'll do himself justice.
A few remarks relative to myself...
..in the captain
in which my pendant was flying
on that most glorious Valentine's Day, 1797.
A soldier of the 61st Regiment,
having broke the upper quarter-gallery window,
I jumped in myself.
GUNFIRE AND SHOUTING I pushed onwards to the quarterdeck,
where I found Captain Berry in possession of the poop.
A fire of pistols opening from the admiral's stern gallery.
I directed the soldiers to fire upon her stern...
..and on the quarterdeck of a Spanish first-rate,
extravagant as the story may seem,
did I receive the swords of the vanquished Spaniards.
Nelson's report was published in full in a national newspaper.
His reputation for dash-and-glory heroics fed a war-weary public
eager for good news.
He knew that that PR was critical to get him to the status of hero.
Glory is my object.
And that alone.
Six months later, he was forced to write to Admiral Jervis
with the news of the high price that came with chasing glory.
..I am under the painful necessity of acquainting you
that we have not been able to succeed in our attack.
Leading the assault on Santa Cruz in Tenerife,
Nelson's forces were beaten back by the heavily armed Spaniards.
Nelson was shot in the right arm,
which was amputated shortly afterwards.
When I leave your command...
..I become dead to the world.
I go from hence and I'm no more seen.
It's a very interesting letter, that,
because it reveals two sides of Nelson's character.
Yes, he could be courageous and he could lead people in battle,
but he was also quite sly and cunning and manipulative.
You will excuse my scrawl...
STRAINED: ..considering it is my first...
It's almost like a child saying,
"I'm terrible, I can't do this any more,"
waiting for someone to reassure them,
say, "No, it's absolutely fine.
"You're still competent, we still want you in the Navy,
"we'll go and give you a command. Having one arm is not a problem."
Britain was equally fragile.
Her European allies had deserted her.
At home, the war was increasingly unpopular.
In December 1797,
Nelson, still in agony from his amputation,
attended a Thanksgiving service at St Paul's
that the government hoped would boost the nation's flagging morale.
Spanish, French and Dutch emblems are brought in
and they're laid up in honour and glory in this great cathedral
that belongs to the city of London.
That's what these wars are about - it's about power and money.
If Britain doesn't have an empire
and doesn't have connections of trade with the rest of the world,
it is not going to be a very powerful country.
Nelson understands that connection -
the city, the sea, the Navy,
British Empire. These all fit together.
Standing close to Nelson was William Pitt, the Prime Minister.
Pitt had recently learned that Napoleon was assembling
a massive invasion force in the Mediterranean
that threatened Britain and its empire.
We can't talk to these people, we can't negotiate with them.
We're going to have to destroy them.
They're a virus and they threaten everything that we stand for.
Pitt sent Nelson south with one mission -
to hunt the French down and destroy them.
Many hundred pieces of artillery, wagons, draft horses, cavalry,
artificers, naturalists, astronomers, mathematicians...
After six weeks searching the Mediterranean,
there was still no sign of Napoleon's fleet.
But Nelson had a hunch as to where the French had gone.
..the westerly winds so strongly prevail between Sicily
and the Coast of Barbary that I conceive it almost impossible
to get a fleet of ships to the westward.
He summoned his captains onto his flagship.
They were the cream of the British Navy.
Among them were the Welshman Thomas Foley,
the outspoken and energetic Benjamin Hallowell,
and his most senior captain,
the aristocratic James Saumarez.
Nelson dubbed them
his "band of brothers".
He invited them to his table
and talked about the tactics he was going to employ,
the mission that was before them.
He asked for their opinions and ideas and they loved that.
A lot of these officers really loved being part
of a closely knit team like this.
It really is what you call the Nelson touch.
He told them he believed Napoleon's goal wasn't Britain,
That meant the French would have to put ashore
I therefore determine...
..with the opinion of those captains in whom I place great confidence...
..to go to Alexandria.
He was right.
But by the time Nelson reached Alexandria,
the French army had already disembarked.
What remained, however, was Napoleon's fleet,
harboured at Abu Qir Bay.
He wasn't taking any chances. He didn't even wait for daylight.
He just went in to do the business.
They fought until the French flagship, the L'Orient, blew up.
Everyone was in shock.
It was a terrible demonstration of what British gunnery could do.
5,000 Frenchmen died that night.
All but two of their ships were destroyed.
The British lost 900 men.
