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Nelson's Purse by Martyn Downer

About the book

For nearly two centuries, a red morocco dispatch box lay forgotten in a castle attic. When Martyn Downer opened the box and broke its spell, he uncovered a cache of fascinating and intimate letters relating to the life of Britain’s greatest naval hero, Horatio Nelson. As Downer explored the castle, he went on to find a treasure trove of never-before-seen objects, including Nelson’s swords, medals, porcelain, guns and even the purse he was carrying on the day he was shot at Trafalgar in 1805, still containing its gold coins. When Nelson died, these objects were passed on to his closest business associate, Alexander Davison, whose descendants had kept them without knowing their enormous historical significance. As Downer identifies each item and its provenance, fresh insights are revealed into the personal and domestic lives of Nelson, his jilted wife Fanny and his mistress Emma, Lady Hamilton. Rarely, if ever, have Nelson and his circle been brought so vividly and palpably to life. Nelson’s Purse is an extraordinary historical detective story that will change our view.

Reviewed by Brookmans Reading Group:

 A most appropriate book to read in the Trafalgar Bicentenary Year. We admired the painstaking research and attention to detail, although we did find names confusing continually referring to the notes at the back of the book.

Star rating: ***

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3 thoughts on “Nelson's Purse by Martyn Downer”

  1. Review by U3A Book Circle No 2 Reading Group:
    Some of the group couldn’t put it down. Others felt that they would have liked more about Nelson and other characters rather than dwelling on Alexander Davison’s life and shady activities . It is well researched and well-written though the title is misleading as the purse is hardly mentioned until the end.
    Star rating: ***

  2. Review by Everton Reading Group:
    Enjoyed because of the way it was written and depth of research. Surprisingly enjoyed in some cases. Gave an insight into relationship of individuals and politics of the time.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Hedge End WI Reading Group:
    An interesting non-fiction written as a novel. History of the times well perceived. Middle section rather tedious. Surprised at character of Nelson and Fanny, so different to regular concepts. Davison’s character – many traits but basically power corrupts. Nothing new – what goes round, comes round.
    Star rating: ***

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