Nelson and Galfridus Walpole’s Sword?

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  • #14326
    Teresa Michals
    Participant

    Do any forum members have a sense of how credible the claim is that Horatio Nelson inherited Galfridus Walpole’s sword (through his uncle Maurice Suckling), and that he carried it at Tenerife? I have seen references to this claim in multiple sources; however, I have also seen it disputed in an older piece in Notes and Queries: “The Fighting Sword of Lord Nelson” (Notes and Queries, Sept. 23, 1922, page 241). I am working on a book about amputee active-duty naval officers, including Nelson, and so am very interested in any connection between Nelson and a sword that belonged to a relative who also continued to serve at sea after losing an arm in battle. I fear it’s too good to be true.

    Thanks,
    Teresa Michals
    Associate Professor
    George Mason University

    #14850
    Mark Barton
    Participant

    Teresa

    I think a element may possibly be true but I don’t think the whole saga is true and which element if any is true who knows. You need some real strange time jumps to get it to be the same sword for both arm loses and the sword that is claimed to be it. I did write quite a section addressing this in British Swords and Swordsmanship. if you are not able to access I can email the argument to you. The recent Kedge Anchor did have how a body still had the sword attached when recovered from the sea so his sword being kept as he was injured I could believe, if my understanding is correct and Nelson’s arm was amputated later on board.

    I personally think that he would have had more than one fighting sword as his career went through, exactly as a fencer would change his sword now as he ages – it was a tool your life depended on.

    Does that help?

    Mark

    #17409
    Teresa Michals
    Participant

    Hi Mark,

    Sorry not to have replied earlier: I was not looking at this properly and missed your reply. Thanks for mentioning your book — I now have it and find it very useful, especially in trying to make sense of swords in naval portraits! I’m not going to touch in print the story of the same sword being held by two severed arms, but I will point out that Nelson was not the first amputee officer in his extended family to go back to active duty service after the loss of his arm. I’m interested in the fact that Galfridus Walpole’s portrait by Charles Jervas shows his empty right sleeve, which I have not seen in other portraits of amputee officers until Nelson comes along (for example, Sir Frescheville Holles portrait with Sir Robert Holmes shows him angled away from the viewer, obscuring the loss of his right arm) I am also intrigued by your suggestion that Nelson may have the blade of an 1805 Pattern sword shortened to accommodate being drawn with his left hand while being worn on his left side. Do you have any idea whether left-handed officers commonly wore their swords on their left side, or not? That is, if Nelson had chosen to switch sides, would it have looked very odd?

    Thanks again.
    Teresa

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