The Alexander Davison Collection of Nelson Relics

In 2001 whilst on a routine valuation I discovered a remarkable trove of relics, papers and artefacts belonging to Admiral Lord Nelson. The collection had remained hidden and unseen in a trunk for almost two hundred years with the family of Nelson’s prize agent, confidant and closest friend Alexander Davison. The trunk contained almost a thousand papers and documents ranging from intimate letters from Nelson, his wife Fanny and mistress Emma, Lady Hamilton to household accounts, bank statements and prize money ledgers. These documents changed the biography of Nelson, in particular revealing in startling detail the full dramatic circumstances of his affair and marriage breakdown. Alongside the papers was an extraordinary collection of relics, artefacts and personal belongings of Nelson, all carefully preserved by Davison. These included magnificent items of presentation porcelain, weaponry, medals and jewels. Most eye-catching was a bloodstained purse recovered from Nelson’s body as he lay dying in HMS Victory and still containing the gold guineas placed in it by him on the morning of the battle of Trafalgar. Following months of research, I curated the sale of the collection at Sotheby’s London. Amid intense international media interest, the collection sold for over £2 million setting new benchmarks for the sale of objects relating to Nelson. Following the sale I was commissioned to write an account of my incredible discovery and to tell the hitherto lost story of the friendship between Nelson and Alexander Davison. Nelson’s Purse was published in 2004 achieving worldwide sales in excess of 50,000 copies. See books.