Norfolk

Nelson's captured French Tricolour flag displayed again

Le Genereux Ensign in St Andrew's Hall, Norwich Image copyright Norfolk Museums Service
Image caption The flag was about a third of the size of its ship

A French flag presented to Norwich by Admiral Lord Nelson after it was captured in battle is to go on display for the first time in 100 years.

The ensign of Le Genereux, believed to be one of the earliest Tricolours in existence, was captured in 1800.

Conservation work on the 16m by 8.3m (52ft by 27ft) flag, which still contains splinters of wood and traces of gunpowder, will cost about £40,000.

Norwich Castle said it is "a remarkable survivor" of sailing ship battles.

Image copyright Norfolk Museums Service
Image caption Nelson was on board the HMS Foudroyant when his flag captain Berry captured the ensign

Norfolk Museums Service curator of costume and textiles Ruth Battersby-Tooke said the wool ensign is "remarkable for its survival in such a complete state, given its age and inherent fragility".

Image copyright Norfolk Museums Service
Image caption Initial conservation has yielded finds including a nail

Le Genereux was one of only two ships from the French fleet to escape Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Nelson's flag captain Edward Berry defeated her in the Mediterranean 18 months later.

The ensign was immediately packed up and sent to Norwich.

Horatio Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe in north Norfolk and retained strong links with the county.

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Image copyright Norfolk Museums Service
Image caption Volunteers supervised by conservators will hand-stitch a new lining to the blue section of the flag
Image copyright Norfolk Museum's Service
Image caption The design of the Tricolour was officially adopted by the French for their national flag in 1794

It was displayed in St Andrew's Hall until 1897, but has not been seen in public since the 1905 Centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar exhibition at Norwich Castle Keep.

Ms Battersby-Tooke said: "We want to display the ensign sensitively and fully conscious of the terrible toll these sea battles took on the men involved, friend and foe alike."

Norfolk Museums Service and the Costume and Textile Association hope to raise funds to put it on permanent display.

It will first be exhibited at the Nelson & Norfolk Exhibition at the Castle Museum between July and October.

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