Nelson, too, was wounded
when a piece of shrapnel opened up a deep wound in his skull.
almighty God has blessed His Majesty's arms in the late battle
with a great victory over the fleet of the enemy.
Nelson had transformed the balance of power.
He had reenergised the British war effort.
The Nile is the greatest naval victory in the 18th century.
Nothing could withstand the squadron that Your Lordship did me the honour
to place under my command.
Their high state of discipline, together with their valour,
was absolutely irresistible.
Could anything from my pen add to the character of my captains, I would write it with pleasure.
But that is impossible.
In fact, Nelson's letter to Earl St Vincent was careful in how
much praise he gave to his band of brothers.
It was traditional to name and to thank your second in command,
who was James Saumarez, during the battle.
Nelson deliberately doesn't mention Saumarez because he sees him
as a threat, I think.
He sees him as another ambitious man and he knows that after
the Battle of the Nile he has just made a huge leap forward.
He then abuses that new position by further stamping down on those
who might genuinely expect to receive laurels and rewards
and honour and glory.
Two months later, Nelson's battle-scarred fleet
limped into the Bay of Naples
to report the news of the victory...
..and that Napoleon had been left stranded in Egypt.
The whole of Naples,
particularly the English residents who have been terrified because
nobody knows where the French are, were absolutely thrilled.
On board his flagship, Nelson received
a letter from the wife of Britain's Ambassador to Naples,
Lady Emma Hamilton.
"How shall I begin? What shall I say to you?
"I am delirious with joy
"and I assure you I have a fervour caused by agitation and pleasure.
"God, what a victory."
The Hamiltons were the first aboard Nelson's flagship.
William Hamilton said to Nelson, "You are now an immortal.
"You will live for ever."
Naples opened its arms to Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson,
Knight Bachelor, Neapolitan Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit,
Turkish Order of the Crescent.
I must endeavour to convey to you something of what passed.
Sir William and Lady Hamilton had really been laid up,
seriously ill, first from anxiety, and then from joy.
It was imprudently told Lady Hamilton in a moment of our victory
and the effect was like a shot.
The scene on the boat was terribly affecting.
Up flew her ladyship and exclaiming,
"Oh, God, is it possible?" she fell into my arm, more dead than alive.
Nelson is absolutely thrilled with this response.
She is responding as he would really like the world to do.
The Hamiltons invited Nelson to stay with them at their villa.
Lady Hamilton made Nelson bathe in asses' milk to soothe his wounds.
It's balm to this man who has just not felt appreciated, which is
unfair because his wife
has done her duty by him all these years,
but she has tended to write letters on the lines of,
"It's very cold here in Burnham Thorpe and I'm wearing two sets of flannel drawers."
Emma Hamilton could not have been more different.
Born into rural poverty in Cheshire, she had risen from West End
courtesan to being the toast of Neapolitan society.
As Sir William's much younger wife, she was famous in Naples
for entertaining guests with her flamboyant classical poses.
She was a knockout beauty,
although her figure, which was the talk of Europe, is now an ample
but well-shaped figure.
She is this angelic creature who just wants to look after him.
I trust you will not think that one spark of vanity induces me
to mention the most distinguished reception that ever
I believe fell to the lot of a human being. 80 people dined at Sir William's.
1,740 came to a ball. 800 supped.
Conducted in such a style...
..that I neither asked, nor solicited for such an honour.
One of the things about Naples was it took Nelson at his own
estimation of his worth and he loved that.
The tiny kingdom of Naples
and Sicily was Britain's only ally in the Mediterranean.
Nelson was ordered by his commanding officer, Lord St Vincent,
to remain in Naples and given a new role,
to deepen Britain's links with the Neapolitan monarchy.
The Hamiltons would help, particularly Emma,
who was close to the Queen.
It's a very small circle
and at the core of it is Maria Carolina, the Queen of Naples,
who's a rather sort of Cruella de Vil character in a way.
But she charms Nelson into this extraordinary submission
and you feel that in Nelson's submission there's a sort of anger
against the British establishment who haven't recognised him.
I have not received a line from England since the 1st of October.
Lord St Vincent is in no hurry to oblige me now.
I am got, he fancies, too near him in reputation.
In short...I am the envied man.
There's this continuing emotional vulnerability which required
He brooded over every fancied slight.
Nelson soon began to find that managing Neapolitan politics
was more complicated than running a quarterdeck of a British
Politically it was corrupt, it was inefficient, it was ramshackle.
