Last Union Jack flown at Trafalgar 'must remain in Britain'

Employees for Charles Miller auctioneers hold a giant union flag, which was flown from HMS Spartiate at the battle of Trafalgar Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The last surviving Union Jack flown by

the Royal Navy at Trafalgar will remain in

Britain after ministers promised

to block any foreign attempts to buy it.

The flag will be auctioned in London today,

the anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson's victory

over a joint French and Spanish fleet

off the Spanish coast in 1805.

It is expected to fetch at least £15,000.

Charles Miller, the auctioneer, has said

he believes it is the last surviving flag

flown during the battle.

Margaret Hodge, the culture minister, has said

that if the flag is bought by a foreign bidder,

she will impose a temporary export ban

on it to allow British museums or

other institutions to make a matching bid.

The case would then be referred to

the Reviewing Committee on the Export

of Works of Art and Objects

of Cultural Interest, which advises ministers

on which items should not be

allowed to leave Britain.

The 11ft x 7ft flag is pierced with holes

made by bullets and splinters of wood

from the impact of cannon shot.

It was flown on HMS Spartiate, one of 27 ships

of the line Nelson led into battle against

33 French and Spanish vessels after

signalling his fleet: England expects that

every man will do his duty.

Nelson's victory, which came at the cost

of his own life, was perhaps Britain's greatest

naval victory, confirming Britain's maritime

supremacy and ending any hope

Napoleon had of invading Britain.

The Franco-Spanish armada lost 22 ships,

either sunk or captured. Nelson's fleet

did not sustain a single loss.

Mrs Hodge said Trafalgar was one

of the pivotal moments in British history

and must be remembered.

"This flag is a poignant and unique memento

from that battle and I am ready to do

everything necessary to help keep it

in this country," she said.

"Generations to come should have the chance

to look at it and reflect on our

glorious history when 'England expected' and

our heroic sailors rose to the challenge."

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Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

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