Trafalgar Day, Part II: Nelson Memorabilia

21 October, 2008 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

We often think that “fan merchandise” is a product of our times. But all through history, mankind tried to express its excitement about significant events or its admiration for a fellow man (or woman) by the means they had. Of course a nice little plaque commemorating the signing of the US Declaration of Independence would have done as well, but let’s be honest, Lady Liberty is far more impressive. And as a miniature, everybody can take a bit of that commemoration home.

The victory of the Battle of Trafalgar was a markstone in the history of Britain, and Nelson, already in high favours with his fellow countrymen, achieved legendary status. Not only because of the victory itself, but also because of his death under such dramatic circumstances. Men like Collingwood who contributed just as much to the victory ended up almost forgotten (until the recent “Collingwood-revival”, which I highly welcome!), because it’s the heroic death which makes the difference between “hero” and legend”. Nelson’s funeral is, at least in my opinion, to this day unchallenged when it comes to pomp and circumstance and commiseration of the population.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that people asked for souvenirs of both the victory and Nelson, and where there’s a demand, there’s a market. Over the last months, I’ve collected documentation of such memorabilia, and I found an amazing number. The quality varies, and to our modern eyes, many of the following pieces might look overly dramatic, sentimental and maybe even downright kitschy, but we have to look at them from an 18th century’s point of view. I can promise you that future generations will not look overly kindly at commemorative plates celebrating the wedding of Charles and Camilla, either.

Please note: I’ve had to do a lot of readjusting with the following pictures, especially the glass plates. Dusty glass + flash = what on earth is that supposed to be? So if the colours look overly bright, then it’s because I tried to make the artwork visible. The originals didn’t look like that; I didn’t take the pictures which mostly come from auction catalogues (if I remember correctly). Also: VERY image heavy, dial-uppers beware!


Nelson bust, 1805 – what’s wrong here…?

COMMEMORATIVE JUGS

Be it the Dr. Who mug or the Nelson jug – merchandise is best when the sentimental value is enhanced by actual usability. This is certainly the case when it comes to mugs or, as in the following examples, jugs.


Nelson and Berry jugs, 1805

Considering that people’s admiration was focussed on Nelson, it’s rare to find any commemorative pieces for other participants on the Battle of Trafalgar. This is an excellent example; two jugs showing Nelson and Rear Admiral Sir Edward Berry, who commanded HMS Agamemnon during the Battle of Trafalgar.


Nelson jug, 1806

This jug shows Nelson’s portrait with the famous “England expects” on the front. On the back, the battle strategy is explained.


Nelson jug, 1806

This more “glamorous” jug shows Nelson and HMS Victory in battle. It also lists each of Nelson’s titles.

COMMEMORATIVE MUGS


Nelson mug, 1805


Nelson mug, 1806

The interesting bit about this mug is the list on the back: every ship of Rear and Van is named, and the number of guns each of them had is mentioned.


Nelson mug, 1806

Again, Nelson, “England expects” and HMS Victory in action. I think this might be Staffordshire, but I’m not sure.

To me, the most interesting pieces by far were the commemorative glass plates. Just like mugs and jugs, they are not historically correct and glorify both battle and admiral, but realism wasn’t the target of these pieces. It was the expression of a sentiment, of a feeling shared by a nation, often portrayed in allegoric form.

COMMEMORATIVE GLASS PLATES


Glass plate showing Nelson’s hearse and coffin, 1806

As mentioned above, Nelson’s funeral was an event of unprecedented size. See also my article from last year about Nelson’s funeral with additional pictures. This glass plate shows the hearse, shaped in form of the Victory and richly decorated, as well as the coffin, made out of the Victory’s wood – the heart of the funeral cortege.


Glass plate showing Nelson’s death, 1805

This is one of the earliest plates, created on occasion of the funeral. This might explain the historical inaccuracy, because Nelson really didn’t died neatly rested on a sofa in his great cabin… or maybe this is just artistic licence. Kneeling by his side, searching for a pulse, is surgeon William Beatty. The officer to the left, we can assume, is supposed to be Hardy (if it’s true that Hardy already had his pigtail cut off by the Battle of Trafalgar, it might as well be somebody else. Then again, artistic licence…) Considering that officers were expected to control their feelings at all times – even while having an arm or leg amputated! – it’s interesting to see that, where Nelson’s death was concerned, it was accepted that an officer would cry in his handkerchief!

Another recurring motif in many Nelson memorabilia: the presence of common “Jack Tar”. Nelson was much loved by his men, and this admiration coming from the lower decks mirrored in many commemorative pieces. This also shows on the right half of the plate, where you have a common seaman mourning the admiral along with Britannia and a little boy.


Glass plate, 1806

A typical allegory: Neptune and Britannia mourn Britain’s great hero.


Glass plate, 1806

Again, the motif of the two mourning tars. This is my favourite plate of the ones I’ve posted; maybe because Nelson’s portrait is realistic and not glorified.

I hope you found these pieces interesting. And who knows: today’s fannish interest might be tomorrow’s heritage…

Advertisements

Entry filed under: art, cuthbert collingwood, nelson, resource, royal navy, ships. Tags: , , , , , , .

Trafalgar Day, Part I: My Thoughts Trafalgar Day, Part III: The Contest – Book Prizes! :-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


FOLLOW ME!



Follow Me on Pinterest

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 341 other followers

MY LATEST BOOK

"THE RADIANT BOY"
Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail


Click here for a preview!
Click here to order!

RECOMMENDED AGE OF SAIL WRITING

EMMA COLLINGWOOD ONLINE

Love, Suspense and Sarcasm in the Age of Sail

ALEX BEECROFT
Adventure and Romance

OLD CUDDY - COLLINGWOOD 2010
Tribute to Admiral Lord Collingwood on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death at sea

OFFICIAL COLLINGWOOD 2010 WEBSITE
2010 is the year to celebrate a great man.

LINKS

MOLLY JOYFUL'S LIST OF USEFUL RESOURCES
Royal Navy, general 18th century history, biographies, books, art etc.


JOYFUL MOLLY ON LIVEJOURNAL
Same entries as on wordpress, but with additional RNotC fandom content (icons, updates on fanfic, meta etc.) and discussion.

RECOMMENDED BLOGS

GARROW'S LAW
Maintained by Mark Pallis, Legal and Historical Consultant on the BBC show

THE OFFICIAL WEBLOG OF WOLFGANG AMADÉ MOZART
THE DUTCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE'S GOSSIP GUIDE TO THE 18TH CENTURY
ONE MORE STITCH
Reproduction and historic knitting inspired by original garments, objects and patterns from the past.

GILLRAY'S PRINTSHOP OF HISTORICAL ABSURDITIES
Being one amateur historian's exploration of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Blog Stats

  • 390,939 hits
site stats

%d bloggers like this: