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Piece of Trafalgar battle flag expected to sell for £100,000

10 January 2018
This is a fragment of one of two Union Jacks flown by Nelson’s flagship during the definitive naval battle in the age of sail.

It’s one of nearly 50 Nelson-themed artefacts, mementoes and personal effects which go under the hammer 17th January, expected by auctioneers Sotheby’s to sell for several hundred thousand pounds.

The flag relic is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the 18th/19th-Century ‘Nelsoniana’ being made available to buyers as part of the auction house’s ‘Of Royal and Noble’ sale.

Other objects include a painting of the 1805 battle (valued at circa £80k), a Faberge-esque commemorative egg (£8k), ring (£12k), figurines (£2,500), newspapers and pamphlets (£3k), letters penned by Nelson such as to Lady Hamilton (£12k) and a decanter set with wine glasses (£40k).

Of the 33 Royal Navy ships which raised the Union Jack on October 21 1805, only two standards are believed to still exist intact

The segment of the Victory Jack – 86cm by 92cm (34in by 36in) – is expected to sell for at least £80,000 by the world-famous auctioneers.

In the run-up to the decisive clash with the Franco-Spanish fleet, Nelson ordered all British warships to fly the national flags as well as their squadron Colours when they went into battle.

Of the 33 Royal Navy ships which raised the Union Jack on October 21 1805, only two standards are believed to still exist intact: one is held by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the other is in private hands having been bought for nearly £400,000 a decade ago.

After Trafalgar, the flags flown in the battle were carried by Victory’s sailor and marines as part of Nelson’s elaborate funeral service in January 1806. Two of the battle ensigns – one Jack, one St George’s flag – were buried with the admiral, but the largest flag was torn apart by the bearers as a memento.

This particular piece eventually ended up in the hands of RUSI, who donated it to a Royal Navy captain in the early 19th Century.

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