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Interment of the Remains of the Late Lord Viscount Nelson

Date: 1806
Image: 320 x 443 mm
Overall: 475 x 605 mm, 0.3 kg
Sheet: 475 x 605 mm
Display Dimensions: 550 x 745 x 50 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00019634
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    On arrival at St Paul's Cathedral, Nelson's body was placed on a catafalque (raised platform) directly beneath the great dome. Thousands of spectators were seated on raked staging, specially erected for the funeral service. Captured French and Spanish flags were hung from the dome.

    The service was performed within the usual daily service of Evensong, beginning with the singing of the Burial Sentences as the coffin was carried up the Nave and laid in front of the altar. Immediately behind the coffin came Nelson's male relatives. After Evensong the organist played a Grand Dirge composed especially for the occasion. The coffin was carried back out into the space beneath the dome and replaced on its platform. The last words were read: 'earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust', the final anthem sung and then the coffin began to sink slowly into the Crypt below where it was placed in the Italian marble sarcophagus that can still be seen today. Presented by King George III from the Royal Collection, this sarcophagus was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey in the 16th century. As it disappeared, the Chief Herald read out Nelson's full titles, ending with the words, 'The hero, who in the moment of victory, fell covered with immortal glory.'

    Then the Officers of Nelson's Household broke their staves and handed them to the Herald, to be thrown into the grave. As they did so, the sailors were supposed to fold up the VICTORY's shot-torn colours and place them on a table. But instead, they ripped off a portion of one of the flags and divided it into smaller pieces to keep as mementoes.

    The interior dome of St Paul's was artificially lit for the first time with a lantern made up of 130 individually lit lamps.

    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 after the Battle of the Nile (1798).

    Nelson's body lay in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital for three days, where tens of thousands of 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 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 exciting 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 when 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.

    Additional Titles


    Web title: Interment of the Remains of the Late Lord Viscount Nelson

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