Marriage certificate signed by Lord Nelson to be sold at auction
A rare document signed by a British naval hero is heading for auction.
The marriage certificate signed by Lord Horatio Nelson, his mistress and other key players will be sold next week by Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull.
The document is valued at £10,000-£15,000 and will form part of the rare books, manuscripts, maps and photographs auction on February 8.
The certificate has been in the same family for 222 years and was signed on the wedding day of British couple William Compton and Anne Bottalin, who were living in Naples at the time.
They got married aboard Nelson’s ship HMS Foudroyant in the Bay of Naples in July 1799.
Experts say the document provides a unique snapshot into a particularly complicated period in Nelson’s personal life against a backdrop of great public triumph.
Lord Nelson was a household name in Britain due to his many victories, including the Battle of the Nile against the French Navy in August 1798 – which came before the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
He had an affair with a former courtesan, Lady Emma Hamilton, who became pregnant with his only child.
Dominic Somerville-Brown, a Lyon & Turnbull specialist, said: “This is a remarkable grouping of signatures. It is especially rare to get those of Nelson and Lady Hamilton on the same piece of paper.
“This document is unique in British naval history, recording as it does a moment of sublime unreality in the career of Lord Nelson.
“Newly ennobled as victor of the Nile, he saw fit to host an ostentatious society wedding on board his ship while the French fleet entered the Mediterranean, threatening to defeat the scattered allied forces and relieve the army of Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt.
“Nelson refused three direct orders from his superior, Admiral Keith, to cruise to Minorca to help repel a combined Franco-Spanish assault. His refusal to obey Keith has been viewed by historians as leaving British forces dangerously exposed, although he escaped with little more than a light reproof from the Admiralty and was appointed acting commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean a month later.
“Heavy criticism was directed at his personal conduct, with his brother officers reportedly appalled to see what they viewed as his ‘enslavement’ at the hands of Lady Emma.
“We know of no other such document, bearing the signatures of such a spectacular array of characters in the Nelson story, ever coming to market.”