The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Diameter: 48.000 mm
Edward Hawkins Collection
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Gilt-bronze medal of Horatio Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar, by Heinrich Küchler
Great Britain, AD 1805
'England expects that every man will do his duty'
The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October, 1805) was probably the single most decisive naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars. In the short term, it brought the French plans for an invasion of England to an abrupt halt, but also assured Britain command of the seas for more than 100 years. A fleet of 33 ships (18 French and 15 Spanish), under Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve, sailed into the Mediterranean to assist the French campaign in southern Italy. West of Cape Trafalgar, Spain, between Cádiz and the Strait of Gibraltar, they met a British fleet of 27 ships under Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805).
At 11.50 am Nelson signalled the message 'England expects that every man will do his duty', a sentiment which has been reproduced in the legends of this and many other medals struck to celebrate the victory and commemorate the victor, who was killed by a sniper during the battle. The British lost around 1500 men, but no ships, and succeeded in capturing Villeneuve and around 7000 prisoners of war.
This medal was struck at the expense of the manufacturer and engineer Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), and was intended for presentation to the men who fought under Nelson at Trafalgar, with 19,000 struck in copper, of which 14001 were distributed.
Others made in silver gilt, bronzed and Grain Tin were struck for distribution at court. The recipents of gold pieces have not identified.
L. Brown, A catalogue of British histori, 3 vols (London, Seaby, 1980-95)