Earl Nelson, of Trafalgar and of Merton in the County of Surrey, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 20 November 1805 for William Nelson, 2nd Baron Nelson, older brother of the famous Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson. The Nelson family had been settled in Norfolk for many generations. Reverend Edmund Nelson (1722–1802) was Rector of Hillborough and of Burnham Thorpe in that county. He married Catherine Suckling, whose maternal grandmother Mary was the sister of Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford and of Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton. Their fifth but third surviving son was the renowned naval commander Horatio Nelson. After defeating the French in the Battle of the Nile in 1798 he was raised to the Peerage of Great Britain as Baron Nelson, of the Nile, and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, with normal remainder to the heirs male of his body, on 6 November 1798. In 1799 he was created Duke of Bronté (Duca di Bronté), of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by King Ferdinand I, which title he was given royal sanction to use in Britain. After defeating the Danish fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen in April 1801 Nelson was further honoured when he was made Viscount Nelson, of the Nile, and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, with normal remainder to the heirs male of his body, on 22 May 1801. On 18 August of the same year he was created Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Hillborough in the County of Norfolk, with remainder, in default of male issue of his own, to his father and the heirs male of his body, and failing them to the heirs male of the body severally and successively of his sisters Mrs Susannah Bolton and Mrs Catherine Matcham. Both titles were in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Lord Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. He had no legitimate children and on his death the barony of 1798 and viscountcy became extinct.
He was succeeded in the barony of 1801 according to the special remainder and also in the dukedom of Bronté by his elder brother Reverend William Nelson, the second Baron. In November 1805 he was created Viscount Merton, of Trafalgar and of Merton in the County of Surrey, and Earl Nelson, of Trafalgar and of Merton in the County of Surrey, in honour of his late brother and with similar remainder to the barony of 1801. Both titles are in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. He died without surviving male issue and was succeeded in the dukedom by his daughter Lady Charlotte Mary, wife of Samuel Hood, 2nd Baron Bridport (see the Viscount Bridport for further history of this title). The late Earl was succeeded in the British titles according to the special remainders by his nephew Thomas Bolton, the second Earl. He was the eldest son of the aforementioned Susannah Bolton, sister of the first Viscount and first Earl and wife of Thomas Bolton of Wells in Norfolk. He assumed the surname of Nelson on succeeding to the peerages. He only held the titles for eight months and on his early death the titles passed to his eldest son, the third Earl. He was succeeded by his third but eldest surviving son, the fourth Earl. He never married and on his death in 1947 the titles passed to his eighty-seven-year-old younger brother, the fifth Earl. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the sixth Earl. He was a lecturer in astronomy and anthropology. Two of his younger brothers, the seventh and eighth Earls, both succeeded in the titles. As of 2013[update] the peerages are held by a great-grandson of the fifth Earl, who succeeded in 2009 and who is also the eldest son of Peter John Horatio, the ninth Earl.
Two other members of the family also had distinguished naval careers. The Hon. Maurice Horatio Nelson (1832–1914), third son of the second Earl, was a Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy. His eldest son Maurice Henry Horatio Nelson (1864–1942) was a Captain in the Royal Navy.
Baron Nelson, First creation (1798)
- Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Baron Nelson (1758–1805) (extinct on his death; created Viscount Nelson in 1801)
Viscount Nelson (1801)
- Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Baron Nelson (1758–1805) (extinct on his death)
Baron Nelson, Second creation (1801)
- Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Baron Nelson (1758–1805)
- William Nelson, 2nd Baron Nelson (1757–1835) (created Earl Nelson in 1805)
Earls Nelson (1805)
- William Nelson, 1st Earl Nelson (1757–1835)
- Thomas Nelson, 2nd Earl Nelson (1786–1835)
- Horatio Nelson, 3rd Earl Nelson (1823–1913)
- Thomas Horatio Nelson, 4th Earl Nelson (1857–1947)
- Edward Agar Horatio Nelson, 5th Earl Nelson (1860–1951)
- Albert Francis Joseph Horatio Nelson, 6th Earl Nelson (1890–1957)
- Henry Edward Joseph Horatio Nelson, 7th Earl Nelson (1894–1972)
- George Joseph Horatio Nelson, 8th Earl Nelson (1905–1981)
- Peter John Horatio Nelson, 9th Earl Nelson (1941–2009)
- Simon John Horatio Nelson, 10th Earl Nelson (b. 1971)
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son Thomas John Horatio Nelson, Viscount Merton (b. 2010).
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