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Nelson's Purse

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 had been 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, we gain fresh insights into the personal and domestic lives of Nelson, his jilted wife Fanny and his mistress Emma, Lady Hamilton. Rarely, if ever before have Nelson and his circle been brought so vividly and palpably to life. Nelson's Purse is an extraordinary historical detective story that has changed our view of Lord Nelson forever.
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About the Author

Martyn Downer grew up surrounded by the art and antiques in his father's provincial auction house, where he spent his school holidays working as a porter. He started his career in the art business working for an antique jeweller in London's West End before joining Sotheby's as a specialist in 1993. Over the following ten years, Martyn sourced jewellery from around the world for Sotheby's auctions in New York, London and Geneva. artyn was Head of Jewellery at Sotheby's in London from 1999 to 2003. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, who is a painter, and their three young children.


"'Downer's account of the Nelson-Emma-Fanny triangle is a gripping read, and he succeeds triumphantly in rescuing Davison from obscurity'" Spectator "'A truly riveting story of assiduous detection and fine scholarship...a total triumph' " -- Simon Winchester "'An extraordinary detective story'" History Today "'Strewn with vivid images, Downer's narrative is well-researched and well-written'" Sunday Times "'An intriguing story with a rip-roaring account of Trafalgar...Downer has a good story to tell and does so in high style that will satisfy readers of historical novels with enough strange reality to intrigue those preferring non-fiction'" Literary Review

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