FitzRoy's sword

I don't make a habit of republishing unsolicited emails, but I received one earlier this week which contained some interesting historical information about Robert FitzRoy. I record it in its entirety below for posterity:


2nd December 2009

Bosleys Military Auctioneers & Valuers
Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 2BS
01628 488188

A fine and interesting presentation sword, presented by Lord Hardinge, Governor-General of India, to Admiral Robert Fitzroy, Captain of the ‘Beagle' on Charles Darwin's legendary voyage of discovery.

The 80cm wide flat solid blade perhaps imitating an Indian tulwar blade with the proof mark of Henry Wilkinson of London struck under the langet, the blade is un-numbered and undecorated except for the short presentation inscription ‘Robert Fitz Roy from Lord Hardinge', etched within an ornate eastern style cartouche; on the reverse side of the blade a similar cartouche is filled with a long inscription in Persian incorporating the date 1847, the cartouche and inscription in heavy gold overlay, the hilt of Indian make of mameluke style and although now lightly patinated would appear to be of watered steel, with the typical open panels which would display this, the hilt is decorated with fine quality intricate gold koftghari floral borders, the quillons with sprays of flowers, no provision for a sword knot, contained in its fine quality black leather scabbard with three large copper gilt mounts, the top locket with opposing hanging rings, the centre mount with a single ring, and bottom chape, all of which are covered with deeply chased sprays of acorns and oak leaves, the bottom chape additionally chased with a seashell and intwined dolphins, the locket back with applied embossed shield with makers details ‘Henry Wilkinson gun & sword maker Pall Mall London', minor staining to blade, a little wear to highlights of gold koftghari, some wear to gilding of scabbard mounts and scabbard stitching fragile, but overall in good condition.


The Persian inscription on this blade is dated 1264 in the Hijra calendar, which equates to 1847 in the Christian calendar; it is also dated using the arabic numbers for 1847, a most unusual practice. The Persian inscription literally translates as follows:

'The blade of this sword will shine if it is used for the right cause. With the wrong cause, it will rust and the rust will become its scabbard'.

Sir Henry Hardinge, first Viscount Hardinge of Lahore (1785-1856), field-marshal, born at Wrotham, Kent, 30 March 1785, third son of Henry Hardinge. He was first gazetted in 1799 and went on to see much active service in the Napoleonic campaigns. He was beside Sir John Moore when he received his fatal wound at Corunna, served with Beresford during the Portuguese campaign and with Blucher at Quatre Bras, where he lost his left hand. His services resulted in the award of the Army gold cross with five clasps and he was made a KCB in 1815. In 1844 he was appointed governor-general of India and, at the end of the following year, the Sikh army having crossed the Sutlej, the first Sikh War had commenced, waiving his right to take supreme command, he served under Gough as second in command throughout the war. On the successful conclusion of that campaign he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Hardinge of Lahore. He returned to England in 1848, was raised to the rank of field-marshal in 1855, and died the following year.

Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy (1805-1865), hydrographer and meteorologist, born at Ampton Hall, Suffolk, 5 July 1805, second son of Lord Charles Fitzroy. He entered the Navy from the Royal Naval College in 1819, and after service in the Mediterranean and on the coast of South America, he was appointed to the command of the Beagle. Sailing from Portsmouth in 1831 with Charles Darwin aboard and returning to England in 1836, of this famous voyage little need be said here. In September 1842 he accepted the post of conservator of the River Mersey, but resigned in 1843, on being appointed governor and commander in chief of New Zealand. He was superseded in 1845, returning to England where he was appointed superintendent of Woolwich Dockyard in 1848. He was appointed in 1849 to the command of the frigate Arrogant, but retired from active service the following year. In 1851 he served briefly as private secretary to his uncle, Lord Hardinge. Advanced in 1857 to the rank of rear-admiral and to vice-admiral in 1863, both on the retired list, he committed suicide in 1865.

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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