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The state funeral of Lord Nelson, 5-9 January 1806

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The death of Nelson


The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805.
View full size imageThe Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, by J. M. W. Turner. © NMM

Felled by French fire

Vice-Admiral Nelson was shot by a French musketman at about 1.15 p.m. on 21 October 1805, when the Battle of Trafalgar was at its height. 

He was on the quarterdeck of his flagship, HMS Victory, with his friend Captain Thomas Hardy. 

Nelson was carried to the ship's 'cockpit', below the waterline, where the wounded were treated in relative safety.

The Death of Nelson, 21st October 1805.
View full size imageThe Death of Nelson, 21 October 1805. © NMM

Death at the moment of victory

After more than three hours of agony, Nelson finally died at about 4.30 p.m.

That was shortly after Hardy had told him that they had won a great victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain.

Nelson's Trafalgar Coat.
View full size image Nelson's Trafalgar Coat. © NMM

The usual practice was to bury at sea all those killed in battle. But Hardy and the Victory's officers knew that the country would wish to honour Nelson's remains.

They decided to preserve his body in a barrel of brandy so that it could be taken home to Britain.

 

A Sailor's Observation on the Lamented Death of Lord Nelson
View full size imageCaricature entitled 'A Sailor's Observation on the lamented Death of Lord Nelson'. © NMM

Joy and sorrow

The news of Nelson's death caused widespread sorrow in his fleet.

The men's joy at the victory – one of the most decisive in naval history – was overshadowed by the news of their admiral's death.

Many broke down and cried, so much had they loved him.




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