Lord Nelson's Breast Star of the Order of the Bath

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2015-06-26 10:37:47

Lord Nelson's Breast Star of the Order of the Bath is a unique military medal awarded to Viscount Horatio Nelson in 1797. It was sold at auction in October 2010 for an undisclosed sum.

Horatio Nelson (1758-1805)

Lord Nelson was an English flag officer, famous for his service in the Royal Navy|Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

He masterminded several military victories, most notably the Battle of Trafalgar, at which he died. Nelson also famously lost an arm after being wounded attempting to capture a Spanish treasure ship in 1797.

The Breast Star

In September 1797, King George III of the United Kingdom presented Nelson with the “insignia of the Order of the Bath” for his prominent role in securing victory in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. It was his first military honour.

The piece consists of an “eight-pointed silver Breast Star”, surrounding a gold and red enamel ring at the centre. The ring bears the motto “tria juncto in uno” (three joined in one) and has “three crowns at its centre.”

The following is engraved on the reverse:

“The Star of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson Duke of Bronte KB who fell in his last Glorious Victory off Cape Trafalgar the 21 October 1805 Presented to Vice Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keats by Earl Nelson 24th March 1814."

UK newspaper The Daily Express described it as “the most important piece of Nelson memorabilia to go under the hammer more than 100 years.”

James Morton, of Morton and Eden auctioneers, commented that “until now it has never been seen in public … it has never been on display in any museum or even examined by experts.”

The star has “even more significance as all but one of Nelson’s other medals were stolen in 1900 and have never been found.”

After Nelson’s death in 1805, “his orders and titles were inherited by his brother, the Rev William Nelson”. In 1814, they were sent to Nelson’s “great friend and confidant Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keats.”

Notable sale

On 22nd October 2010, the Breast Star was sold by auction by Morton and Eden auctioneers, in association with Sotheby’s. It was estimated to sell for £300-500,000; however, they final selling price has not been disclosed.

It was offered for sale “anonymously by a direct descendant of Admiral Keats”.

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