Christie's to offer The Raglan Collection: Wellington, Waterloo & The Crimea

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Christie's to offer The Raglan Collection: Wellington, Waterloo & The Crimea
Andrew Morton (1802-1845), Portrait of General Lord FitzRoy Somerset, circa 1835. Courtesy of a Private Collection.

LONDON.- Christie’s announced that The Raglan Collection: Wellington, Waterloo & The Crimea will be offered at auction on 22 May as part of a two day sale, followed by Works of Art from the Collection of the Marquesses of Londonderry on 23 May, please see separate press release. These two distinguished historical aristocratic families are linked through their prominence in early 19th century British history. Comprising a total of over 500 lots, this sale presents a cornucopia of rare and unique opportunities which will excite connoisseurs, institutions and enthusiasts around the world. The sale is expected to realise a combined total in the region of £1.5 million.

The Raglan Collection: Wellington, Waterloo & The Crimea is a private collection from Cefntilla Court, Monmouthshire, the ancestral home of the Barons Raglan since 1858. It includes important historical medals, arms and armour, militaria, pictures, furniture, silver, books, Indian weapons and works of art, as well as a selection of enthnographic art. The collection is being sold by order of the Executors of Fitzroy John Somerset, 5th Baron Raglan (great-great-grandson of the 1st Baron Raglan). The collection comprises over 300 lots and is expected to realise in excess of £750,000.

Amelia Walker, Associate Director, Specialist Head of Collection Sales commented: “FitzRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, was one of the most well-known British soldiers of the early 19th century. His career spanned service at the right hand of Britain‟s greatest soldier, the first Duke of Wellington for almost 40 years, during the Peninsular War, at Waterloo, and as Private Secretary, through to his command of British forces in The Crimean War – Raglan‟s legacy is of foremost importance. This fascinating collection chronicles Lord Raglan‟s role in some of the most famous battles in British history, as well as featuring more personal items stemming from his relationship with „the Iron Duke‟ and the family he created with his wife, Lady Emily Wellesley-Pole, Wellington‟s favourite niece. The selection on offer was collected by the 1st Baron Raglan as well as by his descendants – almost all military men themselves – including the 3rd Baron Raglan, a politician and governor of the Isle of Man, and the 4th Baron Raglan, an anthropologist and collector.”

Highlights include:
Commissioned into the army at the age of fifteen, Lord FitzRoy Somerset became the Duke of Wellington’s Aide-de-camp in 1808, at the age of twenty, as Captain. Somerset proved himself in battle, bearing the dispatches after Talavera (1809) and receiving a wound at Busaco (1810). He played a distinguished role in the bloody storming of Badajoz in 1812 and fought at the battles of Salamanca (1812), Vitoria (1813) and Toulouse (1814), after which he was made KCB. He was awarded the Peninsular Gold Medal (with clasps for Badajoz and Salamanca) illustrated left and the Peninsular Gold Cross (with five clasps) illustrated far right. These latter medals were instituted by the Prince Regent on behalf of his ailing father, George III, to reward senior officers for their service in the Peninsula. For his first battle the recipient would be awarded a gold medal, for his second and third two clasps, and thereafter the exquisite gold cross (with clasps). In total, only 165 crosses and clasps were ever awarded.

The above medals are included in the highly important and exceptionally rare group of honorary awards and medals awarded to Field Marshal Lord Raglan (estimate: £250,000-350,000). The field marshal's baton that Raglan was awarded after his victory at Inkerman in the Crimea (a rank that had been created for Raglan's mentor Wellington after his success at Vitoria) is also included in the lot illustrated right. Designed by the Prince Regent, and presented by Queen Victoria, the deep red velvet baton is decorated with small gold lions, and the base is engraved: „From Her Majesty Alexandrina Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to Field Marshal The Lord Raglan G.C.B. 1855‟, with maker's mark WN for William Neal, hallmarks for 18 carat gold, London and 1854; it is surmounted by a figure of St. George slaying the dragon. Somerset's Waterloo Medal, issued in 1816-17 and the first award given by the British government to all soldiers present at a battle, as well as his Crimea Medal with four clasps are also included in the lot. The lot comprises a total of twelve awards and medals, and is accompanied by a copy of a letter signed by Frederick, Duke of York as commander-in-chief to Lord FitzRoy Somerset, Horse Guards, 21 September 1813.

As Wellington’s right-hand-man for almost forty years, the collection includes a number of lots related to the first Duke of Wellington, including a mahogany armchair by Holland and Sons, used by Wellington in his office at Horse Guards (estimate: £4,000-6,000). Somerset married Lady Emily Wellesley-Pole, the daughter of Wellington’s brother William Wellesley-Pole later third Earl of Mornington, and Wellington’s favourite niece. Wellington gave many personal treasures to Emily, including a diamond-set gold bracelet containing a lock of his hair (estimate: £1,500-2,000) and a heavy Indian gold ring which he had purportedly taken from Tipu Sultan, after the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799 (estimate: £10,000-15,000).

The collection includes notable Crimean artifacts, such as the bridle that was reputedly worn by Captain Nolan’s horse when its owner was killed by a Russian shell – the first casualty on the occasion of the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade (estimate: £3,000-5,000). Also featuring is the elm table that was used by Queen Victoria to distribute the first Crimea Medals in London in May 1855 (estimate: £2,000-3,000); a Russian bugle that was seized mid-sound by a British drummer boy when the 77th Regiment stormed a Russian trench during the Siege of Sebastopol (estimate: £1,000-1,500); and two bronze Russian cannon, dated 1821 and 1829, that were captured when the Allies finally took Sebastopol in September 1855 (estimate: £20,000-40,000), a victorious conclusion which Field Marshal Lord Raglan did not live to see.

Further highlights in the collection include a magnificent gold and diamond-hilted sword presented to General Don Alava by the city of Vitoria in gratitude, who then gave it to his great friend and comradein-arms, Lord FitzRoy Somerset (estimate: £30,000-50,000). It is believed that Alava holds the distinction of being the only person to have been present at both Trafalgar and Waterloo – one as opposition and the other as an ally to the British. A triple-portrait of the Wellesley-Pole sisters by Sir Thomas Lawrence P.R.A. – including Lord FitzRoy Somerset’s wife, Lady Emily – is a highlight of the portraits featured in the sale (estimate: £30,000-50,000).

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