Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:20 am 
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I was browsing a folk music forum several months ago and I came across a discussion involving Trafalgar. A contributor made the following claim: "There is a contemporary account of Nelson's funeral which describes how the coffin was booed and spat at by sailors lining the funeral rout who had fought in the Battle of Trafalgar. They were protesting on behalf of those who died without acknowledgment."

He was challenged to cite the account to which he refers but didn't. Does anyone know if there is any evidence to support this claim?


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 1:00 pm 
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Never heard of this, so if it's true, it would be fascinating to know!

Lesley

http://www.adkinshistory.com


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 1:39 pm 
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A PS to the above:

There was some grumbling about the pageantry of Nelson's funeral, which was a state funeral organised by the College of Arms (the Heralds), with all sorts of hangers-on in the procession. In the biography of Nelson by Carola Oman, page 648 in our 1948 edition, she says: 'Lady Elizabeth Foster, watching with a Devonshire House party from a window commanding Temple Bar, noticed that when "the dear forty-eight Victory men" and forty-eight Greenwich pensioners came in sight, an English crowd, growing restive, muttered, "We had rather see them than all the show"'

Nelson's funeral was treated by a rather unpopular royal family and peers as a chance to gain popularity by jumping on the bandwagon, but people were too war-weary and angry at being exploited for this to work. Carola Oman does not seem to reference this quote. There were similar contemporary comments to the effect that the pageantry was overdone and unpopular, but any antagonism seems to have been directed against the government and royal family. I have not come across any against Nelson at this point.

Lesley

http://www.adkinshistory.com


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:52 pm 
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I have a contemporary account by an anonymous eye-witness at Nelson's funeral which was published in the January 1806 edition of 'The Lady's Magazine' soon after his funeral. He notes that as Nelson's funeral carriage passed:

such was the inspiration of the moment that I actually overheard the volunteers who stood near me, immediately after the corpse had passed, and in the midst of their regrets for his loss, saying that in the attempt to invade and conquer this country by the usurper of France - an attempt from the present posture of affairs, by no means unlikely to be made - they must each bear in mind the memory of Nelson, and individually emulate his deeds; then should they gloriously fall in the struggle for national existence, a grateful country would pay as much respect to their memories as they had now been paying to his.'

As Lesley says, there were numerous criticisms of the pomp and grandeur of the occasion. When the sailors accompanying the coffin in St Paul's each tore off a souvenir of the flag covering Nelson's body, an onlooker (will need to check who) approved the spontaneous gesture as 'pure Nelson', and dismissed all the high ceremony as 'so much Herald's Office.'

I have a fairly recent comment on the funeral, published in 2005 to mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar. It is an essay by the late Colin White ‘Official and Popular Commemoration of Nelson in 1805-1806’ published in ‘Trafalgar 1805-2005’ (OUP 2005, Ed Holger Hoock.) The grumblings about the funeral seem to have been directed at the organisers, not at the memory of Nelson. The newspapers spotted that there was no mention of including the sailors of HMS Victory in the funeral ceremonies and a vigorous press campaign began for them to be included. Eventually, they were allowed to carry the shot-torn colours of their ship and - completely stole the show.’

The huge crowds were a cause of some unease to the political and social elite, fearful as they were of ‘the Mob’ as they were called. Colin White continues: ‘they were surprised to find them so calm and well-behaved. Lady Bessborough…remarked, ‘Among the many touching things, the silence of that immense Mob was not the least striking.’

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Anna


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:54 pm 
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Anna,

To save you looking up the onlooker, it was Mrs Codrington - page 648 of Carola Oman's Nelson, but don't recognise your anonymous quote.

Lesley

http://www.adkinshistory.com


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 6:54 pm 
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Thanks for the reminder, Lesley!

Hailwood:

reflecting more on the anger expressed at the lack of recognition of the sailors at Trafalgar - I wonder if your contributor has confused Trafalgar with Nelson's failed attack on Boulogne. There was a great deal of grumbling at the time at the great bloodshed among ordinary sailors suggesting that Nelson had thrown away their lives. Nelson became very agitated at the thought that such rumblings of discontent might be widespread throughout the fleet - in the officers' wardrooms as well as the lower deck. Just a thought...

PS - we had quite a discussion some time ago on the repercussions of Boulogne on Nelson's reputation:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=110

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm 
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Many thanks to all who responded to my query.

There is a tendency among folk song enthusiasts to believe that "official" history sometimes glosses over the facts - particularly when it comes to establishment figures. Despite the fact that traditional songs overwhelmingly seem to praise Nelson, the source of this statement apparently felt duty bound to stake a claim for the lower classes' dissatisfaction. - however inaccurate.


