Extraordinary Admiral Horatio Nelson letter… Found in a London basement!

Dawsons privileged to be taking to auction a letter handwritten by a heroic British icon


Whilst carrying out a routine collection at a London residence, the team at Dawsons discovered a wonderful item… We are now in the enviable and highly privileged position, to be taking to auction a letter handwritten by a true British naval hero… None other than Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805), also known simply as Admiral Nelson, was a British flag officer in the Royal Navy.

Vice-Admiral Nelson wrote this letter with his left hand

His inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics brought about numerous decisive British naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was wounded in combat, losing sight in one eye in Corsica at the age of 35, and most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife when he was 40.

From 1803, Vice-Admiral Nelson was given his most senior appointment at that rank - Commander in Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. It was from this career-high rank that he commanded a blockade of the French and Spanish fleets at Toulon and, after their escape, chased them to the West Indies and back but failed to bring them to battle. Fascinatingly, Nelson wrote this letter from HMS Victory, 'off Toulon, August 22nd 1803', and seemingly just before chasing the French and Spanish fleets across the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans!

HMS Victory

The letter from Vice-Admiral Nelson is written to Post-Captain Charles Boyles (1756-1816), and interestingly, it is written using his left hand, having lost his right in the battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1797.

It reads:

'My Dear Boyles,

Your letter of May and June 3rd came to me yesterday.

I shall have very great pleasure in receiving Mr Sullivan and of taking a very early opportunity of promoting him. I assure you my Dear Boyles, there is nothing that you can ask me in my power and grant that I shall not be happy in the opportunity of doing. I regret that you have not got a ship but I trust that you have one before this time it would give me great pleasure and have you here but there is no prize money on this station, except through the French fleet which we are most anxiously looking out for. I expect them out every day.

Murray is very well and joins with me in every good wish to you and Mrs Boyles, and believe me ever your most faithful and sincerely attended friend, Nelson & Bronte'.

This incredible letter - Estimate: £4,000 - £6,000 will be taken to auction on 9th December (9:30am start)

After a brief return to England, Nelson took over the Cadiz blockade in 1805. On 21 October 1805, the Franco-Spanish fleet came out of port, and Nelson's fleet engaged them at the Battle of Trafalgar. The battle became one of Britain's greatest naval victories, but Nelson, aboard HMS Victory, was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter. His body was brought back to England where he was accorded a state funeral.

Admiral Nelson's fame led to a commemortative stamp being produced

Nelson's death at Trafalgar secured his position as one of Britain's most heroic figures. The significance of the victory and his death during the battle led to his signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty”, being regularly quoted, paraphrased and referenced up to the modern day.