Five letters signed by one of Britain's greatest ever military leaders are to go under the hammer in an auction at Etwall next week - with bids of thousands of pounds expected.
The letters from Admiral Lord Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall on September 30.
The South Derbyshire firm, led by TV antiques expert Charles Hanson, is looking to repeat the success it had last year with a Nelson letter which fetched a record-breaking £54,500.
One of the letters up for auction is dated November 7, 1803, and was written when Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, was stationed in the archipelago of La Maddalena, which he used as a base for his fleet in actions against the French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte.
It is addressed to Major William A Villetes, commanding at Malta, and says: "The enemy are now eight sail of the Line perfectly ready and they are pressing every man to complete the frigates…unless Bonaparte is absolutely mad, and that the people about him are likewise so…he will not wish to throw Sicily into our hands in order to revenge himself of the King of Naples, much less force Spain into a war which must so much injure the French cause.
"To him it matters not being at war with Spain. We may be forced to go to war with her for her compliance to the French."
Nelson’s letter also mentions home but only to consider the rumours of Bonaparte’s impending invasion of England and the negative effect this was having on recruits: "Until the idea of an invasion is a little blown over, I fear we shall see no recruits."
The letter is written in ink and signed 'Nelson & Bronte', and the chain-lined paper bears a manufacturer’s watermark for 1803. It has an estimate of £8,000 to £12,000.
A second letter signed Nelson & Bronte was written aboard the Victory at Sea and is dated November 23, 1804. To Captain Richard Thomas, Commander of His Majesty's Bomb Vessel Aetna, it states: "You will keep a Strict lookout for the French Fleet, that you may not be placed in a situation of danger should the Enemy pass that way…Given aboard this Victory at Sea this 23 November 1804." Its estimate is £4,000 to £6,000.
A third autograph memorandum 'Given onboard the Victory at Sea the 5 September 1804' is to Captain Richard Thomas, Commander of His Majesty's Bomb Vessel Aetna, ordering him to proceed to Porto Conte in Sardinia to fill a water cask.
The letter instructs: "You will send the Marines above mentioned on shore with the watering party to prevent desertion or wine being brought down to the people by the Inhabitants, and also to preserve the cask from being stolen.
"In the execution of this service you will afford every assistance of Men in your power from the Aetna, that it may be performed with the utmost despatch, and the Cask filled with good sweet water - during your stay at Porto Conte you will purchase as many live bullocks as may be necessary for your people." Its estimate is between £4,000 and £6,000.
A fourth letter to Benjamin Tucker, Secretary to Lord St Vincent, discusses the division of prize money: "I have no doubt but that everything was regular on your part but as I never have received such a list as could look like an account, I ventured to ask for it. I observe what you say about Mr Tyson having received flag prize money…but not one farthing of that or a farthing for freight were ever placed to my credit.
"That would have made my accounts so complicated that I should not have understood them and I should have thought myself next to a Robber…a legal decision being about to take place with My Dearest friend on this subject & would not be right for me to say all my thoughts on that subject. I can only say that justice is all I want."
In naval warfare, 'prize money' was a monetary reward paid out to the crew of a ship for capturing or sinking an enemy vessel. Many men, including Nelson, depended on this for their income. This letter has an estimate of between £4,000 and £6,000.
The final letter up for auction says: "Dear Sir, I am much obliged by your letter, and shall thank you to expedite the order for my pay, &c. My Flag was struck from the Alexander at Leghorn, on July 13, 1800."
This letter is documented in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson; with Notes by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, G.C.M.G., Seventh Volume, published in London by Henry Colburn 1846, where it is described as being 'in the possession of Miss Nichols'. Its estimate is between £3,000 and £5,000.
The Five Nelson letters have been consigned to auction by a private UK collector who acquired them from Kenneth W Rendell, a famous dealer of historical letters and manuscripts.
Jim Spencer, head of books and manuscripts at Hansons, described the thrill of seeing the letter written aboard HMS Victory for the first time. He said: "Holding these pieces of paper is like holding a boarding pass for a time machine. I can see Nelson writing by candlelight, against his doctor’s orders, with the sight in one eye only, with his one remaining hand.
"Nelson is thinking of the nation's fear of an invasion back home, and he’s planning and preparing for anything. All of the urgency and wisdom is evident in Nelson’s characteristic left-hand.
"He was noted for his inspirational leadership, superb grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics, which together resulted in a number of decisive naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars."
Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1 Viscount Nelson, 1 Duke of Bronte, who was born in Norfolk on September 29, 1758, was a naval captain by 21, known throughout Europe by 39 and dead at 47.
He won three of the most decisive naval victories in British history at the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and Trafalgar (1805).
He was seriously wounded four times and killed by a French sniper while aboard HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: "Lord Nelson, is still acknowledged as our greatest naval tactician and as a man of tremendous audacity and courage who showed little concern for his own. He lost the sight in his right eye at Corsica, his right arm at Santa Cruz de Tenerife and suffered a severe head injury at the Battle of the Nile.
"Nelson's private life attracted almost as much attention as his naval endeavours. His open love affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton, may have been considered scandalous by polite society but only served to enhance his reputation as a devil-may-care adventurer."
The letters will go under the hammer individually on Saturday, September 30 at Hansons Auctioneers.