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HMS Caroline remains temporarily closed. Find The Latest COVID-19 Updates Here.



Theirs was a love affair that scandalised society and continues to grip the imagination - the relationship between Nelson and his mistress.

In this blog we take a look at an interesting artefact from The National Museum of the Royal Navy's collection, the betrothal ring Vice Admiral Lord Nelson gave to his mistress Emma Hamilton.

Nelson gifted the ring on the eve of his final departure from British soil. The fede gold “betrothal” ring is one of two exchanged by the couple on 13 September 1805, shortly before Nelson returned to active duty.

That month he left Portsmouth for the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson didn't know he was going to the battle of Trafalgar so you could say he left Portsmouth. Within a few weeks he would meet the French fleet for the decisive Battle of Trafalgar during which he was fatally wounded. He died onboard HMS Victory on 21 October having led the British fleet to victory.

The rings were exchanged in a conscious imitation of a marriage ceremony in Merton parish church, when the couple received Holy Communion.

Nelson was still married to Lady Nelson, so it was a private ceremony in Merton, close to where they lived, openly, together. And, the ring was not the only token of his afffection, he also wrote a passionate love letter to her from on board HMS Victory just before the battle. 

Featuring two clasped hands, the ring was inspired by a design which dated back to Roman times.

The ring is on display at The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth in the Nelson Gallery. The other ring is on display at the National Maritime Museum.

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