Medicine cabinet used to treat Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar goes up for sale

THE medicine cabinet of Lord Nelson’s surgeon, Sir William Beatty, which is believed to have been used to help try to save the admiral during the Battle of Trafalgar, has emerged for sale on the internet.

Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 1:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 2:22 pm
Charles Wallrock inspects one of the bottles in the medicine cabinet that belonged to Sir William Beatty, Nelson's surgeon at Trafalgar.

The cabinet is dated 1803, two years before the Battle of Trafalgar during which Nelson was fatally shot on board his flagship HMS Victory.

Beatty was appointed to Victory in December 1804 but was unable to save Nelson who died knowing that his forces had defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets.

At 10 inches high the cabinet would have contained a variety of medicines from laudanum to cures for venereal disease and still contains two of the original glass jars.

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Charles Wallrock with the medicine cabinet that belonged to Sir William Beatty, Nelson's surgeon at Trafalgar.

It was previously bought by private collector Charles Wallrock who is now selling it through the online platform 2Covet.

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Charles, who runs Wick Antiques in Lymington, said: ‘This is a wonderful survivor from the Napoleonic wars. The case is portable with a handle on top so Beatty was able to carry it around. On it is written his details: ‘William Beatty, warranted surgeon. RN. 1803’.

‘Beatty was with Nelson from when he was brought down below decks after being shot to when he died. Both Nelson and Beatty knew there was no hope of survival.’

The detailed report written by the surgeon now provides a historical account of Nelson’s final moments.

Charles added: ‘Before he died, Nelson was brought the news that the battle was won and he was able to hear the cheers from the crew whenever an enemy ship surrendered. Nelson’s final words were ‘thank God I have done my duty’. He also confirmed that Nelson asked his great friend Hardy to kiss him, which he did twice.’

‘Nelson asked Hardy not to throw him overboard after he died, as was the practice, and it was Beatty who arranged for Nelson’s body to be placed in a barrel of brandy.

‘On his return to England, Beatty performed the autopsy on board Victory and subsequently bequeathed the musket ball which killed the admiral to Queen Victoria.’

Charles also explained that during the battle the cabinet would have been used to support a number of amputations where limbs ‘had been shattered’.

‘This cabinet would have been full of tinctures, potions and medicines that were required as a matter of routine on a man o’ war such as Victory.

‘It is a fascinating glimpse into the past, not only of naval history but medical history,’ said Charles.

Beatty was an Irish surgeon who rose through the ranks and served on a number of ships before becoming the surgeon on Victory. He later served on the committee that organised the building of Nelson’s column before his death in 1842 at the age of 68.

Anyone who would like to purchase the cabinet will have to stump up the £16,500 asking price.

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