in antiquity


British Officer’s Sword, Probably Used at Waterloo

Some weeks ago I visited a fellow antique dealer and he had acquired a very special sabre which was almost 100% certainly carried at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The reason this is so certain is that the sword was marked to the officer, who was a Major at the time of Waterloo, but in the aftermath of the battle was immediately promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel (in fact he and his fellow officers were promoted by Wellington himself on the field of the Battle of Agincourt in a grand nationalistic statement!). He is listed as Major on the sword, so it must date to before the Battle. 

The sword itself is a very specific non-regulation design, featuring a pipe-backed blade with flared false edge, which was a popular new design around 1810-1815 in Britain, pioneered and promoted by the sword maker Prosser of Charring Cross (London). The sabre also features an extended pommel ‘beak’, which again was an innovation on the most fashionable British light cavalry officer’s swords of 1810-1815. After this time these extended pommels tended to become entirely enclosed in steel (as it was a stronger construction), whereas this example has a steel butt, with a wood and shagreen inner side. The sabre also features a distinctive style of langets, perhaps influenced by the lines of Indian or Islamic architectural design, again very fashionable at this time under the Prince Regent. 

Finally, this particular sabre features a very unusual hand guard, where the standard knucklebow has had a side D-ring added, as on many infantry spadroons, but has also had two side bars added to this for extra hand protection. These side bars would become standard on light cavalry swords from 1821 onwards and were probably inspired by French swords, but the combination of the 2 side bars with the D-ring together is a very unusual feature. The dealer in question luckily allowed me to take some photos and I share these with you here.

A Cased Royal Horse Guards Officer’s Helmet Owned by Lt. Col. (Later Major General) John Fielden Brocklehurst, 1st Baron Ranksborough

The helmet with silvered skull and gilt brass frontplate with multi-element enameled regimental crest. Leather-backed gilt brass chinscales with Tudor rose rosettes. Silvered and gilt brass top spike with red horsehair plume. Brown leather sweatband. With original japanned tin cases for the helmet and plume, both with the gilt brass maker’s plates of Hawkes of London and with affixed with brass plates engraved Lt. Col. Brocklehurst/Rl Horse Guards.

Note: Major General John Fielden Brocklehurst, 1st and only Baron Ranksborough, 1852-1921. Commissioned in the Horse Guards in 1874; fought in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 and the Sudan Expedition, 1884-5. Brevet Lt. Colonel in 1891, commanding the Horse Guards 1894-99. Colonel in 1899 and Equerry to Her Majesty Queen Victoria 1899-1901. Served in the Boer War 1899-1901. Invested as a Companion, Order of the Bath in 1900 and as Commander, Royal Victorian Order in 1901. Equerry to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra 1901-10. Major General of the 3rd Cavalry brigade. Created 1st Baron Ranksborough July 3, 1914. Lord-in-Waiting to His Majesty King George V in 1915.