January 9, 1806: Horatio Nelson’s state funeral takes place.
Admiral Lord Nelson, regarded as one of Britain’s greatest heroes both during life and even more so after death, lost his arm and sight in one eye in combat while leading forces of the Royal Navy against the Spanish and French navies at the onset of the Napoleonic Wars. He eventually lost his life as well, during his most famous battle and victory at Trafalgar, during which he was wounded. According to Sir Thomas Hardy, the mortally wounded Nelson remarked to him:
Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last… my backbone is shot through.
Nelson was taken below deck and died approximately three hours after being shot, and when news of his death (as well as the Royal Navy’s victory at Trafalgar) reached his country, it seemed almost as though they were unsure how to react. King George III remarked that “We have lost more than we have gained”, and The Times commented that the navy’s “splendid and decisive Victory” had been “dearly purchased” with the life of one of the nation’s most celebrated heroes. Nelson’s funeral procession was grand and befitting someone so highly-regarded by his people; it consisted of thirty-two admirals and 10,000 soldiers, who accompanied Nelson’s coffin to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where he was interred in a sarcophagus originally intended to carry a cardinal. London’s Trafalgar Square was named in commemoration of the 1805 battle, and at its center stands the 169-foot tall monument commemorating Nelson himself - Nelson’s Column.