Sunday, 28 June 2009

Collectors Belie Estimate on Historical Brooch of Horatio Nelson Interest

A rare opportunity for collectors to purchase a lock of Lord Horatio Nelson's hair was offered at Brown & Co's sale on the 27th of June. Estimated at a conservative £300 to £500 the lock was mounted in an unusual gold and green enamelled brooch.

The brooch carries a fantastic provenance; the inscription on the reverse reads "Horatio Nelson obt 21st October 1805 aet 47", "The enclosed hair was cut off by Sir Thomas Hardy after the action of Trafalgar and presented by him to Richard Dusgate Esq". Richard Dusgate was a close friend and neighbour of Nelson in Norfolk and letters of their correspondence exist in the Norfolk museum today. The auctioneer informs me that the brooch was contemporary to Richard Dusgate and owned by the Dusgate family for many years, before being given as a present to the Grandfather of the consigner who worked on the families estate.

Nelson was mortally wounded on the deck of the Victory by a marksman aboard the French ship Redoutable which was locked in battle. Nelson was carried to the comparative safety of the tween deck, but there was nothing that could be done. The shot had penetrated his shoulder and continued, piercing a lung before becoming lodged in his spine. After three hours and soon after hearing that the British fleet under his command had won the historic battle; Nelson died, faintly repeating the words "Thank God I have done my duty".

Thomas Hardy cut Lord Nelson's hair to distribute to family and friends, before Nelson's body was embalmed in a barrel of brandy for the long journey back to England. Nelson was interred in a sarcophagus in St Paul's Cathedral following a glorious service fit for the hero that he was.

On the day of the sale competition between two telephone bidders meant that the brooch was knocked down four times the high estimate at £2400. What a fantastic piece of history the winning bidder has acquired.

Photographs used with the permission of Brown & Co.

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