Identifying the San Ildefonso flag

This historic ensign was unfurled and examined by conservationists at the National Maritime Museum for the first time in 2005.

In 2005 the Museum's conservation team unfurled and examined a historic flag on the floor of the Upper Deck. At 9.8 m by 14.4 m in size, it was the largest flag in our collection and had been kept in storage for over 90 years due to its fragile nature.

A very special flag

Following detailed examination, the flag was identified as a Spanish ensign (military flag) captured at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), belonging to the San Ildefonso. A rather unique artefact with a special connection to British marine history, the flag had been hung in the crossing of St Paul's Cathedral during Admiral Nelson's funeral service on 9 January 1806.

San Ildefonso at the Battle of Trafalgar

San Ildefonso was captured after only an hour of action in the battle. The ship came under heavy fire from the Revenge and Defence, together shooting away her mizzen and main masts. With 34 dead and 126 wounded, she surrendered to the Defence.

San Ildefonso was one of only four prizes captured by the British at the Battle of Trafalgar,  along with the Bahama, Swiftsure and San Juan Nepomuceno, surviving the storm that followed the battle. She was used as a store ship and broken up in 1816.

Flags collection

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Using our collections for research

The collections at Royal Museums Greenwich offer a world class resource for researching maritime history, astronomy and time. Find out how you can use our collections for purposes of research.

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