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Biographical entry Este, Michael Lambton (1779 - 1864)

MRCS Nov 4th 1803; FRCS (by election) Aug 26th 1844; MD Pavia and Erfurt 1798.

General surgeon


In addition to a medical education, by which he attained the MD of Pavia and Erfurt, Este acquired a knowledge of the countries and languages around the Mediterranean. His first appointment was that of Assistant Surgeon to the 3rd Foot Guards. He served in Sir Ralph Abercrombie's expedition to Egypt, then under Lord Hutchinson, and next as Secretary and Physician under Charles Lock, Consul-General in Egypt. Lock was sent on a mission to Constantinople, and leaving Egypt, was seized with plague at Naples, where he died in the lazaretto. On Sept 12th, 1804, two of his suite also died: Este placed himself in the lazaretto and assiduously attended upon them.

He then came under the notice of Nelson, to whom he acted as a private secretary. In July, 1804, Este had collected letters detained at Gibraltar and Port Mahon and forwarded them to Nelson, then off Toulon, for which he was thanked by Nelson in a letter headed "Victory, August 3rd, 1804". In this letter Nelson said, "I hope you left your worthy father well." In letters dated Aug 20th and Sept 16th, Este informed Nelson of Lock's death, to which Nelson replied from the Victory under date of Oct 4th, 1804. Este then went on board the Victory, and later supplied an important account of Nelson, his diminishing vision in one eye, his precarious health, and his table talk as to his future. On Nov 4th Nelson sent Este home on board the Termagant (Captain Pettet) with despatches to the Admiralty, and included a note to H Chamberlain, agent for the packets at Lisbon, to forward Este should the Termagant be delayed by quarantine. Este had taken with him to the Victory presents of English porter, tongues, Bayonne hams, India pickles, etc. A large portion of these Nelson sent to the Termagant.

Nelson had from June 3rd, 1803, when he boarded the Victory, watched the French fleet off Toulon, from time to time withdrawing to Maddalena, Sardinia, to refit. The French Admiral, La Touche Tréville, having died, was succeeded by Villeneuve, who was ordered by Napoleon to undertake the union of the whole naval strength of France and Spain. Villeneuve managed to get out of Toulon and pass the Straits of Gibraltar whilst Nelson was away at Maddalena. From May to August, Nelson was on the voyage to the West Indies and back. Nelson had been at Merton from Aug 19th to Sept 2nd, 1805, when he learnt of the concentration of the French and Spanish Fleet in Cadiz harbour and he went at once to the Admiralty. There follows a passage in the Scott Recollections:

"At the last Council, the very day previous to Lord Nelson's departure (he hoisted his flag on 14 Sept) for Trafalgar, Dr Scott waited with Mr Este, the mutual friend of the Admiral and himself, in a private room till the Council broke up. On quitting the Council, Lord Nelson came up to them, ordered Dr Scott to get ready to join him that night at Merton, and said to Mr Este, taking leave: 'I have just settled your business with Lord Liverpool [really Baron Hawkesbury, Home Secretary, Leader in the House of Lords, not 2nd Lord Liverpool until 1808] - I am now going to the Admiralty, and I shall order you a passage on board Captain Bolton's frigate. You will join me with Bolton in six weeks.' Besides Dr Scott as private secretary and interpreter, with a salary of £100 per annum, Mr Este was to have been one of six young men, all civilians, with Commissions from the Foreign Office who were to assist in the arduous political negotiations which the Admiral anticipated."

After the death of Nelson, Este returned to military duty, was promoted Surgeon to the 1st Life Guards in 1812, and was sent to Lisbon, where he was in medical charge of the Cavalry Brigade under Wellington in Portugal, Spain, the South of France, in the march to Boulogne, the Waterloo Campaign, and in the Army of Occupation up to 1817. He held the Gold Medal for the Egyptian Campaign, the Peninsular Medal, and a foreign decoration.

After 1817 Este practised in London, was an active member of the Society of Apothecaries, and of many other societies, including the Royal Institution. He died at 207 Marylebone Road on Jan 26th, 1864.

A number of pamphlets written by Este are preserved in the College Library. He wrote on the use of baths (including the provision of baths for the poor, the drainage of London, asylums for foundlings, infanticide, suicide, and lastly on railways in 1858. His Reminiscences of an Octogenarian Medical Officer, 8vo, London, 1858, are interesting.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1864, I, 173. Este's England in Relation with Foreign Countries, privately printed, 1858. Recollections of the Rev. A. J. Scott, D.D., London, 1842, 179. The Despatches and Letters of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, with notes by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, London, 1846, v, 255, 506, and vi, 132, 215, 256. Johnston's R.A.M.C. Roll, No. 2032].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England