October 22, 2009 - A battle-scarred flag from the Battle of Trafalgar sold at a London sale Thursday for a record breaking $700,000, nearly 40 times its pre-sale estimate.
The anonymous buyer is an American who is negotiating with the British government to keep the flag in the U.K.
The 11ft by 7ft Union Jack is the only known flag in existence to have flown during the 1805 naval battle, which was seen as a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. The flag flew on the mast of HMS Spartiate during the battle and was given as a reward to Lieutenant James Clephan by his crewmates.
Clephan’s descendents kept the flag but immigrated to Australia in the 1960s and decided recently to return it to London for the auction.
A London auction house handled the sale of the flag on “Trafalgar Day”. The hammer fell at 320,000 pounds. With the 20 per cent buyer's premium added, the total price paid was 384,000 pounds ($687,774). Its presale estimate was 10,000 pounds.
The Daily Mail in the UK described the flag as “littered with holes from shot damage and still has a whiff of gunpowder…”