A fragment of a Union Jack flag, flown during the Battle of Trafalgar, is expected to fetch up to £100,000 at auction today.
This rare piece is believed to have flown on HMS Victory, a 104-gun Royal Navy vessel that served as famed naval leader Lord Admiral Nelson’s flagship during one of the most well-known battles in British history.
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The Battle of Trafalgar (1805) saw the Royal Navy come up against a fleet of French and Spanish forces during the Napoleonic Wars.
While Britain recorded a huge victory, defeating 22 vessels without losing one of their own, Nelson was hit by a French sniper during the fight and died shortly after.
Shortly before the battle, Nelson had ordered all ships entering battle to fly the Union Jack flag.
According to Sotheby’s this is one of three flags that flew on the famous ship as Nelson lost his life.
These three flags were returned to England to be placed on Nelson’s coffin prior to burial. However, the largest of the three was torn up and divided among those that had served under Nelson to serve as a memento.
Sotheby’s prepare to sell HMS Victory Union Jack
Sotheby’s will be auctioning off one of these fragments today as part of its Of Royal and Noble Descent auction. The sale will get underway today at 10:30am London time at their New Bond Street, London auction house.
This portion up for sale is from the bottom-right of the flag. It is comprised of eight panels of red, white and blue fabric, hand-stitched together to form the Union Jack. This is thought to be one of the largest surviving portions.
Having survived over two centuries, the flag remains in a fair condition. The fragment has been crudely cut along three edges, the weaving is somewhat loose and there is noticeable discolouration. The fragment also contains some holes, seemingly caused by stray bullets during the battle.
Regardless, the item’s historical significance is likely to generate plenty of interest today. Sotheby’s has placed a guide price of £80,000-£100,000 on the item.
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However, previous sales suggest that this Union Jack could surpass expectations.
Charles Miller Auctions auctioned off the only surviving complete flag from the Battle of Trafalgar back in 2009.
That sale smashed a pre-sale estimate of £10,000 and eventually sold for a then world-record £384,000.
However, that flag had flown on the HMS Spartiate, rather than HMS Victory. The fragment up for sale today’s close connection to Nelson makes it far more desirable for collectors.