Hoist the flag!

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country - Clive Aslet

THIS sum­mer, hearts of oak will throb at the op­por­tu­nity to view a rarely seen tro­phy cap­tured in an en­gage­ment, the an­niver­sary of which falls on Fe­bru­ary 18. This was the cap­ture of the French ship Le Généreux in 1800; its huge Tri­colour en­sign was im­me­di­ately sent to the City of Norwich, where it has spent the past cen­tury in stor­age.

Now, this im­por­tant icon has been un­furled for the first time in more than 100 years, al­low­ing con­ser­va­tion work to be car­ried out be­fore it’s shown in the ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Nel­son and Nor­folk’ at the Norwich Cas­tle Mu­seum and Art Gallery (July 29 to Oc­to­ber 8).

Nel­son was off Si­cily when the French ship was first sighted. ‘I pray God it may be Le Généreux,’ he ex­claimed. He then urged the cap­tain of his flag­ship HMS Foudroy­ant to beat the other ships of the squadron for the chance to fight her. How­ever, it was to be the sur­prise ap­pear­ance of the much smaller HMS Suc­cess that gal­lantly cut off Le Généreux’s flight. The French Rear-ad­mi­ral Jean-baptiste Per­rée died af­ter hav­ing one of his legs shot off. The en­sign, mea­sur­ing 52½ft by 27ft, was hauled down as a sign of sur­ren­der.

Enor­mous flags were nec­es­sary to dis­tin­guish the na­tion­al­ity of ships in the smoke of bat­tle. This one has a spe­cial his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance, hav­ing pos­si­bly flown at the Bat­tle of the Nile. It could also be the old­est sur­viv­ing Tri­colour, the red, white and blue hav­ing of­fi­cially been adopted by the French in 1794.

‘The en­sign is re­mark­able for its sur­vival in such a com­plete state, given its age and in­her­ent fragility,’ says Ruth Bat­tersby-tooke, cu­ra­tor of cos­tume and tex­tiles at the Nor­folk Mu­seum Ser­vice.

Nor­folk Mu­se­ums Ser­vice is rais­ing funds for its full con­ser­va­tion and per­ma­nent dis­play as part of a Nel­son gallery and has set up an on­line fundrais­ing cam­paign page at www.cta­cos­tume.org.uk. The work is likely to cost in the re­gion of £40,000.

The Tri­colour in Norwich may be the old­est in the world

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.