Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Officers and marriage
PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 7:08 am 
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There are several instances I have encountered in my reading when it appears that an officer’s decision to marry is considered to be an actual or potential barrier to advancement.

Tom Pocock in ‘Nelson’s Women’ notes Captain Pringle’s observation when Nelson married:

The Navy, Sir, yesterday lost one of its greatest ornaments by Nelson’s marriage. It is a national loss that such an officer should marry; had it not been for that circumstance, I foresaw that Nelson would become the greatest man in the service.’

When Sir John Jervis was assembling his expedition directed against French possessions in the West Indies in 1793, he tersely dismissed one hopeful applicant:

'You, having thought fit to take to yourself a wife, are to look for no further attention from

Your humble servant, John Jervis.’



In his introduction to James Anthony Gardner’s memoirs, the editor, Christopher Lloyd, notes that ‘in 1798 he married and it may be….that this jeopardised his chances of promotion, despite his proven efficiency and the command of ‘interest,’ though he admits that marriage did no harm to Nelson’s promotion.

Are these isolated incidents, reflecting the prejudices of individual officers, or were officers generally discouraged from marrying? Both Nelson and Gardner were in their late twenties when they married so it could not be that they were thought too young; and Nelson was a captain of some years’ standing. Neither was rich, though. Perhaps marriage was disapproved of unless officers had some financial ‘ballast’ like prize money with which to support a family?

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PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 8:32 am 
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It seems that Nelson, at any rate, had no objection to married officers. He wrote this letter to Captain Berry, amd marked it 'Secret, except to Dr Foster and Miss', thereby, very charmingly, allowing Berry to reveal Nelson's plans for him.

Dec. 8th 1797

My Dear Sir,

If you mean to marry, I would recommend your doing it speedily or the to-be Mrs Berry will have very little of your company; for I am well, and you may expect to be called for every hour.........'

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