This country by a system of procrastination will ruin itself.
The strong language of an English admiral telling them
plain truths of their miserable system may do good.
To help him navigate, Nelson relied on Emma Hamilton, who was
fluent both in the language and the ways of the court.
Emma Hamilton is in a very particular position.
She is a confidant of the Queen of Naples. The King is a buffoon.
This means that for a late-18th century woman,
she's in an enormously powerful position.
I hope some day to have the pleasure of introducing you to Lady Hamilton.
She is one of the very best women in this world.
She is an honour to her sex.
Their relationship deepened as Nelson began to share
the burdens of command with Emma.
Vanguard, May 19th, 1799.
Eight o'clock. Calm.
My dear Lady Hamilton...
..to tell you how dreary...
..to tell you how dreary and uncomfortable the Vanguard appears...
..is only telling you what it is to go from friends,
what it is to go from the dearest friends
to no friends.
This change in Nelson allowed him a kind of release of pressure.
And it gave space for
private feelings that then developed, or exploded.
Nelson was in love with the idea of himself as a hero.
And Emma was in love with him, the hero.
That's where they met, in a field of glory,
and she couldn't do enough
to feed him admiration and he was...
This sort of starvation within him, he couldn't get enough of it.
As Nelson and Emma's love affair intensified, civil war broke
out in Naples between republicans and forces loyal to the monarchy.
The Queen of Naples requested Nelson help put down the republican revolt.
The Queen sees it and thinks as we do.
War at this moment can alone save these kingdoms.
Nelson was furious to discover that a peace agreement had been
signed allowing defeated republicans to leave the city as free men.
He arrested dozens, incarcerating some on British ships
and ordered the court martial of one of the rebel leaders.
I hate rebels.
I hate traitors.
Two of Nelson's captains, members of his band of brothers,
protested that Nelson was honour bound to abide by the agreement.
Nelson was adamant his decision was in keeping with what the
Has she ruled against me?
I am determined to obey my orders.
Right or wrong...
..they shall be done.
I will be obeyed.
With Emma at his side, Nelson convened the court martial
on his flagship, certain that he was doing the Queen's bidding.
Within a day, the republican leader was found guilty and hanged.
She would have been pressing Nelson to support the royal family's
position to the hilt.
Nelson fell into a trap where his feeling
for Emma incorporated Emma's feeling for the Queen.
I mean, it was quite crazy.
Nelson's loyalty to the King and Queen of Naples was rewarded
with a title, the Duke of Bronte, and a Sicilian estate.
Last night I did nothing but dream of you.
I thought I was at a large table, he was not present,
sitting between a princess who I detest and another.
They both tried to seduce me.
And the first wanted to take those liberties with me
which no woman but yourself ever did.
The consequence was, I knocked her down and in the moment of bustle
you came in...
..and taking me into your embrace whispered,
"I love no-one but you, my Nelson."
I kissed you fervently. And we enjoyed the height of love.
No suppression, no time, my only beloved Emma, can alter
my love and affection for you.
You are my guide, I submit to you.
Nelson became disobedient,
refusing an order from his commander-in-chief to move his fleet to Minorca.
The Admiralty's patience snapped and he was ordered home.
He took it all personally. He rejected it all.
And that illustrated the beginnings of a
serious criticism of Nelson's
leadership that was beginning to develop in the British High Command.
The Hamiltons were also recalled.
They all left together,
a scene described by the British general Sir John Moore.
"He's covered with stars, ribbons and medals,
"more like the Prince of the Opera than the conqueror of the Nile.
"It is really melancholy to see a brave and good man who has
"deserved well of his country cutting so pitiful a figure."
Back in Britain, Nelson's affair
with Emma Hamilton was openly ridiculed.
He was an outsider among the upper classes and he felt that.
Particularly in Britain, of course, he felt his social inferiority.
Feeling society's cold reproach, Nelson struggled over what to
do with his failing marriage.
I don't think he knew how to handle the relationship he'd left behind.
He seems to have thought that somehow
he and Fanny could become a foursome with the Hamiltons and that
somehow they could avoid a separation, which is a ridiculous notion.
He tried to hide the affair by burning Emma's letters.
But it was pointless.
Emma was pregnant with their child.
He had always wanted a child.
She had given him the one thing that he wanted.
So there was no looking back, there was no going back on that relationship.
