East Markham WI
The February meeting of East Markham WI was their first Zoom with a speaker, when they welcomed Tom Fremantle to tell members about ‘Nelson and his Mistresses’. Tom is a former naval officer with family naval roots going back to Vice-Admiral Thomas Fremantle, who fought with Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Tom started by pointing out that he used the word ‘mistresses’ in its widest possible sense and not necessarily in the way it is used today. He described the life, career, family and lady friends of Nelson with many details about, his naval life, his ships, overseas postings and the battles he took part in. Nelson’s early naval career was not always exemplary and he was poorly thought of by his superiors. However, he was popular with his men, many of them sailing with him regularly. As a handsome young naval officer he had an eye for the ladies and after a few relationships, he married Fanny Nisbet, a beautiful young widow.
Nelson’s career took him away from home and it is believed he had ‘friendships’ with a number of ladies during these absences. He met Emma, the wife of Sir William Hamilton, the British Envoy to Naples, after returning from victory at the Battle of the Nile. Nelson was not a well man, having lost an arm and Emma nursed him at her family home in Naples. Dazzled by her attention, Nelson fell in love with her and their affair became local gossip, with news of it reaching England. Fanny had become estranged from Nelson and on his return to England she demanded that he choose between her and Emma. He chose Emma. Nelson returned to sea in 1805 and in October 1805, Nelson’s fleet defeated the French and Spanish at Trafalgar, but he was seriously wounded and died within hours. Emma died in January 1815.
Tom illustrated his talk with images of Nelson, Fanny, Emma, ships, notable Naval personnel of the time and a couple of contemporary cartoons about the affair. This was a most enjoyable and amusing talk, followed by many questions about Nelson and Tom’s family connections with this period of naval history. Tom was very generous with his time in answering the questions and explaining his family history. President Jenny gave a vote of thanks.
April is the month for renewing membership and East Markham WI look forward to welcoming members back. This year, WIs have been given the option to waive or reduce the WI portion of the membership fee. East Markham’s committee has decided to make a small reduction to the fee. Members’ March meeting bags included sunflower seeds and a bonnet for them to decorate for Easter. Photos showing the results of their efforts are awaited, and it is hoped they will wear their bonnets to a future Zoom meeting. Don’t forget to follow the group on Facebook.