Penned from Victory off Toulon and dated September 14, 1803, it was addressed to Ross Donnelly, captain of the Narcissus, and gives instructions in relation to information received that the French intended sending troops to Minorca.
The captain was to “obtain every Intelligence with respect to the French intentions” and “with the disposition of the Spaniards towards us”, then rendezvous with Nelson to report.
The letter, signed Nelson Bronte, also includes the signature of the writer Alexander John Scott (1768-1840). Nelson’s faithful official secretary was with him on board the Victory as he died at Trafalgar.
TW Gaze said that the letter had been purchased from Maggs Bros in the 1970s and then came by descent to the current owner. It is housed in the original Maggs Bros printed autograph sleeve, with the original clipped printed catalogue entry loosely inserted.
Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte, KB (1758-1805), is perhaps Norfolk’s most famous son. He was born at Burnham Thorpe, learning to sail in the web of waterways around Burnham Overy Staithe, and a student at the Paston School, now Paston College, and what is now the Norwich School in Cathedral Close.
He sailed into, and out of, Great Yarmouth many times, and it was here that he declared “I am myself a Norfolk man and glory in being so”.
The sale took place on May 29.
Battle of the Nile
A medal group from a sailor who served in Nelson’s 1798 triumph – the Battle of the Nile –sold for £17,000 (guide £4000-5000) in the Dix Noonan Webb (24% buyer’s premium) May 21 auction. The two medals were awarded to William Skuce or Skeuce, a landsman aboard HMS Defence at that battle, more than 50 years apart.
The earliest was Alexander Davison’s Medal for The Nile 1798, in bronze-gilt. Davison was appointed by Nelson ‘sole prize agent’ for the captured ships after the battle. He had the medal struck for all who took part in the action.
It came in gold to Nelson and his captains, in silver to lieutenants and warrant officers, in gilt metal to petty officers and in copper to seamen and marines.
The other was a Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840 with three clasps. The NGSM was not approved until 1847 and awarded retrospectively for various naval actions during the period 1793- 1840. It was given only to surviving claimants with the final date for submitting claims set at May 1, 1851.
The pair had a provenance to Glendining’s in 1924 (when sold at £7) and again in 1963 when the present vendor was the underbidder at £82. They secured them at Spink in 1972 for £190.
Nimrod Dix, DNW deputy chairman, said: “These two medals were awarded 50 years apart so it is very rare to see the two together, bearing in mind that so few veterans of the Battle of the Nile in 1798 would still have been alive to claim the silver medal in 1848 (just 326 officers and men).
“Add in an impeccable provenance and the fact that this pair has not been seen for nearly 50 years and you get an unusual price.”