Two interesting artefacts relating to Britain’s greatest naval hero have recently been listed at myfamilysilver.com. One is an antique silver vinaigrette engraved outside with a portrait of the admiral and decorated inside with a image of his flagship Victory. The box was one of a series of souvenirs made to commemorate his death at the battle of Trafalgar. I’ve seen other similar boxes on the market before and it has always amazed me how quickly entrepreneurial silversmiths could move in the early nineteenth century.Â This box, which is being sold by Tennants Auctioneers on 17 July, was hallmarked in Birmingham (at the time theÂ world’s capital for making such mementoes) Â within weeks of the battle in 1805. Presumably, a blank box was kept for just such an historic occasion! With interest in Nelson still high after the 2005 bicentenary celebrations of the battle, expect lots of competition for this charming box.
The other relic has a more intimate connection with Nelson. This is a very rare gold and enamel memorial ring bearingÂ the initials N (beneath anÂ baron’s coronet forÂ Lord Nelson) and B beneath a ducal crown (for duke of Bronte-the title awarded to Nelson by the King of Naples).Â Â The ring is one of a very small number of similar mementoes ordered by Nelson’sÂ executors after his death and distributed among his closest family and friends. A list of the recipients still exists in the British Library. Again, I have seen other examples appear at auction, and they always provoke furious competition in the saleroom.
I can’t think of any other major British historical figure (except, perhaps, Winston Churchill) who has this effect in the market probably because Nelson’s storyÂ was so extraordinary,Â his love affair with Emma Hamiltons so moving,Â and his deathÂ so dramatic that he commands international attention.