October 30, 2003
Nelson's sword to sell at auction
A sword believed to have been worn by the young Horatio Nelson while making his name as the greatest of all British naval heroes is to be sold for an estimated £8000 at auction in London.
It was a gift from a seafaring relative and returned to the family when, as victor of the Battle of the Nile, Nelson landed with his mistress Lady Hamilton at Yarmouth to a hero's welcome in November 1800.
The sword has emerged from the home of its anonymous owner, who is thought to live in East Anglia, and will be sold at Sotheby's on December 4.
The weapon may well exceed the relatively modest forecast given by the salesroom following the rise in prices of Nelson memorabilia ahead of the 210th anniversary of Trafalgar in 2015.
The weapon, distinguished by a handsome silver hilt, first belonged to Capt Galfridus Walpole (1683-1726) and passed to his great nephew Maurice Suckling (1726-1788). His sister, Catherine, was Nelson's mother at Burnham Thorpe, in North Norfolk.
Suckling was responsible for Nelson's early naval training. Nelson, an able pupil, was given the family sword. He is said to have worn it constantly during his early career and used it in the failed attack on Santa Cruz, Tenerife, in July 1797.
Objects often appear on the art market when similar things sell well and the sword has emerged from the shadows in the wake of high prices for two others last year. One was left to Nelson by his friend Alexander Davison and made £336,650 (estimate £60,000-£80,000). The other reached £270,650 (£40,000-£60,000). They were part of Davison's previously unknown archive which sold for a total of £2.1m.
January 16, 2004
Norfolk heritage sites to share £7million
Historic monuments and museums across Norfolk are to share a £7m windfall to help promote the county's heritage abroad and boost the tourist trade. The windfall of European and Lottery funding will be shared by 11 heritage sites – and will see Yarmouth's Nelson Monument fully restored in time for the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar next year. £1.1m will be used to restore and improve access and employ a heritage access officer at Nelson's Monument in Yarmouth.
The Daily Telegraph
December 5, 2003
MOD scuppers bicentenary
Royal navy plans to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar with a review of the fleet are being blocked by the Government on the grounds of cost. Adml Sir Alan West, the First Sea Lord, wants the centrepiece of the navy's celebrations honouring Horatio Nelson's defining victory off Spain's Atlantic coast to be a gathering of warships from around the globe. A significant proportion of the navy's largest vessels would be expected to take part in the review at Spithead, Portsmouth. But Whitehall is resisting the expense and says that many ships are deployed in the Gulf and cannot be withdrawn. The stand-off emerged as an internal briefing paper seen by The Telegraph yesterday showed that the Armed Forces budget crisis is about to worsen. Pressure is mounting because of the £5.5 billion expenditure on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terrorism. A "thorough examination of costs" is being carried out by the Ministry of Defence. That, it is feared, will lead to further cuts in the numbers of tanks, ships and aircraft to allow for the purchase of more high-tech systems. The paper states: "The aim of the exercise is both to reduce costs (especially overheads) and, importantly, to provide choice and planning flexibility." The Tories and former members of the Defence Staff say the Forces are already over-stretched and will not be able to bear more cuts. Despite the financial pressure, the Admiralty feels passionately that it must do justice in 2005 to the navy's greatest victory and the death of its greatest hero, Vice-Adml Lord Nelson. The review is being planned on a grander scale than the last great naval gathering: for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977. The Admiralty plans to invite many foreign ships to take part, with French and Spanish warships, the descendants of the losers at Trafalgar, taking pride of place. As part of the celebrations, the navy is negotiating with Spain to send a warship to Cape Trafalgar to lay a wreath and to offer a gun salute on the spot where "the Noble Commander-in-Chief" fell, his body later being placed in a cask of brandy to be shipped back to England. Other navy plans include a parade through Trafalgar Square and a VIP dinner in Nelson's cabin on board his flagship, Victory, at Portsmouth dockyard. The Government has designated 2005 as the Year of the Sea, with a website, SeaBritain, of which Prince Philip, a former naval officer, is the patron. A navy spokesman acknowledged that the dispute with Whitehall was delaying final plans. "It is frustrating not to be able to have firm details," he said. "It is, as always, a question of getting permission from the centre and, of course, money." If Whitehall wins the tussle, naval chiefs say that the commemoration of the Royal navy's most glorious hour will go off at half-cock. The two fleets met off Cape Trafalgar on Oct 21, 1805. The engagement was one of the most decisive victories in the history of naval warfare, with 18 of the 33 French and Spanish captured or sunk. Not a single Royal navy ship was lost, but Adml Nelson was wounded and died aboard Victory. The battle ended for ever Napoleon's schemes to invade Britain and laid the foundations for the Royal navy's unchallenged sovereignty of the world's oceans for a century. Adml of the Fleet Sir Julian Oswald, a former first sea lord, underlined the navy's debt to Nelson. He said yesterday: "He was the greatest. This brilliant, enigmatic, flawed leader and extremely successful admiral gave us a decade of stunning naval victories. "He finally nailed the threat of French invasion and assured us the position of 100 years of naval mastery."
