Nelson's Bloodstained Purse Up For Sale at Sotheby's

By David Prudames | 01 July 2002
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Left: the purse contained 21 gold coins placed in it by Nelson on the morning of his death.

A bloodstained silk purse worn by Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar is to go on sale at Sotheby's in London.

The purse is one of a collection of items kept by Nelson's friend, treasurer and closest advisor Alexander Davison, which will be sold on Trafalgar Day, October 21.

Right: one of the Nile Swords, presented to the captains of the ships that fought in the Battle of the Nile.

The collection has stayed with Davison's family, but was not kept in the UK and therefore the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is unable to place an export ban on it.

Also among the treasures are a letter sent by Nelson to Davison just a few days before the Battle of Trafalgar, a pair of wine coolers commemorating the Battle of the Nile and a diamond brooch bearing the initials H.N.

Left: the letter sent by Nelson to Alexander Davison from HMS Victory days before the Battle of Trafalgar.

There are also many letters sent to Davison both by the Admiral's wife and his lover, Lady Hamilton, providing further insight into his well-documented love life.

"It is certainly important that we try to keep the collection in this country and preferably where it could be consulted by researchers and students," said Ron Fiske, a trustee of the Norfolk Nelson Museum.

Right: a letter written by Nelson's lover Lady Hamilton to Alexander Davison in September 1805.

"One would certainly say that the bigger museums would be interested, but it is a pity that it can't stay together as a collection some where."

The son of a Norfolk parson, Nelson has long been revered as one of Britain's most important and popular heroes.

Left: a diamond brooch with Horatio's famous initials.

He began his naval career at the age of twelve, rising quickly through the ranks to attain a peerage following the defeat of the French fleet in Aboukir Bay, Egypt.

Perhaps his most famous hour came in 1805, when after engaging a fleet of French and Spanish ships off Cape Trafalgar he was shot on board HMS Victory and died upon hearing that the battle was won.

To find out more about Lord Nelson, pay a visit to the Nelson gallery at the National Maritime Museum in London, or the newly opened Norfolk Nelson Museum.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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