Monument to Lord Nelson (1758-1805)
St Paul's Cathedral - Virtual Tour
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The memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson is one of the finest works of the distinguished neo-Classical sculptor John Flaxman. The sculptor started work in 1808, three years after the naval hero's death, and finished ten years later.
Nelson is actually buried below, in the Crypt.
This statue was placed here as a public monument. The admiral stands in his robes as peer of the realm, his left hand resting on an anchor which rests in turn on a coil of rope. (His right arm had been lost in 1797.)
He stands on a large cylindrical plinth, on the curving face of which is a bas-relief of sea-gods.
To the left, at more or less our level, the figure of Britannia, in helmet and Greek dress, points to the hero, drawing the attention of two young boys to him, and commending his example.
On the other side of the plinth, a British lion crouches ferociously.
Nelson was a figure of enormous popularity, and his death caused great public grief and consternation. Very quickly, his stature as a national hero was assured.
The story of his outstanding naval career - the losing of his right eye, and later his right arm;
his famous turning of a blind eye towards a signal he chose not to see;
his public love-affair with Lady Hamilton (everybody knew that he and she were both married to other people at the time) - every detail of his life was proudly treasured by the nation at war.
And after the Napoleonic Wars were over, and England began to embark on a great imperial adventure, Nelson was to remain one of the great heroes of the English pantheon.
Above all, the circumstances of his death, in the hour of victory at Trafalgar in 1805, made a huge public impact.
The coat in which he was killed was preserved as an almost sacred relic, as was the bullet which caused the fatal wound.
The famous signal to the fleet before Trafalgar: 'England expects every man will do his duty' - episodes from all periods of his thrilling career, became as familiar to ordinary British people as the doings of their friends and neighbours
and a brisk trade in Nelson souvenirs quickly followed.