Navy expects No 10 to do its duty
Even 200 years after his death, there is nothing that touches the heart of a Royal navy officer so much as the fate of Horatio Nelson, falling stricken on the deck of his flagship at the moment of his greatest triumph. So the Government is taking a gamble by attempting to sink the navy's plans for a huge celebration of victory, with warships from around the world, by saying it does not have the cash or the ships. It is enough to make any naval officer see red and there is every indication that the nation's admirals are already engaged in a ferocious behind-the-scenes battle. The argument is of keen interest to officers serving and retired. "The 'Nelson spirit' is still something the navy aspires to uphold," said one retired admiral yesterday, before adding, "I hope the events of 2005 will be supported by the Government." There will be other problems though, even if the Government does suffer the fate of the French fleet. Bringing together sufficient vessels to constitute a Fleet Review is costly and involves intricate planning to ensure ships reach home at the right moment. The demand for naval vessels has not been so high - and the supply so limited - for many decades. What ships the Treasury has allowed the navy to build are widely scattered. Warships are currently on blockade duty in the Gulf, operating in the Straits of Hormuz, the Mediterranean and Atlantic, and on anti-drug patrols in the Caribbean. But even though the number of naval vessels has dwindled since the end of the Cold War, celebrations of the navy's greatest triumph would mean little without the the enactment of perhaps its oldest tradition - the Fleet Review. The first were recorded when England's warrior kings left to wage war on the French in the Medieval era. In 1346, Edward III conducted the first review on his way to the Battle of Crecy with the Black Prince. Henry V gathered the fleet in 1415 before the campaign that led to Agincourt. But it was during the 19th century that the Fleet Review became a regular feature of naval life. For the Trafalgar bicentennial, planners want a far wider range of events to commemorate the battle. Colin White, a distinguished biographer of Nelson and director of the bicentennial celebrations, said: "A lot of people are working extremely hard on the anniversary. It will be a very exciting year and we have not yet divulged some of the most impressive projects." But it is known that there will be a recreation of Nelson's waterborne funeral procession from Greenwich to Whitehall, accompanied by the largest flotilla seen on the Thames in modern times. The Royal navy will link up with the 1805 Club and The Nelson Society and recreate the journey of the Trafalgar dispatch, in which Admiral Collingwood reported the victory and Nelson's death. The training ship, the Lord Nelson, will represent Pickle, the schooner, and sail from Spain to Britain via France delivering copies of the New Trafalgar dispatch to Spanish and French officials. Young serving naval officers will then man a port chaise, a light, horse-drawn carriage, and retrace the route taken by Lt Lapenotiere, who raced from Falmouth to the Admiralty in London - covering the 270-mile journey in 38 hours and with 21 changes of horse. They will proceed at a more leisurely pace. One of the many incidental projects is that of the Rev David Phipps, whose predecessor in the Cornish parish of Madron was the first to ring church bells when news of the victory reached shore. The same bells are now mute because the frame is broken and Mr Phipps needs to raise £50,000 to make them ready to ring again in 2005. It is also planned to erect a monument commemorating Trafalgar on the Spanish coast, and the Spanish are planning an ecumenical church service and an offshore spectacle at Cadiz, the port from which the Franco-Spanish fleet sailed. Mr White said Spain was keen to celebrate the battle. He emphasised the humanitarian gestures made between Spaniards and British after the battle and the "enormous gallantry" of the Spanish. The French, however, according to the scuttlebutt, naval slang for hearsay, are less enthusiastic to commemorate what for them was a national disaster.
