Nelson’s Coffin

Horatio Nelson

Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805) is a name that needs no introduction, his legacy is nothing short of impressive. Joining the Navy at the age of 12, he quickly rose through the ranks and by 20 he gained his own command. While he was active in many engagements, The Battle of Trafalgar is what solidified his position as one of the most famous naval captain in British history, if not the world. Although it was during this battle that he was fatally wounded, leading to his death at the age of 47, his presence and influence on the UK endures to this day and can be felt in the numerous monuments dedicated to him. Statues and columns can be seen in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, the Peak District, and of course Trafalgar Square in London. Further afield, countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Barbados are also home to memorials.

Nelson’s Coffin

As with other respected historical figures, memorabilia surrounding Lord Nelson is highly collectable. There is a diverse range of memorabilia available, mostly portraits, busts, ceramics, and crockery. But it is rare to find a piece as unique as our Lot 707, which features in our Jewellery auction on the 20th of June. This 19th century pendant is in the shape of a coffin, topped with a ‘N’. When opened, a miniature Nelson springs forward to attention, dressed in his naval uniform.

The real Nelson was allowed a state funeral, an occasion normally only granted to members of the Royal Family. He was laid to rest within two coffins, the first was made of lead and the second was wooden. The wood was from the salvaged mast of L’Orient, an impressive war ship that was destroyed during the Battle of the Nile. He was interred in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, in a sarcophagus originally intended for Cardinal Wolsey.

Coffins at auction

While our coffin is considerably smaller, and far less extravagant than Nelson’s was – it is not without charm. If you have ever wanted to carry around your very own naval officer, now is your chance! The miniature Nelson jumps from his coffin when opened, a charming and unusual example of memorabilia. The design of a coffin revealing a secret when opened, while uncommon, is not atypical for 19th century mourning jewellery. Although it can be debated as to whether our Nelson counts as mourning jewellery, he does share some similarities. Another example of a coffin pendant in a similar fashion was sold during one of our auctions in 2016.

nelson's coffin

Lot 25

A mid Victorian memento mori coffin fob.

Price Realised: £1,531.20

Lot 707, ‘Nelson’s coffin’ would be perfect for a variety of people, whether you love regency history, naval history, or mourning jewellery, this delightful novelty fits the bill.

147047 3

Lot 707

A 19th century Horatio Nelson (Duke of Bronte) coffin souvenir pendant.

Estimate £30 – £50


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Cordelia Porter | BA (Hons), MRes


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