History, romance and the Hermitage
On March 11th 1787, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson – British naval commander and hero at the Battle of Trafalgar – married Fannie Nisbet, the daughter of a local judge, at Montpelier Plantation on Nevis.
On March 11th 1987, exactly 200 years later, Colin MacMillan married Caroline Haywood in a Charlestown church on Nevis. After their own ceremony, they changed into Georgian dress and, under the same huge kapok tree at Montpelier Plantation where Nelson and Miss Nisbet made their vows, re-enacted the historic nuptials in front of dignitaries that included officers from both Her Majesty’s Royal Navy and the US Navy. Celebrations continued for several days.
The only sour note came from a local French diplomat who declined to attend. ‘Not for Nelson,’ he declared. Plus ça change…
On March 11th 2017, Colin and Caroline returned to Nevis to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary amongst friends and guests who attended their original festivities. The party was held in the Greathouse at Hermitage Plantation Inn, believed to be the oldest surviving wooden building in the Caribbean, dating back to the 1670s.
Romance is hardwired into Nevisian history. The four plantation inns on island – Montpelier, Golden Rock, Nisbet and Hermitage – are regularly chosen as wedding venues and honeymoon destinations. It’s a tradition that goes back, well, at least 230 years.
Now, strictly speaking, the Nelson Nisbet story didn’t end well – he dumped her after meeting the love of his life, Emma Hamilton. The latter was an English aristocrat and no relation to Nevis’s other favorite son, founding father and unlikely Broadway star, Alexander Hamilton. But luckily, Colin and Caroline MacMillan have had 30 years of happy marriage, making them – rather than their more famous forbears – the perfect Nevis wedding pin-ups.
Hermitage continues to surprise and delight. A week after the MacMillans left, proprietor Richard Lupinacci hosted a cigar tasting event at which Cuban aficionado Orlens Guerra, with his roller Yaimara Martinez from the Cohiba factory in Havana, demonstrated the magic of the hand-rolled robusto while guests enjoyed a selection of vintage sipping rums. For this participant, the rest of the evening was a blur, but a good time is believed to have been had by all.
Having a good time by enjoying fine food in one of the island’s many fine restaurants, or climbing the Peak, or playing the Four Seasons Robert Trent Jones II golf course, or just lazing on Lovers Beach, is what Nevis is all about. And to have so much easily accessible history on the doorstep is simply a bonus. Plus, since October 2016, US travelers can legally take 100 duty free Cuban cigars back with them when they return home.
In these days of generic Caribbean beachside hostelries, where new resorts in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and even Antigua look alarmingly similar, the historic plantation inns on Nevis are distinctive, and uniquely seductive. If Nelson could climb down off his column in Trafalgar Square, he’d be back at Montpelier or Hermitage enjoying the finer things in life with Fanny…or maybe Emma. Anyway, he’d certainly be having a good time.