Built during the reign of Charles II when pageants on water were popular, this is one of three surviving state barges, and is on display in the Victory Gallery of the Royal Naval Museum. The barge, or to give it, its correct name, shallop, is thirty-five feet long with a six foot one inch beam. The barge is carvel built with rounded stem and a lute stern, it has rowlocks for five oars each side. There is a carving on the samson post in the bow, and a mermaid swimming on each side of the stem. The coat of arms on the lute stern is the anchor of the board of Admiralty.
The barge has been used by successive monarchs for river journeys and fleet reviews, but was last used on the 8th January 1806 to carry Lord Nelsonís body from Greenwich Hospital to the steps of Whitehall for his state funeral at St Paulís Cathedral on the following day. The barge was draped with black velvet over the sides and canopy, topped with mourning plumes, and the crew was dressed in mourning. The procession was probably the largest ever to have taken place on the Thames. There were over sixty vessels escorting the funeral barge, including the barges of the Lord Mayor and eight Livery Companies. The Royal Naval Museum holds an Ackerman print depicting the barge on this occasion. There are also plans of the barge held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
After this occasion the history of the barge is not known, until c.1870 when it was on display underneath the poop of HMS Victory, where it remained until the 1920ís when it was removed as part of the restoration scheme. In 1938 it was put on display at the Royal Naval Museum.
© Royal Naval Museum Library 2000
The information contained in this fact sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.