91

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Of Royal and Noble Descent

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Nelson, Horatio, Lord--Nayler, George.
ARMORIAL ACHIEVEMENT
Finely illuminated and heightened in gilt, subscribed with Nelson's titles and honours ("Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson, Baron Nelson of the Nile, Duke of Bronte on Sicily, Knight of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath [...] Vice Admiral of the Blue [etc]..."), one vellum membrane (435 x 375mm), signed and dated by Nayler as Blane Coursier Herald and Genealogist of the Order of the Bath, College of Arms, 16 March 1804, framed and glazed
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Provenance

Sotheby’s London, Trafalgar: Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars, 5 October 2005, lot 93

Literature

J. S. Clarke and J. McArthur, The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson (1809), vol. II, pp.474-80; M. Lincoln, Nelson and Napoleon (2005), cat. 104.  

Catalogue Note

A HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE HERALDIC DOCUMENT DEPICTING NELSON'S HONOURS. Few documents crystalise Nelson's public success as this magnificent heraldic achievement, produced at the height of his contemporary renown. Nelson's arms were a cross fleury sable, a bend gules, surmounted by another engrailed of the field, charged with three bombs, fired proper, augmented after the Nile (as here) with a chief undulated, argent, thereon waves of the sea, from which a palm tree issuant, between a disabled ship on the dexter and a ruinous battery on the sinister. He chose as his supporters (who after the Nile bore palm leaves) dexter a sailor armed with a cutlass and pair of pistols supporting a staff thereon hoisted a Commodore's flag gules, sinister a lion rampant in his mouth a broken flag-staff, a tri-coloured flag in his mouth. The arms bear a Viscount's coronet (his English title taking precedence over his Sicilian Dukedom). The crests of the two helms are, dexter, the Chelengk, or plume of triumph, given to Nelson by the Ottoman Sultan after the Battle of the Nile, and sinister, the stern of a ship inscribed "San Josef", the Spanish battleship he took at the Battle of Cape St Vincent. His motto, "Palmam qui meruit ferat" [Let he who has earned it take the palm], was also granted after the Nile. Finally, the achievement includes the insignia of the orders of honour conferred on Nelson: the Bath, the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, the Ottoman Order of the Cresent, and the Germanic Order of St Joachim.  

The herald George Nayler (1764-1831), had worked closely with Nelson in the original design of his arms and was later to serve as one of the three officials who were deputed by the Admiralty to receive Nelson's body from the Victory. The original purpose of this splendid document is not known but it may have been intended for the heralds of Sicily. Nelson had written to Nayler on 19 October 1803: "I have sent to Sicily for the Arms of Bronté, and the Heralds College there has sent for my English Arms, in order that they may be enrolled amongst those of the Sicilian Nobility; therefore you will be so good as to send me out the same sort of thing which I sent to Germany. I very much doubt that I ever paid for that, and several other things which you have done for me; therefore, I desire (for in a man's trade there are no compliments) that you will send me out your regular bill, for I suppose you cannot live upon air; and if you are never paid, how is the pot to boil?..." (The Dispatches and Letters, vol. V, p.257).

Of Royal and Noble Descent

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London