From the Battle of Trafalgar to St Pauls Cathedral London
The Nelson Funeral, was unprecedented. Horatio Nelson was the first non royal to be granted a state funeral, which was held at St.Pauls Cathedral London after his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Greenwich Palace (Palace of Placentia). The buildings now form part of Greenwich University.
About thirty thousand people from all walks of life, followed the Princess of Wales, as they filed past the remains of their beloved naval hero.
There were so many mourners, that the authorities were quite fearful a riot could break out at any time, brought on by nothing more than grief over the Nelson Funeral.
Lord Nelson's remains, on the 8th January were placed in one of the royal barges, which had originally been crafted for King Charles II. They were then taken up the river Thames in a vast river procession to Whitehall.
The City Livery Companies attended the procession in their own ceremonial barges, to make the procession from Greenwich to Whitehall the most awesome spectacle ever to have been seen on the river Thames.
The coffin was accompanied by Lord Hood, Sir Peter Parker and the Prince of Wales, all the way from Greenwich to Whitehall.
On 5th January 1806, the body of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson arrived at Greenwich. It was placed in a lead coffin, which in turn was placed inside a wooden one.
This had been specially carved from the main mast of L'Orient, the flagship of the French fleet, which had been destroyed at the Battle of the Nile.
Disembarking at Whitehall they proceeded to the Admiralty, where the body of Lord Nelson, attended by his chaplain Alexander Scott, who had been with Nelson as he died, remained overnight.
The following day, the coffin was placed on a magnificent funeral car, displaying elaborately carved representations of a ship's head and stern. It had been designed specifically to resemble Lord Nelson's flagship, H.M.S. Victory,
The Nelson Funeral cortege, consisted of thirty two admirals, more than one hundred captains and over ten thousand soldiers. It was of such length, that the head of the procession reached St.Pauls Cathedral London, long before the carriage, hauled by six horses bearing Lord Nelson had even left the Admiralty.
All along the processional route, there was a reverenced silence from the huge crowds that had assembled in the streets and in the stands which had been specially erected to accomodate them.
The sound of men removing their hats, was likened to the sound of a wave breaking on a seashore in the deathly silence. They occupied every conceivable vantage point in order to witness this overwhelmingly sad spectacle of the Nelson Funeral.
The inside of St. Paul's Cathedral dome, was artificially illuminated for the first time, by supporting a giant chandelier which was made up of one hundred and thirty individual lamps. French and Spanish flags, which had been captured at the Battle of Trafalgar, were draped around it's perimeter.
Upon arrival at St. Paul's Cathedral London, the coffin of Lord Nelson was placed on a catafalque positioned directly beneath the dome, surrounded by a congregation numbered in their thousands. They were seated on a raked staging, specially erected for the funeral service. The Nelson Funeral lasted well over three hours.
As the coffin was carried up the nave to the altar, it was accompanied by the singing of the Burial Sentances to the setting of William Croft, which has been performed at every state funeral since its inception.
After the service at the altar had finished, the coffin was carried back to the catafalque beneath the dome and the last words were read:
'earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust'
and as one of Handel's choruses was sung, the coffin began to disappear slowly into the crypt below.
The sailors from the company of H.M.S. Victory who were attending the Nelson Funeral, were then supposed to fold up the ship's torn colours, but instead of doing that, they ripped off a piece of one of the flags and divided it into smaller pieces, one for each of them. Each sailor, then placed their prized possession into their pockets next to their heart. It was a treasured memento of their beloved Commander Horatio Nelson.
Nelson's coffin was then placed in the Italian marble sarcophagus which can still be seen there in its original position in the crypt. It had been presented by King George III from the Royal Collection.
Cardinal Wolsey had designed this tomb for himself in the sixteenth century, but having fallen out of favour with King Henry VIII, he was buried without a monument in Leicester Abbey (now Abbey Park).
Lord Nelson's opponent at the Battle of Trafalgar, The French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, had been captured and sent to England where he was released on parole.
He lived in Sonning in Berkshire for a while before returning to France, where after attempting to return to the service of his country, he was found dead at the Hotel de la Patrie in Rennes with six stab wounds to the chest. A verdict of suicide was recorded.
While on parole in England, he had been granted leave and attended the funeral of his great adversary, Vice Admiral Nelson.