Nelson spent half his final salary on port

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The Independent Online
Many people admit to taking a tipple to give them Dutch courage, but Nelson could be said to have taken things to extremes.

Six weeks before the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, he spent half his annual salary on 375 gallons of port.

It cost him pounds 308 but he did not live to enjoy it, as he went off to battle and died on board his flagship, the Victory. However, it is believed mourners may have enjoyed it at his wake. Evidence of his purchase of the best port came to light with the discovery of a receipt and a letter confirming the order. They were found among papers by a Norfolk antiques dealer, who wishes to remain anonymous, and will be auctioned on Friday in Aylsham, Norfolk, where they are expected to fetch several hundred pounds.

The receipt shows the wine was delivered on 7 September 1805, to Nelson's estate at Merton Place, Surrey, where he lived with his mistress, Lady Hamilton. He died on 21 October after being hit by a musket ball during the battle. Les Winter, a founder member of the Nelson Society, believes the port was probably ordered under the direction of Lady Hamilton, known for her lavish entertaining.

Nelson was reputed to be a modest drinker. At today's prices the port would have cost about pounds 8,500. A modern admiral who wanted to spend half his annual salary would have to fork out nearly pounds 50,000.

-Kate Watson-Smyth

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