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The conventional daughter of one of the 19th century's most notorious couples

Horatia Nelson Ward (29 January 1801- 6 March 1881)

Horatia Nelson kneeling before her father's tomb, by William Owen (after 1807), (c) Wikimedia Commons:
We hope you have found some of your ancestors in the recent releases from Deceased Online. We were interested to find that the latest batch of records from the London Borough of Harrow includes the grave details of Horatia Nelson Ward. Horatia, the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton, was buried at Paines Lane Cemetery (or the Old Cemetery, Paines Lane), Pinner in Middlesex on 11 March 1881.

Burial Register Scan from Deceased Online

Horatia had an unconventional start to life, being born at the home of her mother’s husband, Sir William Hamilton, in Piccadilly, London. As both her parents were married to other people, they had their daughter christened as “Horatia Nelson Thompson”, but later adopted her. Nevertheless, she was adored by her celebrated father. Although often away at sea, Nelson continued to write and speak lovingly of his “adopted daughter”.

In 1805, the dying Nelson, bequeathed his beloved only child to the nation: “I leave to the beneficence of my country my adopted daughter Horatia Nelson Thompson, and desire she will use in future the name of Nelson only.” Unfortunately for Horatia, as she was illegitimate, Nelson’s dukedom, barony and an annuity given by a grateful nation went to his brother, the Reverend William Nelson. Nelson’s wishes for the financial care of his daughter and mistress were ignored, resulting in a dramatic fall in Horatia’s fortunes.

At the time of her father’s death, Horatia, aged 12, was living in luxury in his and Emma’s villa in Merton in South London. After he died, Emma fell further into debt and was imprisoned in the King’s Bench prison in 1813. Horatia spent ten months living within the prison before a temporary release was arranged, and she and her mother fled to France. It was there that the poverty-stricken Emma died of dysentery in January 1815. She was buried in Calais but no gravestone remains.

Soon afterwards, Horatia returned to England, where she was raised by Nelson’s sisters in Norfolk. She married a clergyman neighbour, Reverend Philip Ward, and settled into the role of a vicar’s wife.

Despite a strong and feisty character, Horatia deliberately avoided the fame her parents had courted so energetically. Instead she sought to be a loving and attentive mother to her ten children and numerous grandchildren. She continued to use the name Nelson, and bestowed it upon three of her children, but she always denied that Lady Hamilton was her mother. After the death of her husband Philip in Kent in 1859, Horatia remained a widow. She eventually moved to Pinner to be near her son, Nelson Ward, a solicitor. Her former home of Elmdene stands not far from the cemetery.

The deaths of Horatia’s notorious mother and her heroic father, contrast strongly with her own demise. Horatia Nelson Ward died at home of Beaufort Villa in the then village of Pinner, aged eighty, after a long and respectable life. The Times announced her death on 8 March and published an obituary two days later, concentrating on her prosperous early years in Merton, and of her father’s adoration.

Two of Horatia’s children are buried in the same cemetery.  Her daughter, Eleanor Philippa Ward, who died in 1872, lies in the same grave as Horatia and the Register of Graves on the Deceased Online database shows that her son Philip Ward was buried in a Common Grave at the cemetery in 1865.  

Winifred Gerin, Horatia Nelson (Oxford University Press, 1970)
Kate Williams, England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton (Arrow, 2007)
Tom Pocock, Nelson’s Women  (Andre Deutsch, 1999)


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