Horatio Nelson’s death in 1805 during the Battle of Trafalgar was a landmark in the Napoleonic Wars and also for British society. With his growing legacy as a national hero, many items, from jewellery to household objects were created to commemorate him. Nelson mourning rings were created in limited number and as proof of the man’s influence in British history, the rings have been replicated several times in recent history.
Historical jewels are perfectly suited to memorial jewellery. They depict a moment in time, a fundamental reason for a society to enable a shift or focus upon their culture and represented this in fashion as a token of mourning or sentimentality.
Much of the catalyst for mourning jewels have their inception in the Charles I pieces worn by royalists during the Reformation and Restoration; the symbol of wearing the king’s face was enough to make a political statement and one of mortality.
> Link: An Historical Charles I Ring
The adaption of court and popular fashion from what was influenced by the monarchy was profound. Style and culture followed carefully what royalty began, such as an eye portrait from George IV, or a token to memorialise Princess Charlotte.
This is why Nelson was so important as a statement of victory and how that establishes a vast amount of cultural pride for a society that had watched Europe be dominated by Napoleon. Jewels and tokens were created (in the similar way that Napoleon tokens were created – rings with hair, pendants, etc) to honour Nelson.
Such is the pride of the moment that the Lord Nelson mourning ring has had periodical reproductions as recent as in the last ten years. For contemporary pieces of the time, the symbol of Nelson became the symbol for national pride, hence the wide use of Nelson in jewels and sentimental depictions, yet the fundamental underpinning of the reason for the token of love and affection remains:
A George lll Gold and enamel mourning ring, Admiral Lord Nelson
Rectangular head in black enamel with white border, bearing a Viscount’s coronet above the initial “N” and a Ducal crown above the initial “B” over the word “Trafalgar”. The gold tapered hoop shank engraved on the outside “Palmem Qui Meruit Ferat” (Let him bear the palm of victory who has won it) and on the inside “Lost to his Country 21 Oct 1805 Aged 47”.
With this miniature, it follows the style of others like it, bearing the name ‘Nelson’ on the back. However, there is a danger with analysing such a piece; the imagery (with the ship) does lend to being dedicated to Horatio Nelson and the piece does lend from the times, but there is the possibility of another dedication in the name ‘Nelson’. The rendering itself is rather simplistic and naive, however, the hairwork is quite finely styled.
Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Year: c. 1st Quarter 19th Century