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

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Funeral service

The final farewell

Arrival of Nelson's Funeral Carriage for interment at St Paul's Cathedral.
View full size imageThe funeral service at St Paul's Cathedral. © NMM
On arrival at St Paul's, Nelson's body was placed on a platform directly beneath its great dome.

Thousands of spectators gathered around the body in specially erected stands.

Spanish naval ensign captured at Trafalgar and displayed at Nelson's funeral service
View full size imageThis Spanish naval ensign was displayed during Nelson's funeral service. © NMM

Souvenirs of victory

Captured French and Spanish flags were hung from the dome. One of these is shown in this modern photograph.

It belonged to a Spanish battleship and had been captured during the Battle of Trafalgar.

Sir Peter Parker Bart late Admiral of the Fleet.
View full size imageAdmiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Parker, the Chief Mourner. © NMM

A simple service

The service was simple yet emotional. It was performed within the usual daily service of Evensong.

The ceremony began 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. His young nephew George Matcham recorded in his diary, 'it was the most aweful sight I ever saw'.

Captain Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, 1769-1839.
View full size imageCaptain Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, carrier of the 'Banner of Emblems' at the funeral service. © NMM

Special composition

After Evensong had been performed 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' and the final anthem sung.

This was an arrangement of one of Handel's choruses, 'His body is buried in peace - but his name liveth evermore!'

Nelson's Funeral
View full size imageThe Dean of St Paul's reads the prayers at Nelson's Funeral. © NMM

Words for a hero

Then the coffin began to sink slowly into the crypt below. As it disappeared, the Chief Herald read out the full titles of the dead man.

He ended 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.   

Ticket for Nelson's funeral.
View full size image Ticket for Nelson's funeral. © NMM

Mementos for his sailors

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, the sailors ripped off a portion of one of the flags and divided it into smaller pieces to keep as mementos.

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