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Admiral Lord Nelson's protégé's gold medal sells for £120,000 at auction
Gold Naval Medal Awarded To Captain Sir William Hoste (reverse).

LONDON.- The superb and exceptionally rare small naval gold medal for the Battle of Lissa in the Adriatic Sea in 1811, awarded to Captain Sir William Hoste K.C.B., Royal Navy, one of Admiral Lord Nelson’s most highly regarded protégés fetched £120,000 at auctioneers Morton & Eden in London today (13 July 2021). The medal had been estimated to fetch £60,000-80,000 (lot 428). It was bought by an anonymous private collector bidding by telephone.

David Kirk, Morton and Eden’s medal specialist said: “We are delighted for the family, and we feel that this result does real justice to what is, without doubt, a superb medal. Captain Sir William Hoste was an extremely important naval figure, as well as being a protégé and friend of Nelson.”

Captain Sir William Hoste K.C.B. (1780-1828) was born on 26 August 1780 at Ingoldsthorpe, Norfolk and entered the navy at an early age. Shortly afterwards an introduction was engineered by Hoste’s father to another great Norfolk naval officer Horatio Nelson. This sowed the seeds of a firm friendship between the two, and soon after Hoste was accepted by Nelson to serve as his Captain’s Servant aboard the newly refitted H.M.S. Agamemnon.

Hoste was by Nelson’s side from 1793 and 1798 and was present at the Battle of St Vincent and the Battle of the Nile. Letters written by Nelson to his wife during this time mentioned that he considered Hoste to be ‘without exception, one of the finest boys I ever met with’, stating also that he considered that Hoste’s ‘…gallantry can never be exceeded, and each day rivets him stronger to my heart. Hoste rose swiftly to the rank of Captain and would go on to become, in his own right, one of the great frigate captains of the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1805 he was sent by Nelson to deliver diplomatic gifts and messages to the Dey of Algiers, thereby missing the great sea battle of Trafalgar and the tragic death of his mentor. On hearing of Nelson’s death, Hoste wrote to his father: ‘Not to have been in this battle is enough to make one mad; but to have lost such a friend besides is really sufficient to almost overwhelm me…’

In Hoste’s finest hour, however, during the opening stages of the Battle of Lissa (the island today known as Vis in the Adriatic Sea, near modern day Dubrovnik off the coast of Croatia) on 13 March 1811, Hoste raised the memorable signal ‘Remember Nelson’ from H.M.S. Amphion in honour of his friend, which was met with loud cheers.

Hoste then led his ships in a devastating attack upon the larger French and Venetian squadron. Given the numerical superiority of the enemy, this battle has been considered ‘one of the most brilliant naval achievements during the war’ (Dictionary of National Biography), with a British loss of 190 killed and wounded, to the French and Venetian loss of over 700, with one French frigate driven ashore and destroyed and another taken as a prize alongside two further Venetian frigates.

Hoste continued to distinguish himself. Appointed Captain of the Bacchante, he was responsible for the capture of and destruction of more ships near Apulia and Ancona. In December 1813 he led the attack on Cattaro, which surrendered on 5 January 1814. From there, Hoste and his men also went on to capture Ragusa, which capitulated in precisely the same way when faced with Hoste’s battery of guns.

Due to failing health, however, Hoste was then obliged to return to England, but his country had not forgotten him. In July 1814 he was made baronet and on the reorganisation of the Order of the Bath in 1815 he was nominated K.C.B. His Knight Commander’s neck badge, 1814 for The Most Excellent Order of the Bath, K.C.B. (Military Division) was also included in the auction and sold for £19,200 (lot 429).

With his health remaining fragile, Hoste undertook very little subsequent service, but in 1822 he accepted the command of the Albion guardship at Portsmouth, and then in 1825, he was appointed to the Royal Yacht. Hoste died of tuberculosis in London on 6 December 1828.

Hoste’s first son, Rear-Admiral Sir William Legge Hoste, would also go on to serve with distinction in the Royal Navy (Sir William’s son’s pair of campaign medals for the Second China War, 1857-60 also sold for £4,560 – lot 432). And, perhaps not surprisingly, Sir William named his third son Wyndham Horatio Nelson Hoste, in honour of his great patron.

As recorded in his significant and detailed entry in Laughton’s ‘Dictionary of National Biography’, it is concluded that: ‘Hoste's long and successful command in the Adriatic, his brilliant victory at Lissa, and his reduction of Cattaro have given him a naval reputation far beyond that achieved by any other officer of his age and rank.’

Hoste was also awarded the Insignia of a Knight of Maria Theresa, conferred upon him by the Emperor of Austria for his subsequent services at Cattaro in 1813 and Ragusa in 1814. The lot of insignia fetched £20,400 (lot 430).

A magnificent vellum manuscript of the original College of Arms' Grant of Honourable Augmentations to the Arms of Captain Sir William Hoste dated 15 May was also included in the sale and sold for £1,800 (lot 431).

The last member of the family to bear the name Sir William Hoste was killed in action on 9 May 1915, aged 20, during a two-day offensive near the Sailly-Fromelles Road in France, whilst serving in the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade. Lieutenant Sir William Graham Hoste’s Great War 1914-15 Trio of medals and Memorial Plaque are also included in the auction, together with the campaign awards bestowed on his grandfather as well as those of his great-grandfather. His Great War medals sold for £6,000 significantly above estimate (lot 433). The young Sir William Graham Hoste’s death marked the end of the direct line of Hoste descendants, which then passed to other relations of the name Fortescue.

The same buyer bought lots 428, 429, 430 and 431.

The total achieved for the group of Hoste family medals was £171,960.

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