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:14 pm 
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Well the history of Nelson and his world is certainly covered in gloss, and Collingwood was quick off the mark after the hero's death by glossing over some of the details in his official account of the Battle of Trafalgar.

A bit of googling throws up one account of the people jeering and spitting on another coffin as it was hurried into Westminster Abbey (not St Paul's). This was the funeral of Lord Castlereagh, unpopular for his part in the introduction of the Six Acts after the Battle of Peterloo. The account is by Dorothy Constance Bayliff Peel in The stream of time: social and domestic life in England, 1805-1861 (1931) page 22, and it follows immediately after a couple of pages about Nelson. I even wonder whether it could have been a hurried reading of that account that has generated confusion.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:15 pm 
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The edition of the Lady's Magazine mentioned in my post above has another unsigned account of Nelson's funeral in which comment is made about the placing of the sailors of Victory in the procession; it reflects the concern in the press that the common seamen should have an honoured place:

The third part of the procession consisted of the hearse and mourning coaches.......We could wish to have seen in this place the seamen of the Victory, and the Greenwich pensioners, who went in the first part of the procession. They bore the most striking marks of deep and unfeigned sorrow; and their recent service made them to be seen with veneration. If they had been stationed nearer the hearse, a most sublime and affecting association must immediately be impressed on every mind, from what was certainly very impressive as it was, but not so much so as it might have been made by this arrangement.

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Anna


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:37 pm 
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It seems quite clear that the 'contributor' quoted in Hailwood's original quote didn't know what he was talking about and may even have confused Nelson's and Castlereagh's funerals.

The overwhelming and unprecedented public grief felt by at all levels of society at the news of Nelson's death - mixed and counterbalanced with relief that it was at the moment of victory against a fearsome and dangerous foe - is amply recorded. There is no evidence whatever that this reaction was 'managed' and no merit in looking for some alleged cover-up of supressed dissatisfaction at the funeral.

On the other hand, one of the features of this great country of ours, is that there are always some individuals who are prepared to carp and find something to complain about in even the greatest victory or the greatest act of ultruism. Dryden noted the tendency in 17th century, and the syndrom is still alive today. It Gordon Brown was suddenly able to make the lame to walk and the blind to see, the BBC could be relied upon to produce someone who would say it was a bad thing; or was done too late; or was too expensive. Its the way we are. Don't let us take it too seriously, nor forget that some people in the past as in the present just loved to be contrary.

Brian


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:18 pm 
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Anna,

Colin White also cites that, besides the furore over the original omission of the seamen from the funeral procession, or indeed the whole ceremony, there were other disputes. The Prince of Wales, for instance, wanted to attend in his official capacity but was barred from doing so by the King (not perhaps surprisingly) and so had to be there in a private capacity. Then the Lord Mayor of London claimed precedence over the Prince in the procession, presumably because he had been so demoted. (Incidentally, was the Prince known and referred to as 'Mr Wales', or something similar, at the ceremony even though he would seem to have been quite prominent at it?).

I imagine all these rumblings however, were just the tip of the iceberg and that plenty of other things went wrong and that many petty jealousies came to the fore. Women did not attend such ceremonies in those days, but I can't imagine that many did not rue that fact. This must have been very tragic for both Emma and Lady Nelson – and I imagine they would both have attended if they had been allowed. Although, if they had, one wonders how they would have felt in each other's presence since presumably they would have been seated close to one another! All of this would have slightly tarnished the ceremony, but I can't imagine it detracted from the reverence in which Nelson was seemingly held by all.

Referring to the original omission of the seamen from the funeral, I have often wondered why they were left out and then included almost as an afterthought. On the face of it it seems incomprehensible and I can't believe that it was an oversight, since this was the funeral of not only one of the navy's senior admirals but also its most loved. My guess is that few men could be spared from active duty but, because of the outcry, forty eight men were scraped together from the Victory's crew at the last minute and the same number of Greenwich pensioners. The latter of course were not on active service.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Funeral
PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:25 pm 
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Kester:

I've read in numerous biographies of Nelson that women did not attend funerals in those days; however, the report of Nelson's funeral in The Times of 10 January 1806 notes that 'The Duchess of York was seated in the Choir. Her Royal Highness was conducted by the Bishop of Lincoln to her seat. It would be useless to attempt to enumerate the Ladies of rank and distinction who attended.

I wonder if it was simply the custom for women of the immediate family not to attend, (perhaps on the assumption that they would be less able to contain their grief?)

Terry Coleman notes in his biography of Nelson that Lady Nelson's carriage was in the funeral procession. I assume that this was the manner in which a close woman relative such as a widow, would express her respects.

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