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The majority of works sold to private buyers, with over three quarters of the sale secured by UK-registered bidders. There were few casualties and the auction totalled £1,838,100 hammer.

“A lot of people were attracted into buying because they were fascinated by the stories surrounding the entries,” said Sotheby’s specialist Martin Downer, who unearthed the collection on a routine valuation overseas in June 2001.

In addition to iconic items such as Nelson’s bloodstained purse (illustrated here) – thought to have been in his pocket when he was fatally wounded at Trafalgar – that sold on the telephone for £240,000 and the top lot, a French First Officer’s sword gifted to Nelson by the Sultan Selim III, that brought a staggering £300,000, letters from the collection shed new light on Nelson’s marriage and the closeness of his friendship with Alexander Davison, his adviser and treasurer. “The Fanny Nelson archive will change some of our understanding and knowledge of Nelson,” said Martin Downer.

The National Maritime Museum managed to secure for the nation what they considered the most historically important work, 72 autograph letters from Frances Nelson to Davison, that fetched £120,000.