Orders, Decorations and Medals (29 March 2000)

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Date of Auction: 29th March 2000

Sold for £3,800

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,500

The important Peninsular War Medal awarded to Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Arbuthnot, K.C.B., Military Secretary to Lord Beresford, later Hon. Colonel of the 76th Foot

Military General Service 1793-1814, 2 clasps, Corunna, Ciudad Rodrigo (Sir R. Arbuthnot, K.C.B., A.D.C.) extremely fine £2000-2500


Ex Glendining’s 16 September 1991, when it was sold with an old copy Gold Cross and three clasps, representing that awarded to Arbuthnot, the original of which is not known to have survived.

Sir Robert Arbuthnot was born in 1773, fourth son of John Arbuthnot, of Rockfleet, County Mayo, and brother of the Rt. Hon. Charles Arbuthnot and of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Arbuthnot. He entered the army as a Cornet in the 23rd Light Dragoons in January 1797, and was present in the battle of Ballynahinh during the Irish rebellion of 1798, when General Humbert and his army were made prisoners. He subsequently served with his regiment at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope under General Sir David Baird in 1806, and accompanied the expedition to South America as aide-de-camp to General Beresford. He took part in the battle previous to the surrender of Buenos Aires, and at two engagements before the re-capture of the place by the Spaniards. With the rest of the troops under Beresford’s command, he was made a prisoner of war for thirteen months, and marched into the interior of the country upwards of 1000 miles.

On his return to Europe in December 1807, he again joined Beresford’s Staff at the island of Madeira, and subsequently went with his Lordship to Portugal where he was appointed one of the Commissioners for the execution of the Convention of Cintra. After the final evacuation of the French from Lisbon, he was appointed Commandant of the city and filled the situation of Town Major. He took part in the campaign of 1808 under Lieutenant-General Moore, and was present at the battle of Corunna. In the following year he obtained the rank of Major in the British service, and later that of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Portuguese.

In the campaign of 1809 he was present at the operation on the Douro during May, when the French army under Soult was driven out of Oporto, after which Arbuthnot remained with the army which went into winter quarters after the battle of Talavera. In the campaign of 1810 he was with the army of the Frontier of Portugal during Marshal Massena’s operations against Ciudad Rodrigo, on the Coa, and Fortress of Almeida. He was present at the battle of Busaco on the 27th September, and during that winter in the fortified lines near Lisbon, and in front of Santarem, until the enemy finally evacuated his position. Arbuthnot brought home the despatches regarding Albuhera and on that occasion was appointed Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel.

In the campaign of 1811 he was actively employed in the Alentejo and Spanish Estramadura. He was present at the siege and reduction of Olivença, and at the first siege of Badajoz, when Marshal Soult coming to its relief, brought on the battle of Albuhera on the 16th May. At Albuhera Major Arbuthnot distinguished himself by galloping between two regiments, the British 57th and a Spanish regiment, and stopping the fire, which by mistake they were exchanging - a feat which he performed without receiving a single wound. In the same battle, at a critical moment, he was enabled by his quickness of sight to discern a retrograde movement on the part of the French, which Marshal Beresford had not perceived, and induced the latter to recall an order which he had just given for the retirement of two batteries of artillery. At an earlier period, in South America, when he and General Beresford were prisoners in the hands of the Spanish, and when all the officers were about to be searched for papers, he contrived a clevr stratagem to secrete in an orchard an important document, viz: The Convention which had been executed between General Beresford and the Spanish general Linieres, and of which the Spanish were anxious to regain possession.

In the campaign of 1812 he was present at the sieges, storming, and capture of Ciudad Rodrigo on the 19th January, and of Badajoz on the 6th April following. He accompanied the army back to the North, and was with it at the capture of the town and fortress of Salamanca, and the subsequent operations against Marshal Marmont, when the enemy was forced to retire across the Douro at Tordessillas. At this this period extreme ill health compelled him to return to England and it was not until the latter end of 1813 that he was sufficiently recovered to rejoin the army, which was then in the Pyrenees, on the point of entering France.

In the campaign of 1813 he was present at the battle of the Nivelle, 10th November, at the crossing and battles of the Nive from the 9th to 13th December, and the subsequent operations on that river and the Adour. In the campaign of 1814 he was at the operations of crossing the Gava d’Oleron and Pau, previous to the battle of Orthes, on the 27th February at which he was present, and after crossing the Adour at St Sever he accompanied Lord Beresford by Mont de Marsan to Bordeaux, which city surrendered on the 12th March. Arbuthnot was subsequently present at the crossing of the Garonne, and at the battle of Toulouse on the 10th April. He afterwards accompanied Lord Beresford to Paris, where he attended the reviews of the foreign troops in the city, and the public entry of Louis XVIII.

He was created a Knight of the Tower and Sword by the government of Portugal and, in 1815, was appointed a K.C.B. He also received the Gold Cross with three clasps for Busaco, Albuhera, Badajoz, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes and Toulouse, and later received the Silver War Medal for Corunna and Ciudad Rodrigo. In 1830 he attained the rank of Major-General, and in 1838 was appointed to the command of the troops in Ceylon, after which he commanded a division in Bengal until his promotion as Lieutenant-General in 1841. In 1843 he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the 76th Foot. Sir Robert Arbuthnot died on 6 May 1853.