Relic Lord Nelson Flagships Gavel
British: c. 1905
Relic Lord Nelson Flagships Gavel
Relic Lord Nelson Flagships Gavel
Relic Lord Nelson Flagships Gavel
British: c. 1905
Oak, teak and copper
6 x 2 x 1.75 inches, overall
$1,800

Souvenir relic wood gavel, made of wood and copper from two battle ships of Horatio Lord Nelson (1758-1805).  The copper nameplate attached to the mallet head is inscribed "Oak, teak and copper from Lord Nelson's flagships, 'Victory' and 'Foudroyant' 1765 1798." 

Nelson is one of Britain's greatest naval heroes, admired for his strategic ingenuity, tactical boldness, and ability to inspire those under his command.  The HMS Foudroyant and the HMS Victory were two of Nelson's flagships during the Napoleonic Wars.  The Foudroyant, launched in 1798, served as his flagship from 1799 to 1801.  The Victory, launched in 1765, served as Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, during which he lost his life.

About a century later, The Foudroyant was wrecked in a storm in June 1897, and determined unsalvageable.  It was purchased by a syndicate in Blackpool, England, which removed some of the timber and copper to be made into souvenirs including medallions, coins, furniture and walking sticks.  In November 1897, another storm sank the ship to the bottom of the Irish Sea.  Meanwhile, other souvenirs were also made of wood and copper from the Victory, or by combining materials from both ships, such as the badge described below by Sir Percy Watts in 1905 for the Naval, Shipping and Fisheries Exhibition, a celebration of the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar: 

"At the present moment, however, the Victory is the Flagship of the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, and is in good repair. A large quantity of the timber damaged in action and decayed has been removed from time to time but much of the old vessel yet remains. One occasionally meets with souvenirs of the old ship, as, for instance, easy chairs, constructed of her old timber, and I have in my possession a badge which is a pass to the Welcome Club of the Naval Shipping and Fisheries Exhibition, at present at Earl's Court which consists of a portion of Victory's old timbers held by a rim of copper made from the sheathing of the Foudroyant, also one of Nelson's old flagships. I believe that all members of the club are in possession of this souvenir."

It is quite possible this gavel was similarly made in connection with the Trafalgar centennial celebration in 1905, also with wood and copper from Nelson’s flagships.  Another gavel made from materials salvaged from the Foudroyant is in the collection of the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia and was presented to the society in 1906, just one year later. 

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, K.B., was known for his boldness and bravery.  He was joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12 and the following year began officer training.  By 1797 he had risen to the rank of admiral, and his unusual tactics and bold action helped the British prevail against the Spanish at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent.  This earned a promotion to the admiralty and he was knighted.  He lost his arm in battle later that year.  His greatest fame, however, came from his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, notably the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Copenhagen, in which the British gained key strategic advantages, and the Battle of Trafalgar, in which the Victory succeeded in crippling the French flagship Bucentaure.  However, as Victory was trading fire with another French ship, Nelson was wounded and died soon after the battle had ended with a British victory.  Nelson's body was returned to England and he is one of only five non-royal Britons -- including the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill -- to have been given a state funeral.  The monument Nelson's Column was erected in Trafalgar Square in London in his honor.

References:

"Biography of Horatio Lord Nelson."  Biography Online.  http://www.biographyonline.net/military/lord-nelson.html (1 September 2011).

"Old Welcome Club." RootsChat.com.  28 October 2008.  http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=1oja6e6fcn619suirngaj03jg2&topic=337443.0 (1 September 2011).

"Re: HMS Foudroyant."  World Naval Ships Forums.  12 December 2009.  http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9045 (1 September 2011).

"Society's Relics."  The St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia.  http://www.standrewsociety.org/relics.htm#gavel (1 September 2011).

Watts, Percy.  "The Ships of the Royal Navy as they existed at the time of Trafalgar."  19 July 1905.  Online at: Royal Navy During the Napoleonic Era (1793-1815).  http://home.gci.net/~stall/traf.htm (1 September 2011).


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