In January 1801, Nelson informed Fanny that their marriage was over.
I don't think there's ever been a more public humiliation,
just treats her with absolute cruelty.
Nelson's career was also in the balance.
He had become a problem for the Admiralty.
They don't know what to do with him. There is a war on.
They can't do without him,
but they don't want to give him independent command.
It was as if they dare not let him off the leash on his own.
Nelson was ordered back to sea to join the Baltic fleet,
not in command, but under a less experienced admiral.
He had been overlooked.
These fears of failure
and the desire to prove himself to his superiors had all come back.
I literally feel as a fish out of water.
Enough snows and rains and nearly calm.
Despite Emma's pregnancy, Nelson had left England uncertain
if she would risk society's disapproval to be with him.
He was insecure in his position in the Navy and so,
the elements of insecurity in his relationship to Lady Hamilton
became even worse for him.
I am sure my love and desires are all to you.
And if any woman, naked, were to come to me,
I hope it might rot off
that I might touch her,
even with my hand.
Nelson had been at sea for a month
when Emma wrote that she had been visited by the Prince of Wales,
a man known for his philandering and string of mistresses.
I knew he would visit you!
His words are so charming that I am told no person can withstand them.
My poor heart keep in my breast. Be calm.
Emma is true.
Yet no-one, not even Emma,
could resist the serpent's flattering tongue.
Do not sit long at the table.
He will be next to you.
And telling you soft things.
Oh, God, that I were dead!
I am gone almost mad...
..he shall put his foot near you.
Do not say a word you can to him.
He wishes, I dare say, to have you alone.
Don't let him touch.
Nor yet sit next to you. If he comes, get up.
God strike him blind if he looks at you!
This is high treason.
You may get me hanged for revealing it. Oh, God!
That I were dead!
Why do I live?
The fleet was ordered to Copenhagen to put a stop to the Danes
shipping French merchandise.
Powerless in his personal life,
Nelson focused instead on what he could control.
Copenhagen is a unique battle in Nelson's career.
It's the one battle where he completely controls everything that
happens by signal and ensures that nobody is using their initiative.
His tactics of surprise
and overwhelming firepower were classic Nelson.
And in less than three hours, the Danes were routed.
Exhausted and still depressed, Nelson asked to be relieved.
But with the French still posing a threat,
the admiralty kept him at sea.
I have never known happiness...beyond moments.
I am tired to death.
That winter, Nelson's life changed for ever.
Emma had given birth to a baby girl.
She named her Horatia.
He couldn't marry her because of their situation,
but that was the cement for the relationship and it gave him...
As he said, you gave me what I always wanted
and what no-one else had ever done.
Kiss my dear, dear child for me.
And be assured that I am for ever, ever...ever your...
More than ever yours... Yours.
Your own... Only your Nelson...
Emma wrote to Nelson that she had found him a home...
a large Georgian property close to the centre of London.
He put one very telling phrase in one of his letters to Emma.
He said, "We shall have none of the great here."
In other words, we don't want any of these big people here.
We will invite the people we like and who like us.
It will be our place.
Have we a nice church at Merton?
We will set an example of goodness to the other parishioners.
I admire the pigs and poultry.
Sheep are certainly most beneficial to eat off the grass.
Nelson arrived at Merton in the summer of 1801.
It was his first real home since going to sea 30 years earlier.
Emma had filled it with paintings of Nelson and paintings
of his battles and bits and pieces from all the battles he had fought.
We know that there was a lightning conductor from the French
flagship L'Orient, the big ship that exploded at the Nile.
He kept that by the front door.
And it was a piece that everyone wanted to talk about,
or he wanted everyone to talk about.
I think in Merton, he was satisfied he had found a place and a community
of people that he loved and he really had something to live for.
After Sir William Hamilton died,
Merton became the refuge that both Nelson and Emma had longed for.
'I think I have not lost my heart, since I with truth can swear'
at every moment of my life, I feel my Nelson there.
If from thine Emma's breast, her heart was stolen or flown away,
where...where should she,
my Nelson's love, record each happy day?
Then do not rob me of my heart,
unless you first forsake it.
And then so wretched it will be.
Despair alone will take it.
Nelson and Emma had been at Merton for a year
when the call of duty came again.
In the summer of 1803,
Nelson was given the command he had always wanted...
..Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean fleet.
It's his theatre and he is the admiral who has both the skills
and the reputation for finding and fighting the enemy.