Nelson spinning in his grave
Any doubts that the Armed Forces are facing serious budget constraints and even cuts will be dispelled by the news that there are not enough ships, or at least not enough money, for the Royal navy to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar with a proper review. Publicly, ministers will deny this. Indeed, the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Paul Boateng, wrote to this newspaper to that effect last week. But on the frontline - and in Iraq and Afghanistan our Forces are deployed in anger - the situation is very different to that in the cosy confines of Whitehall. It is true that, last year, there was an increase in the defence budget and the Chancellor put aside £3 billion for Iraq. But these amounts are paltry when you consider that September 11 abruptly changed the security situation for the worse and sent our Forces on new and dangerous missions round the world. Furthermore, these extra demands come after a decade of cuts - the ``peace dividend'' - which saw defence spending reduced by half in real terms. Incredibly, the Treasury is asking for more ``savings'', which will be detailed next week in a White Paper. All this trimming has left the Royal navy, like the Army, seriously overstretched. At the time of the Falklands war, the fleet had about 60 destroyers and frigates. Now it can muster just 32. Soon, the Sea Harrier will be phased out, leaving the fleet without air cover until 2015, when new aircraft carriers and fighters enter service. We suspect, once ministers realise the potential for a public relations disaster, ships will be called back and a Trafalgar review will go ahead. Indeed, the Ministry of Defence has said 2005 should be "Year of the Sea". Even so, you cannot help thinking that Lord Nelson, whose victory at Trafalgar ushered in a century of British maritime supremacy and put paid to Napoleon's cross-Channel invasion plans, would sigh at the navy's threadbare condition. If he were around, he might warn us that it is foolish for an island nation with global interests, facing new and uncertain threats, to run its defences on the cheap, as we do now.
November 26, 2003
Horatio Nelson by Colin White
Research has shown that the naval hero was also an accomplished diplomat, an able administrator and a careful tactician. By Colin White
NELSON is Jack Aubrey's hero. Long after more fashionable officers have started wearing their cocked hats "fore and aft", he continues to wear his "athwartships" in honour of the great man. Yet Nelson never appears in person in any of the Aubrey/Maturin novels -we are told that Aubrey met him only once, at a dinner.
His memory of the occasion is vivid. He often talks about their encounter and says that he has never forgotten the two things that Nelson said to him. One was professional advice: "Never mind manoeuvres, always go at 'em!" The other was more mundane: "Would you pass the salt?" Jack remembers the friendly smile with which Nelson accompanied the request and the kindly way in which the words were uttered Patrick O'Brian was usually meticulous in his research, but in attributing these two remarks to Nelson the Master nodded. In fact, Nelson never took salt with his meals -the surgeon in HMS Victory at Trafalgar, Dr William Beatty, noted that the admiral "left off the use of salt" when a young man, believing it to be the main cause of scurvy.
"Always go at 'em" has long been a maxim attributed to Nelson, but modern research has challenged this view and it now appears that the phrase belongs to the dashing frigate captain Lord Cochrane, on whom, in some ways, Aubrey was based.This small-scale readjustment of Nelson's story is symbolic of a much larger movement that is challenging the traditional Nelson narrative. Until recently there was a consensus among historians that there was little new to be said about Nelson, but that view has been shot out of the water by a recent discovery.
Over the past two years the Nelson Letters Project, jointly sponsored by the National Maritime and Royal Naval museums, has been making a survey of archives with Nelson material, in Britain and overseas. The project has uncovered a large body of new material: at the last count more than 1,200 letters. It is the most significant addition to the Nelson "canon" in more than 100 years.
The Nelson that is emerging is a more subtle and rounded figure. He is an accomplished diplomat, a canny intelligence officer, a very able administrator and an adept manipulator of the complex system of patronage that kept Georgian England running smoothly. Indeed, some of the stories that have come to light read like the Aubrey/Maturin novels.
Nelson is also a careful tactician. The most dramatic discovery was that last year of a sketch, in the archive of the National Maritime Museum, drawn by him in the autumn of 1805 to illustrate the tactics for his next battle -what he called "The Nelson Touch". One historian called it "the Holy Grail of naval history".
The lower part of the sketch shows the enemy fleet in a thick diagonal line.
Nelson's fleet (on the left of the diagram) is formed in three divisions. One division ranges alongside part of the enemy fleet, holding it down, and preventing it from doing anything to help the rest. In the meantime, the other two divisions cut through the enemy line in two places, dividing it into three segments to be surrounded and dealt with piecemeal.
Looking at this crude drawing is like looking over Nelson's shoulder as he explains his ideas. We can even sense the excitement with which he has demonstrated the cutting of the line -his pen has dug into the paper. This is not an unsubtle headlong attack. This is a masterplan created by one of the greatest leaders Britain has produced. Far from simply "going at 'em", Nelson is using carefully thought-out manoeuvres to, as he put it, "confuse and confound" the enemy.
So two key aspects of Aubrey's recollection of his hero are now known to be wrong.
But the essence of his story is spot on: Nelson's charisma, his ability to invest even the briefest encounter and the most mundane of exchanges with a memorable quality.
It is this side of Nelson that emerges most clearly from the new material that the Nelson Letters Project has collected. We see Nelson the indulgent uncle playing with his young nephew Horatio, and issuing him with mock operational orders.
Nelson the lover writing passionate letters to his mistress. Of course, the sexy passages were removed by prudish Victorian editors -but we can now restore them.
Above all, we can see the great leader inspiring his officers. "Be assured my dear Admiral," he tells a subordinate in one of the letters, "that no person in the Service has greater value for your Public Services than myself, nor any man breathing a more perfect esteem for your private character."
In 2005 Britain will mark the bicentenary of Trafalgar and Nelson's death with events all over the country and overseas. The National Maritime Museum is planning a major exhibition. There will be international conferences, and an "armada" of new books. We will not be celebrating a single-minded fighter who did not concern himself with manoeuvres. We will be honouring the charismatic, irritable, vain, affectionate, complex and fascinating man who reveals himself so vividly in his wonderful letters...and who didn't take salt!
Colin White is a leading Nelson scholar, director of Trafalgar 200 at the National Maritime Museum, and also the author of The Nelson Encyclopaedia, Chatham Publishing
The Sunday Times
November 16, 2003
Nelson sale: all hands on deck
“I have, in the course of my life, been in 105 engagements; but that today was the most terrible of all.” These were Horatio Nelson’s words after the Battle of Copenhagen in April 1801. They are reported in an issue of the Norwich Mercury, which comes up for sale at Christie’s South Kensington on Wednesday, when it is expected to fetch £700 to £900. Interest in naval history, particularly naval battles, has grown to such an extent that Christie’s set up a special sale category in 2001 to cope with the demand. The most popular area of collecting is material relating to the Napoleonic wars, between 1792 and 1815. Nelson remains the “Churchill” of this era, and his turning point was the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Previously, Nelson was just one of several admirals but his brilliant victory in that engagement set him apart. This week’s sale includes an extract from the logbook of the Victory, published in The Morning Chronicle on New Year’s Day 1806. It records that at about “15 minutes after one” Nelson was wounded in the shoulder. At “4h 30 when a victory having been reported to the right Hon Lord Nelson, KB, Commander in Chief, he then died of his wounds.” The extract is expected to fetch £500-£800. The main battles featured in the sale are Copenhagen, Trafalgar, the Nile and Cape St Vincent. Among the other Nelson memorabilia is a ticket to his funeral at St Paul’s (January 9, 1806), estimated at £200-£300. An earlier account of him with both Lady Nelson and Lady Hamilton in a theatre box at Covent Garden, when the assembled company literally sang their praises, is expected to make £300-£500. There is quite a market in these newspaper reports of the day, but the newspaper must be in good condition and the report must be the first that was printed. This week’s sale also includes a fine collection of naval officers’ dirks, swords and cutlasses. Among the many models is one of HMS Victory (£500-£800) and another of the Bounty (£300-£500). The star lot, a navy board model of an early 18th-century warship, is a great rarity — and the price reflects that: £150,000 to £200,000. Sale: Maritime and Naval Battles, Christie’s South Kensington, November 19, at 10.30 and 2.00
Norwich Evening News
January 22, 2006
Nelson artefacts to be sold
Due to refurbishment of a Norwich hotel a number of Nelson artefacts will be sold by auction later this year.
The Hotel Nelson is being refurbished and rebranded as the Nelson Norwich Premier Travel Inn.
As part of the £5 million revamp of the hotel, memorabilia it used to house detailing the maritime exploits of Lord Nelson are to be auctioned off.
Around 50 items, including nautical charts, portraits and even a piece of Norfolk's most famous son's flagship Victory will go under the hammer later this year.