Thursday, May 14, 2015

What is said about Lord Nelson, and our sincere thanks to Mr. & Mrs. Lee.

May I start by thanking to Mr. A. & Mrs. C. Lee for their gift of a beautiful antique satirical cartoon engraving known as "Nelson and crocodiles" that today hungs on the Hotel walls. It is a magnificent piece and another copy of it is at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

SW Fores (publisher). The Gallant Nelson Bringing Home two Uncommon fierce French Crocodiles from the Nile as a Present to the King (October 1798) James Gillray.

This caricature was published in the wake of Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile (1798). Anti-war politicians Charles Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan are shown in the guise of crocodiles, a recurring theme emphasizing Nelson’s exotic victory. Muzzled and in chains, they are led by the pro-war Nelson to George III and cry crocodile tears which fall on deaf ears.

 Horatio Nelson by Lemuel "Francis" Abbott

But was Nelson ever in Menorca? Is it any truth to the legend of his stay in the Golde Farm with Lady Hamilton? 

Nelson did visit Minorca in 1799 for the purpose of convincing Minorca's military governor, General James Erskine,  to give him troops for the siege of Malta.  Nelson’s diary indicates that he arrived in Mahon on October 12 of that year.  It’s also clear that Lord and Lady Hamilton stayed behind in Naples. There’s correspondence between Nelson and Ambassador Hamilton where Hamilton reports on his wife’s health and passes on her greetings to Nelson. Nelson’s diary confirms that, except for a visit to General Erskine and the Naval Yard, he did not leave his flagship.  As one historian concludes, the documentary evidence shows the story about Nelson and Lady Hamilton enjoying a romantic sojourn in Minorca to be “a fairy tale.”   Still, it’s a good story.

The photo above is of “Golden Farm” or San Antonio, a beautiful building high on the northern slope of Port Mahon Harbor. Some reports say that Nelson stayed here while visiting Minorca in HMS Foudroyant.  Menorca tourist guides and and the occasional publication will also refer to it as Nelson and Lady Hamilton’s “love nest.”  The fog of legend once again clouds the immortal memory.

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