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Popular Nelson prints

Alongside the fine oil portraits of Lord Nelson and famous paintings of his battles, the Museum also holds a large collection of popular prints illustrating his life. These colourful and inexpensive images made the Nelson story readily available to everyone.

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Coat of arms of Lord Nelson

Coat of arms of Lord Nelson

This elaborate coat of arms illustrates Nelson’s complete naval career. The original Nelson family arms were altered in honour of his victories. After the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 he was created a Knight of the Bath and granted supporters of a sailor and a lion tearing the Spanish flag. The stern of the captured Spanish 'San Josef' became his crest. Following the Battle of the Nile in 1798 a new motto and the Turkish ‘chelengk’ crest were added, and the shield acquired a palm tree, a ruined fort and disabled ship. Above the shield is his viscount’s coronet.

J. Adlard [printer]; Bowles & Carver [publishers], Unknown
© National Maritime Museum, London


"The Death of Admiral Lord Nelson in the Moment of Victory"

Throughout his life Nelson inspired many caricatures by leading artists. This scene of his fatal wounding at Trafalgar on October 21st 1805 by James Gillray was published two months after the battle. Cradled in the arms of a weeping Britannia modelled on Lady Hamilton, and tended by King George III taking the part of Captain Hardy, Nelson collapses onto a gun, before being taken below to die in the 'Victory’s' cockpit. Above him a winged figure of Fame writes “Immortality” in clouds of gun-smoke.

J. Gillray (artist & engraver): H. Humphrey (publisher), 23 December 1805
© National Maritime Museum, London


“A Sailor’s Observation on the Lamented Death of Lord Nelson”

“A Sailor’s Observation on the Lamented Death of Lord Nelson”

This caricature of sailors mourning Nelson’s death combines humour with the genuine grief, which for many had taken the edge off the Trafalgar victory celebrations. The sailor in the striped trousers has used his black silk handkerchief to put his drinking glass in mourning, saying it “is his dear departed Honor Lord Nelson, it was just now fill’d with grog – but the spirit is gone”. However, he holds a second full glass representing Lord Collingwood, so can still toast “his Honor and all his brave Tars, and the memory of the Immortal Hero of the Nile.”

Woodward, George M (artist): Rowlandson, Thomas (engraver): Ackermann, Rudolph (publisher), 3 December 1805
© National Maritime Museum, London


A broadsheet song on Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar

A broadsheet song on Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar

The cheapest prints at the time of Nelson’s death were broadsheet verses like these, which were sold in the streets for a penny or two. This example commemorating both the victory at Trafalgar and the loss of Nelson, was published on the actual day of his funeral, for sale to the crowds gathered in London for the occasion. The simple woodcut of a sailor at the top would have been a suitable image selected by the printer from his stock.

Unknown, 9 January 1805
© National Maritime Museum, London


“A Fanciful Representation of the Funeral Barge”

“A Fanciful Representation of the Funeral Barge”

Nelson’s funeral on 9th January 1806 was a great London public spectacle. The coffin was carried aboard Charles II’s royal barge in a crowded river procession of ceremonial boats from Greenwich to Westminster. This colourful print gives a rather fanciful representation of the rowing barge, which is still displayed in the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth. The Hanoverian royal standard flies at the bow, the white ensign at the stern, and a large flag bearing Nelson’s coat of arms is on the canopy above the coffin.

W. B. Walker (publisher), 1 March 1806
© National Maritime Museum, London


“The Magnificent Funeral Car”

“The Magnificent Funeral Car”

A specially-designed funeral carriage conveyed Nelson’s body in a huge procession through the London streets from the Admiralty in Whitehall to St Paul’s Cathedral. The carriage, which was intended to resemble a ship, was afterwards displayed in the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital, until it fell apart some years later. The figurehead of Victory holding a laurel wreath and two of the gilt letters from the motto can be seen in this Museum’s Nelson Gallery. Images of the funeral procession were popular as prints on paper and linen and even produced as a dissected puzzle.

Laurie & Whittle (publishers), 28 January 1806
© National Maritime Museum, London


The Nelson relics displayed at Greenwich Hospital.

The Nelson relics displayed at Greenwich Hospital.

This engraving was published in the Illustrated London News of March 25, 1865, so must have been very widely seen. The damaged coat and waistcoat which Nelson had been wearing when he died at the Battle of Trafalgar, had gone on public display in the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital some twenty years earlier. The Victorian display case in which the coat and waistcoat were exhibited could evidently be closed to protect the garments. They have survived to the present day and are now displayed in our Nelson Gallery, together with Nelson’s bloodstained Trafalgar breeches and stockings.

Illustrated London News, 25 March 1865
© National Maritime Museum, London



National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund