Nelson rebuffed his wife's attempts to save marriage, letters show

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The Independent Online

The traditional view that Lord Nelson's marriage broke down because of his wife's coldness and bitterness is challenged by an analysis of her letters published today.

The 72 letters acquired last year by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, show Lady Nelson was desperate for her husband to return and continued to love him. But it appears that Lady Emma Hamilton, Nelson's lover, collaborated with him to isolate his wife.

Colin White, who analysed the correspondence for the museum, said: "Nelson's wife has been blamed for the breakdown of their marriage and for not trying hard enough to save it. This collection of letters shows she did everything she could to win Nelson back and was very hurt and bewildered by the whole affair."

The letters were written by Lady Nelson to Alexander Davison, her husband's agent, and were discovered two years ago.

Writing in History Today magazine, Mr White says Lady Nelson's views were less well documented than her husband's as only 74 of her letters to him can be traced but almost 250 of his letters to her survive.

The letters show Lady Nelson made at least six attempts at reconciliation in 1801. Each time she was rebuffed with increasing harshness but she destroyed her husband's letters to preserve his reputation.