This gravestone was commissioned by Horatio Nelson for Lieutenant James Moutray, who died of a fever contracted during the Siege of Calvi (1794).
Moutray received his Lieutenant’s commission to the Victory in April 1793, serving under his godfather Lord Hood. When the people of Corsica rose up against the island’s French Republican garrison in 1793, they requested support from Britain. British forces besieged the French strongholds at San Fiorenzo, Bastia, and Calvi.
Victory in Corsica proved costly; when Calvi surrendered, malaria and dysentery had left only 400 British soldiers remaining fit for duty. Moutray was one such casualty, probably dying as the fleet set out for Leghorn (Livorno).
Nelson had spent time with the Moutray family at their Antigua residence, giving rise to rumours of his affection for Mary, James’ mother. Romance notwithstanding, Lieutenant Moutray was clearly a junior officer whom Nelson could trust; when besieging Calvi, Nelson specifically requested that Moutray be sent to assist him. After Moutray’s death, Nelson had the gravestone erected in St Florent, Corsica, some 70km east of Calvi.
This plaque is a rare example of a memorial to a junior officer, and an interesting artefact from the short-lived Anglo-Corsican Kingdom (1794-1796).
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