Date Posted: 04/10/2010
British naval ensigns from the Age of Sail are very rare but every now and again one comes out of a cupboard where it has been rolled into a musty ball for decades, sometimes centuries. They are magnificent things principally because they are so enormous and are asuch apowerful reminder of the size of the ships that flew them. They are usually at least sixteen feet long, and sometimes even larger. Some that have seen battle are cut through with shot holes. Not so long ago the ensign from Admiral Howe’s flagship the Queen Charlotte was sold in London. It was the very flag that flew at the Glorious First of June when the Royal Navy fought the feverish French Revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror. It is a wonderful specimen, riddled with shotholes. Now it is the turn of the Fighting Temeraire because the flag that she flew at Trafalgar has surfaced and will be sold in London.
The flag comes from the family of Captain Hyde John Clarke (1777-1857) who missed the Battle of Trafalgar because he was stationed in the East Indies, but he joined her in 1810. It is likely, therefore, that he was aboard the Temerairewhen she took part in the siege of Cadiz when so many of her sailors died in the epic battle for Fort Matagorda. When Clarke left the navy he probably took the flag with him as a souvenir, a very common occurrence for light-fingered naval officers.
The flag will be sold in London by Charles Miller Ltd on 27 October.