The Tomb of Lord Nelson (1758-1805)
St Paul's Cathedral - Virtual Tour
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Viscount Nelson's black sarcophagus undoubtedly has the position of honour in the Crypt: it stands on a mosaic floor in the middle of the central space, surrounded by eight Tuscan pillars. In fact the sarcophagus was already nearly 300 years old when it was given for Nelson. It had been commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey in around 1524, before he fell from favour with Henry VIII. Where Nelson's Viscount's coronet stands, there would have been Wolsey's Cardinal's hat.
Nelson's funeral was a huge public event. As Robert Graves's poem puts it:
At Viscount Nelson's lavish funeral
While the mob milled and yelled about St Paul's
A General chatted with an Admiral.
"One of your colleagues, sir remarked today
That Nelson's exit, though to be lamented,
Falls not inopportunely, in its way..."
The wooden coffin inside the sarcophagus was made out of the mainmast of the French flagship L'Orient, captured at the Battle of the Nile.
The mosaic floor contains nautical motifs such as anchors and ropes, together with Nelson's famous signal to the fleet before the Battle of Trafalgar: 'England expects every man will do his duty.'