The Raglan Collection

On 4 April 2012, Christie’s Auction House in London offered The Raglan Collection: Waterloo, Wellington and The Crimea at the South Kensington saleroom, 85 Old Brompton Road. This private collection from Cefntilla Court, Monmouthshire – the ancestral home of the Barons Raglan since 1855 – included 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 was expected to realize in excess of £750,000.

Prior to the sale, Amelia Elborne, Specialist and Head of Sale 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 collection comes to auction from Cefntilla Court, the Monmouthshire home which was given by a group of admirers to the son of Lord Raglan after the Field Marshal’s death in June 1855 – before what would eventually be victory in The Crimea. The selection on offer has been 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 from The Collection
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 right 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.

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 comrade-in-arms, Lord FitzRoy Somerset. 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. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2012

The 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. 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 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 neice. 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).

It is the great-grandson of Baron Raglan who is putting the collection up for auction. The collection comes from the family house of Cefntilla Court in Monmouthshire, Wales, which has been the seat of the Barony since 1855. Meanwhile it has emerged that Lord Raglan’s heir has put Cefntilla Court (above) on the market at a guide price of £2 million. The chairwoman of a Gwent civic society has called for a “tragic” sale of war memorabilia from the home of Lord Raglan to be stopped. Ms Morse said Usk Civic Society, which Lord Raglan served as president of from 1973 until he died in 2010, was shocked by the sales: “We are pretty sure that he would have wanted it all kept together.” She said that the house was given to the son of the first Lord Raglan, FitzRoy Somerset, in recognition of his father’s achievements as a soldier and to be with the family for perpetuity.

UPDATE: The Sale ha
s been postponed, with a Christie’s spokesperson saying this week: “The auction has been postponed pending resolution of a legal claim filed by a family member.” Bettina Harden, of the Raglan Rescue campaign to keep the best parts of the collection together and in this country, said: “The battle may have been won, but now the war begins.” The injunction will be reviewed in May. If it is not extended, this allows campaigners only a short time in which to raise the necessary funds. The collection has been valued at £750,000 and the house at £2 million.

We’ll bring you updates on the debate as they are received.

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