Prince William, later King William IV, visited Canada as a frigate captain and like many sailors in those days, had a girl in every port. One of his friends, and fellow-captain of a frigate, was Horatio Nelson. He had a girl in one Canadian port, Quebec, and there is a romantic but sad story about them.
During the summer of 1782, Nelson was attacking American privateers along the coasts of Nova Scotia and Cape Cod. His crew began to suffer from scurvy, so Nelson took his ship Albermarle to Quebec for a refit in September. This is one of the most delightful months of the year along the St. Lawrence, with the maple leaves changing to red and gold, and Nelson was enchanted. He referred to “fair Canada” in letters home.
Nelson was in Quebec for most of September and fell in love with Mary Simpson, the daughter of the provost-marshal of the garrison. She was only sixteen years old, but Nelson was determined to marry her. Prince William had predicted earlier that Nelson was going to do great things, even though he was probably the youngest captain in the Royal Navy. Nelson’s Quebec friends agreed, and felt that marriage to an obscure Canadian girl would hurt his career. They tried to talk him out of it and there were some tempestuous scenes. There is even a story, unverified, that Nelson had to be tricked into sailing from Quebec.
It was mid-October before he left. He never returned to Canada, or Mary Simpson, again. Peace talks had already begun, and the British evacuated New York in May 1783. The war against the United States ended in September, but Britain was also fighting France, Spain, and Holland so there was plenty of action to occupy Horatio Nelson.
“To leave off action”? Well, damn me if I do! You know, Foley, I have only one eye,— I have a right to be blind sometimes . . . I really do not see the signal!” – At the battle of Copenhagen, Ignoring Admiral Parker’s signal to retreat, holding his telescope up to his blind eye, and proceeding to victory against the Danish fleet. (2 April 1801).
The above quote by Nelson was accessed at Wiki Quote – an incredible archives of quotes from just about anyone of note!
To learn more about Horatio Nelson and today’s post, I would suggest visiting the BBC History, and the Royal Navy National Museum. As a wonderful treat I just found, you may enjoy videos from Manitime GB on You Tube.
- Nelson biopic sets sail (theguardian.com)
- Memento (futilitycloset.com)
- Nelson’s Blood: Legacy of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson (musingsofaparanoidschizoid.wordpress.com)
- Warner Bros. Sets Up Lord Nelson Biopic ‘Love and Glory’ (EXCLUSIVE) (variety.com)