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Sold! Piece of Lord Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar flag fetches £297,000 at auction

An exceptionally large fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from Nelson's ship HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar, which sold for £297,000 at Sotheby's in London. Picture: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's

An exceptionally large fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from Nelson's ship HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar, which sold for £297,000 at Sotheby's in London. Picture: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's

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To the casual observer, it may seem like little more than a tatty and worn piece of an old flag.

An exceptionally large fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from Nelson's ship HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar, which sold for £297,000 at Sotheby's in London. Picture: Sotheby'sAn exceptionally large fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from Nelson's ship HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar, which sold for £297,000 at Sotheby's in London. Picture: Sotheby's

But this fragment of a Union Jack has just fetched nearly £300,000 at auction - because it is believed to have once flown from the ship of one of Britain’s most famous military victories, led by one of Norfolk’s most revered sons.

International collectors came out in force for the auction of the hand-woven flag patch at Sotheby’s in London.

It formed part of a sale of items connected to Lord Horatio Nelson, who was born in Burnham Thorpe before going on to lead a glittering military career.

The large fragment of the flag is believed to have flown from his ship, HMS Victory, at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when he led the British to a spectacular defeat of the combined French and Spanish naval forces.

A Pair of George III Silver Sauce Tureens Presented to Lord Nelson  following the Battle of Copenhagen, 1799. Picture: Sotheby'sA Pair of George III Silver Sauce Tureens Presented to Lord Nelson following the Battle of Copenhagen, 1799. Picture: Sotheby's

It was the battle which led to Nelson’s death, as he was shot by a French musketeer - but it cemented his place in history as one of the country’s greatest war heroes.

The exhibition contained 80 objects celebrating the military leader, with the flag fragment sold for more than three times the pre-sale estimate of between £80,000 and £100,000.

It finally went for £297,000 after four bidders competed for the prize.

Also for sale was a pair of silver sauce tureens dated from 1799, emblazoned with Nelson’s coat of arms and presented to him by Lloyd’s Coffee House following the Battle of Copenhagen.

Nelson's grog chest that he kept in his cabin at sea.  Picture: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby'sNelson's grog chest that he kept in his cabin at sea. Picture: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's

That item sold for £106,250, double the pre-sale estimate of £30,000 to £50,000.

Lord Nelson’s grog chest - with its carefully cased set of fine decanters that he kept in his cabin at sea - fetched £68,750, while a portrait of his mistress Emma Hamilton by the great Irish neo-classicist Gavin Hamilton, painted in approximately 1786, sold for £369,000.

In addition to the Lord Nelson collection, the sale on Wednesday, January 17 included an outstanding ensemble of fascinating royal and aristocratic heirlooms covering centuries of history. Together, they realised a combined total of £2.6m.

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