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

Maria mason

Maria Mason as portrayed by Julia Sawalha.

Her first appearance was in Lieutenant Hornblower as the daughter of Hornblower's landlady.

Their wedding is the opening scene of Hornblower and the Hotspur. She was the mother of Hornblower's three children.

Character Edit

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

Maria was aware of Lieutenant Hornblower's distressed financial circumstances when Hornblower wasreduced to half pay, due to a ceasation of hostilities between Britain and France. He must repay the three months of commander's pay which he received before his commission to that rank was confirmed, which meant five months before he could begin to draw half-pay.[3] Thus, Hornblower's sole income came from what he earned as an in-house whist player in the Long Rooms gaming house. Maria rescued him from bankruptcy by secreting a half crown in his coat pocket on the pretext of brushing it for him.[4]

Later, when Hornblower returned to the lodging, pleased to be a commander again with a ship, Maria was distressed and broke into tears fearing she would never see him again. He proposed marriage out of a sense of obligation and out of tenderness, as he was rather surprised anyone would care for him.

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

The wedding day was enhanced by Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis' appearance at the reception. Maria was both embarrassed and honored by such grand a guest. Her happiness waned somewhat...'it was disappointment, not reproach'... when her new husband departed from her for his ship before the reception ended.[6] Within two days of the marriage her groom was off to sea. The first of  many 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 began to think of his wife as...'a shrewd little person.'[8] In her fourth letter to 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 boy was named Horatio after his father. When she saw her husband holding his son...'Maria stood bathed in happiness.'[9]

She is shown as 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] Maria would also be the name of the daughter she would bear.

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 a habit of cloying need which was distasteful to Horatio.

Death Edit

Hornblower returned home, surprising his wife only to find the two children, Horatio Jr. and Maria, were ill with smallpox at the end of Hornblower and the Atropos. Both children, then under the age of three, would die of smallpox, devastating both Maria and Horatio.

Her third child and second son, was expected during Flying Colours. After meeting Lady Barbara Wellesley, she told her husband that she would ask Lady Barbara's brothers to be the godfathers. Maria, however, died shortly after the birth believing that Horatio had died a prisoner in France. ...'We regret to announce the death in childbed, on the seventh of this month, of Mrs. Maria Hornblower...'[11] The child was named Richard Arthur after his godfathers.


  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