200 years on, a famous Thames tribute to Nelson

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The Independent Online

Yesterday, that loss of Britain's greatest naval hero and the victory was commemorated by a spectacular flotilla on the Thames with drum rolls and battleships firing salvoes of salutes.

The re-enactment of the admiral's funeral was held with the largest procession seen on the river in modern times. After the Jubilant, the cutter from Nelson's flagship, Victory, carrying a replica coffin and a new version of the famous Trafalgar Dispatch, were 70 vessels, oared and motorised, with more than 300 crew members in uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars.

The vessels, including Sir Winston Churchill's funeral barge, Havengore, made their way from Greenwich, through gusting wind and choppy waters to Middle Temple Pier for St Paul's Cathedral, saluted on their way by a 15-gun homage from HMS Belfast.

Admiral Sir Alan West, the First Sea Lord, carried the modern version of the dispatch, which was read out by his predecessor, Admiral the Lord Boyce. "Two hundred years later, we celebrate a defining moment in British history. We celebrate the memory of a great British hero. We celebrate all the heroes of Trafalgar."

Lord Nelson, killed by a French sniper's bullet as he took on the combined French and Spanish fleet, was the first popular hero of the industrial age. His image, with missing arm and a blind eye, appeared in the penny press, and his exploits, real and imagined, were read out in public houses.

Nelson's funeral, the first state ceremony for anyone outside the royal family, lasted for five days.

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