In a previous post (which you can read by clicking here) I talked about how long it took for news to reach England of the death of Horatio, Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Today marks the anniversary of Nelson’s funeral.
Nelson was a hero, by any standard. He not only led England’s navy to victory, he lived his life in service to his country, and suffering serious injury in the process. By the time he led his fleet into battle with France and Spain on October 21, his battle experiences had already taken from him an arm and an eye, and he had sustained numerous other injuries over the years, all in service to England. The public revered him, so with his passing it was fitting that he be given a hero’s funeral.
Nelson’s body finally reached British soil on January 5 (he died on October 21). His remains were placed in a coffin and lay in state in Greenwich’s Painted Hall where thousands of members of the public paid their respects.
On January 8, 1806 a royal barge, draped in black velvet, carried his coffin up the Thames to Whitehall, where it remained overnight. The next day, a funeral cortege preceded the coffin to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets to see the procession. Thousands of navy pensioners and soldiers marched from Whitehall to St. Paul’s, including the officers and crew of Nelson’s ship, the Victory.
The entire procession was so long that by the time the column reached St. Paul’s, the funeral car was still at Whitehall, almost two miles away.
Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets to see the procession, which lasted well into the night. By the time the service began at St. Paul’s it was dark; the light of 130 candle lamps lit the cathedral’s dome, where two gigantic captured French and Spanish flags were hung, as reminders of the security Nelson gave his countrymen by defeating their enemies.
When the service concluded on January 9, 1806, as Nelson’s coffin was lowered into a crypt, a herald read aloud Nelsons titles, and ended with these words:
The hero, who in the moment of victory, fell covered with immortal glory.
On Susanna Ives’ blog there is a wonderfully detailed account, taken from an English newspaper at the time, of the entire funeral procession and service. It’s a somber and moving tribute to Lord Nelson, “a perfect English Hero.” You can read Susanna’s post by clicking here.