Nelson in Naples

The arrival of the Vanguard Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson at Naples, September 22nd 1798

Nelson was dismayed by Spencer's decision, and declared that he would rather have received no title than that of a mere barony. He was however cheered by the attention showered on him by the citizens of Naples, the prestige accorded him by the kingdom's elite, and the comforts he received at the Hamilton's residence. He made frequent visits to attend functions in his honour, or to tour nearby attractions with Emma, with whom he had by now fallen deeply in love, almost constantly at his side. Orders arrived from the Admiralty to blockade the French forces in Alexandria and Malta, a task Nelson delegated to his captains, Samuel Hood and Alexander Ball. Despite enjoying his lifestyle in Naples, Nelson began to think of returning to England, but King Ferdinand of Naples, after a long period of pressure from his wife Maria Carolina of Austria and Sir William Hamilton, finally agreed to declare war on France. The Neapolitan army, led by the Austrian General Mack and supported by Nelson's fleet, retook Rome from the French in late November, but the French regrouped outside the city and, after being reinforced, routed the Neapolitans. In disarray, the Neapolitan army fled back to Naples, with the pursuing French close behind. Nelson hastily organized the evacuation of the Royal Family, several nobles and the British nationals, including the Hamiltons. The evacuation got under way on 23 December and sailed through heavy gales before reaching the safety of Palermo on 26 December.

With the departure of the Royal Family, Naples descended into anarchy and news reached Palermo in January that the French had entered the city under General Championnet and proclaimed the Parthenopaean Republic. Nelson was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Red on 14 February 1799, and was occupied for several months in blockading Naples, while a popular counter-revolutionary force under Cardinal Ruffo known as the Sanfedisti marched to retake the city. In late June Ruffo's army entered Naples, forcing the French and their supporters to withdraw to the city's fortifications as rioting and looting broke out amongst the ill-disciplined Neapolitan troops. Dismayed by the bloodshed, Ruffo agreed to a capitulation with the Jacobin forces that allowed them safe conduct to France.

Nelson arrived off Naples on 24 June to find the treaty put into effect. His subsequent role is still controversial. Nelson, aboard Foudroyant, was outraged, and backed by King Ferdinand he insisted that the rebels must surrender unconditionally. They refused, Nelson appears to have relented and they marched out to the waiting transports. Nelson then had the transports seized. He took those who had surrendered under the treaty under armed guard, as well as the former Admiral Francesco Caracciolo, who had commanded the Neapolitan navy under King Ferdinand but had changed sides during the brief Jacobin rule. Nelson ordered his trial by court-martial and refused Caracciolo's request that it be held by British officers, nor was Caracciolo allowed to summon witnesses in his defence.

Caracciolo was tried by royalist Neapolitan officers and sentenced to death. He asked to be shot rather than hanged, but Nelson, following the wishes of Queen Maria Carolina (a close friend of his mistress, Lady Hamilton) also refused this request and even ignored the court's request to allow 24 hours for Caracciolo to prepare himself. Caracciolo was hanged aboard the Neapolitan frigate Minerva at 5 o'clock the same afternoon. Nelson kept the bulk of the Jacobins on the transports and now began to hand hundreds over for trial and execution, refusing to intervene despite pleas for clemency from the Hamiltons and the Queen of Naples. When transports were finally allowed to carry the Jacobins to France, less than a third were still alive. On 13 August 1799, King Ferdinand gave Nelson the newly created Dukedom of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, in perpetual property, enclosing the Maniace Castle, the accompanying Abbey, and the land and the city of Bronte, this as a reward for his support of the monarchy.

Nelson returned to Palermo in August and in September became the senior officer in the Mediterranean after Jervis' successor Lord Keith left to chase the French and Spanish fleets into the Atlantic. Nelson spent the rest of 1799 at the Neapolitan court but put to sea again in February 1800 after Lord Keith's return. On 18 February Généreux, a survivor of the Nile, was sighted and Nelson gave chase, capturing her after a short battle and winning Keith's approval. Nelson had a difficult relationship with his superior officer: he was gaining a reputation for insubordination, having initially refused to send ships when Keith requested them and on occasion returning to Palermo without orders, pleading poor health. Keith's reports, and rumours of Nelson's close relationship with Emma Hamilton, were also circulating in London, and Earl Spencer wrote a pointed letter suggesting that he return home:

"You will be more likely to recover your health and strength in England than in any inactive situation at a foreign Court, however pleasing the respect and gratitude shown to you for your services may be."

 

Return to England

The recall of Sir William Hamilton to Britain was a further incentive for Nelson to return, although he and the Hamiltons initially sailed from Naples on a brief cruise around Malta aboard the Foudroyant in April 1800. It was on this voyage that Horatio and Emma's illegitimate daughter Horatia was probably conceived. After the cruise, Nelson conveyed the Queen of Naples and her suite to Leghorn. On his arrival, Nelson shifted his flag to HMS Alexander, but again disobeyed Keith's orders by refusing to join the main fleet. Keith came to Leghorn in person to demand an explanation, and refused to be moved by the Queen's pleas to allow her to be conveyed in a British ship. In the face of Keith's demands, Nelson reluctantly struck his flag and bowed to Emma Hamilton's request to return to England over land.

Nelson, the Hamiltons and several other British travellers left Leghorn for Florence on 13 July. They made stops at Trieste and Vienna, spending three weeks in the latter where they were entertained by the local nobility and heard the Missa in Angustiis by Haydn that now bears Nelson's name. By September they were in Prague, and later called at Dresden, Dessau and Hamburg, from where they caught a packet ship to Great Yarmouth, arriving on 6 November. Nelson was given a hero's welcome and after being sworn in as a freeman of the borough and received the massed crowd's applause. He subsequently made his way to London, arriving on 9 November. He attended court and was guest of honour at a number of banquets and balls. It was during this period that Fanny Nelson and Emma Hamilton met for the first time. During this period, Nelson was reported as being cold and distant to his wife and his attention to Emma became the subject of gossip. With the marriage breaking down, Nelson began to hate even being in the same room as Fanny. Events came to a head around Christmas, when according to Nelson's solicitor, Fanny issued an ultimatum on whether he was to choose her or Emma. Nelson replied:

"I love you sincerely but I cannot forget my obligations to Lady Hamilton or speak of her otherwise than with affection and admiration."

The two never lived together again after this.