Hanging Caracciolo

procidaThis is Lord Nelson’s confirmation of the sentence of death against the Neapolitan admiral, Caracciolo. Caracciolo had been hastily tried and found guilty by a court martial of five Neapolitan officers sitting on Nelson’s flagship. This was a controversial action on the part of Nelson. Caracciolo had been discovered hiding in a village close to Naples, and had then been temporarily imprisoned in the Granili prison in the capital before the British had him brought over for trial. The trial was quick and unjust, and Caracciolo was sentenced to be hanged on a Neapolitan ship, La Minerva, that same day. [Nelson’s order is transcribed from BL Add MS 34912 f.135, dated 29 June, copy of order signed by J. Tyson.]

“By Horatio Lord Nelson, Knight of the Order of the Bath, Rear Admiral of the Red

Whereas a Board of Naval Officers of His Sicilian Majesty hath been assembled to Try Francisco Caracciolo for Rebellion against His Lawfull Sovereign, and for firing at His Sicilian Majesty’s Frigate, La Minerva.

And whereas the said Board of Naval officers have found the charge of Rebellion fully proved against him and have sentenced the said Francisco Caracciolo to suffer Death.

You are hereby required and directed to cause the said Sentence of Death to be carried into execution upon the said Francisco Caracciolo accordingly, by Hanging him at the fore yard arm of His Sicilian Majesty’s Frigate La Minerva under your command at five of clock this evening, and to cause him to hang there until sun set when you will have his body cut down and thrown into the sea. Given on board the Foudroyant, Naples Bay, 29 June 1799.”

Nelson then sent a hurried justification of his actions to Giovanni Acton, the Neapolitan statesman then at Palermo:

“As I have not the time to send your Excellency the whole case against the miserable Caracciolo, I only tell you that he was sentenced this morning, and that he submitted himself to the just sentence of death pronounced upon him. I send your Excellency my confirmation ad literam, which was : — I confirm the sentence of death pronounced upon Francesco Caracciolo, and the same will be executed on board his Sicilian Majesty’s frigate La Minerva, at 5 o’clock to-day.”