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Remains of Lord Viscount Nelson laying in state in the Painted Chamber at Greenwich Hospital

Date: 1806
Image: 320 x 443 mm
Sheet: 475 x 605 mm
Overall: 475 x 605 mm, 0.3 kg
Display Dimensions: 550 x 745 x 50 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00019632
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    From 5 to 7 January 1806, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's coffin lay in state in the Painted Hall at the Greenwich Hospital (now Greenwich University). This was the famous institution for sick and wounded sailors built on the bank of the River Thames. The first mourner was the Princess of Wales, who paid a private visit. Then the doors were thrown open and thousands of people pressed in to pay their respects. There were so many (estimated at being between 15-30,000) that the authorities feared there might be a riot.

    This coloured aquatint engraved by Merigot after a work by Pugin conveys the mournful scene inside the Painted Hall. The Upper Hall was draped in black and arrayed with symbols of state mourning: banners, armorial escutcheons and sconced candles while the Lower Hall windows were draped and barriers erected to channel the crowds. The casket was flanked at each corner by an Honour Guard.

    SignificanceThe Nelson Funeral was unprecedented - he was the first non-royal to be granted a state funeral. His significance to Australia lies in the legendary standards Nelson set for valour, discipline and naval strategy. They remain important traditions in those navies, like Australia's, which were formed in the British mould.
    HistoryAdmiral Lord Nelson is considered the greatest naval hero in British history and his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 plunged the country into mourning. His corpse arrived back in England in a cask of brandy and raw alcohol and was taken to Greenwich on 5 January 1806. There it was placed in a lead coffin which was then placed inside another wooden one made from the mast of L'ORIENT - salvaged (on Nelson's orders) after the Battle of the Nile (1798).

    Nelson's body lay in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital for three days, where some 15-30,000 people from all walks of life filed past the remains of their beloved naval hero. There were so many mourners that the authorities were fearful a riot could break out at any time, brought on by nothing more than grief over Nelson. Black hangings covered the vivid wall paintings and brightly coloured shields and coats of arms gleamed in the glow from hundreds of candles. The coffin was surrounded with trophies, including captured French and Spanish flags.

    On the 8th his remains were placed in the royal barge originally made for King Charles II and taken up river, accompanied by Lord Hood, Sir Peter Parker and the Prince of Wales. The Prince at first announced his intention to attend the funeral as chief mourner, but later attended in a private capacity with his brothers when his father King George III reminded him that it was against protocol for the Heir to the Throne to officially attend the funerals of anyone except members of the Royal Family.

    The City Livery Companies attended the procession in their own ceremonial barges, to make the procession from Greenwich to Whitehall the most awesome spectacle ever to have been seen on the River Thames. Disembarking at Whitehall they proceeded to the Admiralty, where the body of Lord Nelson, attended by his chaplain Alexander Scott, who had been with Nelson as he died, remained overnight.

    The next day, 9 January, a funeral procession of 32 admirals, over a hundred captains, and an escort of 10,000 troops took the coffin from the Admiralty to St Paul's Cathedral. Along the processional route there was a reverenced silence from the huge crowds that had assembled in the streets and in the stands which had been specially erected to accommodate the throng. Mourners occupied every conceivable vantage point in order to witness this overwhelmingly sad spectacle.
    After a four-hour service Nelson was laid to rest within an Italian marble sarcophagus presented by King George III from the Royal Collection.

    From The Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser on Sunday 3 August 1806 comes the following report of the funeral:
    The Body of the illustrious Hero, lying in State, presented the most magnificent and awful display of funeral splendor ever witnessed, perhaps from the Creation of the World, as every beholder appeared personally interested in the awful scene, from participating in which many thousands were disappointed owing to the immense crowds that flocked towards the Royal Hospital from every avenue.

    On the 8th of January the Body was removed by water to Whitehall in a barge covered with black velvet, and magnificently adorned, attended in procession by many other barges, in which were many Admirals, Captains, and Lieutenants of the Navy, and the principal Officers of State made part of a most extensive and brilliant procession.

    From Whitehall the body was conveyed to the Admiralty with equal pomp, and was the next day removed to St. Paul's Cathedral for interment with a grandeur which surpasses the liveliest conception. The body was conveyed on a funeral car, the brilliancy of which dazzled the eyes of the spectators, and when arrived at St. Paul's was taken from the car by eight seamen of the Victory, who with torrents streaming down their manly cheeks paid this last tribute of duty and undisguised affection to a brave and generous Commander.

    On a cable extending from the top the dome were displayed all the colours of different Powers taken by the victorious NELSON, the Victory's Flag flying over them, which on a signal was lowered into the grave, never to be separated from the sacred Remains of the lamented Noble Man.

    The coffin plate was of burnished gold, the dimensions 13 inches by 9, and prepared by His Majesty's Goldsmith. The following is the inscription: The Most Noble Lord HORATIO NELSON, Viscount and Baron Nelson of the Nile, and of Burnham Thorpe, in the County of Norfolk; Baron Nelson of the Nile, and of Hilsborough in the said County; Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath; Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet; and Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean. Also, Duke of Bronte, in Sicily; Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of Ferdinand, and of Merit; Member of the Ottoman Order of The Crescent; Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim. Born September 29, 1758

    After a series of transcendant and heroic Services this gallant Admiral fell gloriously in the moment of a brilliant and decisive Victory of the Combined Fleets of France and Spain, off Cape Trafalgar, on the 21st of October, 1805. There were also several other elegant productions of the arts upon the Coffin, and great taste and magnificence was displayed in the funeral Cars.

    If the preparations for the solemnity were a testimony of Royal Munificence and the esteem of a Nation ardent in discharging its obligations to superior merit, we are induced to say that the armed force collected to do honour to the procession were concentrated with a promptitude that exceeded credibility. The regular troops, chiefly consisting of the regiments that had participated in the departed hero's truimph in Egypt, were not less than ten thousand in number. The Scots Greys and five other regiments of cavalry, were disposed at proper intervals, all moving in order of battle; and the streets were lined by more than twenty thousand Volunteers; a detachment of flying artillery closing the Military part of this most wonderful and awful spectacle.

    His Royal Highness the Prince of WALES, accompanied by the Dukes of CLARENCE, KENT, and many other illustrious Personages were seated in the choir of the Cathedral; and before the Body entered the church, His Royal Highness advanced to the western door to join the procession, where he remained uncovered for nearly half an hour, when the procession advanced slowly to the choir ; and during the whole performance of the funeral service His Royal Highness stood, with the Duke of Clarence on his right, and the Duke of Kent upon his left.

    The coffin was at length uncovered, and awful stillness reigned. The impression was electric! The moment had arrived that the mortal remains of an inestimable Hero were to be rendered to the tranquil tomb! At 33 minutes past five the coffin was lowered into the grave; whither it was followed by universal and unspeakable regret.

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    Web title: Remains of Lord Viscount Nelson laying in state in the Painted Chamber at Greenwich Hospital

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    Publisher: James Cundee

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