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Bath historian finds diaries of woman who nursed Nelson

Elizabeth Wynne
Elizabeth Wynne nursed Lord Nelson after he lost his arm at sea

A Bath historian is hoping to give an admiral's wife - who tended to a wounded Lord Nelson - "her rightful place in history".

Dr Elaine Chalus has won a major research grant of more than £100,000 to investigate diaries kept by Elizabeth Wynne.

Elizabeth married one of Nelson's famous 'band of brothers', Captain Thomas Francis Fremantle, during the Napoleonic Wars.

Dr Chalus will use her funding from the British Academy to bring to light more than 40 volumes of Elizabeth's diaries, most of which have never been published.

"All this started for me when I chanced upon a battered paperback copy of extracts from the diaries on a book stall at the Priddy Folk Festival," said Dr Chalus, who is from Bath Spa University.

"The Cottesloe (Fremantle) family trust is enthusiastic about my project and has been kind enough to give me unrestricted access to the journals and an extensive private family archive."

Elizabeth, known as Betsey, began the first volume aged 11 in 1789, only weeks after the outbreak of the French Revolution, and kept up her journal until she died in 1857.

The diaries tell of a life shaped by revolution, including the years with one of Louis XVI's leading political agents and evacuation by the British Navy from Livorno.

Elizabeth married Captain Fremantle in 1797 and then sailed into war with her new husband on board his ship in Nelson's fleet.

When Nelson lost his arm in a battle off Tenerife, she nursed him on the voyage home.

Captain Fremantle later fought alongside Nelson, and survived, at Trafalgar.

A small number of Betsey's diaries were published in the 1930s but the vast majority have remained unknown.

They are still in the family's possession in Buckinghamshire, where Dr Chalus tracked them down.




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