9 January 1806: Nelson makes his final journey
Thousands of Londoners line the streets to mourn the hero of Trafalgar
The funeral of Horatio, Lord Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar, was one of the greatest public events London has ever seen. For three days from 5 January, his coffin lay in state in Greenwich’s Painted Hall, while thousands of people paid their respects. On the 8th, a royal barge, draped in black velvet and solemnly escorted by City of London barges, carried it up the Thames to Whitehall. There it was taken to the Admiralty where it rested overnight, guarded by Nelson’s chaplain, Alexander Scott.
The funeral procession on 9 January was one of the most colourful in the city’s history. Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets; some sat in specially erected stands, while others had bought tickets to obtain the best view. The cortege, made up of the Victory’s crew, Nelson’s fellow officers, Greenwich pensioners and thousands of soldiers, was so long that by the time the column reached St Paul’s, the funeral car was still at Whitehall.
By the time the service began, it was already dark. In the gloom of the cathedral, 130 lamps glittered in the dome, from where the staff of St Paul’s had hung two gigantic captured French and Spanish flags. The mood was sombre, and Nelson’s nephew wrote that it was “the most awful sight I ever saw”.
At the end of the service, as Nelson’s coffin descended into the crypt, a herald slowly read the great man’s titles, ending with the words: “The hero, who in the moment of victory, fell covered with immortal glory.” At that, Nelson’s officers broke their staves, which were later thrown into his grave.
But his sailors did not follow the script. Instead of folding Victory’s flag, they ripped it in two and divided it between them as relics of Britain’s greatest naval hero.
Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries
9 January 1463
Death of William neville, earl of Kent. As Lord Fauconberg, Neville had led the Yorkist attack at Northampton in 1460 and commanded Edward IV’s archers at Towton in 1461. The English Chronicle described him as “a knight of great reverence”.
9 January 1861
The Star of the West, a steamer hired to deliver reinforcements and supplies to the federal garrison at Fort Sumter, was fired at by southern cadets and forced to turn back. These were, in effect, the first shots of the American Civil War.
9 January 1908
Writer and existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir is born in Paris. In 1949 she wrote the feminist classic book The Second Sex.
9 January 1909
Ernest Shackleton‘s polar expedition gets further south than anyone has been before, to within 97 miles of the South Pole, before deteriorating conditions lead him to decide to turn back.
9 January 1972
Former Cunard transatlantic luxury liner Queen Elizabeth was gutted by fire in Hong Kong harbour where she was being converted into a floating university.
9 January 2007: Steve Jobs unveils the first iPhone
Apple’s announcement takes the world by storm
“Thank you for coming,” said the thin, bespectacled man in the black polo neck and Levi’s jeans. “We’re going to make some history together today.”
For weeks there had been intense speculation about what Apple’s chief executive, Steve Jobs, was planning. There was talk of a new computer, even a mobile phone. So when thousands of Apple enthusiasts poured into San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the atmosphere was already electric.
At last it was time for the new product to be revealed. “This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years,” he said. “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything… Well, today, we are introducing three revolutionary products.”
These were, he said, “a widescreen iPod with touch controls”, a “revolutionary mobile phone”, and a “breakthrough internet communications device”. “An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator,” he repeated. “An iPod, a phone… are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device, and we are calling it… iPhone.”
It was a brilliant set-up, and the crowd were on their feet, cheering and hollering. As Jobs spoke, Apple’s stock soared. And the iPhone proved an even bigger success than he imagined. After nine years, sales had hit 1 billion, and other companies had launched imitations of their own. Life in 2021 would be very different without it.