Maria Ellen Hornblower (neé Mason) was the first wife of Horatio Hornblower.

Maria mason

Maria Mason as portrayed by Julia Sawalha.

Her first appearance is in the last scenes of Lieutenant Hornblower. Their marriage is the opening scene of Hornblower and the Hotspur. She was the mother of three children. The first two, Horatio Jr. and Maria, die of smallpox at the end of Hornblower and the Atropos. Maria dies giving birth to the third child, Richard, while Horatio is in captivity during Flying Colours.

Character Edit

Maria Ellen (nee Mason) Hornblower is the daughter of Horatio's landlady, the supposed widow Mrs. Mason, 'a hard-faced woman' who rents rooms in her boarding house on Highbury Street.[1] In her first appearance in Lieutenant Hornblower, Maria is described as 'a woman not quite young'. Aside from aiding her mother with the boarding house, she is also a school teacher.[2]

Maria is aware of Lieutenant Hornblower's distressed financial circumstances. Hornblower is reduced to half pay, due to a halt of hostilities between Britain and France in the Napoleonic Wars. However, he must repay the three months of commander pay he received before as his commission to that rank was not confirmed, which will mean five more months before he can begin to draw half-pay.[3] Thus, Hornblower's sole income comes from what he earns as an in-house whist player in the Long Rooms gaming house. Maria rescues him from bankruptcy by secreting a half crown in his coat pocket on the pretext of brushing it for him.[4]

Later, when Hornblower returns to the lodging pleased to be a commander again with a ship, Maria is utterly distressed and breaks into tears fearing she will never see him again. He proposes marriage out of pity and a sense of obligation and out of tenderness.

A week after Hornblower's proposal of marriage[5], Maria Ellen Mason becomes Mrs. Horatio Hornblower in the Church of Thomas á Becket. In stark contrast to her groom who thinks the marriage was a mistake and berates himself for cowardice for not calling it off, Maria is 'melting with happiness'. In her joy she calls her new husband Horry, which Horatio dislikes but does not reveal.

The wedding day is enhanced by Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis' appearance at the reception. Maria is both embarrassed and blushing at such grand a guest. Her happiness wanes somewhat...'it was disappointment, not reproach'... when her new husband departs from her for his ship before the reception ends.[6] Within two days of the marriage her groom is off to sea. The first of a multitude of separations in Maria's marriage to the naval officer.

Married Life Edit

Maria moved from her mother's house to Plymouth after she learned the Channel Fleet was based there so she would be close by when her husband made landfall.[7] Perhaps due to this initiative, Hornblower begins to think of his wife as...'a shrewd little person.'[8] In her fourth letter to her Horatio she could report the suspicion that she was with child. By her sixth letter she could confirm it.

Maria would go through the pregnancy and delivery during her husband's absence, although she would see his ship in port during her seventh month. The man-child was named Horatio after his father. When she saw her husband holding his son...'Maria stood bathed in happiness.'[9]

The mother is shown pregnant again aboard a canal boat as Maria and Horatio travel to London. After the boatman ventures that he should charge for her twice, seeing her condition, Maria...'had snorted with disdain at such vulgarity.'[10] At this time she is proud of her famous husband, attentive as a mother, and self-conscious of her elevated social station. While Horatio thinks nothing of helping the boat by doing manual labour, Maria was scandalized. She had developed into somewhat of a nag. Maria would also be the name of the daughter Maria would bear.

Death Edit

Tragically, both the son and daughter would die of smallpox, devastating both Maria and Horatio.

Her second son, third child, would be named Richard. Maria would die in that childbirth.

...'We regret to announce the death in childbed, on the seventh of this month, of Mrs. Maria Hornblower...'[11]


  1. Lieutenant Hornblower, page 263
  2. Lieutenant Hornblower, page 266
  3. Lieutenant Hornblower, page 257
  4. Lieutenant Hornblower, page 270
  5. Hornblower and the Hotspur, page 1
  6. Hornblower and the Hotspur, page 21
  7. Hornblower and the Hotspur, page 133-134
  8. Hornblower and the Hotspur, page 211
  9. Hornblower and the Hotspur, page 307
  10. Hornblower and the Atropos, page 4
  11. Flying Colors, page 484


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