Portrait of Nelson as a Midshipman

Youth & Early Life

Horatio Nelson was born on 29 September 1758 in a rectory in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England, the sixth of eleven children of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine Suckling. He was named after his godfather Horatio Walpole (1723–1809) then 2nd Baron Walpole, of Wolterton. His mother, who died on 26 December 1767, when he was nine years old, was a great-niece of Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, and the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. She lived in the village of Barsham, Suffolk, and married the Reverend Edmund Nelson at Beccles church, Suffolk, in 1749. Nelson's aunt, Alice Nelson was the wife of Reverend Robert Rolfe, Rector of Hilborough, Norfolk and grandmother of Sir Robert Monsey Rolfe. Rolfe twice served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

Nelson attended Paston Grammar School, North Walsham, until he was 12 years old, and also attended King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Norwich.
His naval career began on 1 January 1771, when he reported to the third-rate HMS Raisonnable as an ordinary seaman and coxswain under his maternal uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, who commanded the vessel. Shortly after reporting aboard, Nelson was appointed a midshipman and began officer training. Early in his service, Nelson discovered that he suffered from seasickness, a chronic complaint that dogged him for the rest of his life.