Collingwood presentation sword ix909

Presentation sword to Lord Collingwood

City of London gold presentation small-sword of Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood
British, London, dated 1806/7
IX.909

Among the gifts Collingwood received from a thankful nation for his role at Trafalgar was a sword from the City of London. The sword is now in the collection of the Royal Armouries.

The presentation small-sword was made for him in 1806-7 but as Collingwood never returned home after Trafalgar he never received it. Instead it was presented to his wife after his death in 1810.

By the later 18th century civilians no longer regularly wore swords or used them as weapons. The small-sword had become a piece of costume jewellery with the hilt and often the upper part of the blade being lavishly decorated. It was worn only with court dress or by officers in dress uniform.

Most remarkable among such rich swords were those presented to distinguished officers in recognition of their services by some grateful corporation or assembly, such as the one made for Collingwood. It has an 18-carat gold hilt, with plaques on the grip enamelled with the arms of Lord Collingwood and the arms of the City of London, each surrounded by small diamonds.

The sword is also decorated with anchors and laurel wreaths and the knuckle-guard is inscribed in letters set with diamonds against a dark blue enamel ground. They read ‘ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY’ on the outside, and ‘TRAFALGAR’ on the inside.

The inscription varies from Nelson’s signal at Trafalgar which was ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’. The signal is often misquoted as a number of British ships recorded the wording in their logs as ‘England expects every man to do his duty’, as is inscribed on this sword and also on Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

The sword is also engraved with the following: ‘Presented by the Corporation of the City of London pursuant to a Vote of Common Council Pafsed on the 26th Nov. 1805. The Right Hon. James Shaw Mayor to Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood for the brilliant & decisive Victory obtained by his Majesty’s Fleet under his Command (upon whom it devolv’d upon the ever to be lamented Death of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson) over the combined Fleets of France & Spain, off Cape Trafalgar, on the 21st October 1805. Thereby affording to the World at large an additional & lasting proof of British Valour.’

The sword was made by the leading craftsmen, John Ray and James Montague, ‘Goldworkers’, of 22 Denmark Street, Soho, London. They made 29 such swords, recorded as ‘many of the finest swords ever made in London’, before the company was dissolved in 1821.

The City of London paid the retailer of this sword £211.05. The sword was £210.00 and the £1.05 difference was to cover the search at the ‘Heralds College’ for Collingwood’s arms

Collingwood’s sword was passed down through his family until it was sold in 1899. It was purchased by Lady Meux who later sold it at a Red Cross Sale during the First World War. It was later bequeathed by Sir Bernard Eckstein to the Royal Armouries in 1948.

Did you know?

Too hot to handle

Before the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver the most powerful handgun in the world was the Mars pistol. It was so powerful that during testing in 1906, the Royal Navy vowed never to fire it again.

Specialist enquiries

Got Excalibur in the loft or "that arrow" from the Battle of Hastings above the fireplace?

Contact our experts to find out if you've got a historical gem or a car boot sale classic.