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

Bringing Nelson home

Nelson's Pigtail
View full size imageNelson's Pigtail. © NMM

Sadness at home

The British people were very sad when news of Nelson's death arrived on 6 November.

The Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, wrote 'men started at the intelligence and turned pale as if they had heard of the death of a dear friend'.

Immediately plans began to be made for a lavish state funeral.

HMS Victory towed into Gibraltar
View full size imageHMS Victory towed into Gibraltar. © NMM

Repairs to the 'Victory'

Meanwhile, the Victory, which had been badly damaged in the battle, arrived in Gibraltar for repairs.

She then sailed for home, arriving at Portsmouth on 4 December.

Mourning Ring,
View full size imageNelson Mourning Ring. © NMM

Tensions emerge

By then preparations for the funeral were well under way.  But there was tension about who should take part.

For example, there was no plan to include the sailors of HMS Victory. Pressure from the popular press eventually forced an official change of mind.

The Brave Tars of the Victory and the Remains of the Lamented Nelson
View full size imageCaricature entitled 'The Brave Tars of the Victory and the Remains of the Lamented Nelson'. © NMM

There were also tensions among some of the public figures involved.

The Prince of Wales originally planned to attend in his official capacity. But the King forbade it, so he went as a private citizen.

Coffin fit for a hero

The Victory sailed from Portsmouth to the Nore, a naval anchorage at the mouth of the River Thames.

Lord Nelson's Coffin with description of the ornaments and devices thereon.
View full size imageLord Nelson's coffin. © NMM
Nelson's body was placed in a coffin made of wood taken from L'orient, a French battleship blown up during his victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Later this plain coffin was placed inside a gilded casket with lavish decoration celebrating Nelson's life and victories.