16 May 2023
Duncan Evans takes a look at a pair of lesser-known medals awarded for the iconic sea battle
The Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805, took place over 200 years ago but has attained iconic status, as Admiral Lord Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet and cemented Britain’s position as the premier naval force of the time. Even though it cost the life of Nelson himself, it was a resounding victory which lead Matthew Bolton, of the Soho Mint in Birmingham, to issue, on his own initiative, a medal to commemorate the feat. This was initially a run of 15,000 medals in white metal, although there were also versions in gilt-bronze and bronze, to be presented to the survivors of the battle.
Left: The later issued Gold medal is the most expensive to collect
The medal is 48mm in diameter with a bust of Nelson looking to the left on the obverse, surrounded by the words ‘HORATIO VISCOUNT NELSON. K * B * DUKE OF BRONTE’. On the reverse is a battle scene, with the words ‘TRAFALGAR’ and ‘OCT 21. 1805’ underneath. Around the top edge is a quote from Nelson that reads, ‘ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY’. Around the rim are the words, in large capitals, ‘TO THE HEROES OF TRAFALGAR FROM M:BOULTON’. Also, recipient’s often had their name impressed around the rim as well. It was originally issued without suspension, but where these have been added a 32mm navy blue ribbon is generally used, or, in later cases, the white ribbon with blue edges ribbon from the Naval GSM.
The original medal was subsequently restruck at least twice, with both white metal issues having the inscription on the rim. It was then issued in silver, between 1820 and 1850; and gold around 1905. Each restrike used the original dies and so had to be polished before use, leading to less detail on subsequent versions.
Right: The Silver medal was issued at various time, often so it could be included in the same group as a Naval GSM
White metal: £450-£600
Gold (c. 1905): £4,000-£5,000
Silver (1820-1850): £3,500
Replica in display case: £49.99
Left: The original striking of the Boulton medal in 1805 was in white metal
Left: There were also versions of the original striking issued in copper
Davison’s Trafalgar Medal
The Boulton medal wasn’t the only one given to reward those taking part in the pivotal battle. Alexander Davison was a government contractor and a close friend of Nelson, becoming his prize agent after the Battle of the Nile. He also decided to have a medal struck to commemorate the victory, but this one was not for the officers, it was for the ratings onboard HMS Victory who took part in the battle.
The medal is 52mm in diameter, made from pewter with a copper rim. There was no official ribbon but where one is used from a ring suspension it will be the 32mm navy blue ribbon, as used on the other Trafalgar medal. On the obverse is a tiny bust of Nelson over a coat of arms with an excessive amount of wording. The top line reads ‘ADMIRAL LORD NELSON D. OF BRONTE’. On the reverse is a man-of-war with the biblical quote around the top reading ‘THE LORD IS A MAN-OF-WAR’. Underneath the ship are the words, ‘VICTORY OFF TRAFALGAR OVER THE COMBINED FLEETS OF FRANCE & SPAIN OCT. 21. 1805’.
Pewter medal: £1,750-£2,000
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