The Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 3

Editor’s Foreword Women have for various reasons left a light footprint in the sands of history, and historians – mainly male historians – have unfairly overlooked women and their importance in the tides of history. When women have been written about, it has often been with an air of surprise or innuendo, surprise that women should have anything at all to do with the generations of men who bore the brunt of the hardships of events, or innuendo that women’s roles were somehow inadvertent or even immoral. I therefore decided some time ago that this edition of the Trafalgar Chronicle would be themed on women and the sea in the age of the Georgian navy. When then I read Dr Margarette Lincoln’s words that ‘women’s contribution to British naval supremacy in the long eighteenth century tends to be neglected or sensationalised’, I became even more determined to redress the imbalance. The most readily conjured image is of the cross-dressing woman running away to sea, typically to be near her lover, and the most famous and best documented instant of this is that of Hannah Snell (1723–1792), who served as a marine. Her descendants live on in Australia and her story has been faithfully recorded by Matthew Stephens, but otherwise cross-dressing heroines are the stuff of stage drama, and few other cases exist. Another well-known case, that of Mary Anne Talbot, has deceived historians, but here is roundly debunked by Peter Turner. More typical, but much less well-known of this genre, is the story of Lady Bentinck, who dressed as a Royal Marine officer to visit North Africa, a story which has been rescued from a French newspaper and the family archives by Charles Fremantle. There certainly were women in the navy, mostly as passengers, as Tom Fremantle tells us in the charming story of Betsey Fremantle, who embarked as a teenage refugee, and landed in England over a year later, a pregnant wife to Tom’s ancestor and a nurse to the wounded Nelson. Another nurse, as Jo Stanley tells us, is Cuba Cornwallis, the black doctoress, and her sisters, who saved many lives in the West Indies, including Nelson’s. Other women were passengers, like soldiers’ wives in naval transports, as David Clammer tells us with some humour, or convicts being sent to Australia as Deirdre Palk recounts with quietly understated horror. 7