- Francis, Richard
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
PRESENTATION SWORDS AS GIFTS OF ESTEEM to deserving officers for brave conduct in the defence of trade and the realm had been a custom in many countries prior to the Napoleonic Wars. However, when this almost endless succession of wars with Republican France dragged on for over 30 years, with the main brunt of fighting being borne by the Royal Navy at sea, this custom developed into a particularly patriotic gesture.
The Lloyds Patriotic Fund was established at a meeting of merchants and underwriters at Lloyds in London on 20 July 1803, specifically for the purpose of rewarding persons who had displayed significant valour in the defence of the British nation. In the event of their death in action their dependant relatives would be provided for, and awards would be marked by the presentation of some form of silver plate and presentation swords. The Fund was created by public subscription and soon reached the considerable sum of over £100,000 (sterling) within a month.
Swords were determined to be of three classes, £30, £50 and £100 (and later a fourth class added in 1805), when a meeting of the Fund decided:
“Swords of the value of £100 each, with appropriate inscription, be presented to the surviving Captains and Commanders of His Majesty’s Ships, who served in the dangers and glory of the memorable action with the combined fleets of France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar on 21st of October 1805…” then naming the list of 29 recipients”. (The names are listed at the end of this article) Thirty £100 swords were presented between 1803 and 24 May 1809, when the awarding of swords was discontinued. The ‘Trafalgar’ swords differed slightly in design from the normal £100 swords. A total of 172 Lloyds swords were ultimately presented (16 x £30, and 88 x £50). Subsequently, when the award of presentation swords was discontinued, a monetary award was given instead. However, a number of officers privately commissioned the manufacturer (Richard Teed) to provide them with a sword according to the scale of their award. The Fund itself continued until 1825.
All categories of swords were similar in design, with minor differences in blueing and gilding on the blade. They were made of silver gilt with ivory hilts and decorated in gold. The main difference in category was characterised by the decorative nature of the black leather scabbard, mounted in gilt metal. The £30 sword had three large gilt mounts, the £50 had three mounts joined together, leaving only two panels of the actual scabbard visible, while the prestigious £100 sword had a similar scabbard with more decorative mounts and the panels filled with elaborate ornamentation. The swords, together with sword belt and sword knot, were presented in a polished mahogany box with an engraved brass plate bearing the recipient’s name and date of presentation.
It may be noted that similar presentation swords were also awarded by the Corporation of the City of London but these were not of a standard pattern, being designed separately for each occasion. During the Victorian period the custom remained for swords to be awarded for valiant actions throughout the reign, but also for a far greater variety of occasions. Notably, King Edward VII (as Prince of Wales) was a prolific giver of swords as a token of esteem or affection, and here the custom in this form endures to this day, with the presentation of Queen’s Swords to graduating junior officers of high merit. The last Australian naval recipient of a Queen’s Sword was Acting-Sub Lieutenant David Holthouse (later Rear Admiral, RAN, and Flag Officer Naval Support Command) in the 1950s.
Presentation Swords from the Patriotic Fund at Lloyds for service at the Battle of Trafalgar 1805
|Captain H. W. Bayntun||HMS Leviathan||Captain R. King||Achille|
|Captain Sir E. Berry||Agamemnon||Captain Sir F. Laforey||Spartiate|
|Captain H. Blackwood||Euryalus||Captain Lapenotiere||Pickle|
|Captain C. Bullen||Britannia||Captain C. M. J. Mansfield||Minotaur|
|Captain E. Codrington||Orion||Captain R. Moorsom||Revenge|
|Captain J. Conn||Dreadnought||Captain J. N. Morris||Colossus|
|Captain W. Cumby||Bellerophon||Captain I. Pellew||Conqueror|
|Captain H. Digby||Africa||Captain J. Pilfold||Ajax|
|Captain C. Duff||Mars||Captain W. Prouse||Sirius|
|Captain T. Dundas||Naiad||Captain R. Redmill||Polyphemus|
|Captain P. C. Durham||Defiance||Captain W. G. Rutherford||Swiftsure|
|Captain R. Grindall||Prince||Captain J. Stockham||Thunderer|
|Captain E. Harvey||Temeraire||Captain C. Tyler||Tonnant|
|Captain G. J. Hope||Defence||Lieutenant R. B. Young||Entreprenante|
(It is assumed that Vice Admiral Lord Nelson was posthumously awarded a sword – to make up the 29 total)