Matthew Bolton’s Trafalgar Medal
The battle of Trafalgar took place on the 21st of October in 1805 between the British Royal Navy under Admiral Horatio Nelson and the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies at Cape Trafalgar in Spain. There were 27 British ships led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard the HMS Victory, set against 33 ships in the enemy fleet. The British managed a decisive victory and captured or sank 22 ships without the loss of a single vessel. It was celebrated as a major Naval victory, although Nelson was shot and died shortly thereafter. The victory and the sacrifice of Nelson was commemorated throughout England.
An enterprising businessman man named Matthew Boulton, of Soho, near Birmingham, owned the Soho mint and produced token coinage and medals using a revolutionary steam powered press. He decided to celebrate the British victory by producing a private medal commemorating the event and distributing them to the officers and men who took part in the battle. In many cases the medal is set in a watch style glass case with silver frame engraved, “TO THE HEROES OF TRAFALGAR FROM M. BOULTON.” Many medals also have the name of the recipient and his ship engraved in the reverse field.
I have, in my possession, one such medal. It has the watch glass on the reverse, which has preserved the white metal finish but does make it a little more difficult to photograph. Let me describe it to you. It is made of white metal and is 48 mm in diameter, or about 2 inches. On the obverse is a uniformed bust of Nelson by C.H. Kuchler, while the reverse shows a panoramic view of the naval battle with the legend ” ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY” with “TRAFALGAR OCTr 21, 1805” in exergue. This one has the name engraved above the ships as “J. Thompson, Cook/ HMS Spartiate”
Interestingly, the ship had been captured by the British seven years earlier, at the battle of the Nile, then refitted and sent back out to defeat the French. It is a very interesting medal and in today’s market, it would bring about $600 – 800.