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- September 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Horatio Nelson’s “Trafalgar Coat”, the uniform he was wearing when he was shot, has been reunited with the French musket ball that passed through it and killed him in 1805. The two items are now displayed in the Nelson and Napoleon Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, southeast London, to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The exhibition includes the surgery kit, which was used by Dr William Beatty, the Victory’s surgeon, to remove the ball during his autopsy on Nelson. When extracted, gold lace, pad and lining from Nelson’s epaulette were still attached to the ball.
The coat soon caused a squabble. Nelson asked Hardy on his deathbed “to let Emma (Hamilton) have my hair and all things belonging to me”. Though Nelson’s brother demanded the coat, it did pass to Lady Hamilton, but she later gave it to a friend to settle a debt. When it came on the market in the 1840s, Prince Albert (Consort to Queen Victoria) paid 150 pounds for it and presented it to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.
Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent, The Telegraph (UK) 18 July 2005