Rare Nelson funeral artifact up for auction

A silk panel which formed part of a cloth on which the coffin of Lord Nelson was placed on the journey to his state funeral has been put up for auction.

The rare painted silk hatchment, also featuring a Viscount's coronet and framed in a gilt border, was one of six that made up the cloth on the famous funeral car which took Norfolk's most famous son to the service at St Paul's Cathedral. It is expected to fetch up to �35,000.

It was passed to Nelson's HMS Victory chaplain, the Rev Dr Alexander Scott, following the funeral on January 9, 1806.

Dr Scott was also the admiral's interpreter and the man who held and supported Nelson as he lay dying at the Battle of Trafalgar. Afterwards he wrote to Nelson's lover Emma Hamilton saying: 'What an affectionate, fascinating little fellow he was . . . I become stupid with grief for what I have lost.'

The catalogue entry for the artifact explains that state funerals for non-Royals were as rare in the 19th century as they are now. It says: 'When George III heard the news of Nelson's death he is reported to have said through tears, 'We have lost more than we have gained' – clearly protocol had to be set aside and elaborate plans hastily made for the hero's internment.'

Nelson lay in state at Greenwich for three days before his coffin was taken up river on a barge accompanied by Lord Hood Sir Peter Parker and the Prince of Wales. It was taken to the Admiralty for the night, attended by Dr Scott ahead of the funeral procession the next day consisting of seven Royal Dukes, 32 Admirals, more than 100 captains and an escort of 10,000 troops to St Paul's. Vast crowds thronged the entire route which were lined by a further 30,000 troops. After a four-hour service he was laid to rest within a sarcophagus, originally carved for Cardinal Wolsey, being lowered through the floor directly under the great dome.

The panel, which measures less than two foot square, was passed to Dr Scott's daughter Margaret, and kept in the family until it was sold in 2002 to the present unnamed vendor.

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Other Nelson memorabilia is also up for sale including a silk banner carried at the funeral by a Robert Thatcher, an officer of the Hastings Company of Volunteers. It is expected to fetch between �1000 and �1500.

The sale of Maritime & Scientific Models, Instruments & Art is on Wednesday, October 27, six days after Trafalgar Day, with auctioneers Charles Miller Ltd in London.

l For more details visit www.charlesmillerltd.com or call 0207 806 5530.