IT fluttered away above one of the most famous naval battles in history.

Now, this six square metre piece of tattered material, which flew over HMS Spartiate during the Battle of Trafalgar, has made the record books.

Thought to be the only surviving Union Jack flag from the battle, it has been sold for 418,000 euros (£384,000), 25 times its estimated auction price.

Auctioned on the 204th anniversary of the battle that took place off the Cape of Trafalgar on the Costa de la Luz, it went to an anonymous American collector.

He was the winning bidder against other would-be buyers including the National Maritime Museum.

In the wake of the sale, the bullet-riddled flag has become embroiled in a new battle as the British fight to stop it leaving the country.

The buyer has said that he hoped the flag would be displayed in Britain at some point in the future.

However, the Department of Culture is debating whether to impose a three-month ban on its export to give British museums a chance to raise money to buy it.

HMS Spartiate’s crew made the 3m by 2m flag from 31 pieces of bunting just before the British claimed victory over the French.

The flag was given to Scottish-born Lieutenant James Clephan by the ship’s crew.

The London auctioneer who sold the flag, Charles Miller, said: “The price is way above anyone’s expectations but does reflect the historical importance of the flag and the battle it fluttered in.”

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