Union Jack Fragment From Nelson's Flagship At Trafalgar Sold For £297,000

The historic piece was said to be one of two flown from HMS Victory when Lord Horatio Nelson was shot by a French sniper in 1805...

A large fragment of the Union Jack flown from Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar has sold for £297,000 at auction.

The historic piece was said to be one of two flown from HMS Victory when Lord Horatio Nelson was shot by a French sniper in 1805.

Admiral Nelson had issued orders that all his ships going into battle should not only fly the St George's Ensign but also a Union Jack from their fore top-gallant stay.

These battle ensigns formed part of the ceremonials that marked his state funeral in January 1806.

His body lay in state at the Painted Hall at Greenwich for four days before processing upriver in a funeral barge with a flotilla of naval escorts, disembarking at Whitehall Stairs and resting overnight in the Admiralty.

The following day, 9 January, a vast procession followed Nelson's remains to St Paul's Cathedral with a funeral cortege including 48 seamen and Marines from HMS Victory, who bore with them the ship's three battle ensigns.

Lord Nelson HMS Victory
HMS Victory flew two Union flags and a St George's Ensign, which were returned to England with the ship and the body of Nelson.

But at the end of the funeral before folding the flags and placing them on the coffin, those who had served under Nelson had torn off a considerable part of the largest flag to share among them as a memento.

Most of the surviving fragments are smaller in size and have appeared at auction while similar fragments are found at the National Maritime Museum and other collections.

Only two complete Union Jacks used as battle ensigns at Trafalgar survive, one from HMS Minotaur held by the National Maritime Museum and the other from HMS Spartiate sold at auction for £384,000 in 2009.

The 86cm by 92cm fragment forms part of the bottom-right or top-left quadrant of the Union flag. (Picture: SWNS)

It comprises of eight panels of red, white and blue hand-woven woollen bunting, hand-stitched together with a hem turned over enclosing 46cm of twine crudely torn at the edges.

It belonged to "Captain W.H. Dobbie, RN", presumably William Hugh Dobbie who served in the East Indies Station from 1790 to 1808 and was gifted by him to the Museum of the Royal United Services Institute.

Cover picture courtesy of SWNS.