Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Funny Lessons from Historical Navy Wives and Girlfriends

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By Amy Bird
The London Authoress

In order to mark Women's History Month, I thought I would take a look at what lessons we Navy Wives and Girlfriends can learn from history. In particular, I wondered what we can learn from a very famous example which - unusually - showcases both Navy wives and girlfriends: Admiral Horatio Nelson, Lady Emma Hamilton and Fanny Nelson.

Lady Emma Hamilton
Now, us Brits are probably all pretty well-acquainted with this story, but for those of you in other jurisdictions, here's a quick lowdown. Nelson famously defeated the French and Spanish in the battle of Trafalgar, undeterred by having only one eye and one arm, but then he died at sea. Back at home, his domestic arrangements had been no less choppy - he had a wife (Fanny) who he pretty much abandoned, and also a public girlfriend (Lady Emma Hamilton) with whom he was very much in love, as their collection of letters shows. Before he died, he asked for Emma to be looked after, but she spent her remaining years in penury.

So here, with my tongue very firmly in my cheek, is what I think modern wives and girlfriends can learn from this:

1. Write lots of letters and emails, like Emma Hamilton. This can keep your loved one going during important deployments and keep your relationship alive. Future generations of your relations may also be able to sell the letters if your other half becomes famous, meaning there is less pressure on you to leave them an inheritance

2. Tell your sailor to make it clear where his affections lie. Nelson didn't shy away from making his affair with Emma Hamilton public and they ended up living together, with their child, despite him being married to Fanny. This may of course backfire, so I suggest you are pretty clear his affections lie with you before you throw down the gauntlet.

3. Eke out an independent existence. This is a lot easier now that women are able to own property and have jobs. It was all very well Emma and Nelson having a grand love affair, but she died penniless after Nelson's dying wishes for her to be well-looked after were ignored. This wouldn't have happened if she had a career of her own. 

4. Be supportive. Apparently Emma was pretty adamant in her letters that Nelson should, in modern parlance, go for it. So while you should very much create your own independent existence, the odd epistolary pep-talk might mean you find yourself dating an Admiral.

5. Resist the urge to pretend to be someone else. In order to avoid scandal, Nelson at one point tried to pretend that his letters to Emma were in fact the letters of one of his crew to a member of one of Emma Hamilton's household called, funnily enough, Emma. This convinced no-one, particularly when Emma named her new daughter Horatia. The Navy wife in my debut novel 'Yours is Mine' also tried to pretend she was someone else while her sailor was away. It does not end well for her either.

6. If you are the scorned wife, do not lose heart. Chances are, official sympathies will be with you. Nelson may have loved Emma more, but Fanny got all the money from the British Government when Nelson was a celebrated but deceased war hero. Of course, morality has moved on since then, but the lesson remains - build up a good solid set of friends who will support you in times of hardship.

Next time we'll return to modern morality, but for now, I leave you with this nice quote from a letter between Emma and Nelson to inspire you should your cursor be hovering dismally over an unfinished email: 'I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you...whom I love as much as my own life.' 

And if you want to know more about what is, for all my facetiousness, a very moving love story, you can find out more about Nelson, Emma and Fanny

P.S. Do enter Stephanie Carroll's super Women's History Month giveaway, which includes an e-copy of my new book 'Three Steps Behind You'

About Amy Bird
The London Authoress
I am a Navy Wife, lawyer, and a published author of Navy themed romance thriller Yours is Mine. Born in London, England, I moved all around the UK for 18 years before coming back to London for university. I've been here ever since, with the occasional epic holiday to join my Navy husband overseas. 

I have a MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, and I'm also an alumni of Faber Academy.  My creative focus is on novels and plays. As well as being a writer, I'm also a lawyer. I work four days a week at one of the big city firms, specializing in employment law – and I'm a trustee of a new writing theatre. 

When I'm not writing or lawyering, I'll generally be found cooking with my husband (he’s on shore this year!), or in a theatre somewhere. My debut novel, Yours is Mine, is the first in a three-book deal with Carina UK, the new digital imprint of Harlequin. 

Visit me at and purchase Three Steps Behind You on Amazon UK, Amazon US, or Amazon Canada. Purchase her first novel Yours is Mine on Amazon UKAmazon US, or Amazon Canada
Find me @London_Writer on Twitter Facebook Too!

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