Timeline of Florence’s life
Florence was born in the Italian city of Florence in 1820. Her sister, Parthenope, the Greek name for the city of Naples, she was just one year older than Florence. Their parents were incredibly wealthy and were able to travel around Europe. They owned large estates in the Country and a house near to London.
Florence and her sister were able to have lessons at home, as most children did not go to school. Mr Nightingale wanted his daughter to learn many things, including several languages, geography and history. He taught many of the lessons to them himself.
As Florence grew up she went with her mother to visit the sick and the poor who lived near her home in the country. Florence was a pretty girl and had many offers of marriage.
Although she enjoyed travel, loved music and met many interesting people she felt different to other girls. She wrote many diaries and letters explaining how she felt and remained with her parents hoping to find answers.
A new life
Florence decided to become a nurse, but her parents were angry. They refused to let her go to Germany to do her training and only allowed her to gain valuable experience at her local hospital. Nurses in hospitals at that time had no proper training and it was not considered suitable employment for a respectable and wealthy young girl.
After falling ill and recovering with friends travelling in Italy and Egypt, her mother finally agreed for Florence to go to Kaiserworth in Germany but this had to be done in secret and she had to promise to return home after a few months.
Friends arranged for Florence to get a position working in a nursing home for gentlewomen, this was unpaid but Florence was ready to accept the challenge.
Her father eventually relented and was eager to make peace with Florence and her chosen career path. He realised he had been hard on her and gave her the sum of £500 every year so that she could have her own home in London close to where she worked.
Come and try out Florence's bed for size. Is it as comfortable as your bed at home? Imagine what it must have been like to visit Claydon, having lived and worked on the battlefields of the Crimea.