My dearest Emma...
..I believe my arrival was most welcome.
The Nelson touch
was like an electric shock.
Some shed tears.
He knew that the British Empire could never rest safe
until the French and Spanish Navies had been dealt with.
We are moving slowly, direct for Toulon.
What force they have, I know not.
I do not think it will be a long war.
But it was a long war.
Nelson would stay at sea for two years,
waiting for the French to leave port.
The promise of getting home fuelled a constant stream of letters.
My dearest Emma,
I will not have you lay out more than is necessary at Merton.
The rooms and the new entrance will take a good deal of money.
I also beg that as my dear Horatia is to be at Merton,
that a strong netting, about three feet high,
be placed around the river,
that the little thing may not tumble in.
Then, you may have ducks in it again.
I shall be very anxious until I know this is done.
After two years, the French fleet finally left port.
In the autumn of 1805,
Nelson cornered them off the southwest coast of Spain.
At Cape Trafalgar, before battle commenced, Nelson wrote to Emma.
The thoughts of such happiness, my dearest only beloved,
makes the blood fly into my head.
But the call of our country
is a duty which...you would deservedly in the cool
moments of reflection reprobate were I to abandon.
And I should feel so disgraced by seeing you ashamed of me,
no longer saying, "This is the man who has saved his country."
I shall, my best beloved,
if it please God, return a victor
and it will be my study to transmit an unsullied name.
Ever... For ever, I am yours.
Even beyond this world.
Ten minutes before the first gunfire,
Nelson issued his final signal to the fleet...
..engage the enemy more closely.
'..Vice Admiral Nelson...
'..who in the late conflict with the enemy fell in the hour of victory.
'His Lordship received a musket ball in his left breast,
'about the middle of the action.
'I have to lament, in common with the British Navy,
'and the British nation, the fall of the Commander-in-Chief,
'the loss of a hero, whose name will be immortal
'and his memory ever dear to his country.'
It was said that all of London watched Nelson's funeral
cortege make its journey to St Paul's.
9,000 people were waiting inside the cathedral.
In death, Nelson provided Britain's leaders with a powerful
message, as they set about the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Nelson is the hero of the British state.
He is the only thing in the British state that people can look up to.
This one man is giving you the confidence to carry on.
So, you have to mythologize him.
It was a good death, in the sense that the country's hopes
were on him, his audience was out there, rooting for him...
He had to deliver the goods, and he delivered them.
But in a personal sense, of course, it was a great tragedy.
He had this woman who was fulfilling him in every way,
he had this child...
It was all there. He's only got one big obstacle left - this battle,
which he said, "I'm going to fight this battle and then,
"I'm going home."
And he never went home.
But in 1814, Nelson's image was severely tarnished
when letters he had written to Emma Hamilton were published.
Society was appalled that their hero's image should me muddied by
revelations of infidelity, a secret lovechild and sexual jealousy.
There was a tremendous outcry.
Nobody wanted those letters to be published.
It was a can of worms, that's what it really was.
It was a can of worms.
Society washed its hands of Nelson's former mistress.
Ostracised and penniless, Merton long sold,
she died a year later in a bedsit in Calais.
Horatia moved to Norfolk, where she married a country parson.
Over the course of the next century, Britain carefully constructed
an image of Nelson as unimpeachable hero...
..a solid edifice for future generations to look up to.
Horatio Nelson made his name as a brilliant leader
and a reckless glory hunter.
But his love for Emma Hamilton had changed him.
In the hours before his final greatest battle,
his thoughts were of...home, family, children.
My dearest angel,
I was made happy by the receiving of your letter of September the 19th.
And I rejoiced to hear that you are so very good a girl.
I shall be sure of your prayers for my safety, conquest
and speedy return to dear Merton and our dear good Lady Hamilton.
Be a good girl.
And receive, my dearest Horatia, the affectionate parental
blessing of your father.
Horatio Nelson was Britain's greatest naval hero. He was famed for his dash-and-glory heroics. He was also a prolific letter writer. The letters reveal that Nelson was a very different and more complex man than the hero that Britain created after his death.
Using these letters, this drama documentary exposes Nelson's skilful and manipulative use of PR to advance his career, and shows how he was careful in his praise of his rivals - in case they threatened his own prospects. And the letters reveal how his passionate love affair with Emma Hamilton changed his life forever. Highly-regarded RSC actor Jonathan Slinger portrays Nelson.